by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & When you walk in the street-level door of downtown Spokane's Bank of Whitman building there's absolutely no indication that there's a caf & eacute; upstairs. The big circular foyer with a marble floor and curved staircase is quiet like a mausoleum. To the left and the right commerce is done. The only clue about the Reflections Kaffee Haus and Eatery is on the sign next to the elevator. It's probably not a big deal; lots of folks have discovered the place. My companion found Reflections quite by accident, through an online dining certificate program administered by a local radio station. She bought a certificate and we went for lunch one day.
Reflections was opened in late 2006 by Georg Weimer and Nancy Claassen, formerly of the Chic-a-Ria German Inn at Five Mile and the now-closed Bread Basket -- another German-influenced restaurant at the pre-WalMart Shadle Center. The German flavors are available here too: You can order a bratwurst sandwich with sauerkraut ($6) or a schnitzel sandwich ($8).
But my companion and I were more interested in a good old American favorite: the Philly cheesesteak ($8) and, to go with it, a mango chicken salad ($7.45 small, $9 large).
The cheesesteak came with a choice of soup: beef barley or clam chowder. We went with the chowder. A friend of mine, a native of the Boston area, might quibble with whether this is a true chowder. It has two of the most important ingredients, clams and potatoes -- and parsley, another chowder staple, sprinkled on top. But it also has diced carrots, which I've never seen before in a chowder. The taste was herby and earthy, a tasty mix between a thick potato soup and a New England clam chowder.
The mango chicken salad, on the other hand, was underwhelming. Spinach leaves were topped with chunks of chicken breast, mandarin orange slices and slivers of almond. The mango was in the vinaigrette served on the side. The vinegar half of the dressing wasn't overwhelming, which is good, but the mango half was too subtle. Perhaps the name should be changed to mandarin orange chicken salad.
Our Philly cheesesteak -- thinly sliced beef, saut & eacute;ed red and green peppers, onion and Swiss cheese -- was good and not too messy, which is nice. But it wasn't the best sandwich we've tried at Reflections. My favorite is the Italian hero panini ($6.45) with ham, salami, pork, Gruyere cheese, fire-roasted red peppers, red onion, tomato, baby arugula and a chipotle sauce. Though the ingredients are much different, the taste reminds me of one of my favorite sandwiches, the Cuban -- a savory Florida favorite that blends pork, Swiss, mayo, mustard and pickle on a hard roll. We're also fond of the pesto chicken panini ($6.45), which has many of the same non-meat ingredients as the Italian, with thinly sliced chicken breast in place of the other meats. Reflections serves several other popular sandwiches, including the Monte Cristo and the Reuben, hamburgers, salads and homemade soups. It also has a breakfast menu, offering pancakes, scrambled eggs, breakfast burritos, bagels and panini sandwiches.
Though Reflections occupies part of an almost-new building, it has some of the feel of an old deli, with its big glass display cases showing off sandwiches and sweets from Just American Desserts and the Sweetwater Bakery. We've seen customers take their lunch and a book, find a quiet window seat in the corner and relax. Reflections even has a game shelf from which you can grab a board game and play while you eat.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & lot of good Skywalk-level restaurants have gone out of business the last 10 years -- anyone remember the very good Sandwich Gardens? -- as retailers have encouraged pedestrians to come back to the street level. But several second-floor lunch spots continue to survive. Across the street from Reflections, in the Bank of America building, sits Cricket's Deli. On the day we visited customers were standing in line outside the shop, waiting to place their orders. The Metro Caf & eacute; in the Sherwood Mall had a nice crowd of patrons, as did the Our Daily Bread Deli (120 N. Wall St.). The Intermission Caf & eacute; in the U.S. Bank building and the Daily Grind Downtown in the Paulsen Building were also busy.
When you add the new Melting Pot, Twigs, the Nordstrom Caf & eacute; and the River Park Square food court -- the latter three on the third floor -- you see that downtown visitors and residents don't have to leave the Skywalk system to find good places to eat.