Inlander Restaurant Week 2022 — the 10th iteration of the annual culinary celebration — kicked off last night, with diners around the region going out to enjoy a three-course meal for $22, $33 or $44 per person. Some of the Inlander's staff writers were among them, and throughout the 10-day event we'll continue sharing highlights, photos and other insight into some of the spots we've checked out.
Reservations at many eateries are already filling up at many participating restaurants (including those featured here), so don't wait to save yourself a spot. The 2022 event continues through next Saturday, March 5.
Find more information about this year's 99 total participants and their menus at InlanderRestaurantWeek.com, or grab the Feb. 24 edition of the Inlander for our printed event guide, which are also available at all STCU branches and Restaurant Week participants.
VIEUX CARRE NOLA KITCHEN ($33)
1403 W. Broadway Ave., 509-459-1400, Menu served daily from 3 pm to close
Get in the Mardi Gras spirit at Vieux Carre: the New Orleans-inspired eatery has gone all out both with festive decor and a menu highlighting classic Southern and French Creole dishes.
The entire dining room and bar of the restaurant is festooned with gold, green and purple garlands, beads and other Mardi Gras decor, making diners truly feel like they've been transported to the Big Easy. Reservations are already hard to come by at Vieux Carre for this year's Restaurant Week, however, so if you haven't made them already, do it now. There is limited walk-in availability, and when we went on the first night of the event, the place was packed. All considered, though, service was prompt and our three courses came out in perfectly timed succession. Between my partner and I, we enjoyed the hushpuppies, red beans and rice, Louisiana chicken and leek handpie, jambalaya, beignet and King Cake. (No tiny plastic baby inside our slice for good luck, unfortunately, but we enjoyed this special, sweet treat that's a rarity in this region.)
While we shared and enjoyed each course, our top dish was Vieux Carre's jambalaya, a flavorful and comforting combination of rice, chicken, spicy andouille sausage, tomato and the Holy Trinity (onions, bell pepper and celery). The rice was soft and creamy, the sausage salty and spicy (but not too spicy), and each bite bursting with flavor.
Add a classic New Orleans cocktail to complement the meal, like the titular Vieux Carre of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth and Benedictine. (CHEY SCOTT)
3020 Queen Ave., 509-309-2944, Menu served Mon-Sat 4-9 pm
A meal that starts with an old fashioned usually ends quite well. And one that starts with Kismet’s mezcal old fashioned (from the regular menu, versus Restaurant Week's Drink Local options) and ends with one of their decadent desserts? Terrific. From revisiting the up-and-coming area of Hillyard to Kismet’s unusual flavor combos to the expert service, this was a memorable meal.
I’d already tried the panzanella salad during a Restaurant Week photo shoot and it was a lovely combination of smoky, tangy and sweet (and visually appealing, too; see it on page 14 of the printed event guide). Instead, my dining partner and I tried the other two starter options and both favored the grilled queso. It hit all the right tastes — salt, fat, acid, heat — and textures from chewy cheese to crunchy tostada and pico.
We traded our desserts back and forth, both of them winners. The tres leches was so moist and just faintly sweet, like the best parts of pudding and cake combined. The Mexican chocolate brownie was firm and chewy and densely chocolatey, again not overly sweet, with just a kiss of heat. (CARRIE SCOZZARO)