Where to Dine: Lorén and other new restaurants

click to enlarge Where to Dine: Lorén and other new restaurants
Young Kwak photos
Juli Norris offers French bistro food at Lorén.

Longtime restaurateur Juli Norris has transformed a century-old cellar into Lorén, a chic, upscale French bistro. The elevated Parisian-style restaurant with a selective members-only social club is a new concept from Norris, who also owns Kasa Restaurant and Taphouse on the first floor of the same building, just north of Riverfront Park.

LORÉN

908 N. Howard St.
lorenbistro.com

In a modern, sleek, dimly lit dining room, gold-encrusted geodes cascade down the dark gray stone walls for a subtle feminine flair. You've found a hidden gem, though it's a far cry from the orange leather and cigar smoke that Norris says make some modern speakeasies feel like an old boys' club.

Both Norris and her executive chef, Tyler Gardner, are classically trained French chefs. Lorén premières, otherwise known as appetizers, include fried calamari ($17), housemade fougasse ($12), a garlic- and herb-infused bread served with honey brie butter and confit garlic, and flamenkuche ($14), a pizza-esque flatbread topped with prosciutto and sherry-poached pear.

But Norris' favorite plate is the grilled filet mignon (served at market price) with a classic bordelaise, housemade pasta and Gorgonzola steak butter.

Just as important as the food is the wine. Lorén offers both imported French wines and local Washington wines, three of which are made by Townshend Cellars for Lorén alone. But in case you prefer cocktails, Norris also partnered with Dry Fly Distilling to create a Lorén-specific gin.

The secret Sophia Room can be rented out for bachelorette parties, birthday parties, anniversaries or business meetings.

MORE TO CHECK OUT

BIRDIE'S PIE SHOP
712 N. Monroe St., 1003 N. Spokane St., Post Falls
and 9375 N. Government Way, Hayden

Birdella Cox Lybbert was always baking. Pies and cookies filled her kitchen, awaiting the grandchildren who walked to her white farmhouse after school every day.

Her granddaughter Sharee Moss now owns Birdie's Pie Shop, a made-from-scratch, pie-only bakery named for Birdella. This September, Moss opened her third Birdie's location in Spokane.

Birdie's makes sweet and savory full-size pies, personal pies and pie bites. Flavors rotate daily, but the classics are always available — apple, triple berry, pecan, chocolate and key lime pies for a sweet tooth, and chicken pot pie for a full meal. Birdie's also offers a whole slate of gluten-free pies so that everyone can enjoy. (ELIZA BILLINGHAM)

click to enlarge Where to Dine: Lorén and other new restaurants (4)
Young Kwak photo
Thunder Pie Pizza

THUNDER PIE PIZZA
816 W. Sprague Ave.

Joel Barbour, Ben Poffenroth and Ramsey Pruchnic decided to open Thunder Pie to give new life to the perpetual pizza space that previously housed Fire Artisan Pizza, Slightly Charred Wood Fired Pizza and Gozo Brick Oven Bistro.

Barbour owns The Great PNW, a Northwest-inspired clothing company, Poffenroth owns Durkin's Liquor Bar, and Pruchnic owns Hello Sugar as well as Uno Más Taco Shop.

Poffenroth developed the pizzeria's menu — including 13 pies — with various chefs he's worked with over the years. He also created the cocktail menu, which he says is an area that sets Thunder Pie apart from other local pizza establishments.

The trio of owners also worked to revamp the pizzeria's interior, getting rid of TVs and adding their own edgy, yet family-friendly design. (AMELIA TRONCONE)

DE LEON'S TEX MEX GRILL
412 W. Haycraft Ave., Coeur d'Alene

Sergio and Mayra De Leon expand their beloved southern flavors across the border to Idaho. What used to be the Coeur d'Alene location of Cosmic Cowboy Grill is now De Leon's fourth restaurant location, featuring burritos, enchiladas, chilaquiles, quesadillas, tamales, nachos and more made from De Leon family recipes.

The fast-casual spot is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus delivery and catering services. The new grill has a comfy, modern vibe with white subway tile walls, midcentury chandeliers and sleek blue booths.

For now, the Coeur d'Alene location will be restaurant-only without an alcohol menu. A patio will be open for diners in the seasonal months, but tacos, queso and chimichangas are sure to keep people warm and happy while it's cold outside. (ELIZA BILLINGHAM)

Reinaldo Gil Zambrano: Pulling Roots @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through April 20
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Eliza Billingham

Eliza Billingham is a staff writer covering food, from restaurants and cooking to legislation, agriculture and climate. She joined the Inlander in 2023 after completing a master's degree in journalism from Boston University.