Starters and appetizers that are good meals on their own and won't break the bank

Rock City Grill's Italian nachos give a delicious twist to a classic appetizer. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Rock City Grill's Italian nachos give a delicious twist to a classic appetizer.

We've all done it. You're out for dinner with friends, you start perusing the menu, and you come to the realization that you'll be ordering nothing but starters for dinner. And you're keeping them all to yourself.

We're perusing some of our favorite local eateries and finding all the staples of the appetizer section — nachos, chicken wings, flatbreads, quesadillas and all the dippables and dunkables that you associate with pre-dinner dishes — that work as standalone meals in their own right. Here's a handful of relatively inexpensive apps that will satisfy any hungry diner, whether you're eating alone or, if you're feeling generous, sharing with one other person.

Rock City Grill
2911 E. 57th Ave., 455-4400
One of the local mainstay's signature dishes is Italian nachos ($14), a perfect treat to enjoy over a couple of beers. What separates this mound of gooey goodness from other nachos — and what gives it the "Italian" designation — is that it's built on a bed of pasta chips, which are crispy and light and significantly less salty than a standard tortilla chip. Those are topped with sausage, black olives and tomato and given a slightly bitter kick from pepperoncinis, but the piece de resistance is the creamy asiago and mozzarella sauce, which you'll also want to dunk your fries in. It's the perfect portion size for two hungry people, so split the check right down the middle, and it's even more of a bargain.

Saranac Public House
21 W. Main Ave., 473-9455
This beloved downtown eatery is a reliable haven for hearty meals at reasonable prices, and one of their best dishes is actually at the top of the menu, the buffalo quesadilla ($12). Saranac's quesadilla comes super-stuffed in a flour tortilla, with a blend of chicken and both cream cheese and cheddar cheese, topped off by a delectable buffalo sauce. Sure, you can share it, but it's much better as a dish you can keep to yourself. Add a side of the signature vegan mac and cheese for a perfect summer meal on the patio.

Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar
808 W. Main Ave., 232-3376; also South Hill, Wandermere and Spokane Valley
One of the best places in town if you just want a drink and some starters. One of my go-tos is the three kalua pork tacos on fluffy flour tortillas ($12). The sweet and tangy pork mixes perfectly with the creaminess of creole remoulade and the crunch of accompanying slaw, and a squirt of lime adds a citrus-y kick. It's just the right amount of food; pair it with one of their signature martinis.

The Bluebird
816 N. Fourth St., Coeur d'Alene, 208-665-3777
Poutine, that Canadian staple of gravy-coated fries and cheese curds, has started to become a regular presence on many American menus. But the Bluebird, Coeur d'Alene's self-appointed "midtown eatery," has stepped up its poutine game: They swap out the fries for tater tots and the gravy for a Cougar Gold cheese sauce, and throw that all together with pork belly ($12). If your mouth's not already watering, you can add bacon, caramelized onions, jalapeno, blue cheese and a fried egg for an extra five bucks.

Watts 1903 Spirits & Eatery
1318 W. First Ave., 279-2334
This new downtown eatery opened right as everything was shutting down, so now's as good a time as any to support them. You'd be satisfied with anything on their starter menu, but I'd recommend the full pound of chicken wings, which come coated in your choice of buffalo or sweet Vietnamese-style sauce ($12). I opted for the latter, which comes with a side of delicious kimchi slaw for that extra bit of vinegar-y goodness. Also recommended: the homemade pretzel with its buttery, decadent cheese sauce and tangy mustard. ♦

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About The Author

Nathan Weinbender

Nathan Weinbender is the Inlander's Music & Film editor. He is also a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, where he has co-hosted the weekly film review show Movies 101 since 2011.