Over the 11 years that Reema Shaver has owned and operated Bistango Martini Lounge, she heard one resounding request from her customers. People wanted food options, something more than the limited small-plate items her original menu carried. Over the past year and a half, Shaver has rolled out a new menu, offering items that are far more filling.
"Without calling them dinner, per se, these are good hearty meals," Shaver says, quick to point out that she doesn't consider her place a restaurant. "We're still a lounge. And people come here because of that comfortable upscale atmosphere."
The dark and twinkling space already had a full kitchen in the back, so adding items to the menu, including a steak dinner (offered for $12 on Thursdays), ahi tuna ($18), salads ($8), fish and chips ($12), calamari ($12) and more wasn't too much of a stretch. Yet keeping with what works for the business has remained a priority.
"When I opened there wasn't a martini lounge like this in Spokane," Shaver says. "And in that time, while we've added things to the menu, our concept hasn't changed."
In the kitchen, where Shaver cooks twice a week, sauces and marinades are made from scratch, as are breaded items. The skewer trio ($18), which includes beef sirloin, chicken breast and tiger prawns, served with rice pilaf and greens, shows off attention to detail with a juicy sear.
At its downtown location for more than a decade, Shaver says people are still stumbling upon her small operation.
"They tell me they didn't know we were here," she says. "We actually won the Inlander Best Of poll for Best New Nightspot two years in a row (2006 and 2007), because people didn't know about us."
Still, Shaver has plenty of repeat customers and regulars coming through her door these days, many of whom she knows by name.
Through the years, three cocktails have risen to the top as favorites: the Huckleberry martini, Mexico/Salsa martini and the classic mojito (for which Shaver grows her own mint).
More recently, the lounge has updated its wine list, but the beer selection is still minimal, offering only bottles and cans.
"I'm always learning with this," Shaver says. "There's always something new that people like to see." ♦
Bistango Martini Lounge • 108 N. Post • Open daily from 3 pm • bistangolounge.com • 624-8464