Thursday, October 3, 2013

Molly's Family Restaurant -- by gcleff11

Some have read my work, while most all of civilization hasn't.  But for the five of you that have read my work in Urbanspoon, you know my disdain for the train car.  If for nothing else, because a lazy Spokane populace plunges off the buffalo jump--every stinking year--to vote them as Spokane's best breakfast in local media channels.  In a word that rhymes with wrong.....wrong.  I will not mention their name in this posting...

What I will mention, is what most of my family and friends feel is one of the best and most affordable Downtown Spokane breakfast experiences---Molly's.  Traditional, stick to your ribs, American breakfasts in an historic old A-Frame that awaits you.  It beckons me all the way to Cheney like a Homeric siren...

Six egg omelets are standard here.  Say that out freekin' loud.  And at pretty much the same price line that other hearty breakfast places charge.  And guess what's inside of that umami ova blanket?  Stuff.  Good stuff, and lots of it.  My oldest daughter's fave is their sausage and cheese. She usually succumbs to impending food coma after eating half of it...





As you walk in, always take a peak at the blackboards near the cash register for their specials. I've had $7.95 steak and eggs, chicken fried pork loin and eggs (massive), and a traditional eggs/hash browns/sourdough toast for $4.95.  Good things to be had by frugal diners.  Last visit's special I sampled was Breaded Pork Chops for $6.99...



  

This is a lower middle-class joint.  Most of the clientele I've seen dining there are dressed casually in work attire, of all ages, and are always engaged in quiet and friendly banter among themselves. To-go containers are the norm here, so have a hungry teenager at home, or plan on splitting a meal with your dining partner when  you order.  Even their smaller platters may give you a struggle to finish...






One can't look at the building and not figure out what it's history is/was.  Nostalgia makes me very pleased to see that it wasn't demolished years ago, when the previous corporate tenant bailed downtown Spokane.  The familiar design has a very archaic appeal to me, and leads me to believe that it might have been one of the first ones of it's kind in Eastern Washington. Plus, it just screams of....breakfast.





I love the waitresses here, and there is a cross-section of generations taking care of the patrons. There are no, 'gals who have been here for thirty years,' but each and every one of them are all business, yet genuinely friendly in a welcoming way--and they all have pull on how you want your food cooked.  Let them know how you like it.  And I'm a sucker for uniforms, so the dark green polo shirts, with the black cheerleader skirts win me over every time.  I would have loved to post a picture of these, but I wasn't about to ask the nice gals if they minded a weird foodie blogger posting their photos online...


BUSINESS NOTES:  Everyday, all-day, all year long.  A well-oiled, greasy spoon machine.  I may have to try lunch or dinner, sometime.  But it's just so very, very hard to order anything but breakfast here.  No alcohol sales here, so always family friendly.  And Molly, the little animal as their mascot?  It's a dog.  For years I thought it was a cat...


  • Molly's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 6, 2013

Vien Dong -- by gcleff11

This posting has a target audience.  If you require a high-end ambience; a more urbane part of town; and to have your food in front of you five minutes after you order, stop reading. However, if you yearn for delicious fresh food, regardless of looks and locale, I am humbled to have you continue...

Vien Dong ain't pretty.  It never will be.  The location is what it is, and may never get cleaned up to where the Spokane community would be proud of it.  Enjoying lunch there yesterday, my oldest son marveled that the prostitute across the street had the same outfit on that she wore the day before (yes, he did eat here two days in a row).  That's an unfortunate aspect of the neighborhood, and if it bothers you, don't sit by the window.  
Despite all this, Vien Dong just simply has the freshest tasting food in town, and it is very noticeable... 

We generally start with spring rolls and shredded pork & lettuce roll apps.  Simple, hand-made on order, and accompanied with delicious peanut and fish dipping sauces that are a perfect compliment to each...




While they are primarily a Vietnamese restaurant with traditional standards like pho & bahn mi, they do---like other great Viet restaurants in this country---prepare traditional Chinese-American style dishes.  If you are unfamiliar with Viet fare, or just plain timid about by trying something new, you can do no wrong by ordering one of their Chinese styled dishes.  A gateway drug menu item like that is their decadent, cake-batter dipped, Honey Cashew Shrimp.  Is it an entree---or a dessert...?




Pho is not rocket science; however, pho broth is.  You can tell the good stuff from the bad, i.e., from scratch, boned-boiled goodness, to the can opened crap other places use.  I have tasted both the beef and chicken broths this family creates for their soups, and they have flavors I get when I take the time to make a good broth at home.  Judging how they put effort and emphasis on freshness with all their dishes, this is not a surprise...  

My wifey will take bites of everyone else's dishes, but she orders only one thing when we visit: Wonton soup, with egg noodles instead of rice noodles (egg rolls not included), never finishing it. She's not a fan of rice noodles, and it's nice to have the option to order egg noodles for certain dishes...




Vien Dong is great place to enjoy a family meal.  It's not necessarily served 'family-style,' but you know you're going to have a bite of his meal, she's going to want a bite of yours, they want to sample your appetizer, etc., etc. That's the way it is for our family, and maybe yours too. Dining in this manner is always special to me.  My youngest child is eight years old; oldest is 24.  They, and all ages in between, agree: The Dong never fails to satisfy.  And it's all so amazingly affordable. Did I not mention that?  There, I did...




Everybody has their happy places.  Favorite restaurants fall in to this category for me.  Writing blogs, and providing silly little reviews for Urbanspoon may be a fun hobby, but it is only a byproduct of the overall pleasure mission....dining out.  I love it, and so does my family.  And if you were to poll all eight of us which was our top choice for dropping everything and heading out to eat, percentages would have Vien Dong coming out on top.  All votes for fast food or froyo from my little girls would be overruled.  And they'd be cool with it...




BUSINESS NOTES:  They gloriously open at 10AM.  I'm an early eater, and that is a major plus with me.  You can peruse their menu at:  http://www.viendongspokane.com/  They serve no alcohol, so it is always family friendly.  Don't go on a Monday!  Even these nice folks need a day off...


Vien Dong on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Zentropa Pizzeria & Pub -- by gcleff11

I dye my hair.  And let me tell you why.  Because having to live in a college town that arguably had the crappiest pizza options for over ten years of residence caused me to go prematurely grey.  I'm serious.  Think about it.  College students and pizza.  They go together like college students and ramen noodles.  When take and bake pizza is your absolute best pizza option in this town, you can understand why the follicles went white...


Wedgies...


Like a legally prescribed dose of human growth hormones, Zentropa will return the shade of my mop-top to it's original hue.  I cannot tell you how happy I am to have them in my town.  This is pizza.  Yeah, yeah, they advertise a "NYC" style of wheel, but really nothing compares to the product from iconic pizza locales, i.e., The Big Apple, Chicago, SoCal, etc.  What they are--and are doing--is making a damn fine pie.  They opt for a thin crust, which indeed, is nicely foldable like an NYC wheel.  Slices on their extra large pizzas, when folded, almost have a hot Italian sandwich quality to them...


$5.99 Wing Wednesday...


As to their extra large pies...  They're big (18").  I can see where folks might think that $20+ for one of their big ones might be a bit pricey for pizza, but with the quality of product and the amount you get, I happen to think they are priced very fairly.  I can give you anecdotal reasons for that with stories of my take-home boxes from dining experiences, but I think you get the idea.  If you can eat more than two slices, after apps, finishing the crust in their nice pesto ranch dip, you are a better man than I, Gunga Din...


Pancetta & Onion w/Garlic White Sauce (Build Your Own)


I do have a recommendation for those who wish to visit:  go for their signature pies--either regular or extra large.  You will get more toppings for the price.  When you opt to do a "build your own" it will get a little expensive.  No less delicious, but a slightly higher price.  I have tried four of their signatures, and there hasn't been a bad one in the bunch...


House Combo...


House Chicken...

They are not infallible, and I need this to be pointed out.  I have had a less than memorable experience (once), and I attribute it to being early in the week, with newer food preparers and inexperience staff.  They are new.  Yet, even with my slight disappointment with that one experience, everything was still light years better than every other pizza option in Cheney.  And I have met the owner and general manager, and both absolutely insist on receiving feedback about the product, anything that falls short of expectations, or anything else the customer might suggest to improve the experience...

What I appreciate about these guys is that while they obviously will cater to the college crowd, their focus is on the citizens of Cheney first and foremost.  That will work very well for them when visitors from Spokane make a special trip to try them.  Another thing that pleases me, is how I am treated the same every time I have been there.  I'm not treated any different than any other Jane or Joe who plops down in one of their booths or buddy bars.  That's the way it should be...


Welcome to The Trope...


BUSINESS NOTES:  They are open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.  They do offer slices thru the lunch time frame for hungry locals working in downtown Cheney.  They also have some very fresh local micro brews on tap, which will be rotated, and they are going to host a "Mug Club," which you can count on me being a part of...


Zentropa Pizzeria & Pub on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Horsethief Pub & Eatery -- by gcleff11


Ahhhh, the beautiful Kootenay Rockies, in British Columbia.  Alpine mountains, bighorn sheep, natural hot springs, friendly locals, and.....poutine.  Yes, poutine.  The official, unofficial comfort food of Canada.  We all can make it:  french fries, brown gravy and cheese curds.  But can we make it at home as well as the real deal north of the 49th Parallel?  Might as well try to make lasagna better than your Italian grandma...

I asked our staff at the resort we were vacationing at Thanksgiving week where we might encounter the best made poutine, and threw in as an afterthought an inquiry about where we might also find the best Alberta beef burger.  Horsethief came up as the place to fill both squares.  It's one and only review on Urbanspoon did not offer any encouragement on how our meal would be.  In the end, the Horsethief did not disappoint.  It hit it out of the ball park...

Lunch for my wife, my oldest daughter, and I started with a split of a large portion of you know what.  My wife and I decided to opt for soup with our meals, knowing that the savory starch area would be deliciously covered...




My daughter selected their version of the teriyaki burger.  I wound up finishing it for her, and I loved it.  Not terribly, syrupy sweet like teriyaki burgers I have had elsewhere.  It wound up being one of the best things I sampled here...





My lovely wife selected a sirloin sandwich, which essentially was like a mid-western philly cheese, made with sauted pepper and onions.  She upgraded her soup selection to french onion, and boy was that ever a great choice.  It was astoundingly good, and I base that on the one-and-only spoonful that she allowed me.  "Absolutely not" is what I heard after asking for seconds...




This place is a bar.  19 and older, only.  I wanted my 18-year old to go and try their "Bet You Can't" burger, but to enjoy it in the pub he'll have to wait another year.  Like a good dad--and knowing full well that there was no way in heck I was going to finish this beast--I went for it, so he could have the rest back at the resort.  What a monster.  And that delicious Alberta beef came up ace of diamonds, baby...
 




Realize the place wasn't too busy at lunch time on a Friday afternoon out of season.  Heck, there were half a dozen other local joints that were seasonally closed because of the timeframe of our visit.  But I have a hard time thinking that these guys don't do just as good a job when they get busy.  Their ingredients were all fresh, their portions were more than ample, and their preparation was very well done.  Bravo Horsethief Pub & Eatery.  You made these Yanks' one and only sit down dining experience Canada this time very memorable...





BUSINESS NOTES:  They're open through off seasons, but it's best to check their website if you visit:  http://www.horsethiefpub.ca/  As mentioned earlier, under age is not allowed so it's not family friendly.  Ignore their approval percentage in Urbanspoon.  It's suspect, in my humble opinion.  Look at the photos, folks...


Horsethief Pub & Eatery on Urbanspoon 
 


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cafe Italiano -- by gcleff11

Take one wonderfully colorful character (Dad), mix with a business savvy, extremely intelligient manager (Son), and you have a winning formula for restaurant success.  And with Dad's decades of experience already passed down to Son, you know the food is delicious even before you have that hot plate put in front of you.  This place is easily a Top-10 restaurant in Spokane County.  There's an abundance of dedication to product, and a spirit of entrepeneurialism at Cafe Italiano unmatched by any other place it's size in our area.  A little corner strip mall joint on the Northside that I can't possibly think anyone would not enjoy...

I don't normally comment on other reviewer's opinions, but when someone writes an Urbanspoon review and says, "It's just Greek people making Italian food," who cares about national origin when the food is this good?  Heck, the best French chefs in New York City are all Mexican.  It's a non-issue in my book, and it shouldn't matter to you either...

Dinner started with a lovely, and perfect Hummus antipasti, accompanied by a crisp lager for me and a very large glass of house merlot for my wife...




I have heard and read about how phenomenal their pizza is.  Someday I will try it.  But I was zeroed in from the get-go to have a creamy, comfort food pasta dish on a dreary, rainy Spokane November early evening.  My selection was Crab Gratinata, and the Son reminded me that one of the day's specials was Lobster Gratinata for the same price.  Far be it from me to not upgrade to the king of crustaceans.  It was superb, and beckoned me to take a nap after completion...




My lovely wife was echoing my sentiment for comfort that evening, and selected another creamygoodness dish....Chicken Milano.  I was grateful to sample it, and it was no less superb than my platter, with a wonderful "nutmeggy" overtone...




Dinner was capped off with a very generous portion of baklava.  Sensing we each did not want another libation, our Host brought us ice waters to clean the palate and wash down the flaky, honey goodness.  It was a thoughtful touch.  Simple, yet demonstrative of the little things this family does to make your experience special...





It took awhile to finally visit here.  Living in Cheney, there is no travel road of convenience to get to the Northside.  And with Cafe Italiano's focus on dinner, it's tough in the evenings to want to drive all the way there after the work day is done.  Staying in Spokane for a birthday/anniversary weekend finally gave me a window of opportunity to take this place off my wishlist.  It's totally reminiscent of family places I loved eating at back east while growing up, and in that regard my dinner was truely comforting and nostalgic at the same time...





BUSINESS NOTES:  Cafe Italiano is open 7 days a week for dinner 3PM to close, according to their facebook page.  All dinner entres on the menu are extremely affordable, ranging between $10-20.  There is news that the family will be opening another location on the South Hill in the old West Wing.  This is great news for myself, because it will be much closer to my home.  To view their menu, visit their website at...   http://www.cafe-italiano.com/Cafe_Italiano_Spokane/Cafe_Italiano_Spokane.html


Cafe Italiano on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sunshine Grill -- by gcleff11

Spokane get ready...! Get ready for your new multi-purpose, superfluous, tribal casino coming to you in sunny, cosmopolitan, Airway Heights. Get ready for the new and shiny facility to dilapidate into a carbon copy of one of the Spokane Tribe's current offerings for Eastern Washington...Two Rivers Casino, and their lovely dining facility, the Sunshine Grill.  I've never been to their casino in Chewelah, but I can't imagine it being any less third world...

The Sunshine Grill is a dumpster fire.  Filthy, dingy, smokey and thoroughly disgusting.  And here's the part that drives you insane:  they don't care.  Dozens of employees just walking around doing nothing.  Some with empty bus carts, rolling passed tables full of mess.  We had to transfer a previous patron's plates to another messy table behind us just to have a clear table top...

The have a great prime rib night on Friday and Saturday nights.  5PM till 10PM.  We arrived at 5:20 on Friday and were informed they were out of prime rib.  Can't wait for that to happen at their new casino.  Next requested was battered cod and chips.  Nope.  Sorry, we're out.  The young, rotund gal behind the do-it-yourself order counter found it gigglingly humorous as she told me.  And three enormous employees standing behind her doing nothing thought it was funny, too...

I will provide a few shots of things they didn't run out of.  Granted, we should have left, but we had grandma with us and she was hungry.  Apparently, they did not run out of processed, shaved deli turkey meat.  I settled for a club sandwich...




My lovely wife had what probably was the highlight offering of the night, which was a chicken and bacon wrap that your 5th-grader at home could have made for you.  Mmmmmm...!  She just stared at me with disdain the whole time she was eating it, because she did not dare look down at the carpet.  Trust me....you wouldn't have wanted to look down, either...




Grandma ordered what grandmas order.  Totally benign Food Services of America food, incredibly below even the description of bland.  No challenges here, unless of course you like more than a tablespoon of mashed potatoes.  I guess they were close to running out of mash, as well...




I am not being unfair with this assessment.  It is being made with total trepidation of what might lie ahead for their new facility.  The Spokane Tribe pushed a new casino through the Spokane city council at the peril of possibly contributing to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission considering closure of Fairchild Air Force Base for encroachment on their air space.  I have no dog in the fight, but I'll take the base--who is the largest employer in the county--over a casino full of morbidly obese employees that don't give a damn about anything...




BUSINESS NOTES:  I'm refraining from providing much.  In non-summer months they are only open on weekends, and if you wish to have the pleasure of making a trek to this hole, you can find their website online.  Just don't expect prime rib when it's advertised.  And don't expect anything in the way of service...


Sunshine Grill (Two Rivers Casino) on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fusion Korean Restaurant -- by gcleff11

"Kam-saham-nida."  A crude Anglo phonetic thank you in Korean.  And something that any military member who spent a year on the penninsula will never forget.  If you did spend a year over on the friendly south side, you are addicted to Korean food.  You can admit it...

I'm not a prolific blogger.  But when I do post, it's because the place has cracked the pantheon of favorite places of mine, and the best way to honor is to let others know about it in this fashion.  Fusion Korean Restaurant is not new to the area, and their brief history in the local area is a blueprint for surviving in the tough ethnic food restaurant biz...


Years ago, they were located on the corner of Sprague and Fancher out in the Valley.  In my--and others--opinion, they were...the best...the acme...the pinnacle of Asian buffets in the county.  Fresh, delicious, Korean cuisine--with some Chinese mixed in--and all you could lovingly eat.  It failed.  Not because of the product, but because of the location.  It just didn't work in that blue-collar area, because the fare wasn't your standard, Americanized, Asian comfort food that most area diners settle for when taking grandma out to lunch/dinner...

Rather than going belly-up, they made a shrewd business move that will probably keep them open for decades.  They relocated to Airway Heights to take advantage of the military masses who crave Bul-go-gi, Kim Bap, and Kal-bi.  Our fine airmen (myself being a retired one) had yet another delicious option for Korean food on the Airway Heights strip.  Fusion even has a satellite operation right on the base.  It's that good...

This evening's meal was a take-out from them, and while I have enjoyed several sit-down meals in their place, my choice for this blog posting was for folks to see exactly what to expect if--for convenience--they want to grab a din-din on the go.  Below is my wife's favorite order, and ironically enough, really not even a Korean dish---Chicken Yakisoba...


My go-to order from just about all the Korean joints in town is Spicy Pork.  Fusion does two options--which I love having the choice of--either being grilled or stir-fried.  Last night I chose the stir fry, and of course it's accompanied by beloved sundry kimchi items...



Sushi lovers know that Kim Bap is really not sushi; however, it is similar in appearance in roll style.  Fusion's Kim Bap made my wife less intimidated by sushi, because of it's simplicity, and since she has tried it, she has been much more receptive to more traditional Japanese options at different restaurants.  It's incredibly affordable here, with the most expensive roll $4.00.  They offer a discount on an order of two (fried dumplings not included)...




BUSINESS NOTES:  Fusion Korean Restaurant is open Mon-Fri: 11AM to 8:30PM, Sat: 11AM to 9PM, and is closed Sunday.  It is very clean, and devoid of a lot of unecessary clutter in the dining area.  The family who run it are very friendly, helpful with your choices, and there is absolutely no language barrier when ordering.  It is not fast food, so plan on waiting for your food to be cooked fresh.  If you wish to order take out, call them at least 30 mins before pick-up...


What did you have for din-din last night...?


Fusion Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon