by Susan Hamilton

Descending the dramatic staircase off downtown's bustling Monroe Street, you enter another world and another time at Catacombs. Owner Rob Brewster has created an Old-World atmosphere at his restaurant that will open Tuesday in the City Terminal Block/Davenport Arts District. From the original stonework walls covered with tapestries and over-sized brick fireplace to the European-look upholstered chairs and ironworked chandeliers made by a local artisan, the basement of the historic Montvale Hotel has been transformed.

"I always loved the underground restaurants in Italy and Austria, as well as the Tombs and Brickskeller in Washington, D.C., because they were fun places to be that drew an energetic crowd," Brewster says. "I melded those ideas together and came up with something that is a hybrid of all of them for Catacombs."

Brewster wants this family-inclusive restaurant and bar to be an informal, relaxing meeting place that will appeal to all people. He adds that the Pat Jeppeson-designed eatery is not a place you'd expect to see in downtown Spokane.

The menu at this one-of-a-kind restaurant will feature European dishes and Italian-style pizza. This is true Italian pizza, Brewster says, with a thinner crust, made in a special stone-fired pizza oven. Other dishes offered at Catacombs include international foods, such as shish kabobs and goulash over spatzle, as well as sandwiches, salads and soups.

Chef Masada Pour will draw on his Greek and Italian roots to present antipasto and Greek salads, lasagna and pasta dishes, and poppers and spicy hot wings appetizers. He will also feature homemade desserts, such as baklava, puff pastry, polentas and cheesecake.

The Catacombs Pub, at 110 S. Monroe, is open daily from 11 am to closing. Call 838-4610.

It's Hot -- "Nobody's doing what we're doing here in the Inland Northwest," declares owner Bill Balek of his Valley restaurant that offers "fiery wings and cold brews."

Flamin' Joe's, just opened this week, features 13 varieties of wings -- "lip-smacking, Buffalo, New York-style, jumbo chicken wings smothered with special sauces" -- as well as sandwiches, burgers, wraps, salads and appetizers. The sauces include Sumo teriyaki sauce with toasted sesame seeds, Dijon mustard sauce with fresh Parmesan cheese, BBQ and Jamaican jerk. Customers can order sauces from a mild Code One to very hot Code Red.

All items on the menu, or Joe's Hall of Flame, follow a firefighting theme -- from the Flame Thrower (a burger topped with bleu cheese and smothered with Joe's Code Three sauce) to Drop 'n' Rolls (Joe's own style of wraps). The Texas Burn-Out barbecued chicken sandwich topped with pepperjack cheese and peppered bacon, two-to-a-basket sloppy Joes and backdraft waffle fries topped with bleu cheese crumbles and Code Three sauce are must-try menu items. Delivery, carry out and catering are available. Joe's also offers eight beers on tap, including microbrews.

The firefighting theme is carried out in Joe's d & eacute;cor as well. The family-oriented eatery is decked out in red, black, orange and plenty of silver. Vintage and current fire-fighting gear, including patches and memorabilia, cover the walls.

Flamin' Joe's, at 11618 E. Sprague (just east of Bowdish), is open Sunday-Thursday from 11 am-10 pm and Friday-Saturday from 11 am-11 pm. Call 922-5052.

An Oriental Favorite Returns -- People come from as far away as Reno, and loyal customers regularly drive from the Tri-Cities for Ho Ho Teriyaki's Asian fare. After 14 years, the cozy restaurant has developed quite a following.

With remodeling going on at downtown's Flour Mill, Ho Ho was closed for about two months this summer, but reopened last month -- much to customers' relief. The eatery is still downstairs; it's just across the way from its former location. The bright white and red d & eacute;cor is accented by Asian fans and paintings, some done by owner Ho Lan Chang and her daughter, musician Jsia Jung Chang.

Happily, Ho Ho's menu has remained the same. The Ho Ho Special of chicken breast, egg roll, rice and veggies is still a popular item, as is the Kung Pao chicken, with nuts, chilies, spices and veggies. Pork, shrimp and vegetarian entrees are also available. Sides of teriyaki chicken, dumplings, egg roll and vegetable tempura are featured as well.

"We use all fresh ingredients, our vegetables are cut and cooked to order, we use pure soybean oil and no MSG," Chang replies, when asked why Ho Ho is so popular. "We use Chinese seasoning, not Japanese, for the teriyaki chicken. It's so tender, it falls off the bone," she adds.

Huckleberry tarts and croissants are also available -- until the Changs' supply of Priest Lake berries runs out.

Ho Ho Teriyaki is at 621 W. Mallon Ave. in the lower level. It's open Monday-Saturday from 10 am-7:30 pm and Sunday from noon-5 pm. Call 326-6344.

Autumn Wine Events -- Perched high on the banks of the Columbia River, Maryhill Winery has spectacular views as well as award-winning wines. This weekend, the critically acclaimed winery hosts its annual Fall Harvest Party.

If you've had a longing to crush grapes with your feet, this is the place to do it -- as long as you don't mind getting your feet a little purple. Live music and a barbecue accompany wine tasting at the event.

Maryhill's Fall Harvest Party is Oct. 12-13 from 10 am-6 pm. The winery is located at 9774 S.R. 14 West in Goldendale (south of Yakima). Call 877-624-9445.

Caf & eacute; 5-Ten and Vino! are joining forces to present a Fall Harvest Wine Dinner this Sunday. The five-course dinner features the freshest of fall's harvest prepared by Executive Chef Michael Waliser. The limited-seating dinner includes a cornmeal-crusted escolar entr & eacute;e with Parisienne potatoes, complemented by Edna Valley chardonnay and pinot noir.

The dinner begins at 5:30 pm with a sparkling wine welcome, calamari and selected cheeses. Tickets are $55 per person. Call 838-1229 for reservations.

Next Sunday's Fall Festival of Wines at the Coeur d'Alene Resort features award-winning Northwest and California wines, such as Arbor Crest, Canoe Ridge, Ferrari-Carano, Merryvale and Kendall-Jackson. A selection of microbrews and stylish appetizers from the Resort's banquet kitchen will also be offered.

The eighth-annual event benefits North Idaho's Trinity Group Homes and includes silent and live auctions for more than 200 items. Tickets are $40 and are available at Vino! and Trinity Group Homes. Call 838-1229 or (208) 667-9607.

Northwest Winterfest @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Fridays, 5-8 p.m., Saturdays, 4-8 p.m. and Sundays, 3-6 p.m. Continues through Jan. 1
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