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by Inlander Staff

Spencer's -- Spencer's has the easygoing but elegant ambience of a private club with deep, comfortable booths lining the walls and soft light emanating from low-hung fixtures over the tables. The entree menu features top-quality, straight-ahead food in no-nonsense preparations that rely on USDA prime beef direct from the Chicago stockyards (though beef is not the only option). The salty prime rib (11-ounce, $21; 18-ounce, $27) was as tender as butter, while the Spencer's steak (a 14-ounce ribeye for $27) showed off the intense flavor made possible by searing in the restaurant's 1,600-degree infrared broiler. Side dishes are tasty though a la carte, which can really elevate the total cost of the meal. The strawberry shortcake ($6.25) has to be one of the best dessert values in town. Service was pleasant, well-informed, and generally efficient. 322 N. Spokane Falls Ct. Call: 744-2372. (LM)

Kafka Coffee House -- Located on the ground floor of EWU's Brewster Hall, Kafka is bright and cozy, with a burgundy color scheme, hardwoods, a fireplace and booths conveniently wired with data ports. The coffee (and yerba and chai) was great. The lunch items (soups, salads, sandwiches and paninis) were tasty but, in some instances, a little problematic. The $5.95 paninis (the Tuscan, with sliced ham, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and lettuce, and the Roma, with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, Italian herb dressing and lettuce) were really rather skimpy, lightly grilled sandwiches. The $4.95 Drunken Boat sandwich (with oven-roasted turkey, provolone, avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo on wheat bread) was more robust and terrific -- save for the substitution of slimy prefab guac for actual avocado. The service was friendly. 410 Second Ave., Cheney Call: 235-2577 (MC)

Northern Quest Casino -- At Northern Quest Casino, in traditional buffet-style, you pay upon entering ($10.95 for dinner; breakfast is $5.95 and lunch is $7.95), and find your own table in the clean, bustling dining room. The succulent pork tenderloin and rich gravy won us over. The eggplant Parmesan and roasted squash satisfied our resident vegetarian. The salmon cakes were enormous, albeit a little on the dry side, but an elegant scattering of peaches across the top fixed that. Between these and the hand-carved roasts, I don't think there is better food available for the price anywhere else in Spokane. Unfortunately, some of the side dishes weren't as successful. 100 N. Hayford Road, Airway Heights. Call: 242-7000 or 1-888-603-7051 (MD)

Vina Asian Restaurant -- The Vina menu is diverse and very easy to navigate. You'll find elements of Cantonese, Hunan, Mandarin, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese, and meat choices that include chicken, pork and beef, squid and duck. The bargain-conscious will appreciate the affordable and easy-to-assemble combos at three price points ($3.99, $4.99 and $5.99). The Roast Duck noodle soup was served Vietnamese-style with egg noodles, green onions and cilantro in a chicken-based broth with roast duck portions, bean sprouts and lime on the side. Service was speedy and friendly. 2303 N. Ash. Call: 328-2197 (MC)

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

Publication date: 03/06/03

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