& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "W & lt;/span & e've been homeless since the end of April 2004 and almost a year in construction," says co-owner Steve Hill.
Many have watched the progress at the corner of Main and Washington in downtown Spokane, as HILLS' RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE gradually took shape. The new location's main dining room's sand- and pumpkin-colored walls are accented with maroon booths that allow for more seating and elbow room. An elegant private dining room accommodates large or small parties. The bar in back takes advantage of the original 1901 brick wall. Even the kitchen has its own history -- marble from Hills' former pickup window and tiles behind the massive stove, each with its own story.
With full reservations last Saturday for opening weekend, Hills' is getting used to its new home and being back in business. "We're not seating more people than we can accommodate," Hill says. "We want to make sure our machine is running well before we get it up to full speed. This adjustment period shouldn't take too long."
Chef Dave Hill features traditional and innovative dishes in his lunch and dinner menu, with price points ranging from $2.50 to $25. Marinated artichoke and Cambozola cheese in a light cream sauce, served with fresh focaccia bread, is an appetizer meant to be shared. Seared tuna steak is a new offering, with ponzu dipping sauce and wasabi. Soups range from fiery gumbo to creamy clam chowder.
Lunch items include a large variety of salads. A seared steak salad is topped with a hot, creamy horseradish sauce, while the southern-fried chicken salad is tossed with a Creole mustard dressing. Sandwich selections run the gamut from Philly cheese steak and pulled pork with house barbecue sauce to roasted vegetable or smoked salmon panini.
"We have build-your-own steak entrees featuring Brandt natural meat," Dave mentions. "Customers can choose steaks from top sirloin to London broil and customize their sauces with everything from Gorgonzola demi-glace or pepper sauce to tomato chutney or roasted onions and port."
Other entr & eacute;es include chicken, pancetta and Brie; Singapore noodles with ham, shrimp and veggies; and shrimp Creole. Customers can add different sauces to customize various entrees.
"Everything worth having is worth waiting for," Steve says.
-- SUSAN HAMILTON
Hills' Restaurant, 401 W. Main Ave., is open Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm. Call 747-3946.
CASUAL Down-home style
There's nothing like Mama's home cooking, especially if your mama is a great cook. If we're talking authentic ethnic cuisine, it's even better. And MR. DON, a new north-side family-owned Mexican eatery boasts all of the above.
"All the recipes are from Felix's mom, Rosa," explains co-owner (and Felix's wife) Amanda Beltran. "They're traditional dishes from Sonora -- all made from scratch."
Some of those northern Mexican specialty items are displayed buffet-style at Mr. Don's counter. Pollo a la crema (chicken, green peppers and mushrooms in a cream sauce) and chile Colorado (meat simmered in a red chile sauce) were two of the aromatic offerings when I stopped by recently. Customers can design a customized combo meal from the entrees in the display and add two side items, like rice, beans or chilaquiles (stew). Prices at Mr. Don's range from about $3 to $9.
Entr & eacute;es include mole (a traditional Mexican favorite of chicken and potatoes simmered in a chocolate/peanut/spiced sauce), bistec ranchero (steak marinated in spices and cooked in a sauce with potatoes, onions and green peppers) and pollo en pi & ntilde;a (chicken and veggies in pineapple sauce). You'll also find familiar Mexican-American dishes -- burritos, quesadillas and tacos -- as well as tortas (sandwiches).
Customers can see Mama Rosa cooking in the open kitchen, making dishes to order, like molletes (a traditional northern Mexican broiled sandwich similar to a Philly cheese steak with meat, beans and cheese). Mr. Don's offers a choice of sauces (red and green chile, mole or cream) and meats (ground beef, shredded chicken or pork) with its made-to-order items. Salads (taco, tostada and costa with refried beans) and savory tortilla soup, as well as vegetarian and kids' meals, are also featured.
The open dining room's tall windows let in lots of light, and the d & eacute;cor is modern and tasteful. Colorful paintings by Amanda Beltran decorate the walls. With the new YMCA going in nearby, Mr. Don's is sure to be a popular eating spot in the expanding Wandermere area.
"It's in between a fast-food and sit-down restaurant," Felix Beltran says. "But we treat customers like family."
-- SUSAN HAMILTON
Mr. Don, 10925 N. Newport Hwy. (north of Nevada), is open daily from 11 am-9 pm. Call 466-7366.