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Text and photos by Josh Smith

Big taste on a small bun

Big taste on a small bun

98twenty Bistro and Lounge (Reviewed 2/09)
I dropped into 98twenty Bistro (formerly Twigs’ north location) for lunch the other day on a whim and found myself stumped by a menu with several delectable offerings: Blood Orange Shrimp ($15.98), Sausage Al Forno ($16.98) and a buffalo burger ($10.95), amongst others. I threw myself on the mercy of my server who recommended the burger, her “favorite item on the menu.” For an instant I worried that while buffalo is great and all, maybe I wanted something more adventurous. In the throes of indecision I accepted her recommendation. My first pleasant surprise was that the burger was the right size. All too often I either can’t (or shouldn’t) finish a meal due to the immense portions. Not only was the burger done to perfection (note to self: red peppers on a burger = genius), but I finished my meal at just the right time—when I was full. Not stuffed-to-the-gills, determined-to-finish full, but perfectly sated. The burger was so enjoyable, and so simple, that I briefly wondered what else I missed on the menu. Then again, perhaps I’ll need to make a few return trips to explore more of their menu. 98twenty, 9820 N. Nevada; 509.468.9820; Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-close. $$

Neo and noteworthy

Neo and noteworthy

Café Neo (Reviewed 10/08)
A strip mall is an unlikely location for a bistro café, but once inside, Café Neo looks the part of a trendy eatery. Lunch and dinner menus offer sandwiches and entrees, from a Crab Cake Po’ Boy to Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Pasta, along with a robust wine list. We started with the Bruschetta followed by the Roast Chicken with a honey-mustard cream sauce and wild rice risotto ($16.98). It was gorgeous on the plate and the chicken was perfectly done. My dining companion enjoyed the Spicy Prawn Pasta, (18.98), although she felt the presentation and price set her up for disappointment. Still, overall we had an enjoyable meal in a very pleasant environment enhanced by a wonderful staff. We’d be happy to do it all over again next time we find ourselves in North Spokane. Café Neo, 10208 N. Division; 509.467.5961; Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. $$

Pub pie

Pub pie

The Catacombs Pub (Reviewed 3/09)
Being buried under six feet of snow made me homesick for Scotland, where the average temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees and rain is the most common form of winter precipitation. So it was with a twinge of nostalgia that I made my way down into the Catacombs on a cold, dreicht night. It’s nearly identical to my favorite Aberdeen pub, except there’s enough light to see the decor and the staff lacks the Scottish brogue. They compensate for this glaring omission with extremely friendly and helpful service. On a chilly winter night, you will find nothing more delightful and filling than the Three Meat Guinness Irish Stew: beef, pork and lamb in a Guinness broth with potatoes, onions and carrots ($19). On the lighter side, choose from a top-notch selection of oven-fired pizzas, including the Chicken Cashew (chicken, cashews, feta, mozzarella and pesto sauce, $10 individual or calzone). All in all, The Catacombs has many of the best qualities of a European pub, and there’s no ba’ heided numpties swilling Tenants to worry about either. Catacombs Pub, 110 S. Monroe St.; 509.838.4610; Sun.-Sat., 5 p.m.-close. $$

Ahhhh, ahi

Ahhhh, ahi

Hay J’s Bistro (Reviewed 12/08)
My partner in dining and I snuck into Hay J’s a few weeks ago for an early mid-week dinner out (you’ve got to take advantage of free baby sitting whenever it becomes available). After a brief perusal of the menu I decided on ahi and convinced my reluctant wife to choose something other than pasta. (She claims pasta is the only dish that never disappoints). For starters we split a Ladieu Salad ($5 side/$10 entree) as we’re both suckers for mixed greens, candied nuts, grapes and feta, along with huckleberry vinaigrette. Then our main course arrived: The ahi steak ($18) was seared and lightly peppered, accompanied by whipped potatoes with wasabi. The fish was perfectly enjoyable, but the real standout was the very generous serving of crab-stuffed chicken breast ($19) that I talked my wife into (it also made a fine lunch the next day). So tasty was the dish that it may have ended my wife’s restaurant-dining dependence on pasta for good. While this little bistro off the interstate in Liberty Lake may be a bit out of the way for some, it is well worth the trek. Hay J’s Bistro, 21706 E. Mission Ave, Liberty Lake. 509.926.2310, Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-close, Sundays 3 p.m.-close. $$

Delicious pork-barrel spending

Delicious pork-barrel spending

Maggie’s South Hill Grill (Reviewed 3/09)
I know we’ve barely inaugurated our new president and we’ve all just suffered through the longest presidential campaign ever, but I’d like to take a moment to talk with you about something wonderfully delicious: pork-barrel spending. Perhaps you have earmarked a bit of your annual budget for a tasty meal, in which case I cannot more highly recommend the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($8.95) at Maggie’s South Hill Grill. First, the pulled pork is perfect for all occasions: a tangy barbecue treat with a sweet molasses flavor underneath. Add to that your choice of homemade potato chips, seasonal veggies, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato salad, mixed greens, Caesar salad, or a cup of soup, and you’ve an expenditure sure to be approved on either side of the aisle. If barbecue isn’t your thing there’s always the Pork Tacos ($11.95): smoky pork wrapped in a tortilla with arugula and cheese, again with your choice of side. To be fair, there are other non-pork menu items: Pasta Primavera ($9.95), Flat Iron Steak ($14.95) or Crab Cakes ($10.95), to name a few. But if we can’t indulge in a little pork every once in a while what’s the point? Quite frankly, if you’ve never been before, filibuster until a quorum of your dining companions demands a voice vote and head out to Maggie’s—bipartisan dining has never been more delicious. Maggie’s South Hill Grill, 2808 E. 29th Ave.; 509.536.4745; Mon.-Fri., 11a.m.-9p.m.; Breakfast Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. $-$$

Loving Olive It

Loving Olive It

Olive It Café (Reviewed 12/08)
Tucked firmly in Northeast Spokane, Olive It offers a warm, open feeling with comfortable seats among various mixed tables and chairs and a window counter with old-school diner stools bolted to the floor. Homemade quiche and breakfast sandwiches are served in the morning, followed by a relatively simple lunch. The sandwiches are uncomplicated—bread, meat and cheese with few fancy frills—but are carefully made and delicious. Try the satisfying lunch special featuring a cup of soup and half a hot sandwich ($7). I was able to linger over my grilled turkey and provolone and the cup of popcorn that came with it, making for one of the nicest low-key lunches I’ve had in quite a while. In short: I love it—Olive It. Olive It Café, 3402 N. Crestline; 509.413-1589; Mon.-Fri., 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. $

Yeah, gather that all in

Yeah, gather that all in

Two Seven Public House (Reviewed 8/08)
Call it counterintuitive, but the kick from a spoonful of gumbo at the Two Seven Public House is just enough to momentarily distract from the sweltering summer heat. A single cup ($3.75) at lunch is sufficient to clear the sinuses and prepare oneself for an afternoon of 90-plus degrees. It even goes nicely with a half-portion of the Creamy Curry Salad ($4.25). My lunch companion thoroughly enjoyed the Blackened Catfish Sandwich ($8.95), which she described as a “ridiculous portion” of fish served with house tartar sauce, lettuce and red onion, and an even more generous helping of potato salad on the side. We found the staff pleasant and patient, even in the face of our most determined inability to commit. Evenings and weekends get crowded so be prepared for a short wait. Two Seven Public House, 2727 S. Mt. Vernon; 509.473.9766; Mon.-Sun., 11 a.m.-close (Midnight at the earliest). $

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