Best Restaurants

by Mike Corrigan and Susan Hamilton

Best Fine Dining and Best Service - Clinkerdaggers

It's no surprise that Clinkerdaggers is Spokane's favorite restaurant for fine dining and place to celebrate special occasions. For the fourth year in a row, the upscale eatery in the historic turn-of-the-century Flour Mill has taken honors for best fine dining and best service.

The Old English d & eacute;cor and site overlooking the falls have proven to be a winning combination. "Clinkerdaggers is an anchor in the community," says new General Manager Tom Sciortino.

The rock salt-roasted prime rib and fresh salmon fillets that are featured keep customers coming back year after year. And a wait staff that knows just how to cater to guests' needs has given Clink's top honors again for "Best Service."

Second place: Patsy Clark's

Third place: Luna

Second place: The Onion

Third place: Sawtooth Grill

Best Mexican Cuisine - Azteca

Whether it's Mexican basics like enchiladas, tostadas or quesadillas or unique flautas or borregos, Azteca satisfies our readers' yen for spicy food. And they like to feel like they've gotten away from it all, too. Azteca's tiled mosaics and statues of Mayan and Aztecan culture reminiscent of an ancient temple exude an exotic, south-the-border atmosphere. Courteous, friendly staff adds to the ambiance.

Second place: Casa de Oro

Third place: Rancho Chico

Best Power Lunch - Steam Plant Grill

If you've got to impress a client, the Steam Plant Grill is the place. Maybe it's the unique setting -- how many eateries are located in a national historic landmark or can boast twin 225-foot smokestacks? Or could it be the signature martini menu and resident Coeur d'Alene Brewing Co. microbrews? The Steam Plant offers tasty morsels, too, like beer-battered onion rings, steamer clams with white wine and shallots, Oriental salmon salad and the chocolaty Smoke Stack for dessert.

Second place: Fugazzi/Subway (tie)

Third place: Spokane Club

Best Burger - The Onion

The Onion prides itself on being "fun, fast and friendly" with a wide variety of hamburgers. The restaurant/sports bar with two locations (downtown and North Side) took awards in this category for the third straight year. What is their secret? "Fresh, never frozen (and local), no seasoning and we cook 'em just right," says Jesse Etter, general manager of the downtown Onion. The inside scoop from the servers is that they're personal and fun and will go the extra mile for customers.

Second place: Red Robin

Third place: D'Lish/Dick's (tie)

Best Patio Dining - Shenanigan's

How can you miss with a large deck overlooking the scenic Spokane River in the downtown area? Shenanigan's took first place in this new category. With remodeling still in progress, guests will be able to bask in the new, trellised patio with room for entertainment and parties starting on April 23. The taster of eight different microbrews served with a placemat explaining them all is a favorite with Shenanigan's customers. And let's not forget the premium seafood, steaks, pastas, salads and more.

Second place: Clinkerdaggers

Third place: Luna

Best Winery - Arbor Crest

This unique winery, aged for 20 years, has become a favorite among those in the Inland Northwest. Arbor Crest's oak-framed, solid variety of wines from Columbia Valley grapes made with a Sonoma influence are winners. Known for its cabernet sauvignon, Arbor Crest just unveiled its new line of wines at this month's Evening of Wine and Flowers event. And the tasting room is not to be missed. Cliff House is a Florentine mansion with a spectacular, panoramic view.

Second place: Latah Creek

Third place: Wyvern (formerly Worden's)

Best Bakery - The Rocket

For the second year in a row, this local bakery has taken the cake or, more precisely, the muffins, scones, cookies and tarts. Maybe it's the six locations sprinkled throughout the area, the funky d & eacute;cor and friendly staff. But what really attracts customers is the homemade look and taste of the filling pastries as well as the wide variety the Rocket provides. Not to mention the comfy, neighborhood feel each store exudes. And let's not forget the java and teas.

Second place: Fitzbillies

Third place: Great Harvest

Best Chocolates - See's Candies

With only one location in Spokane, how did See's do it? The California company's old-time candies and chocolates satisfy the sweet cravings of those in the Inland Northwest. Since 1921, the black and white shops have been turning out chocolates made from the finest ingredients and without additives or preservatives. "Quality without compromise" is See's motto, and it's won over the hearts, desires and stomachs of Inlander readers.

Second place: Spokandy

Third place: Godiva

Best Cheap Fast Lunch - Dick's

Here's a no brainer. Once again, Inlander readers prove they are not only grub savvy but budget conscious. Dick's is an anachronism. The look and feel of the place is a throwback to the glory days of drive-ins -- and so are the prices. The fact that they still charge a meager $1.07 for the double meat, double cheese Whammy is, in itself, cause for celebration and enough to renew your faith in the basic decency of humankind. Dick's has remained virtually unchanged since opening in 1965, and it's still the best.

Second place: Zip's

Third place: Taco Bell

Best Steaks - Outback Steakhouse

The No. 1 and 2 winners in this category were identical to last year. So they must be doing something right. Consistently. Actually, if memory serves, Outback has been No. 1 for about as long as they've been a part of the Spokane dining scene (three area locations doesn't hurt their case). But if there's one thing that Inland Northwesterners like, it's big hunks of tender bovine flesh, grilled to perfection.

Second place: Wolf Lodge Inn

Third place: Spencer's

Best Asian Cuisine -- Mustard Seed

A category that finished off looking like "Best Of 2000 Revisited," the top three in Asian cuisine seem to have the competition locked out. And I can't remember a year when the Mustard Seed hasn't taken top honors here. Its diverse menu, quality ingredients and careful preparation add up to success for the Mustard Seed. Again.

Second place: Gordy's

Third place: China Dragon

Best Breakfast - Frank's Diner

What could be more traditional than an egg, bacon and hash brown feast served in a stylishly renovated train car? Well, unless you're a regular here (or were raised on a passenger train), there really isn't anything traditional about it -- except, of course, the classic diner chow and accompanying service with a smile. It's a little cramped, but that's all part of the charm. And you never know who you'll run into here. For an eatery that's a true Spokane melting pot, you can't beat Frank's.

Second place: Dolly's

Third place: Cannon Street Grill

Best Sandwich - Domini's

Domini's is the holy mother of big ass sandwiches in Spokane. And for an astounding seven straight years, Inlander readers agree. Forget lettuce. Forget tomatoes. And if you mention sprouts, they'll look at you like you've got salamanders crawling out of your ears. Bread, cheese and meat -- lots of meat -- that's it. Piled so high you can barely get your mouth around it. Good? You betcha. Eating in is a trip, too, with Domini's New York-style deli ambiance and free popcorn to boot. Family-owned and operated for decades.

Second place: Subway

Third place: The High Nooner

Best Fish and Chips - Skipper's

Man, Spokanites are fiercely opinionated about this one. Folks who normally don't talk food, who wouldn't know ramen from ratatouille, love to yammer about their favorite fish and chips. And year after year, this becomes one of the most hotly contested category in the Best of. This time around, the chain fish and chowder house, Skipper's, narrowly edged out local favorite (and last year's winner) Zip's for tops in battered fish and deep fried taters. Well, it IS their specialty after all.

Second place: Zip's

Third place: Ivar's

Best Pizza - David's Pizza

Tucked away in the Gonzaga University district on North Hamilton, David's quietly cranks out some of the tastiest, most interesting pies around. And with their fire engine red Pizza Mobile Response Team (a full service pizza kitchen crammed into a customized car carrier), the crew at David's can take their show on the road, wherever the hungry may be lurking (community events, mostly). It's good to see an independent like David's year after year holding its own against the national chains that saturate the local market. Obviously, these guys' modus operandi of "do something different and do it well" works.

Second place: Papa Murphy's/Rocky Rococo (tie)

Third place: Pizza Hut

Best Burrito - Sonic Burrito

In the battle for the hearts of Spokane's specialty burrito lovers, four names came up again and again: Sonic, Qdoba, Slick Rock and Taco Time. The war rages on, but this round, at least, goes to Sonic. Coincidentally located right next door to David's Pizza (is there something going on here?), Sonic's variety of fresh ingredients, great people and dizzying selection of gourmet hot sauces equals success as far as our readers are concerned.

Second place: Taco Time

Third place: Qdoba/Slick Rock (tie)

Best Donuts - Donut Parade

Don't let the fact that I am right this second wolfing down a warm, delicious maple bar from Donut Parade cause to question the integrity of the results in this category. They won fair and square -- although we were probably munching on some Parade products at the time when we dreamed up this category. Okay, we love Donut Parade. And now it's obvious that you do, too, though not everyone knows what it's called (that nondescript, yellow vertical sign spelling out the word "Donuts" and nothing more is cause for some confusion). Located on the corner of Hamilton and Indiana, this mecca for fluffy, sugary deep fried dough has been run by the same people for more than 30 years. It's a great, unpretentious place for coffee and conversation, too.

Second place: Safeway

Third place: Rosauers

Best Locally Brewed Beer - The Bayou

Ahhh, beer. Where would we be without it? The head of a Fortune 500 company probably, but that's neither here nor there. The Inland Northwest boasts (as you no doubt all read about in our recent "all-booze" issue) at least six local breweries, all vying for our attention and patronage. This year, the Bayou Brewery, which placed second last year, jumped out ahead of two-time winner, Fort Spokane (of course, the Fort closed this year, perhaps drying up its chances to place first). But the Bayou won on merit and for being there year after year with consistently great beer. They deserve the accolades and the support. Salut!

Second place: Northern Lights/Fort Spokane (tie)

Third place: The Ram

Best Espresso Drinks - Starbucks

With multiple locations all over the Inland Northwest (heck, the world) and instant name recognition by all but those living under rocks for the past 10 years, Starbucks once again takes the prize in this category. And though the coffee giant has, like it or not, become as synonymous with Northwest living as fresh air, Boeing and Microsoft, they do brew a great cup of joe. And they're everywhere.

Second place: Jacob's Java

Third place: The Rocket