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)
Ming Wah -- At Ming Wah, familiar Chinese-American dishes are created and served with an extraordinary level of care, precision and speed -- and at throwback prices. The restaurant is cozy with spotless pink Formica tables, dark paneling and red Naugahyde booths. The lunch menu features eight different three-item combination lunches with (egg drop soup and tea included) for $3.75-$4.50. The almond fried chicken featured bite-sized pieces of fried white-meat chicken covered with creamy white gravy and sprinkled with chopped toasted almonds. The subgum chow mein was outstanding, with diced chicken and veggies in a delicate sauce over crunchy noodles. Simply put, this is some of the best Chinese food you'll find anywhere in Spokane. The service, too, is excellent. 1618 W. Third Ave. Call 455-9474. (MC)
Old European -- The Scandinavian/Dutch-themed Old European restaurant sports a breakfast menu like no other in town. You can get lunch here, too, but the breakfasts boast extraordinary offerings, such as orange raisin nut French toast ($5.50), Swedish crepes ($5.95) and "the Ol' Fried Egg Sandwich" ($4.50). The German Potato Pancakes ($5.95) were"moist and flavorful, spiked occasionally with a little chunk of sausage." The stuffed French toast ($5.95) was "exquisite: three tender slices of thick bread, with just the right amount of egg batter on them, interspersed with two layers of scrambled eggs mixed with bits of flavorful sausage." The delicious Danish aebelskivers ($4.95) are fluffy, pancake-y balls that can be dipped in applesauce, or better yet, drizzled in syrup. 11520 E. Sprague Ave. Call 928-6868. (Sheri Boggs)
Pete's Pizza plant #2 -- Pete's doesn't look like much from the outside. But who cares? It's the calzones, dummy. They are huge, flaky and delicious -- possibly, the best in Spokane. The expansive selection includes fancy constructions (with ingredients like artichoke hearts, feta cheese and pesto), but it's the classic combos that really excel. The Cheeseless calzone ($5.45) was a low-cal winner with red sauce and choice of any three filling items (we chose spinach, fresh mushrooms and kalamata olives). The $5.95 lunch special (served from 11 am-4 pm) is a good deal and consists of a salad and a mini-calzone (with your choice of three regular toppings). It was delicious and just the right size for lunch. 2328 W. Northwest Blvd. Call 326-1900. (MC)
China Best -- With an enormous menu that features approximately 150 items, generosity is the key at China Best. The "Wonderful Taste Noodles" ($4.25) lived up to their name to start the meal, with a heap of warm egg noodles topped with a perfect amount of thick, spicy sesame and peanut sauce. For entrees, China Best deserves special recognition for the variety of vegetarian dishes served. The Sliced Eggplant with Brown Sauce ($8.50) was heavenly, with the crispy breaded eggplant slices covered in a sticky sauce sparkling with garlicky, fruity tartness. Chicken Shreds with Pine Nuts ($12.25) was a light, flavorful surprise from the Chekiang province that we doubt we'll find anywhere else in town. The ambience of China Best may be its weakest point. We felt a little lost in the hangar-like dining room, despite very attentive service. 226 W. Riverside. Call 455-9042. (MD)
Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM), Mike Corrigan (MC) or Marty Demarest (MD), unless otherwise noted.