There are Mongolian grills and there are Mongolian grills. Of the handful in the Inland Northwest, the recently opened HuHot Mongolian Grill stands out from the crowd.
"We don't have cafeteria-style dining like the other Mongolian grills," says Jamie Cramer, who moved from the Missoula HuHot to manage the new Valley restaurant. "We also make our sauces daily, and we have many fresh seafood dishes and super salads with dinner."
What caught my attention was HuHot's contemporary, colorful and striking architecture and d & eacute;cor. A life-size replica of a 2,000-year-old Chinese terra-cotta warrior stands in the foyer, bright dragons are painted on the walls and bold colors grace the dining room. I also liked HuHot's explanation of how Mongolian grills came about. Lacking traditional cutlery, the Mongols used their swords to slice thin strips of meat and vegetables, then seared the mixture on their shields over an open fire. Sounds adventurous.
The autonomy and freedom of the mostly nomadic Mongols is expressed in present-day Mongolian grills. Diners decide what ingredients make up their meal, select from an array of sauces and watch while it's all cooked before their eyes. At HuHot, you can choose from an array of items at the food bar -- various noodles, meats (from beef to sausage), seafood, vegetables, tofu and beans. Once you've got the ingredients for your custom meal in a bowl, you choose a sauce (sans MSG). Prepared sauces range from the mild Samurai Teriyaki and Not So Sweet & amp; Sour to the spicy Kung Pao -- Yow! -- and Five Village Fire Szechwan. Or you can create your own sauce for a unique, flavorful combination. Lunches are served with steamed rice or tortillas, and dinner includes soup or salad as well as rice or tortillas.
"The final pillage," or dessert, includes cheesecake, fried cheesecake Rangoons, seven-layer chocolate cake and s'mores, which Cramer says are a big hit. "Everybody loves roasting marshmallows at their table," she explains.
HuHot Mongolian Grill, at 11703 E. Sprague (three blocks west of Pines), is open daily from 11 am-9 pm. Call 891-8711.
New Sandwich Spots -- If your idea of a sandwich is the sausage variety, then you'll appreciate Cap'n Juicy's. The newly opened downtown lunch shop in the Parkade Plaza features all-beef, New York deli-style hot dogs, as well as quarter-pound kosher hot dogs, Polish sausage, Longhorn German sausage and Red Hook beer-basted bratwurst. The New York Coney dog and pizza dog are the most popular items on the menu, but the salsa dog, Reuben classic and Big Brat also hold their own with customers.
Owner Josh Baldwin patterned his shop after classic East Coast hot dog stands. Cap'n Juicy's looks like a New York walk-up eatery and is just as pedestrian-friendly.
Smoothies made from fruit purees in flavors ranging from orchard peach to pina colada are also offered. The mango smoothie I tasted was very substantial, not at all watery or sugary. If you need a jolt, Cap'n Juicy's also has Starbucks coffee, as well as sodas. And in true sidewalk fashion, the eatery features Good Humor ice cream bars -- from Fudgesicles to Oreo cookie bars.
Cap'n Juicy's Super Duper Wienies, at 112 N. Howard St., is open Monday-Friday from 10:30 am-4 pm. Call 455-6750.
Another downtown sandwich shop has changed hands and names of late. Sparky's in Crescent Court has become Our Daily Bread Deli. Owners Scott and Christine Haggberg are offering fun comfort food.
"The specialty baked turkey sandwich is like your after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich on fresh baked Genova bread," Christine says. "The chicken pot pie bread bowl is extremely popular."
Our Daily Bread features an array of sandwiches for every palate -- from pastrami to tuna -- with all the fixin's. Soups (clam chowder, chicken noodle, broccoli and chili, to name a few) and salads round out the menu.
Our Daily Bread Deli, at 707 W. Main Ave. on the second floor, is open Monday-Friday from 9 am-4 pm, Saturday from 11 am-3 pm and Sunday from 11 am-2 pm. Call 456-3473.
Hot Coffee on North Monroe -- Every neighborhood needs its coffee stand, and now North Monroe has two places for java and noshing.
Extreme Caffeine Espresso looks like it belongs in a shiny strip mall on the outside, but the inside is cozy, with latte-colored eating areas. Besides the usual coffee drinks, owner Kindy McInnis offers gourmet teas, Italian sodas, hot chocolate, granitas and smoothies. Fresh-baked pastries include scones, lemon poppy-seed bread, cinnamon rolls, carrot cake, cookies and biscotti.
When I saw the lunch menu, I realized why Extreme Caffeine has two eating areas. Six different sandwiches are offered -- from turkey avocado or French dip to the Extreme's turkey and roast beef with Swiss and cheddar or build your own. Soups change daily.
Extreme Caffeine Espresso, at 2706 N. Monroe St., is open Monday-Friday from 5:30 am-6 pm and Saturday from 7 am-3 pm. Call 323-9110.
The buttery yellow Art Deco-style building next to KPBX has been hopping since it opened a few weeks ago. Coffee is the main focus at Caffe Delicio, but owner Tami Farnes also offers smoothies and frappes. Pastries, bagels, croissants and scones are served as well.
Inside seating is coming soon at Caffe Delicio, located at 2301 N. Monroe St. The shop is open Monday-Friday from 6 am-6 pm, Saturday from 7 am-5 pm and Sunday from 7 am-3 pm. Call 328-9339.
Wining and Dining -- It seems there's no end to the mid-fall wine and food events in the Inland Northwest.
Savor the Flavor comes to Pasco on Nov. 1-2. There will be gourmet food and beverage-sampling from 30 restaurants, wineries and microbreweries. On two cooking stages at TRAC and in the culinary salon, well-known area chefs will participate in cooking demonstrations and a "Fresh Chef" competition. Seventy-five vendors will offer kitchen products and ideas for event-goers. Regina Campbell, of PBS vegetarian cooking show fame, will share how to make heart-healthy foods that include fats and oils. Tickets are $9 for adults and $5 for seniors and children under 12. Call (509) 946-5542.
Some of the finest of the Northwest's restaurants, wineries and microbreweries will be represented at this year's Epicurean Delight on Friday, Nov. 7, at 6 pm at the Spokane AgTrade Center's Grand Ballroom. From Spencer's and Beverly's to Chateau Ste. Michel and Barnard Griffin, guests will have the opportunity to sample haute cuisine and fine wines, then vote for their choice for the best. The black-tie event benefits Deaconess Medical Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Tickets are $150 per person. Call 473-7672.
Vino! and the Italian Kitchen have teamed up to bring connoisseurs another memorable wine dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 11. The festive five-course dinner includes a main plate of apple and sausage-stuffed smoked pork loin with Chianti mustard glaze complemented by a 1999 Chianti classico "Scassino" Terrablanca. John Allen will be on hand to give his bubbly commentaries. Call 838-1229 for reservations and more information.
Speaking of bubbly, there's a formal champagne tasting on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 8 pm at the Spokane Club. The black-tie optional event, sponsored by Vino!, features some of the world's finest champagnes (from France to our own Mountain Dome) and delicious hors d'oeuvres. Tickets for this popular event are $75 per person. Call 838-1229.
More than 100 wineries and 30 microbreweries will be pouring their best at this year's Cork & amp; Keg Festival on Friday, Nov. 21, at 7 pm at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park. The Inland Northwest Culinary Academy will provide hors d'oeuvres. Auction items include romantic getaways, regional wine tours and gift baskets. Tickets are $40 per person at Rosauer's. Call 467-7744.
The Inland Northwest Culinary Academy's Thanksgiving Lunch on Tuesday, November 25, features turkey or ham with all the trimmings. Seating times are 11 am and 12:30 pm. Tickets are $10 and prepayment must be received by Nov. 14.Call 533-7283.
Mi Casa, Su Casa -- In last week's Taco Quest, we forgot to mention the toothsome authenticity and robust flavors of Mi Casa Taqueria on the lower South Hill. And beginning Nov. 4, diners will have a chance to experience Mi Casa's delicious taco product on a whole new level as they introduce an extensive dinner menu and seated table service. Lunch is still casual "come in and sit down," but evenings will offer reservations, specials and even the occasional bout of live music. Muy bueno!
Mi Casa Taqueria, 901 W. 14th Ave., open Tues-Thurs from 11 am-9 pm, on Friday from 11 am-10 pm, on Saturday from noon-9 pm and on Sunday from noon-8 pm. Call: 455-5155