Paprika -- Paprika is home to some of the most inventive dishes in the Inland Northwest. Even the appetizer list harbors intrigue. Included are fresh-roasted local porcini mushrooms with gremolata served over grilled toast ($8) and roasted artichoke stuffed with saffron-potato puree and topped with toasted bread crumbs ($7). Entrees are just as creative. The seared pepper-crusted ahi tuna ($22) was teamed up with horseradish mashed potatoes, grilled onions and a fresh tomato vinaigrette. The roasted spring chicken with morel mushrooms ($19) was moist and flavorful. 1228 S. Grand Blvd. Call: 455-7545 (LM)
Huckleberry's Bistro -- All of the menu items here are created with natural and organic ingredients whenever possible, and the variety of foods prepared fresh daily is staggering. They do breakfast, lunch and dinner. Soups are $2 a cup, hot sandwiches and entrees are $6 or less. Cold salads range from $6 to $9 a pound. The hot lemon chicken sandwich ($6 with salad) was generous, with saut & eacute;ed chicken breast topped with tomato and covered with creamy lemon-garlic pan sauce on a thick slab of asagio ciabatta bread. It was substantial, peerless in ingredient quality, delicious and messy. The curried red lentil salad has a smooth texture and a very subtle curry flavor, with sweet currants and vinaigrette for balance. 926 S. Monroe Call: 624-1349. (MC)
The Catacombs -- With only an understated sign marking the entrance, this pub is easy to miss. Don't, because it's a fun subterranean space with a medieval castle feel, thanks to massive oak beams across high ceilings, huge wrought iron chandeliers, a fireplace, warm brick, stonework and tapestries. The menu features interesting appetizers and salads, and hearty fare such as brick oven-baked thin-crust pizzas and calzones. Mediterr-anean pizza ($10.50) with chicken, artichoke hearts, red onions, mozzarella, garlic and white sauce was generous and tasty but lacked pizzazz. The porco con I Faioli ($18) with tender pork cutlets, cannelloni beans, tomato sauce and fresh herbs over roasted vegetable polenta was sheer perfection. Great wine and beer selection and good service, too. 110 S. Monroe St. Call: 838-4610. (LM)
Benjamin's Cafe -- Located in the middle of downtown, with its dining area looking out onto the Parkade Plaza, Benjamin's can seem like a welcome surprise even when you're just looking for some fries. The menu is restricted to breakfast and lunch options and prides itself on fidelity to the classics. The Chili Burger arrived lost under a mountain of rich, vegetable- and bean-filled chili and topped with a generous sprinkling of minced red onion which lent a satisfying sweet crunch to each bite. The fish and chips contained strips of cod breaded in buttery batter and a heap of fries (hand-cut from fresh potatoes). The fish was good, and the fries -- each one a perfectly squared stick as thick as a finger -- were astounding. So was Benjamin's homemade tartar sauce. Parkade Plaza. Call: 455-6771. (MD)
Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM) and Mike Corrigan (MC), unless otherwise noted.