by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & was eager for the Little Garden Caf & eacute; in Spokane's Audubon Park neighborhood to open its doors last summer. One thing our neighborhood lacked was a place to hang out, where you can get a cup of something and talk. I was also hoping for a decent little restaurant where my wife and I could go after a long day at work and get an affordable meal, without having to hop in the car.
The caf & eacute; took over a vacant corner of a little strip mall on Northwest Boulevard, across from the park, a space that had previously been filled by an antique shop. Butcher paper covered the windows, and a little sign on the door announced that a new caf & eacute; would be opening soon. I was excited, anticipating a new place to eat within reasonable walking distance of our house.
Night after night I'd stroll past on my evening walk. Sometimes I'd see a bulb or two burning inside, and I could make out ladders and bodies. One day, a sign advertising the Little Garden Caf & eacute; appeared over the door. But the expected opening date came and went. Rumors flew about bureaucratic delays with permits. Finally, in August, the caf & eacute; opened its doors and my wife and I went in for lunch. We had panini sandwiches and a salad -- they were fine, but I felt vaguely disappointed after all the expectations.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & R & lt;/span & ecently we went back. It was a cloudy Saturday afternoon with a little drizzle, a good day to hang out inside. We ordered two sandwiches and a salad and headed off to sit down and wait for our lunch. We walked past a couple sitting in a corner, having a pleasant chat, into a side room that also serves as an art gallery. Framed photos from Debra Edwards hung on a brick wall. We sat down by the front window at a low marble table that was surrounded by a couch and two plush stools. We sipped a pomegranate-blueberry Jet Tea, asked each other trivia questions from a board game and watched people walk by.
Within a few minutes, a server came with a plate of Tuscan salad ($6.75) -- spring greens, black and Kalamata olives, chunks of chicken, artichoke hearts and feta cheese, topped with a vinaigrette and a bread stick. It was a variation of the Greek salad you find in many restaurants. The artichoke hearts -- not a favorite of mine -- were a highlight; they weren't pickled as artichoke hearts often are and they added a little bit of crunch. The Kalamatas, as usual, were delightful, although the black olives were tasteless in comparison. Overall, though, it was a nice way to start lunch.
Then came our sandwiches. My wife ordered a garlic chicken with basil pesto ($6.75): big chunks of chicken, cheese, a tomato slice and spring greens on wheat bread. It was a good basic sandwich that would have been better if you could taste the pesto. I had a beef and Swiss ($6.75) with tomato and spring greens and a tomato pesto on whole wheat bread. Again, it's a decent sandwich that would really shine if the cook weren't so stingy with the pesto.
Little Garden also serves scones and other desserts from the Sweetwater Bakery, along with a full menu of Waverly's coffees, teas and other cold sweet drinks. It's not the neighborhood dinner place I had hoped for; it's only open for breakfast and lunch, although it'll be open till 7 pm on Thursdays throughout the summer. But Little Garden's value is as a relaxing gathering place. I've seen mothers drop off their children in the morning at Finch School, on the other end of Audubon Park, then walk down -- often pushing strollers -- and meet other moms at the caf & eacute;. There's a fully equipped playroom in the back for children.
Even though I don't go there often, Little Garden is just what our neighborhood needed, a nice, little spot where people can meet without getting in their cars. Let's hope -- with gas at four bucks a gallon -- that more neighborhood gathering places will sprout up all over the city.
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.