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)
Twigs Bistro -- Twigs offers food and atmosphere that manages to transcend commonly held food court dining conceptions. The lunch menu of the day offers an array of intriguing and competitively priced choices, including sandwiches and wraps ($5-$6), soups, salads, topped baked potatoes, combos and a section called "hot off the grill" where you choose among seven options (battered fish, cheeseburger deluxe, crispy chicken sandwich, ham and Swiss melt, etc.) and get fries and a 16 oz. soda in the deal for $5.95. The Chicken Caesar Wrap with chips ($5.50) was a winning mixture of tender chicken, romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes and artichoke hearts with tangy Caesar dressing in a basil flour tortilla. Delicious and surprisingly filling -- and worth the 20-minute wait we experienced. 808 W. Main Ave. in Riverpark Square. Call 232-3376. (MC)
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)
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)
The MAC Caf & eacute; -- This quiet lunch spot is bright and sparkling with great views and lots of natural light. Menu items include soups like the house tomato basil bisque and a rotating chef's special ($2.50 a cup), salads like the Caesar ($5, $7 with the addition of smoked salmon or grilled chicken), and specialty sandwiches along with a daily selection of assorted house-baked scones, pastries and other sweet and savory bits ($1.50-$2). The generous and tender smoked pork tenderloin sandwich on grilled bread with cabbage slaw, sweet onion, bacon bits, honey Dijon and apple cider dressing ($7.50) lived up to its description. Northwest Museum of Arts & amp; Culture main building at 2316 W. First Ave. Call 363-5358. (MC)
Molly's Family Restaurant -- The little dog on the window knows what she's talking about. At Molly's you will be fed, and you will be fed lots. Unfortunately, you'll also experience rushed servers that might not notice your dirty coffee cup or sketchy silverware. The Trio of Eggs ($6.99) comes with three eggs ("over medium" was more like "over easy") browns, four sausage links and wheat toast. The Molly's Mess ($8.35) is a concoction of scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms, all blanketed in white gravy and cheddar cheese. (224 S. Lincoln St. Call: 624-4413 (Sheri Boggs)
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 flavorful. 1228 S. Grand Blvd. Call 455-7545 (LM)
Capsules are written by Lauren McAllister (LM), Mike Corrigan (MC) or Marty Demarest (MD), unless otherwise noted.