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Fresh & amp;amp; Tasty 

DINING A New Branch & r & & r & The locally owned Twigs restaurant group has had a north-side location for some time now, but the company recently opened up in new, larger digs in the rapidly growing Wandermere neighborhood. The newest version of TWIGS NORTH boasts a soaring cathedral ceiling and a wall of windows that face north and overlook a sprawling patio and made-to-order lake. The building's fieldstone exterior and heavy oversized entry doors give it the look of a castle, or perhaps a country lodge, but the interior is thoroughly contemporary -- and will look comfortably familiar to anyone who's been to the South Hill edition on Regal.





The menu, too, is similar to the other locations, with the trademark 36 martinis (used to be only 24), along with a broad selection of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entr & eacute;es. The happy hour menu (offered 3-6 pm and 9 pm-close) means a particularly good deal on a handful of appetizers that work well with those martinis. The wine list offers breadth, and you'll find an acceptable number of beers on tap.





The usual array of rich and gooey desserts rounds out the menu -- and of course there are dessert martinis as well. And if you're more a morning person than a late-night denizen, check out the breakfasts, served on weekends.





Despite its impressive size, the spacious dining room was busy for an early weekday lunch -- about one-third full soon after 11:30 am. That's a sign that the new Twigs location is meeting the pent-up demand of Spokane's far north side.





-- ANN M. COLFORD





Twigs at Wandermere, 401 E. Farwell Rd., is open Mon-Thu 11 am-10 pm, Fri 11 am-11 pm, Sat 8 am-11 pm, Sun 8 am-10 pm. Call 465-8794.





CASUAL Room For All


Pizza lovers on Spokane's lower South Hill (and on Indian Trail) know all about the pizzas (and calzones and salads and hot sandwiches) at BENNIDITO'S PIZZA, but trying to squeeze into the Lincoln Street location, whether to dine in or take out, has been... well, trying. Happily, the south-side shop has grown this winter, taking over the space next door and nearly tripling the seating capacity. The extra seating -- booths, regular tables and high bar-style tables, along with six stools at the bar -- and the six TVs scattered around the room give the revamped Bennidito's the feeling of a neighborhood hangout.





"We always were that," says owner Chris Bennett, "but now we get people coming in from all over because they know they'll have a place to sit."





Come summer, even more seating will be available, he says, because he plans to expand the deck space as well.





Pizzas still come in three sizes -- 10-inch, 15-inch and 19-inch -- and 22 combos ($7-$20) plus the create-your-own option. The crust, made in-house, is thick, soft and bread-y around the rim and thin and crispy in the center, a tough combination to master. The red sauce tastes of fresh tomato and oregano, along with the requisite garlic, and there are some surprising ingredients available including Fontina, Gruyere, feta, ricotta and goat cheeses.





"When I first opened, I felt it had to be a niche that Spokane didn't have," Bennett says. For example, the Hawaiian combo ("Maui Wowie") features pancetta and prosciutto rather than prosaic chunks of ham. "It's a way to get people to try something new. And now, that's become one of our top sellers."





Even on a Monday night, the joint was jumping, especially with a Zags game on the tube. A couple of couples stared into each other's eyes, while others stared at the TVs; a table filled with boisterous 20-something women celebrated... something. Three young Christian guys nearby spoke earnestly about the need to keep God in mind while dating. ("Dude, what does the Bible say? You gotta pray about your relationship.") It all went well with the food and the nine (mostly Northwest) beers on tap. Rather have wine? You can get red, white or pink for $4 a glass. And the red can be Townshend's Red Table, or a merlot or cab from Meridian.





Come spring, Bennett plans to add pasta to the menu, with four sauces (marinara, pomidoro, pesto and alfredo) and a choose-your-topping lasagna baked fresh to order.





The vibe is comfortable, even with synth-heavy dance beats thumping overhead -- the music simply set a full background layer in the soundscape. Table service is friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. The pizza is still the same. And that's a good thing.





-- ANN M. COLFORD





Bennidito's Pizza, 1426 S. Lincoln St., is open Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm (until 11 pm Fri), and Sun noon-9 pm. Call 455-7411.

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