It's not hard for Kris Kilduff to picture the culinary celebration he has in mind for Restaurant Wars. As the creative director of a Los Angeles-based advertising agency, he's seen firsthand how cities across the West exalt their respective food cultures through all manner of tasting events and festivals.
"What I really wish Spokane had that we just don't is a big, local event that's set up like a farmers market, but rather than having food trucks, we're putting up our awesome local restaurants," says Kilduff, who lives in Spokane (he works remotely) and been organizing events like Spokane's Got Talent for nearly a decade. "We have amazing culinary competition here. There's a ton of people doing a million awesome things."
Kilduff and Jennifer Evans, his partner in producing Restaurant Wars, hope to introduce curious diners to just a few of those awesome things at the inaugural one-day festival at Kendall Yards. For less than $20, attendees can sample plates from seven Spokane-area restaurants — Prohibition Gastropub, 1898 Public House, Clover, Lantern Tap House, Wandering Table, The Blackbird and Hay J's Bistro. And there's a free component as well, as Summit Parkway will be lined with upward of 40 local food and drink vendors offering free samples and products for sale, much like the weekly Night Market. Chef demos, live music and beer from breweries including River City Brewing, No-Li Brewhouse, Hopped Up Brewing Company, Georgetown Brewing Company and Elysian Brewing are also part of the lineup.
Kilduff wanted Restaurant Wars to land somewhere between the fair-food-centric Pig Out in the Park and formal, pricey affairs like Epicurean Delight. He looked for a sweet spot where local diners would be willing to try something new and local chefs would take up the challenge to make something creative, even if it never appears on their restaurants' menus.
"We really wanted to focus on people doing new, fun things," Kilduff says of the restaurants he approached to take part. "We wanted people doing good food, unique items. People who had some versatility."
And, he says, these won't be mere bite-sized tastes. "It's more small plates than samples. Most of the plates are going to have multiple elements to them. A protein and a side, a reflection of [the chefs'] personal cooking styles."
The menus won't be released until the day of the event, and tickets are limited to 1,500 so the chefs can plan their workload. The "wars" part of Restaurant Wars comes through attendees voting for their favorite dishes via text, as well as a small panel of expert judges.
Really, though, if chefs are making great dishes and people are trying places they otherwise might not, as Kilduff hopes, who loses? ♦
Restaurant Wars • Sat, Sept. 10, 4-9 pm • free to attend, $17/wristband for eight plates • Kendall Yards • restaurant-wars.com