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Chef Ian Wingate’s success continues through Outsider

Chef Ian Wingate has a long history of running successful restaurants in Spokane. His latest is Outsider PNW, in the Papillon Building near the north entrance to Riverfront Park.

Starting at 15, Wingate worked at a pizza place where he washed dishes. From there on, he knew the food industry was for him.

When asked why he entered the restaurant industry, there was only one answer that came to Wingate’s mind: “I was crazy,” he said with a light chuckle.

“It was a job that I had at a young age,” he said, “and I fell in love with it.”

He moved to Spokane in 1996 in his early 20s in an effort to be close to family when he realized Spokane was the perfect home for him.

Wingate received his education from the California Culinary Academy. He previously owned Moxie, Blue Fish and Agave. He was also the executive chef at the Davenport Hotel.

Originally buying the building in 2019, Wingate delayed opening until August of last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The manager of Outsider, Natalie Dolan, applied for Outsider for the sole purpose of learning from Wingate. She could see he had a vision and was headed in the right direction.

“I heard of Chef Ian so many times and that was a lot of it,” Dolan said. “I basically harassed him for the job.”

From the moment visitors walk in the building, a sense of welcoming greets them at the door. The walls are bright orange and blue and plants abound.

The restaurant is used to regulars, who often sit up at the counter and chat with Wingate.

“The idea was to create the feeling of sitting at home at the counter while someone cooks,” Wingate said.

With the option of dine-in or take-out, the menu has a unique contemporary American style that uses ingredients supplied by local farmers. Most of the cooking is done in a wood-fired oven. The building has an open kitchen with a spacious feeling.

Menu changes can happen daily, weekly or monthly. It is based on ingredients that are available at the time.

Outsider PNW is family-friendly; however, it does have a full liquor license with a wide drink selection.

A favorite for many is el jefe – a blood orange margarita. The drink offerings tend to change seasonally along with the food menu. The summer drinks are more herbal, while winter ones are more warming.

Wingate credits his manager, Dolan, for the vast drink selection at Outsider PNW.

“I try to incorporate all the different spirits so that everybody is satisfied,” Dolan said.

The variety of food choices is even wider than the drinks. Some crowd favorites are the six different pizza choices, hearth oven cauliflower and ribeye poke salad. The hearth oven cauliflower is also a top pick because despite it being a vegetarian dish, the taste is similar to meat.

Other dishes on the menu include soups, sandwiches and burgers. Wingate’s goal was to add a bit of everything and mix flavors to make a great plate. With ingredients on the menu like zhoug, sunomono and guanciale, people can go to Outsider PNW for a more eclectic flavor.

Affordability was a huge factor when setting prices for Wingate.

“It’s just casual dining,” he said.

The restaurant seats just under 70, but Wingate is in the process of adding outdoor seating.

The biggest reason Wingate chose to invest in Outsider is not the building or even the restaurant itself, but because Sheldon Jackson, Selkirk Development owner, inspired him.

“I really connected with him and the partnership we created,” Wingate said.

Once Wingate met Jackson, he knew this would be a partnership that would work well.

When deciding a name for his restaurant, Wingate wanted a name that would be all-inclusive. He believed that Outsider can be viewed in any way.

“I’ve always done things differently than everyone else,” he said. “Everyone can relate to being an outsider.”

The restaurant industry can be very competitive, but for Wingate, he views other businesses as other options and does not have any worries.

“I stick to what I do, and I do it well,” Wingate said.

Samantha Fuller's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.