Seven nights down, three to go for this year’s Inlander Restaurant Week. (Yes, it’s technically 10 days.) And we’ve been flipping through the menus and planning nights out just like many other diners in the Inland Northwest. Here’s some of what we’ve tried so far:
Europa’s bakery is front and center in their IRW offerings, especially in the Fried Flatbread (First Course). Light and fluffy and covered with pull-apart pork and big mushrooms — yum. The Braised Lamb with Goat Cheese Gnocchi (Second Course) is as rich as it sounds — although the arugula cuts through that a bit — and it's a great example of comfort food for a cold night.
Watching the Zags on a TV the size of a cement truck is, well, pretty Epic. And watching while you sample their IRW choices? Even Epic-er. They don’t skimp on the shrimp in the Shrimp Tacos (Second Course), and the bowl of fresh melon is a nice touch. The Peanut Butter Pie (Third Course) is kind of like a Kevin Pangos three-pointer — perfect.
— TED S.McGREGOR JR.
SARANAC PUBLIC HOUSE (menu)
Saranac doesn’t brand itself as a vegetarian restaurant, but it’s always offered a solid amount of options and a willingness to hold the bacon, please. (This can be a bigger deal than it should be at some places. “So you don’t want, like, any meat on that?”) So, I trusted they’d have a good pairing of meatless options on their Restaurant Week menu. The first-course Lentil Cakes set things off to a good start and were served with an agave lime slaw that helped balance the cayenne in the cakes. But the second course took no such pity on me. The Curried Tofu was pan seared to perfection and beautifully presented, but in the end it was just too spicy. If you’re into that sort of thing, order this and enjoy. If you’re like me, get a to-go box and move on to the real star of this whole thing: the Vanilla Bourbon Stout Pudding. This is exactly what it sounds like: one of Spokane’s best beers turned into chocolate pudding, then topped with whipped cream and a brown sugar cookie. It made up for everything. In fact, Saranac offers its restaurant week menu a la carte, so if you really want my advice, just go with three orders of the pudding.
— HEIDI GROOVER
BISTANGO MARTINI LOUNGE (menu)
Downtown’s Bistango Martini Lounge serves food. I know, I thought they only served high-falutin cocktails as well. But earlier this week I went out with a bunch of ladies to sample the joint’s Restaurant Week menu, mostly to be able to drink my dessert — the third-course options are all sugary martinis. Under the made-to-look-like-a-starry-night-sky ceiling, we all enjoyed our three delicious courses. I had the Hummus Plate to begin. The pillow-like pita was so warm and I practically jammed the whole thing in my mouth. Next came the perfectly-cooked Roquefort Steak that included cheese and onion crumbs on top with a piled-high side of fries. Last, but certainly not least, was my Lemon Meringue Pie Martini, which I wouldn’t have minded a refill of. All this for $18? Beautiful. Call 624-8486 for more information.
— LAURA JOHNSON
CHAPS RESTAURANT & CAKE BAKERY (menu)
I’ve long been wanting to try out this quaint, comfort food spot since I first heard about it years ago. But you know how that goes… Oh, we should try that place sometime, and you keep saying the same thing yet never seem to make it to said place. But hey, Restaurant Week is all about trying new places, so here was my perfect opportunity to try Chaps. Since my date and I planned to go the first night of Restaurant Week last Friday, I made a point to call ahead that morning to make reservations… and then found out Chaps doesn’t take reservations. So my advice is to get there early or be OK with waiting a bit. Even on a Friday night, we didn’t end up waiting more than 10 minutes for a table. Since it was busy, we expected our food to take a little longer than usual to come out. This was true, but it was well worth the wait. The portions are generous, and by the time our desserts arrived we were forced to share the delicious Affogato al Caffe, (ice cream with an espresso shot poured over) and take our Peppermint Chocolate Mousse Cake home for later. We had already filled our bellies full with appetizers — we’re cheese freaks so we got both the hot Cougar Gold Crab and Artichoke Dip and the cheese board. Both are perfect share-with-the-whole table dishes, even if it’s a table of two. For our entrees, we tried one of each of Chaps’ choices: the Maple Glazed Salmon and Flat Iron Steak. If you’re a salmon-lover like me, the first dish is a must-try — salmon wrapped in bacon. It was basically my dream dish, and even though the combination of soft salmon with chewy bacon is a little funky, the salty, savory flavors paired perfectly with the sweet maple glaze. If you end up having to wait a bit to get a table at Chaps, I also advise a stop at the bar for pre-dinner drinks. The wine pours are quite generous, too.
— CHEY SCOTT