by Mike Corrigan, Michael Bowen and Ted S. McGregor Jr.
Loren's Deli & amp; Espresso, 12802 N. Highway 395 (Wandermere Mall), 465-9696 -- If you drive along Hwy. 395 just north of the Wandermere Mall, it's hard to miss Loren's Deli & amp; Espresso. On the exterior of this boxy stucco building, I counted three shades of orange, two shades of yellow, two kinds of purple, and (oh, yes) coral-colored accents. It's a paint scheme out of Crayola box. Fortunately, the interior is calmer: vaulted ceiling, sconces and track lighting, a neutral beige palette, New Age music, lots of windows with views of pine trees. Loren's is open most days at 6:30 am and has a drive-thru for all your caffeine-commuter needs. Stop by some morning - the building is even more eye-opening than the lattes.
Pastrami, Pepperoni & amp; Salami ($4.99) -- Ah yes, a two-fisted experience! This build-it-yourself treat was stacked high with a m & eacute;lange of spicy meats, heated just enough to melt the real Swiss cheese and topped off with mustard, lettuce and tomato. Once I unwrapped it, the soft wheat roll looked up at me with this "I didn't mean to turn you on" look. But one bite only confirmed it: This sandwich was simply irresistible. Maybe a little too meat-heavy for my increasingly veggie tastes, but if you're into generous portions, you'll heartily dig it. And I'm gonna have to face it: I'm addicted to the side of shrimp and shells pasta salad I sampled. And why not? It was rich, creamy and zesty as all get-out, with bits of cheddar, green onions and tender baby shrimp. - Mike
Ham, Turkey and Swiss ($5.99) -- What is it about grilling a sandwich in real butter? It's really, really good, that's what. Then again, what isn't better with a little butter on it? Even wheat bread can be twisted into something less healthy and more tasty. Speaking of things that go well together, how about turkey and ham? These were high-quality cuts and freshly sliced, and the real Swiss cheese was melted to perfection. Bread does break apart more after it's been grilled, so this was a bit of a mess, with mayo and mustard dripping out. The sandwich also came with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles (an odd choice, but tasty nonetheless). I added olives -- why not? A winner. But I also loved the homemade potato chips -- thicker and tastier than the out-of-the-bag variety. - Ted
BLT on Sourdough ($4.49) -- Grilled, juicy, satisfying: This was a model BLT. The servers at Loren's put you through a gauntlet of questions as you build your own sandwich - half-a-dozen types of bread and cheese to choose from, and then a long list of veggies and condiments - but it's well worth the effort. The ingredients are of high quality -- I added provolone -- and the service is knowledgeable and fast. The bacon that went with my lettuce and tomato was perfectly done: not too crispy, still succulent, but not underdone. And Loren's accompanies every order with a bag of their deliciously greasy chips - thick-sliced, irregular in shape with the potato skins left on. As for other items, they offer omelets and breakfast bagels in the morning. - Bo
Parkside Bistro, 414 W. Mullan Rd., Coeur d'Alene, 208-765-8220 -- Essentially a salvaged shack, Parkside Bistro has the benefit of being located right on the edge of downtown Coeur d'Alene's City Park. If this building hadn't been preexisting, good luck getting a permit to build a pub on this spot. The place drips with charm -- at least if you like places with lots of micros on tap and scribbled-on dollar bills pasted to the ceiling. It seems like the kind of place ski bums hang around in until the snow finally starts falling. But for as long as the sunny days persist, you can carry out orders to the beach or the playground. When things get colder, the Parkside offers hot lunches -- like hot sandwiches, cioppino stew or chili.
Chicken Caesar Wrap ($6.25) -- How do I like it? More, more, more. This bundle was composed of a generous portion of romaine lettuce, a not-quite-so generous portion of chopped chicken breast and an agreeably zesty Caesar dressing wrapped up in a red (tomato perhaps?) flour tortilla. It was pretty tasty for what it was. And messy -- definitely a two-napkin job. But it wasn't all that much for this kind of dough. I had a tough time finding very much actual chicken meat in that jungle of romaine. The complimentary pasta salad (corkscrew rainbow pasta, sliced olives and a light Italian dressing) helped to fill out the meal yet was on the bland side. - Mike
Steak & amp; Cheddar Hoagie ($6.50) -- A sandwich like this definitely fits the description of "good grub." Some might cringe at the word, but "grub" can loosely be described as something substantial -- and probably messy -- that fills your belly until next time. In this case, tasty Philly steak, grilled up with onions, melts the surrounding real cheddar, making this a nice variation on the old reliable Philly cheese steak sandwich (which Parkside also offers). But it's the chipotle mayo that gives this thing its zing. They should bottle this stuff and sell it so people like us can smother whatever grub we're eating with it. Adding a side of potato or pasta salad is a nice touch, but both need a little work. - Ted
Smoked Turkey and Swiss ($6.50) -- At first glance, this sandwich looked big, thick and healthy. A generous heap of finely shredded turkey was surrounded by two good-size slabs of Swiss cheese, several tomato slices, lettuce, pickles and circles of red onion. This is the kind of sandwich that it's hard to get your mouth around. But the really distinctive part of this wheat-and-meat solution to that question about handling a hungry man? The little condiment cups on the side - not just regular mayo, mind you, but chipotle mayo as well. This latter item is like 1000 Island dressing, only several orders of magnitude better, and it imparted a peppery tang to the proceedings, kicking this sandwich above average. The only disappointment was the flavorless potato salad. -- Bo