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Wednesday, February 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Decade in review: Spokane’s food scene mirrors a city on the rise

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 26, 2019

The jalapeno musroom burger goes for $15 at RÜT Bar and Kitchen and contains an Impossible burger patty, tempeh bacon, sauteed mushrooms, crisped onions, cream cheese and jalapeno relish on a pretzel bun, as photographed with sweet potato fries on April 15, 2019. The gastropub opened last Monday, April 8 in the South Hill District and is located at 901 W. 14th Avenue. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
The jalapeno musroom burger goes for $15 at RÜT Bar and Kitchen and contains an Impossible burger patty, tempeh bacon, sauteed mushrooms, crisped onions, cream cheese and jalapeno relish on a pretzel bun, as photographed with sweet potato fries on April 15, 2019. The gastropub opened last Monday, April 8 in the South Hill District and is located at 901 W. 14th Avenue. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
By Adriana Janovich For The Spokesman-Review

Spokane’s dining scene – once mostly meat and potatoes, burgers and fries, and national chains – is coming into its own.

During the past decade, dishes grew more vibrant and varied. Chefs got creative, took risks, and focused on seasonal ingredients from local farms and food producers. Diners– including vegetarians and vegans, those who went gluten- or dairy-free, and many who simply started caring more about where their food comes from – enjoyed increased options. And media from outside the area took notice.

The 2010s played a pivotal role in helping further refine our tastes and define Inland Northwest cuisine.

Local kitchens, bars

and rising stars

Four chefs were semifinalists for Best Chef Northwest in the prestigious culinary awards from the James Beard Foundation: Anna Vogel, Laurent Zirotti, Adam Hegsted and Jeremy Hansen.

Culinary competition shows featured a spate of local contestants. Ricky Webster was most successful, winning two holiday baking shows: Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge” in 2018 and this year’s “Christmas Cookie Matchup” on Hallmark Channel.

Tony Brown competed on “Guy’s Grocery Games.” So did Travis Tveit. And Zirotti, who also was on “Beat Bobby Flay.” (He didn’t.)

Food Network came here, too. Alton Brown brought his live show to Spokane in 2015 and 2017. Guy Fieri rolled up in his signature red convertible Camaro, filming segments around the region for “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” in 2010 and 2018.

Rise of boutique coffee shops and roasters

Of note is Indaba, which expanded its empire from one to five locations. Roast House launched in 2010, opening First Avenue Coffee shop in 2018. Sandpoint’s Evans Brothers also expanded, opening two outposts – in Coeur d’Alene in 2017 and Spokane in 2019. Ladder, started as a pop-up in 2017, opened its cafe and roastery in 2018. Also in 2018, National Geographic Travel named Spokane in a top-10 list titled “These Unexpected Cities Have the Best Coffee in the U.S.”

Brewing boom

It started around 2012, when Northern Lights – godfather of the local craft beer scene since 1993 – rebranded as No-Li. Iron Goat opened the same year, moving to bigger digs in 2016. Other new breweries that opened in the past decade – too many to list – include Whistle Punk, Black Label, TT’s Old Iron, Perry Street and Bellwether. For more, check out the Inland Northwest Ale Trail, which started in 2013 with 16 breweries, listed 44 in 2018, and in 2019 launched a free mobile app – versus a paper map – to help track beer lovers’ brewery visits.

High spirits

The 2010s saw big growth for Dry Fly, the state’s first small distillery since Prohibition. The Spokane company expanded its tasting room and production area in 2017 and has since been gearing up to increase production even more, moving into this newspaper’s renovated downtown press building in the new year to accommodate the uptick. Other local distillers established during the past decade include Warrior, 2 Loons Distillery and Up North Distillery.

Bon Bon helped usher in a new decade of high-quality cocktails when it opened in 2010, followed by Boots Bakery & Lounge, Volstead Act and Hogwash Whiskey Den, which takes its drinks up a notch with hand-carved ice. Spokane also welcomed its only designated tiki bar, Tiny Tiki, as well as the city’s new smallest bar, Bijou, with only seven seats. Also elevating the cocktail scene: Cease & Desist Book Club, which offers a speakeasy-esque experience – patrons enter through a hidden door in a bookcase – and restaurants with upscale bar programs, such as Clover, which opened in 2012 and made 2013’s list of Top 100 New American Bars by Food & Wine’s Cocktails. Rounding out newer restaurants with notable drink menus are Durkin’s, Casper Fry, Ruins and Eyvind along with Hegsted’s Wandering Table, Gilded Unicorn and Honey Eatery & Social Club.

Growth of Eat Good

Hegsted expanded his ever-growing Eat Good Group of restaurants, adding – along with aforementioned eateries – Incrediburger & Eggs, Doughlicious, Pocket Bar, Yards Bruncheon, Republic Kitchen, Farmhouse Kitchen & Silo Bar, Eat Good Café and Le Catering. He also founded Crave! Food and Drink Celebration, launched in 2017, and still serves as its culinary director.

Chef-driven

Chef-driven – and often chef-owned – eateries are on the rise. Those include Italia Trattoria, opened in 2010 by Vogel and partner Bethe Bowman, as well as all of Tony Brown’s establishments (Ruins, Stella’s) and those founded by Hansen and his wife, Kate, particularly Inland Pacific Kitchen. David Blaine established Central Food in 2012 when Kendall Yards was still very much a construction zone. Travis Dickinson, former executive chef at Clover, along with Justin Curtis, former front-of-the-house manager at Clover, opened Cochinito Taqueria in 2018. The same year, Mike Jones, chef and owner of Mizuna, added Austin’s Live Fire Barbecue, and Philip Stanton, who had worked at Italia, opened Park Lodge. Peter Froese, who worked at Santé Restaurant & Charcuterie, opened Gander & Ryegrass in the spot that formerly held the Hansens’ flagship restaurant. Ella Piskun, who worked at the Hansens’ now-closed Common Crumb Artisan Bakery, opened her own modern French bake shop and café, miFlavour, with her husband, Max.

Chad White, who competed on season 13 of Bravo’s “Top Chef” – he finished ninth out of 17 – came home in 2015 after more than a decade away. He has since opened Zona Blanca, a ceviche counter, as well as two High Tide walk-up lobster bars and a joint venture called TT’s Old Iron Brewery in Spokane Valley.

Better bread

The best thing since sliced bread might be the emergence of small-batch bakers who are boosting the artisan bread scene one naturally leavened loaf at a time. The Grain Shed, opened in 2018, is at the forefront of the movement, baking with ancient, landrace and heirloom grains grown within 100 miles of Spokane. They’re stone-ground in-house, then baked in a custom wood-fired oven. Glorious Artisan Bakery, opened in 2019, features Shepherd’s Grain flour and long ferments. Central Food sells its high-quality house-made breads by the loaf. So do pop-ups such as Lucky Lady Bread Co.

Veggie-forward

Vegetarians and vegans have more options – from dedicated vegan restaurants such as Boots, Rüt Bar & Kitchen and Allie’s Vegan Pizzeria & Café to other restaurants – such as Eyvind, Cascadia Public House and Lucky You Lounge – that offer vegan and vegetarian entrees along with meaty menu options.

Food trucks

and farmers markets

More farmers markets and food trucks arrived on the Spokane food scene, which banded together to form the Greater Spokane Food Truck Association in 2012 “to promote and advance the food truck scene.”

National nods

Large metro dailies featured Spokane’s food scene – from the New York Times, which included local restaurants and bars in a Frugal Traveler column in 2017, to the Los Angeles Times, which ran the 2016 story “Wine and Dine to your Heart’s Content in Horn-of-Plenty Spokane, Wash.” In 2015, the Wall Street Journal named Spokane one of “Six Great Small Cities for Food Lovers.”

Adriana Janovich was the food editor at The Spokesman-Review from 2013 to 2019.

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