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by Inlander Staff


Far West Billiards -- This is much more than merely a prime spot to get in a game of 8-ball. Far West is an easy going neighborhood joint with a good jukebox, good booze, friendly servers and interesting chow. The fish taco platter ($8) comes with two white corn tortillas stuffed with lightly battered fried cod strips, spring greens and a wonderfully tangy feta-yogurt sauce, servings of fresh guacamole and pico de gallo salsa and a heap of tri-colored tortilla chips. The Pasta Carbonara ($8) is the perfect size for lunch and comes with a little cup of mixed field greens. The pasta was a nice toothsome al dente, and the sauce excelled with little bits of salty, savory prosciutto blended into the Alfredo sauce. Topped with grated Parmesan, it made for a fortifying, comforting meal. 1001 W. First Ave. Call: 455-3429 (MC)





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)





Aki's Grill and Sushi Express -- Aki's is tidy, friendly and intimate in a way that encourages conversation. In addition to sushi, the menu features grilled chicken, steak and salmon with teriyaki sauce, tempura shrimp and veggies, chicken yakisoba noodles, chicken fried rice and miso soup. Reasonable prices encourage experimentation. The rolled sushi platters contain six to eight pieces and come with the chef's choice of three hand-formed pieces, wasabi and pickled ginger. The crunchy roll ($6.50) with a filling of tempura shrimp, cream cheese and avocado and the spicy tuna roll ($5.50) with a filling of spicy scallions and tuna were both delicious. The hand-formed nigiri of raw salmon, raw tuna and lightly seared albacore was fresh tasting and, quite simply, spectacular. 5 N. Stevens St. Call: 747-4266. (MC)





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)





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





Publication date: 05/15/03

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