by Ann M. Colford and Susan Hamilton & r & & r & Down-Home Deli FAST FOOD & r & New Yorkers have an affinity for delicatessens. The small shops are known for their variety of made-to-order sandwiches, fresh salads and cold cuts, where the banter is as quick and lively as the food.

The FRANCIS STREET DELI, on Spokane's north side, offers "original East Coast-style" subs, sandwiches and melts, as well as salads and sides. New owners Steve and Tammy Taylor have continued the New York-flavored deli tradition.

"I used to come in here and eat all the time," Tammy reveals. "The previous owner said he was selling, and I knew it was too good of a place to let go."

The Taylors renovated the cozy eatery but kept the same menu. "We have daily specials and everything is homemade from scratch," Tammy says.

"Our ingredients are really fresh," Steve adds. "I don't buy anything unless I can see it."

Francis Street's pastrami sandwich (often considered the ultimate criterion of a deli's quality) is grilled and served with Swiss cheese on a toasted sub roll. The Philly cheese steak sandwich is a popular lunch item, with grilled roast beef tossed with onions and peppers and topped with melted provolone cheese.

"Our whole subs are 20 inches long," Tammy says. "They're so big, we almost can't close their large to-go boxes." Seven varieties of subs are offered -- with everything from ham and pepperoni to salami and pastrami -- all served on fresh baked French rolls.

Grilled melts include the New York (with pastrami, salami, pepperoni and Swiss) and Reuben (with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss). Burgers are all handmade with high-quality beef that's only five percent fat. "They're like a steak burger," Tammy exclaims. The one-third pound patties come with everything from ham to barbecue sauce. Francis Street's quarter-pound, all-beef hot dogs include the Chicago dog, Cincinnati cheese Coney dog and original German sausage.

"We have killer fries with special seasoning," Steve proclaims. The Taylors also serve homemade soup, chili and salads -- from potato and macaroni to Cobb and taco. Daily specials, like shrimp melt (with special sauce and mozzarella on sourdough) and the gobbler ("a Thanksgiving meal in the middle of summer"), are as eclectic as New York. -- Susan Hamilton

The Francis Street Deli, 1006 E. Francis Ave. (at Nevada), is open Mon-Wed 10 am-4 pm, Thurs-Fri 10-6 pm, Sat (1st and 3rd) 11 am-2 pm. Call 489-8828.

Caffeine Communion COFFEE & r & When former teacher Elaine Rising tackles a subject, she dives in all the way. When she became interested in coffee a few years ago, she gathered all the books on coffee that she could find. She read about the legends of coffee's discovery -- from the frisky goats of Ethiopia to the prayerful discernment of a holy man. She learned about the chemical composition of coffee and methods of roasting, grinding and brewing over the centuries. She immersed herself in early coffeehouse culture, discovering that the world-famous insurance company, Lloyd's of London, began as Lloyd's Coffeehouse, a gathering place for the emerging merchant class of 18th-century London. But mostly she learned by taste, sampling the products of roaster after roaster.

Now Rising has moved her business, ON SACRED GROUNDS, from Spokane's Steam Plant to a crossroads south of the city in the small burg of Valleyford. She's only doing drive-thru service for now, but she hopes to expand her trailer eventually to offer seating. In the meantime, she'll concoct just the drink you want from her unusual wood-fire roasted coffee, made by roaster Tim Curry, a former Spokane boy who now lives in Reno, Nevada.

"I like to think of myself as the thinking person's espresso stand," she says. "I like to talk about the charm and the history of coffee with my customers."

Rising knows some of her customers so well that she's named specialty drinks for them. For instance, there's the "Midnight Cowboy," named for an enigmatic character in a Stetson -- she lines a demitasse cup with dark Hallett's chocolate then pours in a shot of Nicaraguan coffee, which contains chocolate undertones. It's an intense hit, with the chocolate and coffee blending into a synergy of flavor. If a straight shot is too strong for you, she'll blend it into a latte. Ultimately, she aims to deliver the perfect custom coffee drink to each customer.

"When people give me their standardized Starbucks order, I start asking them questions," she says. "'Sweet or subtle? Sippable or drinkable? Skinny or whole?' A lot of people are willing to follow along with routine, because they've never been conditioned otherwise. Often, when I give them their drink, they sip and say, 'Perfect.' And that's because it's what they want." -- Ann M. Colford

On Sacred Grounds, 12212 E. Palouse Hwy., Valleyford, Wash., is open Mon-Sat 5 am-4 pm. Call 747-6294.

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