by Susan Hamilton

"It was my son's idea," says Vic Wills, new co-owner of the Garden Grill. "He kept bugging me to have my own restaurant. And Janice Maas [the former owner] made me an offer I couldn't refuse. I've been a chef here for two years, and I just love this restaurant, and its great atmosphere," he adds.

"It's going to be a lot smoother with the owner in the house," says Vic's son, Matt Wills, who is now the general manager and co-owner of the Garden Grill. "We've revamped the staff, are serving breakfast daily and lowering prices."

Vic will continue as chef, tweaking food items to please customers, both long-standing and new. He's debuting a new menu this week, with dishes he says he's always wanted to feature. Steak skewers (marinated and served with teriyaki sauce) and steamer clams (simmered in white wine and fresh garlic sauce) are two new starters. A buffalo chicken salad with authentic sauce and bleu cheese dressing, a chicken club sandwich with smoky bacon and garlic aioli, and a grilled, marinated Portobello wrap are also new menu items.

But it's the entrees that have really added a new infusion. Four new pasta dishes, including blackened chicken alfredo with a rich garlic and parmesan cream sauce, and smoked gouda pasta with artichoke hearts and grilled chicken, are featured. For those with lighter appetites, half-portions of all Garden Grill's pasta dishes are now available. Shrimp scampi (made with luscious jumbo prawns), parmesan chicken smothered in a pesto cream sauce, and pepper-crusted steak with mango demi-glaze are also tempting new entrees. Senior dishes and healthy choice items are still on the menu, as well as many Garden Grill favorites. Diners can enjoy the restaurant's Pat Jeppeson-designed interior -- with its stained glass windows and vintage bar -- or the loft with a view, as well as the newly opened patio dining.

"I want to make Garden Grill people's favorite dining place in Spokane," Vic proclaims.

The Garden Grill, 3022 N. Division, is open Monday-Tuesday, 8 am-8 pm; Wednesday-Thursday, 8 am-9 pm; Friday-Saturday, 8 am-10 pm; Sunday, 8 am-3 pm. Call 326-7741.

More Thai

When I saw a new Thai restaurant at 14th and Grand Boulevard. -- where Linnie's Thai Cuisine held sway for umpteen years and a Vietnamese restaurant recently did a short stint -- I had to wonder: What is it with the proliferation of Thai restaurants in the traditionally meat-and-potatoes Inland Northwest? It must be the contrast. Vibrant flavors, hot spices, exotic condiments, aromatic sauces and appealing presentations make Thai cuisine unique.

Bangkok Thai, the newest addition to the Asian dining scene in Spokane, is no exception. From its authentic Thai cuisine to d & eacute;cor straight from Thailand, owners Jamie Cozzetto and Kay Chindapradist want to enfold guests in a traditional Thai experience. The open dining room with warm persimmon walls is accented with sandstone sculptures of Thai mythological figures. Glass tabletops allow guests to admire the lush Thai silk coverings beneath. The wait staff is even adorned with authentic Thai costumes.

But what about the food? With chefs imported from Seattle's popular Thai Ginger restaurant working their culinary magic and the co-owner and her family hailing from central Thailand, this just-opened restaurant is sure to be a hit. A peek at the menu reveals some interesting starters, including chicken satay marinated in Thai spices and coconut milk, served with peanut and cucumber sauces, along with crab in a blanket, deep-fried and served with plum sauce. Three versions of Thai hot and sour soup, as well as coconut cream soup with chicken, lemongrass and ginger, are offered.

Diners can choose from seven salads, including green papaya, seafood, and savory beef -- all garnished with traditional ingredients, such as Thai chili, tamarind juice, young ginger and lemongrass. No Thai restaurant worth its salt would omit Pad Thai from its noodle dishes. Bangkok Thai places its version at the top of the list of its noodle and rice offerings, which includes stir-fried wide rice noodles and pineapple and shrimp fried rice.

Curries, wok-fried dishes and vegetarian specialties are also on Bangkok Thai's extensive menu. The house specialties include a stir-fried seafood combination plate and trout special for those who shy away from spicy food. Dessert items feature traditional sticky rice with fresh mango or Thai custard, black rice with coconut milk pudding, and fried banana with ice cream. A nice selection of beer and wine rounds out the menu. There is even a special lunch menu featuring a combination of dishes for $7.

Bangkok Thai, 1325 S. Grand Blvd., is open Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-9 pm; Friday-Saturday, 11 am-10 pm. Call 838-8424.

Taking It to the Max

"Customers tell me that they love Max at Mirabeau," says general manager Kevin Cranston. "They say the Valley was in desperate need of a good fine-dining restaurant."

And it's no wonder. Executive Chef Phill Levine offers a diverse, made-from-scratch cuisine utilizing exotic and fresh ingredients from local purveyors, growers and winemakers. Starters run the gamut from Ahi tuna with Indian spices, duck confit on pecan corn blinis, and curried scallops with mango sambal and toasted coconut. Soups and salads feature a jicama-apple slaw and five-spice Chinese-style ginger duck on Napa cabbage with sesame-ginger vinaigrette. Entrees include tournedos of filet mignon, huckleberry baby-back pork ribs and prawns in coconut curry. Voodoo pasta with andouille sausage and Cajun cream and Tuscan chicken gnocci are interesting pasta dishes. Sandwiches utilize in-house roasted meats. Wraps, burgers and quesadillas round out the lighter offerings.

Since it opened in mid-May, Max restaurant and lounge has made big changes where Vineyards Steakhouse, a lounge and coffee shop once anchored the Valley's signature hotel. After a complete renovation in conjunction with the Mirabeau Park Hotel, Max has emerged with a contemporary, comfortable d & eacute;cor. In the retro-style lounge, a 360-degree oval bar gives patrons a feel they're in a bigger city.

Max at Mirabeau, 1100 N. Sullivan Rd., Spokane Valley, is open Monday-Thursday from 6 am-1 am, Friday-Saturday from 6 am.-2 am, Sunday 6 am-midnight. Call 922-6252.

An Oldie but Goodie

Ah, the Hedge House. Anyone driving on the North Side has seen the traditional restaurant on Monroe that looked like the perfect spot to take your grandparents. In fact, it's been around since the early 1940s.

"The first owner, Madge, was a single mom who raised her kids in the restaurant's back room," says former and current co-owner Linda Brazington.

Brazington and her husband Jack operated Hedge House from 1983 to 1997, when Jerry and Pat Stearns took over. Now that the Stearnses have closed Hedge House, the Brazingtons are ready to have a go at the restaurant business again.

"We're cleaning Hedge House all up for opening in mid-June," Brazington says. "Putting a pretty face on it inside and out, with new paint, carpeting, the works. We're keeping the crew," she adds. "Some of the staff has been working there since I was the owner before."

The menu will feature comfort food, like meatloaf, chicken-fried steak, patty melts and Reubens, as well as homemade soups.

"It'll be the same menu all day long with specials added," Brazington explains. "All our food will be in the less than $10 range."

Brazington sums up the Hedge House's appeal when she says, "Why change something that works?"

The Hedge House, 2606 N. Monroe St., is open daily from 11 am-9 pm or 10 pm. Call 326-2297.

Publication date: 06/09/05

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