by Susan Hamilton

Steak houses and sports bars are popular respites in the Inland Northwest. Combine them, and you've got a great destination. So when two well-known restaurants closed earlier this year, it wasn't long before they reopened with those winning themes.

Long-time Spokane restaurateur Don Goligoski recently opened Panama Jack's Steak House in the former Rock City Grill building. After 28 years in the business and 14 restaurants in the Inland Northwest (like the Double Dribble Sports Bar), Goligoski says he knows what customers want.

"I listen to people and give them what they want," Goligoski explains. "Panama Jack's will be a Valley establishment for Valley people."

The dining room's d & eacute;cor has been changed to a relaxing green and gray, and the bar has been greatly enlarged now sporting Irish green and mahogany wood. Panama Jack's also offers outside dining and a private banquet room upstairs.

The eatery's menu includes popular appetizers, like buffalo wings, onion rings and mini pizzas. Lunch features burgers, fish 'n' chips, a French dip sandwich and steak fajita or chicken Caesar wraps. Panama Jack's dinner fare includes steak, prime rib, chicken marsala and broiled salmon. Goligoski is taking advantage of the wood-burning oven left over from Rock City days and offers gourmet pizzas -- from meat supreme to vegetarian. The desserts are classic -- cheesecake and caramel apple pie. On weekends, Panama Jack's also serves a sports breakfast: omelets, eggs and bacon.

Panama Jack's, at 11003 E. Sprague (near University), is open Monday-Friday from 11 am-2 am and Saturday-Sunday from 9 am-2 am. Call 921-7600.

BBQ Rising

Another restaurant and bar -- this time downtown--has been recently resurrected. The Red Lion BBQ & amp; Pub has taken over Finnerty's Red Lion, which closed in late June. Owner Gavin Swenson has kept many of the same employees from Finnerty's, but the d & eacute;cor has changed. The lounge features wood floors, and the dining area is newly carpeted.

"Food was our biggest emphasis," Swenson says. "We have basically the same menu but have lowered our prices."

Most of the dishes are made from scratch; some utilize the Red Lion's original barbecue sauce and seasonings. Popular items are Bobby's Special, a ribs and wine-broiled chicken combo plate; the Duke steak sandwich, made with seasoned tri-tip steak; the Big Dave special barbecue beef sandwich; and fry bread made with freshly rolled dough. Soups, such as Manhattan and New England clam chowder, change daily.

The Red Lion BBQ & amp; Pub, located at 126 N. Division (at Main), is open Monday-Friday from 11 am-2:30 am, Saturday from 9 am-2:30 am and Sunday from 9 am-closing. Call 835-5466.

Eatza Lotta

The idea of an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet may seem unusual, but it's become so popular that owner Bud Wilhelm recently opened a second Eatza Pizza restaurant in the Valley and has plans for a third outlet in the area as well.

"We offer the best value in town," Wilhelm says when asked why Eatza Pizza is so popular.

The latest Eatza Pizza is adjacent to the Spokane Valley Mall and is already drawing crowds -- and not just because it's near the Krispy Kreme doughnut store. Eatza Pizza offers an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet for $4 for adults and $3 for kids.

The menu includes pasta, salads, chicken wings, dessert and, oh, yes, pizza. Lots of pizza. Pizza with cheese, pepperoni, ham, ground beef, chicken, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, pineapple, black olives and jalapenos. Pizza with taco, barbecue, Alfredo and Marinara sauces. Then there are six different dessert pizzas -- from Bavarian cream to German chocolate -- if you have room.

Eatza Pizza's two locations -- 4320 N. Division (at Longfellow), 483-2091, and 15319 E. Indiana, 927-2211 -- are open Sunday-Thursday from 11 am-9 pm and Friday-Saturday from 11 am-10 pm.

It's Cosmic

Kosmic Jolt Java delivers atmosphere and great luncheon fare. The eclectic eatery on the corner of Main and Bernard, which opened this summer, offers plenty of comfy retro furniture, making your lunch hour seem like a mini-getaway.

Sandwiches are made with Sonnenberg meats and include a surf-and-turf with oven-roasted turkey and shrimp spread on ranch-style bread. The Pita Ole presents spiced ground beef, cheese, veggies and house spicy ranch dressing on pita bread. Owner Mona Anest says her Reuben sandwich is extremely popular, with its thinly sliced corned beef, kraut, Swiss and house Reuben sauce on marble rye.

Weekly specials include vegetable beef soup with wild rice, and Cobb salad with crumbled bleu cheese and real bacon. As summer turns to fall, Anest will feature hot soups, hearty stews and daily specials, like veggie-and-rice plates.

Anest drew on her experience as a bartender at Shenanigan's and as a barista at Starbucks when creating Kosmic Jolt's beverages. The caf & eacute; serves a zodiac array of espresso drinks. (The Scorpio, for example, is a dark chocolate mocha with vanilla and cinnamon.) Kosmic shakes and smoothies also are named for signs of the zodiac. Exquisitely roasted lattes and mochas, as well as hot and cold beverages are also available. Assorted muffins, bagels, breads and cookies are the perfect complement to your java jolt.

Kosmic Jolt Java, at 301 W. Main, is open Monday-Friday from 6:30 am-6 pm and Saturday from 9 am-1 pm. Call 455-7599.

European Exposure

Two upcoming local events will satisfy your urge to travel to sunny European shores. Next Tuesday's Italian Kitchen wine dinner pairs exquisite I.K. cuisine with classic Italian wines. The five-course dinner features caramelized onion tart with smoked chicken mousse, complemented by a 1998 Banfi chianti classico reserva and braised lamb shank, and butternut squash risotto with a '98 Banfi Rosso di Montalcino. The $65-per-person tickets for the Sept. 24 dinner at 6:30 pm are available at Vino! Call 838-1229.

The 67th annual Greek Dinner Festival next weekend offers authentic Hellenic fare -- from souvlakia to baklava -- at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Besides dinner, an outdoor grill, deli, a taverna, coffee and pastry shop, Greek folk dancers will perform each evening. Dinner ($12) is served from 4:30-8 pm each day, but the grill opens for lunch at noon. Call 328-9310 for information about the Sept. 26-28 event.

Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 11
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