by Leah Sottile

The Catacombs

110 S. Monroe St. * 838-4610

There's a night for everything. There are nights when you have to dance, nights when blowing out your eardrums at a live show sounds fantastic, and nights when you just want a drink without all of the b.s. -- when you can tromp quietly through the crunchy snow, take off your hood, shake out your hair and feel like you're at home. And that's the Catacombs' vibe. It's a warm, cozy, underground sanctuary. The enormous wooden beams give it a Bavarian lodge feel, with a roaring fireplace, rustic pizzas, calzones and a great beer and wine list. It's the kind of place that will force you to leave your home on a snowy, icy day, because just seeing the sign makes you feel warm.

The Baby Bar

827 W. First Ave. * 847-1234

The Baby Bar's got vibes, that's for sure. And that vibey feel is infectious. Maybe it's because you're sitting so close (like, within inches) of your fellow patrons -- you can't help but catch their vibes. Or maybe it's because you can hear everything they're saying. The red-and-black shoebox-sized bar is just that kind of place -- when one person is happy, everyone's happy. When Bob exclaims that drinks are "extra strong, tonight only," everyone laughs. When Patty smiles, so does everyone else. When one customer bobs her head to the Pixies or Bad Religion, everyone else tries to keep up. Claim a spot early, though: At the Baby Bar, there's only a limited amount of contagious space.

Europa Pizzaria

125 S. Wall * 455-4051

One of downtown Spokane's longest-running nightspots is also one of its comfiest. Europa might be best known for its yummy pizzas and calzones, but its bar is one of the most relaxed around. Filled with overstuffed antique chair and sofas, it's a great place for a glass of wine and appetizers before a show or just as a destination with friends.

The Twilight Room

112 S. Monroe St. * 456-5654

There's something so sexy and cosmopolitan about the Twilight Room that it just feels cool. On normal nights, the blue and violet pulsating downtown mini-bar is an intimate place to kick back on the scattered black ottomans, chat with new friends, sip some wine and just be. But on Thursdays and some weekend nights, the mood changes. The Twilight Room literally bumps with house deejays spinning music that's hard to find anywhere else in the area; the small bar suddenly feels more like an awesome house party than a night out.

Bonsai Bistro

101 Sherman Ave., CdA * (208) 765-4321

What is it about water -- whether it's a spa, a garden or a backyard hot tub -- that just makes a place unique? Whatever it is, Bonsai Bistro, one of the newer additions to the downtown Coeur d'Alene scene, has got a stranglehold on it. Boasting an enormous koi pond in the middle of the dining area, diners and sippers alike can saddle up on its shore, watch the fish, sip a sake (with several brands to choose from) or dirty martini and enjoy the sound of trickling, bubbling water in Coeur d'Alene's little slice of Asia.

Others Worth Checking Out

ella's at CenterStage; Steam Plant Grill;

Parkside Bistro in Coeur d'Alene; the Elk

Publication date: 2/03/05

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...