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by Inlander Staff


Catacombs pub -- 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. Mediterranean 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)





Coffee House -- Coffee House (across the street from the Rock Pointe office complex) has an informal-but-inviting groove: not too cozy or too edgy, but somewhere in between. There are about a dozen tables, plus overstuffed chairs and plenty of windows for traffic- and people-watching. The coffee was excellent. They don't bake their own goods, but instead offer a selection from a handful of local bakeries. Ready-made sandwiches are available courtesy of the Viking. Soups have just been introduced. The scones ($1.70) are enormous and fresh, with a homemade taste. The banana bread ($1.60) delivered a strong banana presence. The bacon and cheddar quiche ($2.95) was just okay. 1231 N. Washington. Call: 326-4005 (Sheri Boggs)





Herbal Essence Caf & eacute; -- The Herbal Essence Caf & eacute;'s understated mix of old and new results in a very open, bright and comfortable dining area. The crab cakes ($6.75) are crispy on the outside, succulent and tender on the inside. The $3.50 cup of Manhattan-style clam chowder was smashing: rich and hearty, with a mild tomato zing, and clams that were tender and not overly assertive. The thick and delicious corned beef on the Reuben ($5.95) was piled high and the grilled dark rye remained remarkably crisp under the load. The Crab-and-Artichoke sandwich ($8.25) mixed fresh snow crab with artichokes, parmesan cheese, white onions and a sour cream sauce served atop a French roll and finished with sliced tomato. Sound good? It was. 115 N. Washington. Call: 838-4600. (MC)





Brix -- There's a sophisticated new kid on the block on Coeur d'Alene's Sherman Avenue. Brix's interior has a warm cosmopolitan appearance with rich fabric and leather upholstery. Nooks in the walls showcase local glass art and original paintings. The baked ricotta with shaved prosciutto and balsamic figs appetizer ($8.25) got better and better with each bite, and the house bread was a real treat. The crispy roast duck with butternut squash, roast pears and porcini jus ($24.50) was indeed crispy on the outside, as promised, with a moist and flavorful interior. Service, however, was inconsistent, and the dessert menu could use some improvement. 317 Sherman Ave. Call: (208) 665-7407. (LM)





Riverview Thai -- After many successful years at the Flour Mill, Riverview Thai has moved up the river to Riverwalk, the site of the now-defunct Bayou Brewery. The Khao Tom ($9.45) was a lovely Thai version of chicken and rice soup, with fragrant jasmine rice and ground chicken in a rich chicken broth, flavored with green onion, celery, garlic and cilantro. The Gaeng keow wahn ($11) with chicken combines green curry sauce with green peas, bamboo shoots, bell pepper and fresh basil -- a successful dish with the fragrant taste of the Thai basil dominating. The pahd si-ew ($10.45) consists of fried rice noodles, chicken, broccoli and eggs. The sauce for this dish was sweet and lacked any hint of heat. Service was friendly. 1003 E. Trent. Call: 922-4935. (LM)





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





Publication date: 05/08/03

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