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Drool-Worthy Mexican 

El Paisa comes to Coeur d'Alene and 12 String Brewing starts pouring in the Spokane Valley.

click to enlarge The sweet pork enchiladas and Tacos Pastor at Coeur dAlenes El Paisa - CARRIE SCOZZARO
  • Carrie Scozzaro
  • The sweet pork enchiladas and Tacos Pastor at Coeur dAlenes El Paisa

It's almost as if they’re daring you not to lick your plate. An unpretentious little place, El Paisa serves most of its meals in take-away tinfoil containers, so it was only through a supreme effort of will that either of our two entrees survived until the next day’s lunch.

Living up to its name, the Mouth Watering Sweet Pork ($5.50) never had a chance as a leftover. Marinated and slow-roasted — cook and part-owner Francisco “Pancho” Padilla’s special secret recipe — the sweet pork combines the tenderness of pulled pork with the best qualities of sweet barbecue.

Tacos pastor (which made it until the next day and was, by the way, delicious) is a variation on the typical taqueria style of spit-roasting meat associated with Greek gyros. Its tender, spicy bits of pork are served atop two small corn tortillas, heaped with salsa fresca ($5.50). Like all combo plates, this dish was accompanied by fragrant tomato rice and beans — either refried pintos with a little jalapeño kick or black beans cooked down until tender.

Breakfast brings a dozen variations of meat, eggs, potatoes and/or beans, including huevos rancheros and beans ($5). A kids menu — nachos, tamales, enchiladas — offers poquito portions at $3 or less, while the majority of menu items hover around $5-$6. Wash it down with water or soda, or opt for the traditional horchata, a sweetened, cinnamon-y drink made with rice milk ($2).

If that were all El Paisa offered, it’d be an easy checkmark on your next-favorite-hole-in-the-wall list. Now add the unexpected like, lengua (beef tongue) tacos and pork tamales, which can also be ordered in chicken and vegetarian (call ahead). Sunday dinners mean steak fajitas ($8.50) and, although it’s not on the menu, Sunday is also the day Pancho serves menudo soup — the perfect cure for a hangover, or so we’ve heard. (Carrie Scozzaro)

El Paisa • 1801 Lincoln Way, Coeur d’Alene • Open Mon-Sat 8 am-7 pm, Sun 8 am-2 pm • (208) 930-4210

Tap That

Being located in the midst of warehouse territory in Spokane Valley, it’s easy to drive by 12-String Brewery. But upon entering the hotly anticipated taproom, you immediately forget the sterility of its outside surroundings.

The small room, built onto the brewery building itself, gives off a warm glow. Finished with natural woods, the taproom features several tables and a small stage for live music. Although the ceilings seem higher than the room is wide, the vibe is cozy and welcoming.

Although 12 String has been distributing their brews for a little over two months, the taproom is a new addition. The brewery already has five permanent beers locked in and promises there are more to come. Owner Terry Hackler says that he is aiming for 15 or 20 different beers.

The brewery has already run the gamut with their current selection — featuring a blonde, amber, IPA, stout and porter, all solid in flavor and composition.

In addition to their beers, 12 String also offers several appetizers. Nothing overly elaborate, Hackler says, just “some stuff that, if you’re hungry, you can get a little food in your belly.”

12 String’s cranberry salsa ($8) is a stand-out item. Served with wheat crackers and brie, the salsa is made with cranberries in place of tomatoes. The flavor is rounded out with ginger, lime and cilantro.

As for entertainment, Hackler has regular live music planned. The first performers, Spokane-based bluegrass duo (and sometimes trio) the Vagabonds proved that the small taproom is nothing to scoff at when it comes to sound.

Overall, 12 String hits all the targets — great beer, delicious food, solid entertainment, and a welcoming vibe. It’s definitely worth the search. (Tiffany Harms)

12 String Brewing Company Taproom • 11616 E. Montgomery Dr., Ste. 26 • Wed-Thurs, 3 pm-close, Fri 2 pm-close, Sat noon-close • • 990-8622

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