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The Inlander Staff & r & & r & Hills' Restaurant and Lounge & r & The same neighborly pub attitude and atmosphere that made Hills' first restaurant a local classic has been transported to a new, airier home across from Auntie's Books. Hills' still serves some of Spokane's most satisfying salads, including the succulent Southern Fried Chicken Salad ($9) with chunks of crunchy-breaded bird enlivened by a zingy mustard dressing. Chips made from local (Olsen Farm) potatoes can accompany any one of the 10 burgers or sandwiches, but the restaurant's premium offerings are its steaks. Serving Brandt True Natural Beef, Hills' offers diners a choice of six different steak cuts ($10-$25) and 14 freshly made sauces ($1.50-$6) ranging from bistro (Gorgonzola) to cuisine (B & eacute;arnaise). The Scotch egg ($3.75) -- hard-boiled, wrapped in sausage and breaded -- is a crisp-fried wonder with which to start any meal. And if the day's menu includes fresh sorbets or ice creams, save room -- Hills' makes them from scratch. 401 W. Main Ave., 747-3946 (MD)





Spencer's


This clubby steakhouse in the downtown Doubletree is consistently voted by Inlander readers as having the "Best Steaks." They're certainly among the priciest, ranging from $33 for the Spencer Steak to $47 for the 24 oz. porterhouse. Highly marbled, the steaks are cooked precisely and served with a bustling flourish. Making a meal of it requires a bit more investment, with steak-friendly sides such as Burgundy mushrooms and crisp-cooked zucchini ($7.50 each) quickly escalating the price tag. Better yet, invest in one of the domestic bottles from the restaurant's well-cultivated wine list and impress an out-of-towner with your well-to-do, backslapping city. 322 N. Spokane Falls Blvd., 744-2372 (MD)





SOULFUL SOUPS


This cozy downtown eatery has it all -- comforting soups, salad bar, sandwiches and beverages ensconced in an historic building with a contemporary interior. Soulful Soups offers a variety of homemade 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. Owner Makayla Hamilton offers up to six soups daily. Chicken noodle, split pea, clam chowder and cheesy broccoli are comforting favorites, while taco, pizza, Italian sausage tortellini, cioppino, mulligatawny and Brazilian black bean offer international flair. Shrimp bisque, smoked salmon chowder, meatball goulash and cheesy potato asparagus are different takes on more familiar soups. 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)





ISABELLA'S RESTAURANT AND GIN JOINT


Like many nightspots, Isabella's boasts a large selection of "martinis" and specialty cocktails, but there's also a great lineup of wines, many by the glass. The 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 as well as 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)

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