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by Inlander Staff & r & A Taste of Thai -- In a colorfully decorated storefront next to Calvary Chapel in the Fairwood Shopping Center, A Taste of Thai (open for 10 years, but under new management) serves Asian food that passes the Pad Thai test: These noodles were garnished with seven fresh ingredients. The spring rolls, moreover, were flaky and fine. Try the Goong Obe Woon Sen (stir-fried prawns) and the Gaeng Garee Gai (chicken cooked in a light yellow curry sauce along with coconut milk and potatoes), both in the $9-$10 range. 419 W. Hastings Road, 466-3335. (Reviewed 10/13/05, MB)





Java on Sherman -- This Sherman icon has anchored the downtown district for 11 years now, and its renaissance d & eacute;cor and comfy couch give it a cozy feel. You can get lunch and breakfast here, with the Java Benedict (a toasted bagel with hickory-smoked ham, eggs, Hollandaise sauce and cracked pepper) and Java huevos (two steamed eggs with cheese served over spicy beans, with sides of salsa, sour cream and tortillas) being the local favorites. And don't miss the Bowl of Soul -- a blend of coffee, espresso, Mexican chocolate and steamed milk. 324 Sherman Ave., CdA, (208) 667-0010. (Reviewed 10/13/05, SH)





Salty Dog -- At the Salty Dog in Deer Park, the Quonset hut exterior belies a warm, wood-paneled sports bar inside, and the fried fish is some of the best around. It's a straightforward pub menu -- fish and chips, popcorn shrimp, burgers, steaks -- with extra care and attention to detail. During fishing season, they use fresh halibut, hand-cut and dipped in a light batter then served with tartar sauce made fresh on the premises. The burgers are hand-formed with extra lean ground beef from Eggers Meats. The atmosphere can be vaguely David Lynchean, but, hey, sometimes lunch should be more than just lunch. 718 S. Main, Deer Park, 276-1990 (Reviewed 10/27/05, AC)





Ferguson's -- This little diner next door to the famed Milk Bottle on Garland brings in all kinds of people -- bottle-eyed tourists on an afternoon stroll, gushing teen girls looking to sit right where Johnny Depp did during the filming of Benny & amp; Joon, locals looking to cash in on what the diner's self-proclaimed "best breakfast in Spokane." All are rewarded, but none more than the latter. Ferguson's fixes up the meanest smoked sausage omelet we've tasted. The biscuits and gravy alone warrant return visits. They do lunch, too. And well. But nothing beats a quiet, weekday morning at one of Garland Avenue's fave eateries. 804 W. Garland, 325-3482. (Reviewed 10/13/05, JS)





Chic A Ria -- Located at the Five Mile Shopping Center, Chic A Ria has a large menu with a bunch of home-style favorites, including many Oktoberfest selection -- Sauerbraten, Jaeger schnitzel and a whole lot of pork. Chic A Ria has a down-home friendliness that's infectious. From babies and children to older folks looking forward to a good chicken-fried steak, Chic A Ria has something to appeal to every palate. 812 W. Francis, 326-2214 (Reviewed 10/13/05, LM)





The Swinging Doors -- No one goes to the Swinging Doors for "clean" or "healthy." The place has been a local favorite since its opening in May 1981, largely because of its casual atmosphere and bazillion sports-tuned television screens, but perhaps more so because of its menu, loaded down with rich, heavy, happy comfort food. Rib-sticking food, like the chicken-fried chicken in chicken gravy ($11.45). Beer-drinking food, like the pulled-pork sandwich ($7.95). And the best taquito-style quesadillas around. We came to gorge ourselves stupid. And we did. 1018 W. Francis Ave. Call: 326-6794 (Reviewed 10/6/05, JPS)





La Luna -- If you're in the mood for Mexican, you could go to one of those places with overblown murals and waiters in serapes. Or you could try La Luna. It's nothing if not authentic. The menu's got all your standard Mexican fare: chimichangas, tostadas, chiles rellenos, fajitas, carne asada -- all between $7 and $13. I reveled in my arroz con pollo -- a dish that is kind of my litmus test for Mexican restaurants. It was divine. 923 E. Hoffman, 489-2023 (Reviewed 9/22/05, JS)





Thai Bamboo -- If you're looking for an escape, there's hardly a better option than a foray to one of Thai Bamboo's three Spokane locations. The menu is enormous, with some items helpfully labeled "popular Thai dish." The Thai Bamboo style fried rice ($10) was easily the best fried rice I've had in Spokane, with big chunks of tender pork, crisp cabbage and other vegetables all fried up with jasmine rice. Swimming rama ($9) is a mysteriously named dish that is really quite simple and delicious. Sauteed chicken is served on a bed of fresh spinach and topped with a rich peanut sauce. Thai Bamboo uses high-quality fresh ingredients and keeps prices reasonable. Call: 232-THAI (South), 444-THAI (Valley) or 777-THAI (North). (Reviewed 9/15/05, LM)





Ferrante's -- Ferrante's is one of the South Hill's most urbane yet casual stops for lunch and dinner, especially for families. The caf & eacute; is designed to create the illusion of sitting outside in the evening on the patio of an Italian caf & eacute;. Lunch selections include Italian favorites like thin-crust pizza ($9.50-$14.25), calzones ($10.25-$11.75) and paninis (with house greens for $7.95). Our enormous spinach calzone ($10.25) -- the biggest we've encountered in Spokane -- glistened as it beckoned us to explore its warm, fragrant depths. The Mediterranean salad ($9.25 for a whole) was also huge and definitely made for sharing. Ferrante's is also one of the few places around town where you can get real Italian gelato in about 10 different flavors ($2.60 for a single scoop). 4516 S. Regal, 443-6304. (Reviewed 8/11/05, MC)





Max at Mirabeau -- Fine dining shows up even in a hotel restaurant located next to the Sullivan Road/I-90 on-ramp. And you know the Mirabeau Park Hotel is dedicated to total service, because the more than 100 items on the menu here are available all the way from 6 am (every day) to 2 am (on the weekends). Try the basil crab cakes ($12), the hot spinach salad ($6), the caprese salad ($7, with mozzarella, basil and tomato), the New Zealand rack of lamb ($28, with pankoo peanut crust and passion fruit demiglace) or the seared sesame-crusted ahi tuna with yakisoba noodles ($24). Call 922-6252. (Reviewed 7/14/05, LM)





Empyrean Coffee Shop and Caf & eacute; -- Featuring Shop coffee, Fery's food and Sweetwater breads Empyrean (in the old Luminaria space) serves quick foods and beverages in a sophisticated yet warm and inviting atmosphere. The sandwiches are $5.50, salads, $3.95. There are mini pizza bagels (with pepperoni, sausage or veggie) for $2.50 and a selection of amazing-looking desserts. The sausage-and-cheese-stuffed bagel pocket was heated panini-style and served with Fery's famous chicken and spinach pasta salad. 154 S. Madison St. Call: 456-3676 (Reviewed 6/23/05, MC)





Fiesta Charra -- This place offers great service and authentic, tasty Mexican food in an unpretentious, out-of-the-way location (on top of the Sunset Hill next to the Motel 6). The lunch menu is good until 3 pm and features a variety of dishes from the main menu at bargain prices. The large chicken enchilada is filled with a generous amount of very high-quality shredded chicken breast. 1520 S. Rustle Rd. Call 835-5606. Also at 505 Second Ave in Cheney. Call 235-5679 (Reviewed 5/26/05, MC)





HuHot Mongolian Grill -- HuHot takes the Mongolian Grill concept to new heights, putting diners in charge of selecting ingredients. The centerpiece of the dining room is a big circular grill where white-toqued grillmasters await your orders. Dinners ($11) include soup or salad and as many trips through the grill line as you care to make. Fill up a colorful bowl with uncooked ingredients (meats, vegetables and noodles) and a myriad of sauces, and the chefs-in-waiting will cook up your creations. Service is pleasant but inexper-ienced and there are a few cleanliness issues to address. 11703 E. Sprague. Call: 891-871. (Reviewed 5/19/05, LM)

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