China Best - With an enormous menu that features approximately 150 items, generosity is the key at China Best. The "Wonderful Taste Noodles" ($4.25) lived up to their name to start the meal, with a heap of warm egg noodles topped with a perfect amount of thick, spicy sesame and peanut sauce. For entrees, China Best deserves special recognition for the variety of vegetarian dishes served. The Sliced Eggplant with Brown Sauce ($8.50) was heavenly, with the crispy breaded eggplant slices covered in a sticky sauce sparkling with garlicky, fruity tartness. Chicken Shreds with Pine Nuts ($12.25) was a light, flavorful surprise from the Chekiang province that we doubt we'll find anywhere else in town. The ambience of China Best may be its weakest point. We felt a little lost in the hangar-like dining room, despite very attentive and thoughtful service. 226 W. Riverside. Call: 455-9042. (Marty Demarest)
The Shack - They just don't make 'em like this anymore. The Shack is an early 1960's time warp (resplendent in knotty pine and pink neon), but its history stretches all the way back to the '20s. While the prices have changed over the years, the great, friendly service, big portions and extensive menu (featuring simple, old-fashioned favorites) has not. Here you can get it all -- breakfasts, burgers, liver and onions and more. Lots more. The $7.49 Shack Breakfast Special (nicknamed "The Awesome Two's"), comes with two eggs, two pancakes, two bacon strips and two sausage links. Delicious -- and guaranteed to stick with you well past lunch. The hash browns in the $6.99 two egg-sausage-browns-toast combo were simply outstanding. 1301 W. Third. Call: 747-2713. (Sheri Boggs)
Ron's Drive-In - Though it has a spacious dining area and drive-thru window, Ron's remains a classic walk-up at heart. And for almost 40 years, it's been the destination in the Valley for inexpensive, quality drive-in food. The broasted half-chicken ($4.89), perched on a mountain of mild, tender shoestring fries, was very good. The crispy skin crumbled away to reveal very moist, tender meat inside. The Classic burger with bacon for $2.65 (1/4-pound meat patty with bacon, cheese, ketchup, onion, mustard, pickle, lettuce and tomato) was a neatly packed and satisfying fist-sized meal. The "Seafood Delite" (shrimp, fish, fries and onion rings for $5.74) was a deep-fried feast. All the components were flavorful and light on grease. And Ron's fish is easily some of the very best in Spokane. 12502 E. Sprague. Call: 924-4660. (MC)
Hill's Someplace Else - Hill's leads a double life as a pub and has the feel of a place with lots of longtime regulars. The menu includes pub favorites but ventures into more upscale, cosmopolitan fare as well. The New York Steak and Blue ($15), a tender cut grilled and topped with a gorgonzola demi-glace and blue cheese chunks, had a very nice flavor. The mashed spuds alongside were extra-good. The Malaysian chicken satay ($13.50) was five skewers of chicken in a big puddle of rich peanut sauce, served with a scoop of white rice and a vegetable medley. The peanut sauce was flavorful and interesting for containing lots of chopped peanuts. Less interesting was the bizarre, stringy, rubbery texture of the chicken. Expect good, cheerful service. 518 W. Sprague. Call: 747-3946. (LM)
Nordstrom Caf & eacute; - The Nordstom Caf & eacute;'s tasteful, rich decor effectively obscures the fact that the restaurant is tucked inside a department store. The menu is fun and diverse yet sticks close to the basics, and the prices are quite reasonable. The Tuscan Chicken Penne ($8.25) was tossed in a Parmesan cream sauce with spinach, roasted peppers, onion, garlic and tender chicken breast morsels. Sprinkled over the top of this attractive dish were fresh basil leaves and shaved Parmesan. The sauce was light but could have been a little jazzier in the taste department. The chicken salad packed into the honey lemon chicken salad sandwich ($6.75) was excellent, with a subtle flavor and a refreshing tang. Service was well above par. 828 W. Main, Third Floor. Call: 455-6111 ext.1610. (MC)
Tanglewood - Tanglewood is a comfortable urban warren that is rustic and elegant in the same breath. Sandwiches, soups and salads are the stars of the lunch menu along with a trio of quesadillas (smoked salmon, southwest chicken and forest mushroom, $7.25 each) and an impressive selection of appetizers. The Napa Burger ($7.75) is a hand-pressed hamburger with grilled wild mushrooms, roasted red peppers, smoked Gouda cheese and a Cabernet wine sauce on a sourdough roll -- an inventive combination of flavors that saves the day. The service at Tanglewood was competent and efficient. 511 Sherman Ave., CdA Call: 208-667-8612. (MC)
Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM) and Mike Corrigan (MC), unless otherwise noted.