Toro Viejo--Coeur d'Alene's Toro Viejo is resplendent with bright wall murals, hanging plants, dark wood and rustic brick. The thoughtful lunch menu offers a good selection of dinner-y entrees at very reasonable prices. The complimentary chips and salsa made a fine appetizer. While the chips were unusual (but good), the salsa was terrific -- lively and flavorful with a big fiery kick. Combinations come with generous sides of refried beans (vegetarian refried beans are available upon request) and Spanish-style rice. I selected the No. 2 combination ($5.95) -- an enchilada with choice of filling and a tamale. The dish was fresh-tasting, well made and attractively presented, but a little tame. Good service is the rule. 117 N. 2nd, Coeur d'Alene Call: 208-667-7676. (MC)

Mizuna--One doesn't have to be a vegetarian to appreciate Mizuna's inventive, fresh cuisine and cozy, intimate atmosphere. The restaurant began serving fish a little more than a year ago due to customers' requests. Entrees include your choice of a house salad or the soup of the day. The roasted salmon with wild mushrooms ($18) was generous and oven-roasted to perfection, surrounded by an outstanding portobello red wine reduction. The Indian samosa ($14.50) consisted of a beautiful pastry pocket criss-crossed with asparagus spears and filled with a heavenly melange of Yukon gold potatoes, seitan, fennel bulb, onion, garlic and ginger atop a rich yellow pepper sauce. The accompanying eggplant relish and coconut-cilantro-mint chutney were wonderful. 214 N. Howard. Call: 747-2004. (LM)

Cannon Street Grill--The food at this dependable, breakfast-and-lunch-only Browne's Addition establishment is -- in conception and execution -- several notches above that which you would find during a more typical diner experience. Breakfasts include traditional favorites along with more creative concoctions such as the Everything Frittata for $7.50. Sandwiches and entrees are served with a cup of the soup du jour, a tossed green salad or fresh fruit. The Roy Sandwich ($6.95) with grilled chicken breast, bacon, Provolone, lettuce and tomato on grilled sourdough scored high in taste and looks. The smoked salmon sandwich ($7.95) -- smoked fillet of salmon and tomato slice perched atop a thin layer of pesto sauce open faced on French bread -- was excellent. As was the service. 114 S. Cannon. Call: 456-8660. (MC)

Finnerty's Red Lion Inn--Finnerty's Red Lion Inn is a dark and cozy sports bar with a genuinely friendly staff and ESPN-locked televisions everywhere you look. It also turns out some of the best pub grub in town. The 16 different sandwich options each come with a side of fries, onion rings, BBQ beans, pasta, potato or tossed green salad, cole slaw or rice pilaf. The wine broiled chicken breast sandwich ($7.59) is a wonderfully savory, herb and wine-laced chicken breast with lettuce and tomato on a sandwich bun. Big Dave's Special ($6.95) -- thinly sliced and sauced-up barbecued pork on a sandwich bun topped off with a dollop of cole slaw -- is sublime. Finnerty's is open daily until 1 am. 126 N. Division. Call: 624-1934 (MC)

Dewey, Cheatam and Howe--Inside, the restaurant's decor is strictly '70s Victorian -- 1970s, that is, with stained glass, lace curtains and old portraits. The newly revamped menu offers pretty standard fare, but often with a creative twist. The "sirloin in a blue suit" ($15) -- a tender seared steak cooked to order and topped with a zingy blue cheese butter mixture -- featured a nice cut of meat and was very rich and tasty. The halibut for the lean at heart ($15), described as "fresh halibut poached in a white wine and caper sauce," was overcooked, and there was scarcely a hint of the promised wine sauce, although quite a few capers were strewn about. Service was speedy and the restaurant is spotlessly clean from top to bottom. 3022 N. Division. 326-7741 (LM)

Luna--In the few years since we last visited, Luna seems to have matured and become comfortable and confident in its role as one of the region's most notable restaurants. The starter menu includes Ahi tuna tartare salad ($10) and a crab and butternut squash bisque ($8). The crab and scallop risotto ($19) was sinfully rich and loaded with big pieces of buttery, garlicky tender sweet crab and scallops. Small pieces of sugar snap peas added crunch and texture. The most popular menu item is the coconut curry prawns with spicy Thai sauce ($22). The wine list is extensive and the staff members are knowledgeable in guiding diners to make an appropriate selection. Service is impeccable. 5620 S. Perry St. Call: 448-2383. (LM)

Carnegie Square Bistro & amp; Catering Company--The Carnegie Square Bistro & amp; Catering Company is located on the corner of First and Cedar. The menu features a universe of classic deli sandwiches, intriguing hot specialty sandwiches, salads, wraps and soups. They also serve beer and wine by the glass or bottle. There's even an espresso bar tucked in there somewhere. The Cajun chicken sandwich ($6.89) starts off with a nice chewy baguette-style sandwich roll and continues with grilled chicken breast seasoned with Cajun spices, mayo, melted pepper Jack cheese, lettuce and tomato. The sandwich was generous, with a nice balance of flavors, and the chicken was surprisingly spicy. The Bistro Reuben ($5.99) was also very good. The extremely tender, thinly sliced corned beef bore no fatty or chewy bits, and the rye was lightly toasted. 1401 W. First. Call: 363-1719. (MC)

Rock City Grill--Rock City bills itself as an American-Italian restaurant, but the cuisine is more representative of the American melting pot. The "East meets West" pizza is half Thai and half Buffalo chicken ($11.25). The Thai side had lots of rich peanuty sauce under a topping of melted mozzarella and mushrooms but was a little skimpy on the prawns. The Buffalo chicken half had green onions and spicy sauce under a layer of mozzarella, with fresh celery sticks on top. Zesty and unusual. The Greek chicken ($15.25) consisted of two chicken breasts, lightly breaded, browned in olive oil and topped with a garlic and basil sauce, with kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and crumbles of feta cheese. This was a very nice entree, with the tender moist chicken a perfect foil for the robust, fresh accompaniments. 505 W. Riverside. Call: 455-4400. 11003 E. Sprague. Call: 921-7600. (LM)

Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM) and Mike Corrigan (MC), unless otherwise noted.

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
  • or