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by Inlander Staff & r & & r & SOULFUL SOUPS


This cozy downtown eatery has comforting soups, salad bar, sandwiches and beverages, all ensconced in an historic building with a contemporary interior. Soulful Soups offers a variety of home-style soups, making return trips necessary. The potato chowder is a riot of flavor, with sweet potato and Indian spices in a creamy base. Don't pass up the tasty house-made beer bread. Chicken noodle, split pea, clam chowder and cheesy broccoli are comforting favorites. Taco, pizza, Italian sausage tortellini, cioppino, mulligatawny and Brazilian black bean offer international flair. Service is cafeteria-style, quick and efficient. But get there early for a soulful bowlful -- often the restaurant runs out of soup before closing at 3 pm. 117 N. Howard St., 459-1190 (SH)





SYRINGA


It's not your typical Japanese restaurant. With its bistro-like interior, pristine presentation and European-flavored menu offerings, Syringa Japanese Caf & eacute; and Sushi Bar could easily be at home in a bigger city, but it's in mid-town Coeur d'Alene on 4th Street. More surprises await, like eggplant ravioli and beef tenderloin with Dungeness crab alongside delicacies like the Chilean sea bass and spiced duck. Traditional Japanese fare includes sukiyaki, udon noodles and tempura. The fish is off-the-dock fresh and full of flavor; try the abundant small plate menu or something from the sushi bar: simple tuna rolls, the fiery dragon roll, the unusual Northwest roll -- saut & eacute;ed wild mushrooms with tempura-fried green bean and smoked salmon -- or even custom orders. A wine, beer, sake and specialty cocktail selection complements chef Viljo Basso's inventive menu, which is reasonably priced. Reservations recommended as this neighborhood eatery has developed an ever-widening circle of devotees. 1401 N. 4th St., Coeur d'Alene, (208) 664-2718 (CS)





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)





Milford's Fish House


Historic ambience blends with very fresh fish at Milford's. Chef and owner Jerry Young imparts Asian flavors to daily fish 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 made-from-scratch ice cream. 719 N. Monroe St., 326-7251 (SH)

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