Spokane has a new prestige dining locale -- CHURCHILL'S STEAKHOUSE is now open in the former retail space that was Joel for many years. On a recent weeknight, the dining room was nearly full, with parties in business attire, stylishly coiffed retirees and others who were clearly making an occasion of it.
The host and waitstaff set the formal mood with their black tuxedo-style uniforms and brocade vests. China and crystal lend an elegant air to each table, and the butter even comes in an individual ramekin complete with a tiny domed silver cover. Heavy damask draperies, upholstered chairs and dark wood trim complete the richly textured interior design.
In such an elegant setting, I almost didn't make the grade -- the host appraised my comfortable attire and solo status and suggested that perhaps I'd like to check out the lounge downstairs. When I demurred, he eventually found a spot for me between the piano player and a table of 10 boisterous blue-suited banker-types.
The menu is not for the weak of heart or purse -- but the USDA Prime steaks ($26-$43), dry-aged and cut on-site, are pretty dang tasty, as are the accompaniments. The outside of the 14-ounce rib-eye was seared nearly to a caramelized crust while the interior was buttery tender, and it came topped with crunchy fried onions. Dinner entr & eacute;es (steaks, seafood, lamb) come with garlic mashed potatoes and a vegetable; salads and additional side dishes are available a la carte. Service is pleasantly friendly and efficient. And the wine list is impressive: An entire page is dedicated just to cabernet sauvignon.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
Churchill's Steakhouse, 165 S. Post St., is open daily 3:30 pm-close. Dinner service begins at 5 pm. Visit www.churchillssteakhouse.com or call 74-PRIME (747-7463).
DINING Not Topless
About a month ago a friend of mine, recently returned from Europe, commented, "You know, what this town needs is a good tapas bar." And I was able to answer, "Funny you should mention that," because that same week, 1228 TAPAS opened quietly on the lower South Hill.
Jerry Schrader, the man behind Just Jerry's and the Cannon Street Grill, decided earlier this year that Just Jerry's just wasn't doing it for him. He re-imagined the space as an evening hangout with drinks and small plates galore. He shuttered Just Jerry's at the end of June, brought in stepson Eric VanderWegen from Oregon to create a drinks menu, redesigned the interior, and opened 1228 Tapas with little fanfare in mid-August.
Why tapas? Well, Schrader has a chef pal who worked in a tapas bar in another city, and he started thinking about the variety and creativity offered by the smaller-sized plates. He researched the original Spanish tapa -- a slice of ham or bread placed on top of a glass, probably to keep the bugs out -- and began formulating ideas. "It would be more romantic to say we'd toured Spain for 30 days, getting ideas," he says. "But really it was reading books, looking online, looking at other menus in places like New York, New Jersey and Chicago."
The full bar offers a dozen martinis ($8-$10), several specialty cocktails (including the "Carmella Soprano" and the "Malibu Barbie"), 20-plus wines, yummy house-made sangria (both red and white) and VanderWegen's oh-so-dangerous fruit infusions ($8) -- strawberry lemonade and the deceptively smooth Mango Magico. The menu highlights small exquisite compositions, both hot ($7-$12) and cold ($5-$8), and a selection of pita pizzas ($8). For dessert, Schrader has gelato from Gelato Joe's.
"There's no limit to the creativity or the inspiration for tapas," says Schrader. The beet salad ($8) is vibrant m & eacute;lange of roasted beets and tiny pearl onions on a bed of ultra-thin carrot ribbons, drizzled with a touch of balsamic vinegar; the beef k-bob ($9) features chunks of tender beef skewered with peppers and grilled to perfection, then served with rice. One or two plates will make a meal for the average appetite, but it's even more fun to get several plates among multiple diners and share the riches all around.
"It's really fun when people get into [sharing]," says VanderWegen. "We get a huge range of people [who come in] -- we get people in groups, or the more traditional couples."
The interior now feels like an intimate night spot, with floor-length crinkled silk curtains covering the wall of windows. A tall wooden fence now separates a cozy front patio from the parking lot.
If you're still pining for the good old days of breakfast at Cannon Street Grill, perhaps it's time to let go of the past. As Schrader notes wryly, "I have done other things besides eggs."
--ANN M. COLFORD
Twelve28 Tapas, at 1228 S. Grand Blvd, is open Tue-Sat 4 pm-close. Visit www.1228tapas.com or call 456-0500.