by Sheri Boggs

I'll never forget the morning, about five years ago, when I pulled into the Lindaman's parking lot intent on grabbing some joe and a blueberry kolachy before heading to work. The empty parking lot should have been a clue but still I tugged on the locked doors - kinda like the Far Side kid who pushes on the "School for the Gifted" door that clearly says "Pull." Bewildered, I peered inside, tugged once more and then realized the hours had changed to something like 10:30-8:30. Grumpily I went back to my car. Something I'd always taken for granted was no longer there.

Lindaman's the restaurant, of course, was still there. Their classic romaine salads, enchiladas and pot de cr & egrave;me still filled the glass cases. But their breakfast offerings - the cinnamon-crusted biscuity scones, the Kentucky eggs, the country potatoes and the berry-and-ricotta filled kolachy pastries - were suddenly a thing of the past. I wondered if it had anything to do with the recent "upscaling" of the restaurant. When it first opened in 1984, Lindaman's was the first of its kind - a welcoming little bistro with gourmet food and a relaxed atmosphere. I didn't become a regular until the mid-'90s, but it wasn't long before I was in for a latte here, a Chicken Joseph there -- sometimes three times a week.

The changes were slow at first; one day the casual red and black vinyl tablecloths where I'd write in my journal and spill coffee were gone. The next, there were paper cone lanterns, followed by gorgeous blown glass pendant lamps. Wooden and tile square tables replaced some of the black steel rounds the restaurant has had for years. Slowly Lindaman's started to feel like a fancier kind of place - the kind of restaurant where one brings a date, not oneself and a good book.

"Actually, it got to where we were throwing out [lots of food] every morning," says manager Kevin Soderquist of the break with breakfast. "Starbucks moved in next door. There were little drive-thru espresso stands everywhere. Nobody wanted breakfast anymore."

Some of us must have wanted breakfast still because about three months ago, a little sign announcing "open for breakfast" appeared on the sidewalk off Grand. Lindaman's is once again offering the eggies and the pastries. My review crew happily assembled for our visit, which took place on a Thursday morning. The sunshine streaming through the side windows made the hardwood floors glow and the place, while initially empty, seemed bustling with good cheer.

The first thing to know about Lindaman's new breakfast offerings is that they're much simpler than what was offered before. They're also different. Instead of the scones and kolachies, check out the astonishingly gorgeous European-style pastries in the glass case. Each comes in its own little brown and gold wrapper, and choices range from several varieties of muffin ($1.95) to blackberry strudel ($2.25).

Everything is ordered at the coffee/wine bar. Various chalkboards indicate everything from coffee drinks to wine specials to breakfast offerings. We were intrigued by the Express Eggs ($3.95), which come in three different varieties: Mexican, with hominy, guacamole, cheddar and tomatoes; the aptly entitled bacon-and-eggs; and fresh herb. Other choices include things like granola, yogurt, and fresh fruit (including some gorgeous slices of seasonal blood oranges).

Nothing less than the eggs would do for us and Soderquist brought them over in large round coffee mugs. The secret to these eggs, it turns out, is that they're cooked using the steamer wand from the espresso machine. That, and the cozy confines of their ceramic environment, lend themselves to an amazing texture - moist, not runny, and perfectly done. I went with the Mexican eggs, which had a nice layered effect: There was more hominy in the bottom, while the top was graced with fresh guacamole, chopped tomatoes, cheese and sour cream. Amy partook of the bacon version, which was further augmented with the simple addition of parmesan cheese. They were quite delicious, and it didn't feel weird at all to be eating them from a mug.

Although our eggs both came with a savory little biscotti, we decided we needed something from the pastry case. Amy opted for the oatmeal coffee cake ($2.25), which was moist on the inside with a crunchy, sweet, oatmeal-dusted top. I got the almond-infused tea cake ($2.25). Both were amazing little concoctions.

All in all, our breakfasts were a refreshing change of pace and a really nice start to the day. Service was excellent, the atmosphere relaxed, and we enjoyed the familiar babble of caf & eacute; conversation around us. If you're after big farmer-type breakfasts with hash browns and pancakes, you're out of luck. But if you want something simple, delicious and unlike anything else in Spokane, Lindaman's is the morning place for you.

Publication date: 03/03/05

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