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One World Lite 

by Ann M. Colford and Susan Hamilton & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & ometimes it takes awhile for a restaurant to find its identity. That's surely the case with Maaskeller's Ale House. The newly revamped restaurant had earlier incarnations as the Garden Grill and for many years before that as the Spokane mainstay Dewey, Cheatam & amp; Howe.

Maaskeller's retains much of the refurbished look that designer Pat Jeppeson gave the Garden Grill, but with a decidedly European look and feel. The exterior resembles a large chalet, and the interior echoes that dark, woodsy look. The tapestried booths and vintage bar of Garden Grill days seem more in sync with Maaskeller's new identity. Fresh amber textured walls, copper pots and beer steins lend a Bavarian feel.

"It's an Old World theme," says Maaskeller's manager Josh Patchin. "We wanted something different and exciting for this restaurant."

The new menu crystallizes Maaskeller's identity. Patchin's brother, Justin, who cheffed at the Maas family's Europa for many years, has created an Old World/New menu. He kept Garden Grill favorites and added some European-influenced dishes.

New lunch items include bratwurst links caramelized in stout beer with kraut and spicy German mustard, a bratwurst Reuben sandwich and a kraut dog. The dinner menu is where the changes really show up. "We got rid of half of the Garden Grill menu but kept our customers' favorite dishes," Patchin reveals. He says there's a "battle-of-the-schnitzels popularity contest" going on with some of the new items, like the jager schnitzel (pork cutlet with hunter's mushroom gravy) and chicken schnitzel cordon bleu (rolled with ham and Swiss cheese) -- both served with homemade spaetzel or German potato salad. Tarragon chicken offers French flavors with a honey Dijon mustard sauce, and pollo pomodoro is an Italian-influenced dish with sun-dried tomato pesto cream sauce. Of course you can get sausage with peppers, onions and tomatoes, while curried prawn skewers bring an Asian influence. Garden Grill favorites -- pasta primavera, pecan-crusted salmon and teriyaki stir-fry -- also have a place on Maaskeller's menu.

"We've got some really exclusive beers for microbrew buffs, like Chimay and Flying Dog, plus nine tap handles," Patchin adds. "We also have a much better wine selection, with wines that complement our food." -- Susan Hamilton

Maaskeller's Ale House, 3022 N. Division, is open Sun-Thu, 11 am-9 pm; Fri-Sat, 11 am-10 pm. Call 326-7741.

Kiss My Trout & r & When Elizabeth and Curtis Nelson and their partner, Todd Phelps, settled on the brick building at 218 N. Howard St. -- best known in recent years as a Taco Time -- as the site of their new restaurant venture, the Steelhead Bar & amp; Grille, Elizabeth wanted to know more about the building's history. She found historic photos of the building and the block at the MAC and had them framed and hung in the back hall -- just a little visual reminder of Spokane's past.

"We have a strong industrial history here in Spokane," she says. "Tourists already have great places like the Davenport, with all its history, but we wanted a place that would convey [more of] what Spokane is all about."

Steelhead sets that historic ambience right away with a sort of post-industrial chic -- lots of exposed brick, brushed steel, and a wrought iron spiral staircase that leads to a catwalk above the bar. Local artist Hazen Audel did a black metal sculpture that hangs on the north wall; a one-of-a-kind illuminated metal-and-acrylic sign dominates the back wall.

The name is part of the local angle, too, Nelson says: "The steelhead [trout] is native to the Pacific Northwest. We're all locals, and we wanted the restaurant to have a real Northwest local feel."

The menu is American pub food gone up-market -- but not too far up. The partners know pub food from their earlier collaborations: the Screaming Yak on Francis and the Wild Weasel at 57th and Regal. But here, the appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrees ($5-$11) reflect hearty fare prepared with just an extra dose of care: burgers are hand-pressed, for example, and the shoestring fries come topped with bleu cheese sauce and crumbled bacon. A dozen beers on tap (plus 15 more in bottles) at the full-service bar give patrons plenty of choices. And yes, there is steelhead (scientific name: Oncorhynchus mykiss) on the menu -- offered smoked, as an appetizer, with cream cheese, chopped onion and crostini.

"We wanted to offer good food but nothing over the top," she says. "We wanted a place where people could stop in with their kids, someplace affordable, with simple, good-quality food." -- Ann M. Colford

Steelhead Bar & amp; Grille, 218 N. Howard St., is open daily, 11 am-close; children are welcome till 9 pm. The full menu is available till 10:30 pm, with limited finger foods after that. Call 747-1303.

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