The new Terraza Waterfront Café in Coeur d'Alene offers an elevated patio dining experience

Terraza Waterfront Cafe's Puerto Rican-style pork shank. - CARRIE SCOZZARO PHOTO
Carrie Scozzaro photo
Terraza Waterfront Cafe's Puerto Rican-style pork shank.

The difference between a patio and a terrace? Connotation, like the way veranda sounds more luxurious than porch. Or how lanai implies blossoming bougainvillea and an island vibe befitting the Hawaiian origins of the word. And while both "outdoor dining" and "patio dining" have been trending upwards since 2020, terraces have been somewhat overlooked.

Terraza Waterfront Café could change that for area diners. Spanish for terrace, Terraza elevates both the outdoor dining environment — its patio overlooks the Spokane River just downstream from Lake Coeur d'Alene — and the dining experience with a Latin American-inspired menu.

The Peruvian ceviche ($17), for example, is less citrusy than its Mexican counterpart, typically served as a chunky salad of raw fish "cooked" in lime. Instead, Terraza's version has highlights of ginger and features a combination of albacore, rockfish and shrimp, but also sweet potato cooked in star anise and allspice. After you've eaten this refreshing little meal, you're meant to drink the remaining liquid, says Terraza's executive chef, Bjorn Thompson.

"We've had a couple of people say we should make a cocktail of it," says Thompson, whose background locally includes Gozzer Ranch. Thompson's more than 20 years of experience as a chef also includes a range of fine dining in New Orleans and more recently in Las Vegas with Wolfgang Puck's Fine Dining Group.

If you're looking for a real cocktail — Coeur d'Alene is surprisingly limited when it comes to places highlighting distilled spirits — Terraza offers a full bar, equally as elevated as its food menu. Try a signature margarita like the Mango Shrubrita ($13) with reposado tequila, orange liqueur, housemade sour and mango shrub soda. Additional Latin-inspired libations, craft beers on tap and by the bottle, as well as wine from Chile, Argentina, Portugal and Spain, can carry you from cocktail hour through fine dining.

"We get equal amounts of raves about [bar manager Ashley Bliesner's] drinks as we do Bjorn's food," says general manager Frank Cruz-Aedo, a veteran of such places as Mirabeau Park Hotel and the former Brix Restaurant.

Cruz-Aedo was actually living in Mexico when Terraza founder and longtime restaurateur Doug Johnson (Fire Artisan Pizza, The Snake Pit) called him with an idea for a new restaurant. Johnson's original plan was to open a place inspired by a visit to Mexico City, where farmers markets and open markets are a way of life, Cruz-Aedo explains.

Yet as they batted the ideas back and forth, Johnson expanded his vision to encompass a range of Latin American cultures and cuisines, says Cruz-Aedo, who is Spanish and Portuguese.

So in addition to foods you might expect in an upscale Mexican restaurant like tableside guacamole ($16) and clams cooked in tequila and chorizo ($20), the menu includes a Colombian-inspired quinoa salad with chayote ($8/$14), a kind of squash. The Puerto Rican pork shank ($26) is fall-off-the-bone tender after three-and-a-half hours cooking and is served with a savory masa, or corn-based pudding with a richer, creamier texture than traditional polenta, as well as a bright pineapple salsa using sustainably sourced palm oil.

"It's my Latin answer to osso buco," says Thompson, who revels in the tiniest details, such as the palm oil in his salsa, which he says adds a unique finishing mouthfeel to the dish.

The menu is a panoply of ingredients from throughout Latin America, an incredibly rich and diverse region of more than 600 million people that includes the Caribbean and all of Central and South America. The chicken en mole ($24) features plantains, for example, while Terraza's hamburger ($18) — the Hamburguesa — is a festive world celebration with Oaxacan cheese-stuffed poblano pepper, a Japanese matcha tea-infused aioli and tomatoes soaked in beer.

Although Terraza only opened last month, its team is already looking to the future, including adding specials that highlight specific geographic regions of Latin America. And with fire pits and umbrellas at the ready on the terrace, Terraza could be your next destination for a Coeur d'Alene-based dining adventure.♦

Terraza Waterfront Cafe • 1950 Bellerive Ln., #106, Coeur d'Alene • Open Sun 10 am-9 pm, Mon 11 am-10 pm, Wed-Fri 11 am-10 pm, Sat 10 am-10 pm • terrazacda.com • 208-758-0111

Vista House Beverage Service @ Mt. Spokane State Park

Saturdays, 12-6 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28
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