Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Happy Hour of the week: An upscale dive bar experience at the Backyard

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2016 at 1:31 PM


If you just can’t quite cram enough sports into your eyeballs, you’ll find your hour of happiness at the Backyard Public House, a pub located in West Central that bills itself as a “5 Star Dive Bar.”

At the Backyard, there are five screens simultaneously displaying sporting activities including basketball, women’s boxing and dudes talking about sports. The Backyard puts more emphasis on the “5 Star” part than the “Dive Bar,” but tall cans of swill beer haven't been crowded out by the craftier and costlier beverages.

Speaking of which, the Backyard offers up a wide selection of beers and ciders on tap. The staff are smiley and friendly and they’ll chat you up while they slice up oranges and limes that they also juice right there at the bar. Some of the citrus might get in your eye, but you can be comforted with knowing that it’s used in signature cocktails. There’s also a selection of upscale bar food that includes street tacos, pretzels, poutine, nachos and more substantial fare like burgers and salads.

The Backyard is a good place to relax after work and kick back a couple drinks while staring at sports. The only downsides: the stools can be unforgiving to sit on after a while (unless you’ve imbibed enough) and the wood panel walls echo the thumping dance music, which could result in strained conversation punctuated with “what?” and “huh?”

Happy hour runs from 2-5 every day, and from 10 pm-2 am, and features a dollar off all wine (which runs from $5-8 a glass) and drafts, meaning you can get a micro brew for $4. Also featured is a dollar off $8 signature cocktails. 

For information on more Happy Hours around town, download the Inlander's Drinkspotter app from your phone, or go right here
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Friday, March 4, 2016

Visit local bars and drink local beer to support the Spokane River this March

Posted By on Fri, Mar 4, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Pick up a version of this Riverkeeper Riverwalk checklist in the current Inlander or at the listed restaurants.
  • Pick up a version of this Riverkeeper Riverwalk checklist in the current Inlander or at the listed restaurants.

Throughout the month of March, each time you visit any of eight Spokane restaurants (listed below) and drink a beer (but not just any beer), you'll be aiding efforts to keep the Spokane River a healthy, thriving waterway.

Kicking off this Friday and running through March 31, the inaugural Riverkeeper Riverwalk campaign is a fundraising and awareness event that benefits lovers of local beer, local businesses and the Spokane River. It's a win-win-win.

To partake in the campaign, visit any of the following eight bars and restaurants — all appropriately located very near to the river's edge — to trigger a donation to the Spokane Riverkeeper by ordering a meal or a pint of River City Brewing's newest version of its Riverkeeper IPA. The 2016 Riverkeeper IPA launches this Friday, having been updated with eight hop varieties from its previous version.

  • David's Pizza, 803 N. Post
  • The Knock Irish Pub, 1011 W. Broadway
  • Veraci Pizza, 1333 W. Summit Pkwy.
  • Ripples Riverside Grill, 700 N. Division
  • O'Doherty's Irish Grille, 525 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
  • Nectar Wine & Beer, 1331 W. Summit Pkwy.
  • The Blackbird Tavern + Kitchen, 905 N. Washington
  • Rock City Grill, 808 W. Main

Even better, those who pick up a special check-off sheet that was distributed in this week's Inlander can turn it in after visiting at least four of the eight restaurants to get a commemorative pint glass from River City Brewing. Visit at least seven of eight places and you'll also be entered into a drawing for a river rafting trip from ROW Adventures.

The check-off sheet is also available at participating restaurants and an event launch party at the downtown Numerica Credit Union branch (Friday, March 4, from 5:30-8 pm) that features Spokane River photography by Charles Gurche.

For each of the 300 pint glasses being given away during the campaign, Numerica has pledged to donate $5 to the Spokane Riverkeeper. If all are distributed (which we imagine won't be hard to do) that's a total of $1,500, not to forget the donations from participating restaurants.

The Spokane Riverkeeper, a program of the Center for Justice overseen by the actual Riverkeeper, Jerry White, is tasked with protecting and preserving our region's landmark waterway. The Riverkeeper is responsible for, among many other efforts, helping clean up trash along the river, protecting native fish species, regulating and preventing pollution and educating the public about the importance of protecting the Spokane River.

Spokane Riverkeeper, Jerry White. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Spokane Riverkeeper, Jerry White.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

RESTAURANT WEEK: Editorial staffers check out Timber Gastro Pub and Luna

Posted By and on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 4:37 PM

The Inland Northwest is in the throes of Inlander Restaurant Week for another few days — you can find all the necessary info here — and our staffers are out on the scene doing a little grubbing themselves: 
Luna's salmon lox with Bavarois cream, golden raisins and watercress - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Luna's salmon lox with Bavarois cream, golden raisins and watercress


1610 E. Schneidmiller Ave., Post Falls, 208-262-9593
Open daily 4-9 pm, $19/person

At Timber, a recently opened gastropub in Post Falls, a mural of old-time loggers reclining on some felled trees watch diners in the recently renovated space.

For Inlander Restaurant Week, I started with the soft pretzels, small submarines of doughy goodness that I submerged into the accompanying IPA beer cheese sauce. Next up was Pacific cod, cooked in a rice cracker crust. The fish was OK (I mean has anyone ever uttered, "Omergod! That was amazing!" about cod. Probably not). The real star of the dish was the red curry with edamame jasmine rice. Dessert was coffee mud pie, which was as sweet, gooey and chocolatey as you would imagine.

But maybe what stood out about the meal (and not included with Restaurant Week, but worth an addition) was the “flight in a pint,” a paddle board of tasters made from nearby brewers followed with a pint of your favorite. 

5620 S. Perry, 448-2383
Open Monday-Friday 11 am-close, Saturday-Sunday 9 am-close, $29/person

I live on the north side of Spokane, so a trip to Luna is a bit of an excursion, making Inlander Restaurant Week a perfect excuse to make my way to the South Hill and treat myself. 

The options for Restaurant Week were all pretty tempting. I like to put my hard-earned dollars toward meat — usually as much as possible, and at the very least a kind of meat I don't know how to cook at home. That led me to choose the Braised Short Rib, served with a broccoli puree, white beans and carrot. The beef was tender, falling apart easily with just a fork, and the veggies were done very well. That didn't keep me from spearing some of the fettucini and lamb ragout served with cauliflower, kalamata olives and tomato on my girlfriend's plate, though, and I can definitely recommend that as well. 

For dessert, we both had the Exotic Citrus Vacherin. Don't know what Vacherin is? Us, either, but I can report that the collection of blood oranges, candied grapefruit and kumquats and cinnamon topped with pistachio ice cream has us both licking the bowls. OK, not really, we're not animals. But it was good. 

Even better, though, was our choice for an appetizer. We bypassed the Old Fashioned cocktail — that was a painful choice to make, believe me — and got the salmon lox, served with a little cream cheese, golden raisins and watercress. For something so simple, it was incredibly tasty. 

This was just my second-ever visit to Luna, and first in a couple years, and between the neighborhood cafe vibe and great service, I can see why it's a Spokane favorite. 

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

RESTAURANT WEEK: Editorial staffers check out Gilded Unicorn and Fleur de Sel

Posted By and on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 4:02 PM

Gilded Unicorn's basement location feels like you're in a different country, instead of downtown Spokane. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Gilded Unicorn's basement location feels like you're in a different country, instead of downtown Spokane.

The Inland Northwest is in the throes of Inlander Restaurant Week for another few days — you can find all the necessary info here — and our staffers are out on the scene doing a little grubbing themselves: 

110 S. Monroe, 309-3698
open daily 3-11 pm, $19/person

After eating the first and second courses on the Gilded Unicorn’s Restaurant Week menu, you won’t have space left inside you body for the dessert round. But you will take a few meltingly sweet bites of the Dutch apple pie or the oven fried brownie anyway, because they smell like your grandmother’s kitchen and you won’t be able to help yourself.

So it was last Friday, when the cavernous basement restaurant — only open since December and already making a name for itself as restauranteur/owner/chef Adam Hegsted is now a James Beard Award finalist — was full of people waiting to get a bite of the place’s new-fashioned comfort food dishes. Gilded Unicorn does not take reservations, but you may be able to beat the wait (and expect a wait during peak dinner times) by snagging a spot at the bar or chef’s counter.

Starting off with the first course, the Devils on Horseback was best. Who can resist a hot bacon-wrapped date’s lava-like juices squirting in your mouth? And the main course’s duck leg, paired with beer-braised root vegetable lentils, and Rice-y-Roni stroganoff (slow-cooked beef risotto) were both impeccable. I would go back for more, but I’m not sure I have any room yet. 

4365 Inverness Dr., Post Falls, 208-777-7600
open daily at 5 pm for IRW, $29/person

An ongoing Restaurant Week tradition for my partner and I is to choose a spot we've never been before; something maybe outside the more familiar neighborhoods, and toward the top of our dining out budget — a special occasion place, if you will. So after scouring menus offered this year — and facing quite a challenge since we've been to almost all the eateries meeting that criteria so far — I was quite happy to pick a place I'd heard so many good things about: the authentically French Fleur de Sel in Post Falls. Wanting to make sure we didn't miss the chance to try the appetizing three-course lineup, I made early evening reservations this past Sunday evening.

As someone who revels in surprising others, I didn't tell my guest where we were going, and had him wondering the whole drive out I-90 to our destination. After the 30-minute drive and throughout our 1.5 hour dining experience, Fleur de Sel did not disappoint in the least. Having peeked at the menu before, I already knew I was definitely ordering the chicken and truffles for my main course — a must-try recommendation from a colleague. As someone who doesn't usually order chicken when dining out (it's too common, and hard to find done right) I was beyond delighted by the savory, rich, black truffle cream sauce over which the tender breast meat was served. I wiped up every last bit of that sauce from my bowl with the sliced baguette served at our table. 

Portions were hearty and flavorful all around. We started with the salmon rillette and the crab and ricotta beignets — both are packed with a variety of flavors and easy to share. Like me, my partner devoured his entree, the beef "en croute," braised, boneless ribs baked in a toasty puff pastry. By the time dessert came and our plates were cleared, we were both stuffed but so satisfied. Thankfully we had the drive home to relax and recount everything about our wonderful meal. I highly recommend others try this North Idaho gem if they can still get reservations in the coming days.

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Happy Hour of the week: Throwing it back at the Volstead Act

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 1:19 PM

The historic front page of the American Issue can be seen on a far wall in the Volstead. - MEG MACLEAN
  • Meg Maclean
  • The historic front page of the American Issue can be seen on a far wall in the Volstead.

It was a Monday night, so naturally a couple people in suits stopped by after work as I walked in with a camera and a notepad, not knowing what to expect. Bars can sometimes be too loud to enjoy the drink you just got from your overwhelmed bartender. As a college student, I am accustomed to two extremes of social outings: loud, rambunctious bars and quiet, chill coffee shops. It's hard to find a situation where these vibes cross paths. I found it at the Volstead Act.

Get your Happy Hour fix and a little burst of vitamin C with the AP Squared cocktail. - MEG MACLEAN
  • Meg Maclean
  • Get your Happy Hour fix and a little burst of vitamin C with the AP Squared cocktail.
The Volstead has been open since September of 2013, and is now one of Spokane's many craft cocktail bars. The venue is on the small side with a vast expanse of liquor on display. But with classic high bar stools and wooden tables with candles, it's versatile and strikes a balance between a quiet venue to have a drink after a long day, and a poppin' place for a couple friends to share a cocktail.

Named after and inspired by the 1919 Volstead Act, which lead to the 18th amendment prohibiting alcohol, the place is dedicated to recreating the lavish and hand-crafted cocktails that were popular during the Roaring 20s, but they give them a modern twist. 

Their signature drink, according to the bartender, is an AP Squared (Aperol, orchard apricot liqueur, grapefruit, Champagne and grapefruit peel), made with hand-squeezed juices. That, or a Thyme's They Are 'A-Changin' (gin, yellow chartreuse, simple syrup, lemon juice, thyme, soda water and lemon peel). Sounds like  a revamped Gin Rickey right out of the Great Gatsby era, doesn't it? 

In addition to a wide selection of libations and crafted concoctions, the Volstead offers what one might consider "upscale" truffle popcorn to compliment whatever spirit you choose.

Volstead's Happy Hour runs every Monday-Saturday, 3-7 pm, with $5 wells and house wines and $3 draft beers and bottles, in addition to $7 craft cocktails. It also extends late-night from midnight-2am, with $3 domestic drafts, $4 Fireball and $5 wells. And what else? All day on Sundays.

To find other great Happy Hour deals and menus around the Inland Northwest, visit on your phone and download our Drinkspotter app, or click here.
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Monday, February 29, 2016

Some fave photos from the first days of Inlander Restaurant Week 2016

Posted By on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 3:57 PM

You might have noticed a larger than normal crowd at your favorite restaurant this weekend. Inlander Restaurant Week kicked off on Friday, and judging by the social media buzz, there are a LOT of people out there enjoying the festivities. 

If you've been out of town or living under a rock or something, you can find all manner of stories and information about this year's Inlander Restaurant Week on our regular Inlander website. And you can find all the menus for the restaurants right here so you can plan your own excursion before the last day on Sunday, March 6. 

If you're the type to post pictures of your food — and let's face it, many of us are — be sure to drop a #InlanderRW hashtag so we can see your photography, and add a #IRWRaveReviews tag on your Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to generate a donation for Second Harvest every time you do so. 

Here are a few Instagram photos from the first few days of Inlander Restaurant Week:

The Boiler Room by Instagram user @misstifftigress
  • The Boiler Room by Instagram user @misstifftigress

Dessert at Browne's Tavern by Instagram user f_b_madrid
  • Dessert at Browne's Tavern by Instagram user f_b_madrid

Gilded Unicorn by Instagram user @thetolczyk
  • Gilded Unicorn by Instagram user @thetolczyk

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Happy Hour of the week: Soothing sounds at Garageland

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 3:30 PM

The old fridge holds frosty treats. - DAN NAILEN
  • Dan Nailen
  • The old fridge holds frosty treats.

JJ Wandler knows that music counts for a lot in a bar or dining experience. A place that doesn't pay attention to the sound floating through the airwaves could lose customers. I know I've vowed to never return to a place after having Bon Jovi spoil what was otherwise a perfectly fine outing. 

Wandler, co-owner of Garageland, has personally curated a playlist of 8,000 or so songs to provide the soundtrack for visitors to the bar/restaurant/record store/thrift shop, and that playlist makes Garageland the kind of place where it's easy to hunker down for a drink or two. The tunes don't pump so loud they drown out conversation, but they hit on old favorites enough to enhance a beer or one of Garageland's craft cocktails named for classic punk tunes (try the Blank Generation and thank me later). More than once on a recent Happy Hour trip I stopped mid-conversation to zone in on the subtle sounds: "Hey, the Stones' 'Rocks Off! Cool!" or "Hmm, is that the Jesus and Mary Chain? Love it." 

Combine the tunes with ever-changing original artwork, the funky everyday decor like the static-y TV set and old fridges holding cans of brew and the chance to do a little vinyl or clothes shopping and you have a Happy Hour unlike any other in town. 

Garageland's Happy Hour is $1 off every alcoholic beverage and goes from 4-6 pm every Monday-Friday and all day on Sundays. Additionally, Monday is half-off the bar's considerable selection of absinthe, including two made right here in Washington, Pacifique and Marteau. In the next few weeks, Wandler says they'll be adding some Happy Hour food items, with discount prices on burgers, salads and fries alongside the drinks. Stay tuned for that. 

To learn more about Happy Hours around the Inland Northwest, visit on your phone and download our Drinkspotter app, or  simply visit this page
The bar holds a little something for everyone, from a large absinthe selection to select bourbons and a few  locally made spirits. - DAN NAILEN
  • Dan Nailen
  • The bar holds a little something for everyone, from a large absinthe selection to select bourbons and a few locally made spirits.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Come watch Chef with local chefs Wednesday for Suds and Cinema

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 1:50 PM


To get you hungry and ramped up for Inlander Restaurant Week, which begins on Friday, we're turning our Suds and Cinema series into a hunger-inducing, beer-sipping (or chugging, if that's more your speed) celebration at the Overbluff Cellars Events Center in the Washington Cracker Building tomorrow (Wednesday) night.

We'll be showing Chef, an indie gem directed by and starring Jon Favreau about a celebrity chef who leaves life in a restaurant to start his own gourmet food truck. We'll also have a panel discussion featuring Chef Jeremy Hansen of Sante, Chef Travis Dickinson from Clover and Greg Brandt, the co-owner and co-brewer of Iron Goat Brewing, whose beer is also featured at the event in 22-ounce bottles.

Also, we have a food truck, Tacos el Sol, to tie into the movie and Horizon Credit Union will be on hand giving out $5 vouchers to the truck for some lucky attendees. And for dessert, Brain Freeze Creamery, a familiar face at past Suds and Cinema, will be scooping up the cold stuff.

We open doors and begin serving beer at 6:30 pm and the panel discussion begins at 7:30 pm, with the movie to follow immediately after. Overbluff Cellars Event Center is located at 304 W. Pacific Avenue, in the space that houses the annual Terrain event. Here is additional event info.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Spokane Chef Adam Hegsted a finalist for the 2016 James Beard Award

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 2:06 PM

Spokane's flourishing food scene is grabbing some deserved national attention again.


This time, Inland Northwest chef and restaurant owner Adam Hegsted — chef-owner of The Wandering Table and The Gilded Unicorn in Spokane, and The Cellar in Coeur d'Alene — has been named a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Best Chef Award.

Hegsted is a semifinalist for the Northwest region, which lists a total of 20 chefs mostly from Seattle and Portland.

James Beard Awards are a big deal for those in the food and hospitality industry. Semifinalists are chosen from a pool of more than 20,000 nominees from across the country — landing a James Beard Award means you're one of the best chefs in the nation. 

Spokane's culinary creatives are no stranger to this accolade, as last year we also saw Sante Restaurant & Charcuterie and Common Crumb Chef Jeremy Hansen named a semifinalist.

This year's awards are to be presented during the 2016 James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago, on May 2. But first, we'll be rooting for Hegsted to be named a finalist in an announcement about a month from now, on March 15.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Three Top Chefs add star power to Spokane’s Ruins

Posted By on Fri, Feb 5, 2016 at 10:06 AM

Tony Brown, of Ruins
  • Tony Brown, of Ruins

On an average night, Ruins is one of Spokane’s most interesting and innovative restaurants in the region, led by chef and owner Tony Brown’s ever-changing small-plates menu. In a relatively unremarkable building on North Monroe Street, just around the corner from the county jail, Brown has created a restaurant where other chefs come to while away an hour after their shifts and delight in well-prepared food. And that’s just on an average night.

Last night at Ruins wasn’t average.

Brown had help in his tiny kitchen.
From left: Kwame Onwuachi, Chad White and Phillip Frankland Lee at Ruins
  • From left: Kwame Onwuachi, Chad White and Phillip Frankland Lee at Ruins
 For one, there was Chad White, Spokane-born owner of restaurants in San Diego and Tijuana, who was just recently eliminated from the current season of Bravo TV’s Top Chef and is in the process of opening a place here. And there were two of White’s friends, also competing on Top Chef: Phillip Frankland Lee and Kwame Onwuachi, who flew into Spokane hours before dinner service to help in the special, multi-course meal inspired by Mexican street food.

The dishes were playful and tasty, beginning with Chef Phillip’s mussel and tequila shot seen below. (He brought ingredients with him, but TSA security got to them first.)
The first course, by Phillip
  • The first course, by Phillip

Not working but eating last night were two of the Inland Northwest’s best-known chefs: Jeremy Hansen of Sante, who previously collaborated with White; and David Blaine of Central Food. (Random recommendations: Try Sante’s wine-paired tasting menu and Central Food’s bibimbap.)

Besides the tasty food and expertly crafted cocktails, something else became very clear last night: Spokane’s chef culture is growing, and rather than see each other as competitors, local chefs are working together, supportively, to create new and interesting things. In March, for example, Hansen is organizing Chef’s Week. And later this month, there’s Inlander Restaurant Week, featuring 100 restaurants all doing special three-course meals.

On average, it's a very good time to eat!
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