by Susan Hamilton & r & SEASONED PROS DINING OUT & r & Cyrus Vaughn should know all about restaurants. After all, he's developed 20 successful eateries in the Inland Northwest over the past 30 years or so. Some of these establishments may be your favorite places to dine -- Cyrus O'Leary's, Rocky Rococo and Tomato Street, to name a few. Now he's opened one with a new twist -- fresh Mexican.
"When I looked at restaurants around America for the last 10 years, I found there was a lot of interest in Mexican fresh," Vaughn reveals. "Our new restaurant, Jose Arriba's, is a bit different in that everything's fresh."
Just how fresh is fresh?
"We don't have a freezer or can opener here," explains manager Don Torbenson, Vaughn's long-time partner. "Everything is handmade fresh daily. And this is the only restaurant where you can get fresh, made-from-scratch tortillas."
When you enter Arriba's, you'll think you've landed in Baja, California. Mexican music plays overhead while palm trees, thatched roofs, bamboo and sunny colors bathe the spacious dining room. Murals feature scenes of soccer players mid-game, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid riding off and a lively beach. Tables and chairs are literally splashed with color. And what is that metal sculpture hanging from the ceiling near the ordering line?
"The pterodactyl is the only thing that Cyrus kept from Cyrus O'Leary's," Torbenson says. "He thought this was the perfect place to hang it."
The relic will steer you right to the line where you choose your food, separated by a glass wall from the servers in the open kitchen. The tortilla ladies roll out their thin creations right before your eyes and cook them on a flat, round grill. Bilingual line workers help you choose rice, beans, meat, cheese, sauces and sides. But if you think this is just fast Mexican fare, you're in for a surprise.
Arriba's burritos are truly grande, as the menu proclaims. They're filled with savory poblano rice, beans (pinto or black) and cheese, and you can also add various meats. My friend chose the sweet marinated pork, an Arriba specialty. A spicy New Mexican red chile sauce complemented its juicy richness. Next time, she wants to try it smothered in the sweet tomatillo green chile sauce.
Salads at Arriba's are large, too. Served in a fresh flour tortilla covered with poblano rice, beans, romaine, pico de gallo, homemade guacamole, cotija cheese, cilantro and tri-colored tortilla chips, they are work in themselves. I chose the savory seasoned charbroiled chicken to top mine off. The cilantro ranch and champagne vinaigrette dressings are so flavorful, I tried both.
Quesadillas are a staple of Mexican fare, and Arriba's will not disappoint. My daughter's was a crispy, cheesy affair, topped off with seasoned charbroiled steak.
"With generous portions, reasonable prices and to-go options, Jose Arriba's puts a whole new spin on Mexican fresh," says Torbenson. "Next time you have to try our fresh salmon taco."
Jose Arriba's, 2503 W. Wellesley (Shadle Center), is open daily from 11 am-9 pm. Call 244-2700.
LAST ACT Reopening & r & "This could be one of Spokane's premier restaurants, as it used to be," says owner Jeff Synder about the just reopened Chapter restaurant, now named the Final Chapter.
Long-time Spokane diners remember Chapter Eleven as a great steakhouse. It closed in 2001 after 30 years, reopening the next year as the Chapter and operating for three years.
Snyder owns the successful Chic-a-Ria German restaurant with his wife Carrie. So why take on another dining establishment?
"I remember Chapter Eleven being a special dining experience," Snyder says. "I want to revive that quality reputation with the Final Chapter."
In keeping with the traditional Chapter d & eacute;cor, Snyder hasn't made many noticeable changes.
"We finished everything off so it's more classical," he explains. "The bar is now enclosed rather than open to the dining room. We've got new carpeting in burgundy and green that complements the vintage Tiffany lamps."
And how about the menu?
"We took our cues from when it was Chapter Eleven," Snyder says. "The prime rib is back, as well as tiger prawns, crab and lobster. We added an exclusive beef line and a nice selection of middle-ground chicken and fish dishes. And nobody does an in-house smoked-meat deli sandwich like we do."
Besides melt-in-your-mouth tender steaks, the Final Chapter's dinner entrees include Cornish game hen, baby back ribs, teriyaki pork loin, king salmon and pan-fried oysters, as well as shrimp fettuccini and beef stroganoff. Lunch items range from traditional sandwiches, like a Ruben or hot pastrami, to half-pound charbroiled burgers. Lunch specialties feature an eight-ounce sirloin steak, prime-rib sandwich and chicken fettuccini. Salads -- shrimp Louie, Oriental chicken and fried calamari, among others -- are also offered.
The Final Chapter, 105 E. Mission Ave., is open Mon-Thurs 11 am-9 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-10 pm, and Sunday 3-9 pm. Call 244-8373.