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Fresh & amp;amp; Tasty 

DINING In Like Bin & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & alking through the oversized handcrafted carved wood doors at BIN 98 TWENTY, the remodeled former Twigs on Nevada, you get the feeling you're entering into an old European wine cellar. And the interior is as impressive as the fa & ccedil;ade -- wine bottles poke out of holes whimsically placed in its silver-leaf-covered wine wall, giving the curious impression of a rock-climbing wall. While elegant, the interior is also industrial and contemporary, with a lively and vibrant ambience.

The menu begins with a statement: "First and foremost, you must have fun and enjoy yourself and your company while consuming wine." The servers here are fast, friendly, efficient and approachable. Our funny and knowledgeable server took good care of us as we enjoyed a red wine flight ($9). (A white wine flight, $6, is also an option.) With more than 200 wines by the bottle, options are plentiful. The Bin also features martinis, mojitos, single-malt scotch selections, and Irish, Canadian and American whisky choices.

Bin 98 Twenty's menu was carefully crafted by former executive chef Mitch Thomas. For the popular Boursin chicken ($20), free-range chicken is pan seared and served with a Boursin-infused cr & eacute;me de leek sauce and basil whipped potatoes. Wild Alaska salmon ($19) gets pan seared with cider for another favorite. Every item we tried has been crafted to create an amazing mouthful of flavor and texture. Within the next few weeks, new Executive Chef Bob Staples will tweak the menu to his own preferences.

For dessert, we thoroughly enjoyed the Fallen Chocolate Cakes ($8), a duo of warm chocolate cakes with both chocolate peanut butter ganache and milk chocolate malt ganache, served with pistachio ice cream and raspberry foam. Each bite was perfectly paired and more than delectable.

Bin 98 Twenty is not just a special occasion restaurant -- it's a great spot for wine tastings, casual lunches, business meetings or a late-night dessert gathering. It's not pretentious or stuffy, and the prices and the staff reflect that.


Bin 98 Twenty, at 9820 N. Nevada St., is open Mon-Thu 11 am-10 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-11 pm, Sun 11 am-9 pm. Call 468-9820.

CASUAL Bienvenidos, Amigos

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he kind of food found in most large Mexican restaurants in the United States is generally far more American than Mexican -- it's Mexican-inspired food for the American palate. But if you can find some truly home-style Mexican cooking, well, then, you've found a treat.

Inside the shockingly lime-green walls of EL GALLO GIRO on East Sprague, you'll find a family operation, staffed entirely by members of the Martinez family, with some of the best and most authentic home-style Mexican dishes available in Spokane.

"It's just the five of us," says Cesar Martinez. "We wash dishes, we cook, we clean -- we do everything."

El Gallo Giro began as a tiny taqueria across from Fred Meyer on Thor and moved to its current location about a year and a half ago. The interior is as festive as the exterior, with vibrantly colored tables, brightly hued walls and carved chairs from Mexico.

"We treat our customers like friends," Cesar says. "The restaurant is my home, and I'm inviting people in."

The family arrived in Spokane in 1991 from Mexico City, after a brief stint in Texas: parents Francisco and Cecilia and their children, including sons Cesar and Juan. These four, plus Cesar's wife Patricia, keep El Gallo Giro running smoothly.

"Our salsas we make every morning," Cesar says. The mild red salsa is the standard offering, but there's a hotter version, along with a roasted pepper salsa (my favorite), a chunky one made with pickled cabbage (my second favorite), and a real zinger made with habaneros.

Many menu items are made from scratch daily: chiles rellenos, tamales, pork short ribs in roasted pepper salsa, spicy shrimp Diavola. Enchiladas are served folded, rather than rolled, and topped with lettuce, tomato and queso fresca (fresh crumbly Mexican cheese). The mole sauce is rich brown, not sweet, with a hint of spice. Wash it all down with a horchata (rice milk and cinnamon) and be sure to save room for the flan -- a thick, sweet egg custard made daily by Cecilia.

"We're really thankful for this town," says Cesar. "I'm from Mexico, but Spokane is my home."


El Gallo Giro, at 3207 E. Sprague, is open Mon-Fri 11 am-8 pm (later on Fri), Sat noon-2 am. Call 534-3112.

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