Growing up, obtaining a giant soft pretzel wasn’t as much about ordering an appetizer as it was about securing an edible souvenir. Warm, twisted dough dotted with salt wasn’t ever really a common find on menus. It existed only at hockey games, state fairs and the occasional visit to a movie theater to watch Batman thwart heinous henchmen.
Now, as an adult, you can call it a Pavlovian response, but consuming the crowd-craved, curve-crusted carb still feels more like a reward than a meal. Cascadia Public House has quickly become known as a premier place to polish off a pretzel, and, like any truly great superhero, it now has a much-needed sidekick.
In the summer of 2017, father and son John and Justin Oliveri and friends Jordan Smith, Rob Hatch and chef Josh Lorenzen opened Cascadia Public House just north of Francis on Ash. It quickly became a hot spot for Northsiders who had plenty of neighborhood bistros and bars but didn’t have anything that offered locally sourced products with a great selection of vegan and vegetarian options.
Quickly, the team was on the search for a second location, and finally after a year of COVID-19 and restaurant restrictions behind them, settled into a cozy little corner of the University District in a building left vacant by Geno’s last fall.
The space hardly feels the same. New paint, new lighting and entire walls missing, Cascadia clearly means to bring the same iconic atmosphere of its namesake to the new property. With touch-ups still pending and a full patio remodel set to take place before the weather warrants it, Gonzaga students will have a new neighborhood nook to palm a pint and watch the game.
“Food really has to be quality to survive in Spokane,” owner Rob Hatch said. “After four years, my favorite thing on our menu is still the NW Dip.”
It’s an Angus steak-packed Alpine bakery hoagie served with crispy onions, fontina, house-made horseradish aioli and au jus for dipping.
“But having a vegan-friendly menu allows everyone to sit at the table and get a dish they will be happy with,” he said.
My wonderful server Whitney suggested I try her favorite vegan menu item: lightly fried cauliflower tossed in buffalo sauce, red onions, green onions and cilantro and drizzled with the popular vegan ranch. It all sits on a crispy gluten-free flatbread. Out of everything we ordered, it was easily my favorite.
This, more than ever, is a pinnacle time for restaurant servers to shine. Customers are flocking into new restaurants by the droves, and, after a year of uncertainty, menus and product sourcing have changed. Whitney, and many servers like her, are often stuck trying to be friendly in explaining a restaurant’s concept and making sure you haven’t run out of beer. This can be a challenging task, but Cascadia prides itself on it.
On Cascadia’s website, the restaurant posts that its focus is sustainability for the future and sourcing as much of its product locally as possible. “We understand the importance of making people feel welcome and appreciated while they are with us, and our staff follows through with that every day,” Hatch said. “A combination of all of that makes us who we are, but it will always be about the people.”
The original Cascadia Public House is at 6314 N. Ash St., and the new second location is at 1414 N. Hamilton St. The website is cascadiapublichouse.com.
Kris Kilduff can be reached at email@example.com.
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