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ISABELLA'S RESTAURANT AND GIN JOINT


Isabella's extensive menu emphasizes classic American fare, cleanly executed with simple flavors, plenty of garlic and not a lot of fuss. It's not trendy, but that's OK -- a little black dress isn't trendy either. The house salad is a highlight, with mixed greens, cucumber, blue cheese, walnuts and pears in a lightly sweet vinaigrette. The seafood-stuffed rib-eye steak ($24) could serve two easily and is almost too rich, but the saut & eacute;ed scallops ($18) with fresh pasta are sublime. For dessert, the three-tiered chocolate mousse ($6) delights the eye and the taste buds. You won't find Bogie at the bar, but Isabella's is a gin joint worth walking into. 21 W. Main Ave., 624-0660 (AC)





THE OVAL OFFICE


The chic little sister of the ultra-popular White House Grill occupies the little white house that the Grill outgrew a few years back. The compact bar area only seats a few people at the counter, but it's sufficient for shaking up a host of concoctions, including the "Dirty Monica." The grapes and cheese platter ($7.50) offered nice contrasts in texture and flavor, although presentation wasn't impressive. The house salads, included with our entr & eacute;es, were terrific and generously topped with feta, dried cranberries and walnuts. Among entr & eacute;es, the mango swordfish ($23) stood out -- the fish was moist and tasty, and the salsa was fresh and quite spicy. Owner/chef Raci Erdem pays tribute to his tutelage at the Spokane Club with the Will Barron Steak ($24), recreating the yummy pepper sauce. Like the real Oval Office, this one needs a more focused strategy -- is it a chic, high-end martini bar with elegant entr & eacute;es or a comfortable pub that happens to serve fancy drinks? Right now, it's somewhere in the middle. 620 N. Spokane St., Post Falls (208) 777-2102 (LM)





Milford's Fish House


Historic ambience blends with very fresh fish at Milford's, where chef and owner Jerry Young imparts exciting Asian flavors to daily specials. Though there are plenty of seafood options for appetizers (including the pan-fried yearling oysters, $10), the chicken satay ($8) features tender meat grilled just right, accented by four Asian dipping sauces. Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fillet ($22) is grilled Vietnamese-style and topped with a light lemongrass, chile and lime dressing. Alaskan halibut cheeks ($22) are prepared Asian shallow-fry-style, panko-crusted, with Asian dipping sauces that add myriad flavors to the tender fish. The prawn, chicken and mushroom fettuccine ($19) has a light, savory Alfredo sauce. Top off your meal with Milford's homemade ice cream. 719 N. Monroe St., 326-7251 (SH)





Burger Heaven


The ladies behind the counter at Burger Heaven are like your favorite aunties, the ones who always know what kind of cookies you like and who always keep the jar full just in case you stop by. I needed two hands to hold the double bacon cheeseburger ($6.75), two standard flat burger patties with a nice charbroiled flavor, covered with softly 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. His single burger was juicy and tasty, 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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