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Fresh & amp;amp; Tasty 

by SUSAN HAMILTON and ANN M. COLFORD & r & & r & DINING Customize It!


A hot trend in dining these days is customized meals. It seems everyone wants food their own, special way. Just opened this week in the Spokane Valley, MOJO offers a customized dining experience.





"It's a new concept that hasn't been seen before in Spokane," says owner Steven Brower. "Customers can control their dining experience."





Brower and his chef, Charlie Connor, developed Mojo's menu from favorite dishes at restaurants where they previously worked, such as Beverly's at the Coeur d'Alene Resort and P.F. Chang's.





"Mojo's West Coast American cuisine features global ingredients and local flavors served fresh and fast," Brower explains. "Customers can customize their meals just the way they want with the Make Your Mojo menu items, or enjoy our house specialties with the Mojo's Magic menu."





Everything at Mojo is made from scratch -- from meat marinades to salad dressings. Mojo's artisan breads are baked in-house with a steam-injected, hearthstone oven.





Customized salads offer choices of lettuce, toppings (like marinated mushrooms, roasted bell peppers, caramelized onions or bourbon raisins), dressings and extras. Sandwiches include a variety of meats, breads, toppings and side dishes (including vegetable ratatouille or wild rice). For entr & eacute;es, diners choose a fresh-sliced meat, indicate how they want it prepared and add side dishes. Price points for customized dishes range from $6 to $11.





Among the house specialty items are appetizers like roasted tomato and fresh mozzarella stacks with basil chiffonade. Salads run the gamut from a fat-free Green Goddess chop with feta cheese and grilled asparagus to a Southwest salad with marinated flank steak, caramelized onions and avocado dressing. A cheesy chicken-apple sandwich is served on fresh-baked sourdough with grilled chicken breast, applewood-smoked bacon and Havarti cheese. The California garden sandwich on fresh-baked focaccia sports marinated zucchini, squash, eggplant, Portobello mushrooms and roasted bell peppers. Entr & eacute;es include slow-roasted Mojito ribs with tropical barbecue sauce and a grilled flatiron steak with port wine and bleu cheese butter. Price points range from $4 to $19.





"Our goal is to change the rules defining a typical restaurant in Spokane," Brower says. "What we have created is a place where people can come to experience a wonderful house-made meal, sit, chat and be involved in an intense culinary experience."


-- SUSAN HAMILTON





Mojo, 328 N. Sullivan Rd., is open Mon-Sat 11 am-9 pm. Call 893-8900.





CASUAL Marga-Pita-Ville


The onset of warm weather means people are looking for a place to eat and drink outside in the fresh air. Two new businesses at Five Mile -- TONICX BAR AND PATIO and the latest PITA PIT franchise -- have joined to give diners the unusual pairing of healthy fast food and cocktails, either inside or out on the north-facing deck. Each business has its own space, with a connecting hallway linking the two; customers at either place may use the patio.





Tonicx has beers on tap and a full selection of cocktails. Pita Pit offers about 20 different sandwiches, including several vegetarian choices. The toppings are more varied than at most sub shops -- pineapple, anyone? -- plus an extensive selection of sauces. Assembly follows the basic Subway-style model: pick your bread (white or wheat pita) and basic sandwich contents, then add on toppings and sauces.





Of course, Pita Pit is a local business story too, with national headquarters in Coeur d'Alene and a spreading franchise empire of 129 U.S. locations. The company began in Canada and expanded into the United States in 1999 -- one of the earliest stores in this country was in Moscow, Idaho. In 2005, Coeur d'Alene physician Jack Riggs purchased the south-of-the-border operations and moved U.S. headquarters to the Inland Northwest.





On the day I visit, the daily special pita is Buffalo chicken: chunks of chicken, heated on the grill while I watch, coated with spicy red Buffalo sauce and folded up sort of envelope style inside a whole wheat pita. I add cucumber, red onion, pepperoncinis and black olives, plus a dash of tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber) sauce to cut the heat. (There's no bleu-cheese sauce.) It's tasty and filling, a fresher and healthier fast-food alternative that I don't have to feel too guilty about. I forego the delights of Tonicx since it's a workday, alas. But that patio sure looks enticing -- a great place to sip something icy on a warm day.


-- ANN M. COLFORD





Tonicx Bar and Patio and the Pita Pit, 6314 N. Ash St., are open Sun-Thu 10:30 am-1 am, Fri-Sat 10:30 am-3 am. Call 324-6453.

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