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Running Tab: Looking back at and forward to the Spokane area food scene

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 6, 2021

The year 2020 was unlike any other, to say the least, but one thing that stood out was the innovation, talent and perseverance of the culinary and hospitality industry in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding areas.

Restaurants and bars have closed, reopened and closed again, with the hope of reopening in January in Washington – it is a challenge for everyone to stay up to date – and they have pivoted to pickup and takeout only and added outdoor, patio and snow globe dining to continue operating.

As 2021 is less than 1 week old, let’s take a trip down memory lane as a tip of the toque to my dining adventures and highlights in 2020, the majority of them for work. Warning: Any revisionist history is unintentional, but it’s bound to happen with, y’know, old age.

January

One of my first meals of 2020 was at the Boiler Room (6501 N. Cedar St.), dinner on Jan. 3, and I would return two days later for lunch. I count the Boiler Room as one of my favorite pizza places in town.

Happy Hour at Bonefish Grill (4750 N. Division St.) at NorthTown Mall included some great martinis, one of my favorite all-time cocktails.

I had my first beer at the new Brick West Brewing (1318 W. First Ave.), and now I live 500 feet away.

Dinner solo at Osprey Restaurant & Bar (700 N. Division St.) was a standout: ribeye, Yorkshire pudding and an Old -Fashioned. It was snowing outside, and it was a beautiful dinner and evening.

Dinner during the opening week of Texas Roadhouse (7611 N. Division St.), where you can expect solid prime rib and delicious bread. Gonzaga men’s basketball coach Mark Few and his group were in the booth across from me.

On Jan. 18, my niece Anya, 12 at the time, and nephew Shawn, 8, attended the Mac & Cheese Festival in Coeur d’Alene with yours truly. We’re planning a return in a few weeks depending on the state of the pandemic.

The north Spokane Nudo Ramen House (9602 N. Newport Highway) includes all-day Happy Hour on Mondays and sushi, the latter of which isn’t available downtown. Yes, please, to all-day Happy Hour, ramen and sushi, which sounds like a perfect Monday.

February

Brunch at Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar. I’ve been to the north Spokane, downtown and Spokane Valley locations, and the north Spokane location, at 401 E. Farwell Road, has become a favorite brunch spot on the outdoor patio. The Bloody Mary with bourbon is a must-order.

Dinner at Sushi.com (430 W. Main Ave.), a favorite of my family’s since stumbling upon it many Christmas Eves ago.

Reverse Happy Hour, which is the best, at Rain Lounge (1007 W. First Ave.), where I was mistaken for a Japanese chef who works downtown. I’m part Thai and part Laotian – and a journalist.

Lunch at Palm Court Grill (10 S. Post St.). A crab Louie salad, of course, where it was invented at the Davenport Hotel.

Dinner at Table 13 (333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.), an underrated and always-solid restaurant in town, and the Decadence! Chocolate Festival, where I served as a chocolate martini competition judge, both at the Davenport Grand Hotel.

My first Coeur d’Alene Food and Wine Festival, where a brunch at Beverly’s (115 S. Second St.) and a dinner at Hagadone Event Center were decadent.

Dinner at Candle in the Woods (5751 ID-54) in Athol, where I’ve dined four or five times now. One of my absolute favorite places. Period.

Cocktails at Cease and Desist Book Club (108 N. Washington St.) – I love hidden speakeasies – then dinner at Pho Vina (2303 N. Ash St.), another pho option in town.

Dinner and music by Zuill Bailey at Barrister Winery (1213 W. Railroad Ave.), one of my favorite wineries in town.

On Leap Day, dinner at Park Lodge (411 N. Nettleton St.), a restaurant to which I cannot wait to return for a second meal.

March

Brunch at TT’s Old Iron Brewery and BBQ (4110 S. Bowdish Road), some of the best barbecue in town.

Preshow eats at Hunt (225 W. Riverside Ave.), a cool basement man cave/dungeon (in the best way possible), then wine at Bridge Press Cellars (39 W. Pacific Ave.) – love the rose – during a concert.

Dinner at Eyvind (225 W. Riverside Ave.), upstairs from Hunt, where I introduced my brother-in-law to tofu and foie gras. He enjoyed both, I think.

My birthday dinner on Friday, March 13, at River’s Edge Buffet at Northern Quest Resort and Casino (100 N. Hayford Road) was the seafood buffet in the private dining room, and it would be the last supper, as the quarantine shutdown commenced two days later, my actual birthday.

April

Nothing, excluding takeout, during the shutdown. Crazy, right?

May

Ditto.

An interview and photo shoot at Breauxdoo Bakery (breauxdoobakery.com) as Gage Lang prepares to launch his cookie business during the pandemic.

June

Lunch at Nudo Ramen House (818 W. Sprague Ave.) on June 16, the first dine-in experience in three months.

Lunch at Gozo Brick Oven Bistro (816 W. Sprague Ave.), where I would be introduced to some exciting and delicious new iterations of pizzas.

Happy Hour at Watts 1903 Spirits & Eatery (1318 W. First Ave.), a great new spot for late afternoon after work.

Lunch at Cochinito Taqueria (10 N. Post St.), one of my favorite places in town for tacos and margaritas.

July

Dinner was Chad White’s new menu outside at the beautiful Arbor Crest Wine Cellars (4705 N. Fruit Hill Road), one of my favorite dinners in 2020.

Dinner outside at Commelini Estates (14715 N. Dartford Drive), an absolutely lovely location in the outdoors.

My first dinner at the Spokane favorite Clover Restaurant & Bar (913 E. Sharp Ave.) – the outdoor garden piqued my interest and is very cool.

Dinner at Rusty Moose (9105 W. Sunset Highway), one of my go-to places in Spokane for prime rib.

Dinner two weeks in a row at Gander & Ryegrass (404 W. Main Ave.), now one of my favorite restaurants in town. The tasting menus both times were top-notch, and I was impressed that the option was easily made vegetarian.

Lunch at Chicken N More (414 ½ W. Sprague Ave), my first time. I never say no to fried chicken.

August

Dinner at Jon Green, Abe Fox and Eddie Gulberg’s new Wooden City (821 W. Riverside Ave.), my vote for best new restaurant in Spokane in 2020.

Bark, A Rescue Pub (905 N. Washington St.), where food meets animal shelter, and Anya and Shawn loved the adorable puppies and kittens.

China Dragon Restaurant (27 E. Queen Ave.), a staple from my Gonzaga days where I still dine with a fellow alumnus. The menu and dining areas have been updated.

September

Park Inn (103 W. Ninth Ave.), Spokane’s oldest bar and restaurant opened in 1932, was dinner for one of the best hole-in-the-wall joints for fried chicken in the country. It delivered, so thank you, MSN.com.

An early dinner at Sushi House Asian Food & Bar (4903 N. Division St.), the restaurant’s second new location (the original is in Spokane Valley). It’s another good option for sushi in Spokane.

Hogwash Whiskey Den (304 W. Pacific Ave.), embarrassingly my first time, and now I understand why it is buzzed about by foodies.

Brunch at Chaps Coffee Co. (4237 Cheney Spokane Road), my first time and now one of my favorite brunch spots in town.

October

It feels like February again – and it is a very successful month for discoveries.

Whiskey Barrel Weekend at Coeur d’Alene Resort. The second-annual event. Still lots of great whiskey and eats.

Lumpia Loca (lumpialoca.com) by husband-and-wife Rene and Yumi Moya. The true mom-and-pop is takeout only. Consider yours truly a fan and addicted.

5 North Brewing Co. (6501 N. Cedar Road), now a go-to spot for some of the best over-the-top burgers in town.

Vien Dong Restaurant (3435 E. Trent Ave.), now a go-to spot for pho and egg rolls.

The Steel Barrel Taproom (154 S. Madison St.), where Chad White introduces his global street food-inspired sliders.

Sala Thai (12914 W. Sunset Highway), now a go-to spot for Thai food alongside Bangkok Thai.

Prohibition Gastropub (1914 N. Monroe St.), where Michael Wiley has taken over. Shawn deemed the biscuits and gravy the best he’s ever had and still talks about them.

The White House Grill (712 N. Spokane St., Post Falls) for great Greek and Mediterranean fare and nonquarantine dining.

The Oval Office (620 N. Spokane St., Post Falls) for a vast and creative menu of cocktails and nonquarantine imbibing. The outdoor patio with firepit is great.

November

Bangkok Thai (1003 E. Trent Ave.) – oh, how we’ve missed you and your Southeast Asian flavors.

Inland Curry (inlandcurry.com), Noreen Hiskey’s new and weekly to-go-only business. The menu is released on Mondays and usually sells out; pickup at Feast World Kitchen (1321 W. Third Ave.) is on Thursdays.

Wiley’s Downtown Bistro (115 N. Washington St.), an elegant, downtown fine-dining hot spot for good reason.

Little Noodle Spokane (713 W. Garland Ave.), bringing pho and, on Wednesdays, dim sum to Garland.

Steve Jensen is on a roll with Magnolia American Brasserie (110 S. Madison St.) inside Hotel Indigo. Fingers crossed that it reopens.

Luna (5620 S. Perry St.), already one of my favorite restaurants in Spokane, ups the ante big time with its snow globe dining – and its Sunday fried chicken dinner.

Inland Pacific Kitchen (304 W. Pacific Ave.). A night of IPK, Hogwash Whiskey Den and YaYa Brewing Co. (11712 E. Montgomery Drive) – who could ask for anything more?

Chinook Crafted by Adam Hegsted (37914 S. Nukwalqw St. in Worley, Idaho), where Hegsted had reimagined the steakhouse’s menu. Another steakhouse option is always a good thing.

Whispers Lounge (115 S. Second St. in Coeur d’Alene), where holiday cheer was continued to be spread in the new, adult-only outdoor igloos lakeside. Gorgeous.

Dinner at Masselow’s Steakhouse (100 N. Hayford Road) at Northern Quest becomes one of my favorite steakhouse experiences in Spokane … ever … and the smooth Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned is the icing on the cake.

December

A holiday gift from me to me, Candle in the Woods’ Dinner of a Lifetime lived up to its name.

Osprey for lunch on Dec. 12. Its new igloo dining would be my final dine-out meal in Spokane in 2020 before departing for Las Vegas for the holidays on Dec. 20.

How am I still hungry? Let’s hope these places are all still operating in 2021. A belated Happy New Year, and here’s to a 2021 of fabulous food!

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