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Ron's Drive-In


Though it has a spacious dining area and drive-thru window, Ron's remains a classic walk-up at heart. And for almost 40 years, it's been the destination in the Valley for inexpensive, quality drive-in food. The broasted half-chicken ($4.89), perched on a mountain of mild, tender shoestring fries, was very good. The crispy skin crumbled away to reveal very moist, tender meat inside. The Classic burger with bacon for $2.65 (1/4-pound meat patty with bacon, cheese, ketchup, onion, mustard, pickle, lettuce and tomato) was a neatly packed and satisfying fist-sized meal. The "Seafood Delite" (shrimp, fish, fries and onion rings for $5.74) was a deep-fried feast. All the components were flavorful and light on grease. And Ron's fish is easily some of the very best in Spokane. 12502 E. Sprague. Call: 924-4660. (MC)





Hill's Someplace Else


Hill's leads a double life as a pub and has the feel of a place with lots of longtime regulars. The non-smoking dining room is done in dark green and mauve. The menu includes pub favorites but ventures into more upscale, cosmopolitan fare as well. The New York Steak and Blue ($15), a tender cut grilled and topped with a gorgonzola demi-glace and blue cheese chunks, had a very nice flavor. The mashed spuds alongside were extra-good. The Malaysian chicken satay ($13.50) was five skewers of chicken in a big puddle of rich peanut sauce, served with a scoop of white rice and a vegetable medley. The peanut sauce was flavorful and interesting. Less interesting was the rubbery texture of the chicken. Expect good, cheerful service. 518 W. Sprague. Call: 747-3946. (LM)





Nordstrom Caf & eacute;


The Nordstom Caf & eacute;'s tasteful, rich decor effectively obscures the fact that the restaurant is tucked inside a department store. The menu is fun and diverse yet sticks close to the basics, and the prices are quite reasonable. The Tuscan Chicken Penne ($8.25) was tossed in a Parmesan cream sauce with spinach, roasted peppers, onion, garlic and tender chicken breast morsels. Sprinkled over the top of this attractive dish were fresh basil leaves and shaved Parmesan. The sauce was light but could have been a little jazzier in the taste department. The chicken salad packed into the honey lemon chicken salad sandwich ($6.75) was excellent, with a subtle flavor and a refreshing tang. The plain, very white bread was kind of a letdown, however. Service was well above par. 828 W. Main, Third Floor. Call: 455-6111 ext.1610. (MC)





Solstice


Although the entree menu at Solstice (the former Moxie in Liberty Lake) contains only seven items, they are a diverse group. The pan-seared yellow-fin tuna with wasabi aioli and black bean essence ($18) was beautifully prepared and went nicely with the understated soy rice and vegetables. Tasting and mixing the sauces swirled around the circumference of the plate added to the fun. The house-smoked baby back ribs ($21) with Uncle Monty's famous barbecue sauce is a menu staple. Service was delightful. 1332 N. Liberty Lake Rd. Call: 892-5901. (LM)





Dalcado's


Dalcado's specializes in burritos, tacos, quesadillas and salads, all made fresh to order with high-quality ingredients, featuring lean meats and a variety of salsas made daily -- all for a price that rivals fast food fare. The Dalcado Burrito ($5.49) is a substantial and well-balanced flour tortilla bundle containing either grilled steak or grilled chicken, two kinds of cheese, guacamole, Mexican rice, pinto beans, salsa fresca and sour cream. The steak was very tender and had a nice grilled flavor. The Fish Burrito ($5.39) with beer-battered white fish was wrapped up with shredded cabbage, salsa, cheese and white sauce that infused the mixture with a nice zip. 9327 N. Newport Highway. Call: 466-3346. (MC)





The Olive Garden


The Olive Garden provides food that is well above average for a chain restaurant. The San Remo seafood dip appetizer ($7), a blend of crab, shrimp and cheese with a small amount of chunky tomato marinara baked in a little cassoulet dish with thinly sliced bread, was rich and wonderful. The tortelloni di Fizzano ($10.75), a nice-sized bowl of big, fat tortellini filled with a ricotta cheese and spinach mixture, in a creamy beef and pork bolognese sauce had an appealingly rustic quality, with the pasta perhaps a bit past al dente. 221 N. Wall St. Call: 624-1853; In Coeur d'Alene: 525 Canfield Ave. Call: (208) 762-9300. (LM)





Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM) and Mike Corrigan (MC), unless otherwise noted.

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