Don't be surprised to see chef Thomas Didra come out from behind the stove with a screwdriver in hand.
"Either I was going to open up my own 'do everything' shop or find a restaurant to buy," says Didra, a self-described handyman whose Dueling Irons restaurant honors both cooking competitions (à la Iron Chef) and his longstanding interest in gunsmithing.
Didra grew up in central Washington, eventually relocating to Seattle where he worked in fine dining and attended Seattle Art Institute's Culinary Arts program. He got tired of city life, he says, so he returned home and worked at various mom-and-pop places, absorbing everything he could about the food industry.
"It's nice to be in those smaller places, focused on preparing the things they are doing properly," he says.
A second stint in Seattle resulted in running a sports pub, honing recipes he'd eventually employ at Dueling Irons. The menu is Didra's twist on classic comfort food. He does his own corned beef, for example, for a Reuben with housemade Thousand Island ($9.75) and a breakfast scramble ($9.25). The house-roasted turkey is covered with melted Swiss cheese and avocado on focaccia bread with cranberry spread ($9.75). And the slow-braised pork is featured in a sandwich ($8.50) and breakfast burrito ($9.25).
After researching similar restaurants, Didra developed the 8-ounce sirloin and brisket burger, which he seasons and hand-presses. It's served on a bun from local Sweetwater Bakery with choice hand-cut fries, red potato salad or green salad with house dressing.
Look for weekly specials featuring regional cuisine every month, such as Texas (chorizo quesadilla) or Pennsylvania (an oatmeal bake).
With its hearty fare, family-friendly diner appeal — there's also a senior breakfast and lunch menu — Dueling Irons offers a refreshing, well-crafted alternative to diner-like chain restaurants.
Whether it's working the barrel of a gun, tending to a construction project or building great meals from scratch, says Didra, "I pride myself on the work I do."♦
Dueling Irons • 1780 E. Schneidmiller Ave., Post Falls • Open Sun, 7 am-2 pm; Mon-Sat, 6 am-2 pm • facebook.com/duelingironsID • 208-262-9716