What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay there. When Tricia and Randy Pinola relocated from the Southwest to Spokane two years ago, they brought along memories of dining adventures in what is arguably one of the most dense restaurant regions in the country — close to 3,000 in all.
"You just get so used to going to the same places over and over, and we lived in this amazing city with so many restaurants," Tricia Pinola says. "And we're like, all right, so when we go out to dinner, we're going to a new place each time. And that was our way for the year."
Although dining options in Spokane and the surrounding area aren't quite as prolific, there's plenty for the couple to choose from should they want to employ a similar tactic getting to know their new home in Spokane.
And they did, but where to start? The internet, of course, including Yelp and social media.
"Somebody just posted, 'We're doing the alphabet of restaurants,'" says Pinola, adding that it might also have been that the post mentioned a certain letter or place in the alphabet. "And I was like, that's a really good idea."
After retiring from the military in April 2022, Tricia and husband Randy decided to do the same in Spokane as their New Year's resolution, effective January 2023.
As they were making their list, they were having difficulty coming up with places for the end of the alphabet, says Pinola, who again turned to social media.
Responses to her post highlighted some of the best parts about social media, namely getting nearly instant feedback and creating community. Additional suggestions poured in, like Zola, Zelia's Cheese Steaks & Subs, Zullee Mediterranean Grill, Zeeks Pizza, and Zona Blanca for Z.
That helped round out their list, she says, noting that options included both food trucks and fine dining, but also places in and around Spokane and Coeur d'Alene.
"Some of them [on our list] have multiple places, so that if we're, you know, in a mood for something particular, we can do that, but we're gonna do it in order," starting with the letter A, Pinola says.
Initially, the A list of possibilities included Avocado Roll Sushi and Aloha Island Grill, while B options included the Backyard Public House, Birrieria Tijuana, Browne's Bistro, Baba, Boiada Brazilian Steakhouse, and Beverly's in Coeur d'Alene. They eventually decided on Ambrosia Bistro & Wine Bar in Spokane Valley and Baba in Kendall Yards.
But for the letter C, which the couple figured would fall on Valentine's Day, there was only one choice: Churchill's Steakhouse.
"Everybody raves about it," Pinola says.
"We came here to visit before we moved here, and we tried to go there, and we didn't know anything about it," Pinola says. They were just walking downtown, saw the sign and thought it auspicious since her boss' last name is Churchill, she says.
"And of course, we didn't have a reservation, so we couldn't go," Pinola says, adding that they made sure to do that for Valentine's Day.
The list has changed since Pinola posted it on social media, partially through our interview. When she realized that the Inlander maintains a database of restaurant listings — 1,000 and counting — searchable by such features as "vegetarian" or "full bar" or "patio dining," she refined their alphabetic adventure into the region's food scene even more.
"I think our list is going to be a living document," Pinola says. ♦
MORE TASTY DATE NIGHT SUGGESTIONS
Looking for a special night out for Valentine's Day? Here's just a sampling of what's happening around the region.
Learn some new moves at ROUGE LA RUE'S one-hour burlesque show Feb. 14 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $75 each and include a three-course dinner provided by Prohibition Gastropub. facebook.com/prohibition.gastropub.spokane1
It's you and your plus-one at THE COEUR D'ALENE RESORT for an extravagant four-course meal with shared appetizer and dessert for $70 each (add $30 each if you want wine). Make reservations for Feb. 10, 11 or 14 for an elegant evening overlooking the lake. beverlyscda.com
If you'd rather be on the water than overlooking it, book a LOVE ON THE LAKE brunch or dinner lake cruise on Feb. 10, 11 or 14. Prices start at $147.50 per couple and include a private table, champagne for those 21-and-older and a gourmet buffet meal. cdacruises.com/love-on-the-lake
You're gonna love the four-course dinner at ORLANDO'S, the student-run restaurant at Spokane Community College. Three seatings are available on Feb. 14 and 15 at 5:30, 6 and 6:30 pm. Dinner is just $50 each ($65 if you want wine). Call 509-533-7283 to reserve.
If you've been missing the talented CJ Callahan, the Spokane chef is preparing an apple-centric five-course meal hosted by ONE TREE CIDER on Feb. 14 and 15, also featuring live music. Tickets are $100 each ($125 to add cider). onetreehardcider.com/v-day
Inspired by the movie Serendipity, NORTHERN QUEST RESORT & CASINO is hosting a Serendipity dinner, at 6 pm on Feb. 14 inside its sparkling and sophisticated Highball Speakeasy. Tickets are $100 each and include a champagne toast, live jazz music and a five-course meal inspired by the movie's location: New York City. bit.ly/3wfuSlH
Does your heart melt ... at the thought of fondue? THE MELTING POT is promoting its four-course experience for couples from Feb. 11 to 14. For $120 you and your plus-one get both a cheese and dessert fondue, plus salad and choice of entrée. meltingpot.com/spokane-wa
Sommelier Annie Kelly is putting the cute in charcuterie with a PAL-entine's day event on Feb. 14 from 6-8 pm at RUBY RIVER HOTEL. Learn about selecting cheeses and wine, cutting techniques, and styling tips as you enjoy a glass of wine and light snacks. The board is included in the ticket price of $95 each or $145 for a shared board. rubyriverhotelspokane.com
Studies show that couples who learn new things together form stronger bonds. Learn about classic cocktails on Feb. 11, from 4-6 pm at TAVOLÀTA. Tickets are $75 per person and include cocktail samples and snacks from the kitchen team. ethanstowellrestaurants.com