Metro Caf & eacute; -- The Metro has been serving lunch-hungry downtowners, cafeteria-style, at this location for 19 years. The colorful menu boards change daily and feature sandwiches, casseroles, salads and something called the Daily Fresh Carve, a different roasted hunk of meat (turkey breast, meatloaf, ham, pork and roast beef) each day that is sliced and served hot and fresh. Soups are $2.25-$3 and salads are $3.50-$4.25 (for a regular). There are also beverages up the wazoo, including bottled beer. The Carve and Salad special ($5.35) came as a generous and delicious 1/3-pound pile of freshly sliced roast pork along with a choice of salad -- in this case, the spinach -- and a roll. The outstanding spinach salad (with bacon bits, mushrooms, mozzarella and zesty sweet and sour dressing) was complex in both taste and texture. 510 W. Riverside, Skywalk level. Call 747-8250. (MC)
The Old Spaghetti Factory -- The Factory has been serving up steaming plates of pasta for 34 years to everyone -- older couples, teenagers dressed up for formal dances, families, and entire teams in matching jerseys. Entrees include the freshly baked bread, soup or salad, vanilla or spumoni ice cream, and coffee or tea. The most expensive thing on the menu is $9.95. The minestrone soup is zesty and filled with legumes, pasta and crisp celery. The Baked Chicken Greek-Style ($9.50) had a nice lemony flavor accented by just the right amount of potentially overpowering oregano. But this place is really built around spaghetti. There are five "treatments" -- meat sauce, white clam sauce, tomato sauce, mushroom sauce and browned butter and mizithra cheese ($6.50 to $7.95). Try two or three sauces for $8.25, or add meatballs or sausage to spaghetti and meat sauce for $8.50. Call 624-8916. (LM)
The Porch Public House -- The Porch's rustic yet sophisticated log cabin ambience is most inviting and compliments its Hayden Lake neighborhood. The menu resembles the Elk's in Spokane and is broken down into appetizers, salads, sandwiches and specialties. There is also a fine selection of tap beers, wine and hard liquor. The Pork Burrita's ($8.95) roasted chunks of tender, mildly spicy pork filled a large, crispy flour tortilla that had been folded once and grilled and topped with shredded lettuce, tomato-onion salsa and sour cream. It was huge and came with a generous portion of ranch-style (cooked, not refried) black beans. The Salmon Cakes ($9.25) were moist on the inside and crispy outside, topped with a soothing light sour cream/dill sauce, and the bacon and smoked cheddar potato cakes were sublime. The service is efficient and accurate. 1658 E. Miles Ave., Hayden Lake, Idaho. Call (208) 772-7711. (MC)
Mootsy's North 9 -- The interior of Mootsy's North 9 is clean and offbeat, with plenty of space to park it and original paintings and framed rock posters embellishing the richly colored walls. The menu features an interesting and tempting assortment of pizzas, sandwiches, and "extras." The sauces are handmade; pizza dough is hand-tossed. The toppings range from standard to gourmet. The North 9 ($8.25 / $18.95) is a spicy olive oil-based pie (no red sauce) topped with mozzarella, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, pine nuts and fresh basil. There's the Santa Fe ($6.75/$17.95) with mozzarella and cheddar, lime-marinated chicken, black olive and red onion, and topped with fresh tomato and fresh cilantro. Take your pick from a total of 11. You really can't go wrong. The slice-and-salad combo ($4.95) is a steal. 9 N. Washington St. Call 838-0260 (MC)
Cheddar Chad's Hot Dog Cart -- Eating on the cheap. Yep, we're all for it. Chad Rattray is the smiling face behind the hot dog cart on the northeast corner of Howard and Riverside (in front of the Bank of America). Every day from 11 am-3 pm he's serving up sausages in buns. It's as simple as that. There's the popular Dollar Dog, The Jumbo and the Polish sausage ($2 each), the German ($2.50) and the smoked sausage ($3). Add a bag of chips and a can of soda to any dog for a buck more. The German sausage with sauerkraut, onions and self-applied sweet hot mustard had a satisfying bite. The Dollar Dog loaded with onions, relish and yellow mustard was pretty much what you'd expect: a standard white bread bun and a standard steamed wiener. Still, with chips and soda, it made for a tasty and incredibly inexpensive lunch. At the corner of Riverside and Howard. (MC)
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)
Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM), Mike Corrigan (MC) or Marty Demarest (MD), unless otherwise noted.