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‘The hottest thing you’ll have all day’: Former food truck, 3 Ninjas opens Liberty Lake space, offering sandwiches, wraps, hot sauces and more

3 Ninjas co-owner Tymen Hofmann is photographed Dec. 8 at the restaurant in Liberty Lake.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

Liberty Lake’s 3 Ninjas restaurant refuses to be put into a box. Melding flavors from places like Thailand, Mexico, Japan, Korea, America and others, their menu offers mouthwatering bowls, sandwiches, wraps, tacos, salads and more.

“We don’t try to really fit into too many boxes,” said Tymen Hofmann, one of the owners of 3 Ninjas. “There’s no specific fusion, we just kind of throw it all together.”

In other words, if it tastes good, they’ll do it.

And now, with the Liberty Lake location, these self-proclaimed “food assassins” will be able to introduce even more people to their specific brand of delicious nonconformity.

The “three” in 3 Ninjas includes Hofmann and his two long-time friends and business partners, Steven Kitchens and Michael Anderson, who all met years ago while working in the Spokane food scene.

Their flavors-exploding-from-everywhere concept started first as a food truck in 2014, then expanded into a tiny brick-and-mortar space in Kendall Yards in 2018. The food truck ended with the pandemic in 2020, and they recently closed the Kendall Yards location so they could focus solely on their larger sit-in/takeout location that opened last year in a new development in Liberty Lake.

“We’re a little tucked back here,” Hofmann said of their spot in a building shared by New Love Coffee and Maverick’s Mens Hair. “Come find us, come try us. Once you try us you’ll love us.”

Their bowls are top sellers, and sandwiches and wraps come with a side of house-made tortilla chips and salsa. Every item on the 3 Ninjas menu is largely portioned and is made with unique flavor components that make it next level.

Take, for example, the Italian Beef Sandwich, which comes with steak, giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables), habanero aioli and smokey burgundy-infused au jus.

“That’s a flavor explosion,” Hofmann said. “I’ve had people tell me they’re just going to drink the au jus.”

Or the top-selling teriyaki chicken bowl, which combines grilled chicken or tofu with mushrooms, onions, peppers, sweet teriyaki glaze, Asian slaw and pineapple salsa.

The Fire Wrap is a tried-and-true 3 Ninjas standard, with grilled chicken, habanero pepper jelly, fried onion jalapeño mix and habanero aioli. And the Steak Banh Mi Sandwich – loaded with Korean bulgogi meat, pickled veggies, candied jalapeños and drizzled with sriracha aioli – is a favorite with employees and customers alike.

Most menu items can be made gluten free or vegetarian – just ask. A kids menu is available as well. While the ninjas are known for their love of spicy heat, those with milder palates need not shy away.

“My daughter is 7 and she’s actually super picky,” said Samm Ridings, a repeat customer from nearby Otis Orchards. “She got their orange chicken bowl and she’s like obsessed with it.”

Whitney Gummersall of Liberty Lake, who calls 3 Ninjas her “go-to spot,” agrees: “The food is not too spicy for my mild-mannered friends. You get to add the spiciness with their sauces.”

The restaurant’s three signature hot sauces were created by the ninjas themselves – “Each one of us came up with a different one,” Hofmann said – and range in intensity from ultra-spicy to more of a sweet heat. They are available for purchase for $7 in the restaurant, and would make great stocking stuffers for any flavor and heat lovers out there, according to Hofmann.

Smokey Jalapeno is a great all-around sauce. “It’s real versatile, kind of a medium, medium-hot heat,” Hofmann said.

Mango Habanero is their sweet heat (“to die for,” according to Gummersall) that is also medium to medium-hot.

“Since it is very sweet up front, you don’t notice the burn until you sit and eat it for a little while,” Hofmann said.

And Sweet Melissa (named after a song by the Allman Brothers Band) is a habanero Jamaican-style pepper sauce – “the hottest thing you’ll have all day!” according to the 3 Ninjas menu.

The Liberty Lake location has more seating than its previous spot in Kendall Yards, as well as a kitchen that can accommodate a more robust menu. Local beer, Coca-Cola products and other beverages are available for purchase, along with 3 Ninjas three signature hot sauces. They offer catering and take-out options as well.

With a large ninja-inspired mural on one wall and glass garage-style doors that can be opened onto a dining patio in the warmer months, the restaurant promises its customers a delicious and unique dining experience.

Producing consistently good food is one of their main focuses, according to Hofmann. This can sometimes lead to a unique problem, when people get hooked on a favorite and see no need to branch out.

“They just try one thing and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is good – I’ll keep ordering this,’ ” Hofmann said. “No! Expand, try more! We have options.”

Besides their standout food, it’s their attention to customer care that truly sets 3 Ninjas apart, accordingly to Gummersall.

“I’ve hardly ever been there when the owner or the main cook hasn’t come out to say ‘How’s your food? Do you like it?’ ” Gummersall said. “They care that I’m happy, which makes me happy.”

Happy, quirky and knock-your-socks-off delicious: It’s a ninja recipe for success.

“We’re a little weird,” Hofmann said. “We want to be memorable. We want people to come in and go, ‘Wow, that’s weird art on the walls. The food’s good. The people are a little bit nutty, but I’ll come back.’ ”