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TECATE GRILL


Like the Baja California town and beer it's named for, Tecate Grill offers a tropical-themed ambience and fun atmosphere. The food is a cut above most Mexican restaurants. You won't find refried beans, ground beef or iceberg lettuce here. Perfectly cooked shrimp appetizers or the Botanero sampler platter are featured starters. Tecate's entrees are big enough to share or take home for another meal. My family and I enjoyed the chicken canyon fajitas ($13), adovo chicken pasta ($12) and veggie burrito ($10). South-of-the-border beverages (cervezas and margaritas) and desserts, like the deep-fried ice cream, round out the Southwestern experience. 2503 W. Wellesley Ave. #C, 327-7817 (SH)





STEELHEAD BAR & amp; GRILLE


It's one of the oldest buildings in downtown Spokane, the old Coeur d'Alene Hotel, and the interior design takes full advantage: exposed brick, a huge crumpled metal sculpture, and a wrought iron spiral staircase and catwalk that hark back to the saloons of the Old West. We began with the smoked steelhead ($8) with green onions, cream cheese and crostini -- great presentation. The chopped salad ($8) -- salami, chicken, tomatoes and baby mozzarella tossed in a creamy vinaigrette with Romaine -- was delicious but filling, and the three halibut tacos ($9) were mild, satisfying and refreshingly light. The thick-cut pub steak ($13) was grilled and topped with blue cheese butter, and served with saut & eacute;ed crisp and colorful veggies and a big mound of irresistible shoestring fries. Desserts are from Bittersweet Bakery. 218 N. Howard St., 747-1303 (LM)





VIN ROUGE


You'd never guess it once was a Boston Market/Carl's Jr. on the South Hill: With its wine bar and patio, Vin Rouge has been remarkably transformed. The bruschetta and crab cakes are a bargain ($3-$4) during Social Hour. The chicken breast with creamy risotto ($14) had a luscious mushroom and marsala sauce, while the pork chop with apple-currant compote ($15) was quite juicy. The seared halibut ($19) swims in a lemon caper and white butter sauce, accompanied by roasted potatoes and saut & eacute;ed spinach. 3029 E. 29th Ave., 535-8800 (LM)





Burger Heaven


The ladies behind the counter at Burger Heaven are like your favorite aunties, the ones who always know your preferred kind of cookie and who always keep the jar full just in case you stop by -- and they're back after a brief hiatus. I needed two hands to hold the double bacon cheeseburger ($6.75), two standard flat burger patties with a nice charbroiled flavor; they were covered with soft melting orange American cheese and thin slices of smoky bacon. Josh's sourdough burger ($5.80) came on round sourdough bread slices, grilled to just the right crispness, and he thought the onion rings were great. Confirmation of the generous portions came when one of the aunties delivered our real plates to the table. It takes something stronger than paper to carry a burger this hefty. 13735 Highway 53, Rathdrum, Idaho, (208) 687-5882 (AC)

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