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Powered by Plants: Spokane, your restaurants are dying, so throw a life preserver in 2021

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 5, 2021

By Jonathan Glover For The Spokesman-Review

Spokane fast food lovers should push for a redesign. Perhaps a new name, too – I like the United Spokane Provisions Subscribers.

Because like our beloved and embattled postal workers, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these quick-food fanatics from fawning over a chicken sandwich.

So awesome is the pull of this fast fare that even weeks after the fowl establishment first opened its doors, lines of cars blasting heaters to keep warm – packed full of people rabid for bread and poultry – will happily wait hours.

An oxymoron never tasted so good.

Meanwhile, the rest of Spokane’s culinary scene likely looks on in disgust mixed with a bit of jealousy and seared to a perfect contempt.

Many struggle through the short days and long nights wondering when the pandemic will be over, yearning to open their doors again to the public.

Others outright close. Like Rocky Rococo Pizza & Pasta last summer. Or Prospector’s Bar and Grill. Or River Rock Taphouse, which opened underneath this newspaper and lasted a little more than one year.

Or, most recently, David Blaine’s Central Food in Kendall Yards. Before that, Adam Hegsted’s nearby Wandering Table, set to close permanently Jan. 9 before reopening as a new concept.

Pretty soon, Spokane’s local restaurant scene could look like Spokane Valley’s. An Olive Garden here, an Applebee’s there. And in between it all, America’s busiest Red Robin.

It’s tempting to say these businesses would have gone under sooner or later. It’s convenient to point to COVID-19.

I say nonsense. Instead, it’s necessary to illustrate the disconnect.

We can’t simultaneously label our city a great place to live, advertising it to millennials as the new future of Washington’s growing tech sector worth “hacking,” as local restaurants continue to close.

We have to do better. We have to eat better. And when budgets allow (fast food isn’t cheap), we have to support local.

And as far as vegan and vegetarian food is concerned, it’s relieving to hear that (so far) there haven’t been any COVID-19-casualties. But that could change in a moment.

While none of the following restaurants serve waffle fries, make charitable donations to anti-LGTBQ+ stances or close on Sundays, they do offer a mix of omni, vegan and vegetarian food.

Best of all, their profits go to people living in the Inland Northwest.

Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Cuisine

621 W. Mallon Ave.; (509) 328-3958 and queenofshebaspokane.com

This restaurant inside the Flour Mill holds the title of being Spokane’s only Ethiopian eatery. It also, by design of many Ethiopian dishes being inherently vegetarian and vegan, has tons of plant-based options.

For approachable vegan dishes, I recommend the Yaterkik Alicha, a split-pea soup with plenty of onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger, or the Yatakilt Alicha, a delicious bowl of potatoes, carrots and cabbage.

Veraci Pizza

1333 W. Summit Parkway; (509) 389-0029 and veracispokane.com

While arguably the greatest selling point of Veraci isn’t available at the moment (the view it offers of downtown Spokane, Browne’s Addition and Peaceful Valley), the second best is.

The pizza is a modern, high-end flatbread, a wood-fired concoction made fresh with local ingredients. The biggest selling point to vegans is the option for plant-based cheese.

My go-to is the Paisano or Spicy Portobello.

Ruins

825 N. Monroe St.; (509) 443-5606 and ruinsspokane.com

Since it opened, Ruins – owned by the same management as Stella’s (shout out to vegan sandwiches), Eyvind and Hunt – has been serving a rotating menu of various cousins always with a vegetarian or vegan option.

And during the pandemic, Ruins has been offering at-home meal kits with simple instructions. The most recent offering was a Sichuan-style kit with red-braised pork, Chinese crepes, butter lettuce leaves, Sichuan green beans, rice and more.

Nudo Ramen House

818 W. Sprague Ave., (509) 290-5763; 9602 N. Newport Highway, (509) 467-0292; nudoramen.com

This local ramen restaurant has two locations, downtown and up north on Newport Highway. Even before the pandemic, the downtown location was hardly full, which is a shame because without Nudo, Spokane would be severely lacking in ramen options.

Everything is available for delivery or pickup. And vegans, you can order the vegetarian bowl and customize it to your heart’s content.

The Wave Island Sports Grill & Sushi Bar

525 W. First Ave., (509) 747-2023 and wavespokane.com

I like to think of the Wave as Spokane’s most Spokane restaurant. It’s a sports bar and a sushi bar, and it also serves plenty of American dishes. Oh, and the interior is huge and sprawling, and it’s incredibly easy to get lost.

It also has incredible sushi. Prepandemic, it was a great place to watch sports and eat something other than greasy fries and hamburgers. Post-pandemic, it’s a great place for ordering out.

Like its namesake, you can’t go wrong with the Vegan Roll. And for omnivores, before I was vegan, I enjoyed the Mexi Cali Roll (yes, sometimes I ate seafood).

Saranac Public House

21 W. Main Ave., (509) 473-9455 and saranacpub.com

I’ve written about Saranac before, but there’s not enough good to be said about a pub in the heart of Spokane’s Main Avenue strip that offers amazing food for vegans and omnivores alike.

For vegans, Saranac has a wonderful mac and cheese, stir fry and black bean burger.

And there is a Dude-fil-a sandwich, pickle-brined chicken breast on a brioche bun with pickles and a house-made sauce. No line.

Cascadia Public House

6314 N. Ash St., (509) 321-7051 and cascadiapublichouse.com

It wouldn’t be a Powered by Plants column without mentioning Cascadia. What started as a small hole-in-the-wall on Spokane’s north end has developed into a gastropub empire.

Recently, the owners announced that they’re opening a second location in the space formerly occupied by Geno’s Pub (RIP, soccer fans), which is great news for Spokane food lovers and even greater news for vegans.

Cascadia has cow, chicken, salmon, tofu, cauliflower and Impossible patties.

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