This is the October cover of Spokane Valley's Current monthly news magazine which the following story I wrote.

This is the October cover of Spokane Valley’s Current monthly news magazine which the following story I wrote.

 

When I was asked to write a story on the state of breakfast affairs in the Spokane Valley, I knew I was the man for the job. It is a story I have been dining to write since I was about four years old when I decided nothing was cooler than hotcakes.

Considering that I am very Fifty-something now, that was a long time ago. There were few franchises,  fast or slow, serving breakfast or any other meal. I remember only one restaurant in the Valley from those earliest-memory days. There were others but Smitty’s Pancake House was the only one I cared about. When I had the occasional good luck to be an eager participant in an after-church family meal there, it was the most sacred and blessed moment of that Sabbath day.

Not old enough to understand what our pastor was selling in the Lord’s House, I certainly understood what Smitty was selling at his Pancake House. If it had been up to me, I would have put Smitty before the Lord and gone there prior to church for breakfast and then headed back for lunch.

Maybe it was that deprivation of my early inner callings for more pancakes that has made me a lifelong breakfast believer, and now, after weeks of intense and rapturous research, something of an expert on the meal or at least on how it is offered to us here in the Spokane Valley.

If you think about it, there are two ways to buy a hot, made-to-order breakfast. One way it is wrapped in paper and handed over the counter at a fast food place and the other it is delivered on a plate by a server in a restaurant. I have always preferred both.

I was there eating breakfast at the University McDonald’s when your choice for a breakfast sandwich was an Egg McMuffin . Back then in the early 70’s, it was your only fast food choice for breakfast. Talk about a revolutionary idea. The humble, eternally popular Egg McMuffin was the match that lit America’s fast food breakfast explosion.

According to a report on MarketWatch.com, breakfast is the only growing segment in both fast-food and casual dining with a 5% increase last year. Leave it to the highly competitive players in the fast food industry to notice that.

Subway is now open for breakfast. You can get a waffle taco at Taco Bell or a breakfast burrito at Taco Time. Schlotsky’s is offering their breakfast sandwich, the Eggsky on their patented bread. Carl’s Jr. has a massive new ad campaign attempting to put their new cinnamon pull-aparts into the minds and mouths of breakfast lovers across America

.eggsky'staco bell waffle

Amongst the national franchises, my loyalty remains with McDonald’s. I did, however, do a sandwich switch from the Egg McMuffin to their egg, bacon and cheese biscuit as soon as they invented it. For me, eating that blissfully stuffed biscuit dipped in syrup is like having a little bite of the Kingdom here on earth . No other new concoction has lured me away, try as I have most of them.

I did come upon an undiscovered fast food gem here in the Valley. A while back I had noticed that Zip’s had entered the fast service breakfast fray and so in doing my due diligence for this story I stopped in twice and that is why I know it is undiscovered.

Zip’s is going for a hybrid between fast food and casual dining. At the counter I ordered French toast and not long after sitting down, they were delivered on a real ceramic plate that also carried a little pitcher of syrup. I appreciate that this local enterprise is boldly Zipping while everyone else is zagging.

2014-08-11 07.20.16

The second breakfast-in-the-field category, casual dining, is where I spent most of my mornings for this story. I group these breakfast purveyors into three catagories: national pancake powerhouses,local weekend wonders and local full time breakfast joints, which I list in order of personal favor.

There are only three national breakfast restaurants doing business in the Valley, Denny’s, IHOP and Shari’s. I love them equally and have spent many glutinous mornings at them all. I still mourn the passing of Perkins and fondly remember Sambos, which became the second memorable restaurant of my youth when it opened in the Sixties selling breakfast 24 hours a day right there just east of Sprague and Bowdish in the heart of the Spokane Valley.

The three active national players are a far cry from the Sambo’s of my youth. Back then it was straight forward All-American breakfast meals, but now days their menus are packed with gooey and rich concoctions described in mouth-watering euphemisms and pictured in too-good-to-be-true close-up photos.

Shari’s has invented something they call Cinnama-sation french toast that is half cinnamon roll and half french toast. Alert to the same cinna-trend, IHOP recently came out with what they call cinnamon swirl brioche french toast. Denny’s came up with a new cinnamon pancake and then upped the sweet ante with a “peanut butter cup pancake” which is two pancakes filled with white chocolate chips,smothered in hot fudge and topped with peanut butter sauce.

I think the nationals pursue these new breakfast inventions because it separates them from the local independents who can’t waste their time in the laboratory to keep coming up with this crazy stuff. In Spokane Valley, and I would guess everywhere, breakfast is where the locals battle the nationals the hardest. There are a lot of big, national players like Applebee’s and Red Lobster serving lunch and dinner but that is not the case for breakfast.

I would not take the time to mention establishments that only serve breakfast on Saturday and Sunday except that there are a lot of them and one of them, Charlie P’s, is probably my favorite place to have breakfast in the entire Valley. I love Seafood omelettes and have tried them where ever they are attempted locally as well as when I travel. Charlie P’s is the best local seafood omellete and as good as any I have eaten even in coastal  restaurants so close to the sea that the crab tasted like they had just pulled it out of the ocean.

Elaine, my best buddy for 32 years, has never one time joined me for an early morning breakfast out because of a serious conflict in interest between getting up or sleeping in. But in a wonderful twist of fate, she loves Charlie’s Eggs Benedict and they serve breakfast all day. So while she is having her benedict with a glass of milk and a happy hour beer for her breakfast, I am having a heavenly omelette for my late afternoon lunch.

Breakfast Elaine stylecharlie p's omellet

Three other family-friendly bars that have built up a weekend following are The Iron Horse, O’Dohrtery’s and Bolo’s. They all do a good job but I think some of their appeal is they serve Bloody Mary’s and other drinks that many of their customers sometimes begin drinking quite early on weekends.

For the clean livers with big appetites, there is no place like the weekend breakfast buffet at Timber Creek. The crowd there is over the top and lined out the door.

But these weekenders are not the main contenders in the breakfast battle. There are actually 10 locals that serve breakfast everyday. Most just serve breakfast and lunch but some serve dinner as well. I think that during the week most of them do better at lunch or dinner but on the weekends they all do big breakfast biz. I was amazed how many people go out for breakfast on the weekends.

Having been solidly converted to breakfastism by St. Smitty long before the age of accountability, I reverently observe the day’s first supper at any place that will serve it to me, but I did come up with a Letterman’s list. And so here are my top ten reasons to go out for breakfast in the Spokane Valley.

Reason #10- Black Pearl Casino. The reason the Pearl holds the ten spot is because they are a casino first and restaurant second. They do have great decor and really good food. If you are dating and have found someone who is the opposite of Elaine and wants to go out for breakfast, this would be the Valley’s best early date spot.

Reason #9- Skyway Cafe. My only problem with Skyway Cafe is that I don’t like crowded places and this place is crowded, especially for weekend breakfast. I love a comfortable, private and well-lit booth like at Shari’s on Sullivan or the old ones at my beloved Perkins. The Skyway Cafe has no such getaways but that does not hurt them one bit. I would tell visitors to the Valley that this is a local favorite for a reason. Located at Spokane’s original international airport, this place has the best setting and unique feel on the list.

Reason #8- Dave’s Bar and Grill. The reason Dave’s is at 8 is because I think they only do breakfast because the Valley can’t get enough of Dave’s food. He does his famous specials at dinner, not breakfast. There are no great bargains for breakfast but like the other two meals he serves, the breakfast there is all great food served in porpportions built for two.

Reason #7-Conley’s. This is the last member of the Valley’s trilogy of local breakfast-serving icons. In an industry with a high mortallity rate and short life expectancy, Conlely’s has been around longer than almost anyone. Conley’s is a creative and tastey example of something that is nice to see: local independent operators that have built a hospitallity treasure that has been Opportunity’s opportunity to have been enjoying all these years.

Reason #6-Egg It On. This is the Valley’s newest restaurant located in the west half of the old Hooter’s building. I think they got off to a rocky start but I have been there 5 times since they opened and always go with a group and I can tell you that they are worth a try. Their Salmon Benedict is, as Elaine says, fricking fracking good and if you like a bloody good Bloody Mary, they have her.

Reason #5-Little Euro. Living these past 20 years near the corner of Bowdish and Alki, me and the kids were hit hard when The Old European closed many years ago just down Bowdish on Sprague in the house that Sambo’s built. The kids had grown up on their crepe’s and I had a love affair with their stuffed french toast. Imagine my delight when they recently re-opened as The Little Euro just down Alki on Pines.

Reason #4-Cottage Cafe. Though they have been around 5 years, I group the Cottage with Euro and the Egg in so far as being the new places. The Cottage opened as successfully as anyone I have ever seen. They pretty much did everything right. Elaine and I went in there at one o’clock on a Wednesday and sat at the bar to avoid waiting, which is amazing considering they close at 2 oclock.

Reason #3 Terry’s Breakfast and Lunch. Having owned and worked a place for four years with Elaine, I most admire the owner that puts in shifts on the front lines of their place. If you want a lot of good grub and want to watch the owner cook it for you, go to Terry’s. The only reason Terry is not higher on the list is because he is not nearly as good looking as the top two.

Reason #2 Jenny’s Cafe. The first Saturday I went into Jenny’s she had her hair down and was waitressing as only a natural can and then the next Saturday she had her hair tied back as she cooked in the kitchen just as naturally. Jenny started there when was 16 when it was Waffles and More and bought it 14 years ago. The main reason Jenny is at number two on the list is because at 24 years in the business she does not yet have half the years in as my monarch of the morning.

Jenny_1

Reason #1 Donna’s Diner. Donna starting waiting tables 50 years ago in Troy, Montana after school when she was 12. If you want to see Donna, don’t go on the weekends because she takes off Friday through Sunday. Donna’s is the only breakfast and lunch place open from 5 to 3. All the rest are 6 to 2. Donna is there for all 10 hours Monday through Thursday waiting on her customers.

Donna jpg

Donna does a great job serving a great breakfast, as do the Valley’s other nine great reasons to dine out in the morning. I didn’t bring up price because they are all within a buck on any given meal and I didn’t bring up quallity because breakfast is a pretty easy meal to get right as they all have accomplished.

Judging by the numbers I saw crowding into all of these places on the weekends, I would say that I am not the only one who did not get enough pancakes when I was a kid. And while I love them all from Ronald to Donna, I will always remain most smitten by Smitty.

 

 

Epilogue:

 

 

 

 

Family Meal at Denny’s

 

 

 

10560348_1480160212222428_54388910838582447_o2014-08-07 18.56.192014-08-07 18.57.342014-08-07 18.56.092014-08-07 18.18.43

 

One Thursday last August  Elaine’s brother and sister-in-law and niece, Craig, Beth  and  Kelsey Clark ( first three in selfie) , were passing through and wanted to get everybody together for dinner on the fly. After a bulletin text was sent out and attendance was confirmed or declined, a group conversation began about where to eat. I did not get into the discussion as I was withholding my final decision concerning my own attendance  since I had a lot of work to do and had just seen these particular out-of-towners just day or two before and so had had enough  hugs from these lovable and quite publicly demonstrative family members for the season, at least from one of them.

Then final decision to make it Denny’s it on Argonne came buzzing in on my phone .  One of the things on my ongoing to-do list was researching the story above and so doing Denny’s with a group was a great opportunity. I texted back that  I was in, resigning myself to one last round of heartfelt farewells. I had work to do at Denny’s and besides, my old childhood buddy-turned-brother-in-law, Craig, isn’t bad company once I get past his initial mandatory man hug.

As I drove there I pondered why Denny’s was the group concensus. I wouldn’t have thought of it and I was further intrigued upon arrival to see two large family groups besides ours. After  conversing and dining with the family and analyzing the menu and the selections made from it, I came up with an hypothesis.

First of all Denny’s prices are reasonable and secondly the menu’s range goes from dawn to dusk and back again. I found it telling that out of 10 of us, only one person went past the breakfast pages and ordered a dinner entre. I would guess that ratio was a little unusual, but I can see where Denny’s anytime and all kinds of breakfast offerings makes it a family favorite especially ones with children.

The children within our adult family ordered across the breakfast board that day. I discovered that Faun,Elaine’s mom ( fifth back in the selfie),  often eats at Denny’s and usually orders the breakfast sandwich in the second photo above. She said she most often has coffee and breakfast at the Hi-Co Subway. Of all fast food breakfast  choices she thinks Subway is the most tasty, healthy and affordable, furthermore my mother-in-law who is a woman of many opinions is of the opinion that Subway on Argonne serves the best food out of all the local Subways.

My little inside guy  had to try the Strawberry Pancake Puppies with cream cheese and so I ordered them as an appetizer to share though after tasting the first one I did not share as many as I had intended. Elaine went for one of those flashy but tempting menu items called the Red,White and Blue Slam pictured in the fourth photo. For $7.99 she got two blueberry pancakes topped with cream cheese and strawberries along with two eggs, hash browns and  sausage . Elaine’s Slam did not land on the table with the normal two links as I had devoured one of them whole after deftly snatching it away while she talked in the other direction.

The R,W & B Slam that Elaine had is yet another version in a long and creative line of Slams. The original Grand Slam is still on the menu and remains the Slam I go back to time and again. As a hungry teenager, I mentally and emotionally consummated my relationship with her midway through our first encounter.

Though not as old , The Grand Slam is the Egg McMuffin of casual dining. Denny’s keeps pumping 0ut and glossily photographing one new invention after another such as what I have always thought was the cleverly named  ” Moons Over My Hammy” . But I love it in name only having never been tempted to cheat on my Grand Slam by its alluring picture and personal information on the menu.

The selfie above was taken outside the front door after we had all indulged in our personal pleasures and great family visiting. It is a picture of a group of well fed family members happy to have had another opportunity get together break bread and waffles and pancakes. What I was mostly thinking about in that shot was I knew I was only minutes away from having that mug in the front approaching me as he comes in for his obligatory  farewell embrace.

  An explosion will be going off at 2 this afternoon at the corner of Sprague and Raymond. This is not a bomb threat.The explosion will be one of creativity and talent and individualism and self expression as the second annual Hopped Up on Art outdoor festival gets started. Talk about a talent show.
   The first one last year was a huge success and so the main organizer, my son Jesse Swanson, decided to build on it this year.
     Last year there were 4 bands. This year their will be 7 bands and 4 acoustic singer/songwriters. That in itself is crazy. If you stop and think that every single person performing today is a dedicated and talented musician who loves their art, that in itself is a lot of creativity and talent and self-expression.
    Then you have all the painters and photograghers and sculptors and carvers  who will be displaying their works. Having a child who is one of them, I am in awe of their passion and drive to express themselves through the artistic talent that God gave them which they dedicate themselves to develope. This year’s gathering of artists will be more than double last year’s.
   This is not Hopped Up Brewery’s festival, that is just the fortunate business where the festival has been held the first two years. Though it was Jesse’s idea and he is the driving force behind it, the festival is not his either. This festival belongs to the local community of artists that Jesse has helped organize and bring together for the day.
   As they perform and display their art for all who attend, they will also be visiting and celebrating amongst themselves. They all share a bond as artists and this would be a fun day for them irregardless, but it helps to have the party at a brewery.
   Next year Jesse wants to spill the party out into the street and over into University City North’s parking lot. He wants  10,000 to attend. Judging by last year’s blow out attendence and this year’s sign up of talent, today’s festival should be the next step to building a local annual event that lives up to his ambitions that are as big as his talent. Those are two things every father likes to see in his son.
  

The barrel-topped building just south of Sprague and Bowdish, birth and burial site of Ringo’s Casino, is about to become a beehive of activity when a group of marijuana merchants open shop. Now the games of chance at the old casino site are really getting interesting. Legal pot peddling is a new and wide open field that has beckoned an odd array of creative and bold players like Tim McKinney and his associates.
The first time I met Tim McKinney was about 10:00 o’clock a few Friday nights ago while I was walking peacefully with an absent mind down to the Iron Horse to meet Elaine who was getting off work from her job at the Ambrosia Bistro. I had already noted the one car parked out front of the building and so when I saw the lights go out inside, I crossed Sprague. I figured some body was working late at the renovation project that I had surmised was taking place for a week or two.
I made it all the way across the 200-yard parking lot and right up to the door before he burst out. Despite the late hour and being caught off guard, he was as open as a steamed clam and as energetic as a minor league baseball mascot when I asked him for the lowdown. Perhaps no scoop that I have uncovered snooping around has raised my eyebrows quite as high as Tim’s disclosing and detailing of the dealings that he and his associates where preparing for.
Tim told me that this spot on Earth, one that I have known as well as any spot since earliest memory, was about to become what up until just now was not available anywhere in the entire nation. Most of my life I have wondered what it would be like if the whole world were like Amsterdam where people had the choice of catching a buzz in public using alcohol or pot. Now Tim was telling me that Amsterdam was not just coming to somewhere in America, it was coming to my neighborhood. I could not keep track of many more details that he enthusiastically went on about. My mind was blown.
I did, however, have presence of boggled mind to tell him I that I wrote the occasional blog and he asked me to give him at least two weeks. That was easy because it took that long to wrap my noodle around just the basic idea that I was soon to have a pot bar within walking distance, while the rest of the nation will just be watching and wondering what it would be like to live where I live. So after two weeks I dropped back in during working hours to find Tim bustling about. I wanted to get more details on how this was going to work and once again Tim stopped what he was doing and focused on trying to help my scattered brain to see their master plan.
First of all it is going to be a private club called The Members Lounge . There will monthly dues since our liberal state of Washington only allows us to partake of pot in private and not in public. Secondly, it will take a marijuana medical card to buy pot onsite. Apparently, lawmakers decided Spokane should only have three establishment where you can buy your pot and smoke it too. Tim said that he and his gang were fourth on the list, though they are much further along than the three parties that got the much sought after licenses.
As he toured me around the building he took me to the southwest section where for the last few years I had seen gambling folks playing cards and where before that I often heaped my plate at the oriental buffet line and where 20 years ago I splurged on a company Christmas party in the banquet room of the Chinese Restaurant the building was originally built for. This quarter of the building, he told me, would soon be transformed into a farmer’s market where medicinal marijuana will be the harvest for sale.
Tim and his partners won’t sell any pot themselves, but rather provide space to merchants. It makes sence to experiment with an antique mall setting considering that we are at the starting line of this industry and, like in the gold rush days of the 1800′s it has drawn in the little guy with little resources but eager to strike it rich. Tim then guided me into the northeast quarter of the building, which has always been the dining area. This, he told me, is where members will be able to consume their cannabus, be it from home or purchased from the adjoining marketplace.
I went away from our second chat with a sense of foreboding. I worry every time that a brave soul puts thousands on the line and opens a new pace. It is bad enough that they are always based on some new and untried idea for a restaurant or bar or coffee shop, but this new venture is also based on a whole new social experience for America, let alone the Spokane Valley. Will our local pot smokers who have been forced to hide in the closet all the lives now come scurrying out and smoke in public?
Will partiers in general find consuming pot in a lounge setting as comfortable as they do the bars they have been going to for years? I can see the young crowd embracing it, but the older generation seems set in their love of alcohol which is not an option at Tim’s new joint.
Regardless, our society is about to undergo a transformation and this little private club in my backyard is leading the way onto the battlefield of Spokane. I am sure the fight will one day be won, but I fear for the those emerging out onto the front line, there has to be casualties. It was not until my third trip to this rabbit hole that I saw the light or at least a glimmer of hope.
We were driving by at about 9:00 last Saturday and the parking lot had several cars. My curiosity drove me into the parking lot and right through the doors where once again I found an obliging Tim among a large and informal gathering . He welcomed us with open arms to a meet and greet party that had been going on for two hours.
I knew that the pot that was to be consumed at the new place had to be ingested as a vapor since servers could not be exposed to smoke. But it had not dawned on me that the technology of the e-cigarette had been applied to pot. To paraphrase an old Cheech and Chong bit: No smoke or smell that you don’t need, vaporized pot is bad-assed weed. The age of the e-joint is upon us.
As vapor puffs frequently appeared from the mouths of the happy laid-back crowd, the smoke cleared and I saw where this place might have a chance. If vapor lounges have been around for years and have been able to survive and prosper how much better are their chances now that the law allows for the granddaddy of all vapor-able substances? For Tim’s sake and the sake of all the Marijuana Sooners preparing to race for their stake in this new state of affairs and for the sake of Washington’s bold step towards common sense, I hope our town rises to the occasion. I say let’s Amsterdam it.

Update
I believe most eateries are like people in that most have hidden gems to offer the world if only the world can find them. The Black Pearl certainly has a lot of great food and drinks to offer in plain on the menu, but one has to get up at least kind of early in the morning to find what I found because it is only on the breakfast menu.
Their seafood omelet is the black pearl among the ivory pearls of plates their worthy kitchen offers. Every time I eat breakfast at a new place, I always look for a seafood omelet. It is seldom that my effort is rewarded and so when on occasion my dispirited search is rewarded with a genuine seafood omelet on the menu it is my unfailing selection. Normally I get so excited when I find it that I begin waving frantically to the waitress to quickly return and take my ecstatic order so that no time is wasted in getting that thing in front of me.
What finally showed up after perhaps 10 minutes that seemed like ten hours was pure pleasure on a plate. I rarely see food like that seafood omelet and I did not see it for long as it quickly disappeared beneath my nose as one fork-full followed another down my throat with such speed that that little hot-dog-eating Oriental dude would not have dared challenge me to a seafood omelet eating contest. At least not if it was the Black Pearl’s omelet.


This photograph is a show of willpower as every atom in my body screamed out to have the atoms in that omelet join them. But I had to pause for the pic but to heck with a prayer. No sooner had the light from the camera’s flash subsided and this beautiful masterpiece and I were one.

Like a ravenous lion ripping the quivering red meat from the steaming body of a twitching, barely-dead Gazelle, I could hear my animal subconscious growl menacingly at my nerdy, blogger side that had to interrupt my feeding frenzy to take this picture. But I had to take it. Who would ever believe the chef’s generosity with the fresh and very real crabmeat. And I knew a thousand words gushing on and on from my pen could not capture the rapture of this gift from God like one quick picture.

I must confess that recently I have been committing deadly sin after deadly sin at The Owl Casino on Indiana . It is not the games of chance that lure me helplessly back again and again but rather the plates of rapture carried out from the kitchen and placed before me. Gluttony, not gambling nor girls, has been my personal heavenly hell since I chanced upon a wonderful secret a month or so ago.
It all started when I read an article in the paper that our local Hooters closed  after a ten-year run. Since Elaine found their theme a turn off we never would have gone there except that they offer the cheapest well drinks in town.  Despite the affordable libations and the  fact that the place always produced fond mammories, the food was far from titillating  and so I was ambivalent about Hooter’s closing. What caught my eye in the article was that Hootwinc, the corporation that owned the Spokane franchise as well as the other  nineteen West Coast Hooters, decided to open a new breakfast restaurant in the building while keeping the casino running. I found it unusual that they would take another run at it .
Normally, a place goes out of business and the next guy comes along and says to himself, ” I can do better than the guy who didn’t make it here. My idea is better and I am a smarter operator.” In this case, Hootwinc  is apparently saying that they have a better idea than the one they had before. I admire their buoyant spirit and would agree that nearly anyone could come up with a better idea in the way of good food than their last effort.
As I continued  reading the story, it was hard to keep my eyes looking downward  as they kept rolling around and around in my head. A Hooter spokesperson waxed on about how the new place was going to serve fresh “farm-to-table ingredients” in what they called urban fusion. Apparently, this type of cutting edge cuisine is trending across California and West Coast Hooters top bras, I mean brass, has decided the Valley will support this new place even though we did not support our Hooters. Egg It On is what they have named it, which is about as clever as their old name.
Between the hype,  the name and the slim chances I gave them, I probably never would have gone in there again but those affordable libations beckoned me back to the casino a month or so ago. That is when I learned the Secret and  have been drawn back again and again by the most powerful law of attraction.
Apparently whoever is in charge of this Egg It On is good in the kitchen and has been experimenting back there, putting his creations on the menu for hungry gamblers to approve. While I am not a gambler, I am an approver.
The first thing I ordered was the recommended Meatloaf Monster Hash, which looked as ugly and menacing as a monster when it showed up in front of me. Luckily I was hungry and so did not judge by appearances.
Even though my hungry stomach opened my mind, this was the most flavorful skillet type dish I had ever had and it stood the test of two more reheats at home.I know something is good when I reheat a portion for breakfast and then polish the last of it off for lunch and find it tasty each time.
The next thing I indulged myself with there was the Sage Chicken Eggs Benedict. I thought maybe a Sage Chicken was a pheasant but after a few bites I figured out that the Sage was about the flavor. It was not long before I was full of Sage Chicken and so I boxed up the uneaten half for Elaine to try when she got off work. The dish passed another foolproof taste test when she took a trial bite of it cold and found it so good she had a few more before getting it into the microwave.
The next time I slipped into the casino I tried the Heath Bar Pancake. It was about the size of a medium pizza and could easily have fed all four of my kids when they were little. Unlike them, I never order souped-up pancakes or waffles but after the Monster and the Chicken, I had to see what this great creator was going to do with a pancake. I indulged more of it than I care to divulge.
Within days I was back again for the Aspargus Salmon Benedict which more than took care of the fix my body and mind craved for whatever was  next on the menu. Elaine and I split it and still took enough home for Eli, our young-adult-still-firmly-at-home son. He devoured it in a flash but that is certainly no test of good taste. The only thing it told me for sure was that he had not eaten in at least an hour.
I hate to admit it, but I have been back twice more since then and have even slicked my entire plate clean of a generous portion of Fruity Pebbles French Toast. That is when I knew I needed to get myself together. I am doing better now but now I hear that “Egg It On” has opened.  I see a relapse in my future since I need to study the new place to see if it is possible for them to create an eating establishment that lives up to the creations that have so easily led me astray.

While this Monster Mash vaguely resembled a pile of something I see in my back yard when my dog has a tummy ache, it tasted as good as it did not look.

While this Monster Mash vaguely resembled a pile of something I see in my back yard when my dog has a tummy ache, it tasted as good as it did not look.

 

There were four over-sized english muffins at the foundation of this Sage Chicken wonder. It was like no other eggs benedict my eyes had seen before.

There were four over-sized english muffins at the foundation of this Sage Chicken wonder. It was like no other eggs benedict my eyes had seen before.

I hate confess that I was guilty of eating most of this pleasure.

I hate confess that I was guilty of eating most of this pleasure.

Believe it or not, there is a heavenly slamon eggs benedict buried in there. And it is a three- or four-manner

Believe it or not, there is a heavenly slamon eggs benedict buried in there. And it is three- or four-manner

 

Egg it On on Urbanspoon

          After 31 years of matrimony, Elaine still believes romance is very important. Vitamin R she calls it, good for building strong love muscles. I am a believer too, but my faith is weaker.  Still, I believe that she deserves romance and as a couple we probably need it, the problem is  I have never been a natural Romeo. 

If watching Gonzaga basketball at the bar counted like I think it should, then I would have no problem finding places to squire my lady about.  Elaine,however, gives me no  romance points for taking her to watch a game while we have a bite to eat and a drink. The Super Bowl at  Sullivan Scoreboard did not even count.

So I have struggled through the years to find places in Spokane that  help me look and feel more romantic. Lucky for me, we  found the perfect spot the first summer we were married . Back then we were trespassing as we snuck onto the empty grounds of Riblet’s Mansion on hot summer nights.

No one was living there at the time and apparently it was undiscovered by other local lovers since we always had it to ourselves. It was mighty easy for even me to look like Valentino as we cuddled alone under the starry summer sky looking out over the Valley lights that stretched out for miles in every direction. Like I said, it has always been a  lucky place for me, especially back in the early days.

Those hot, home run nights only lasted a few summers  as new owners bought the place and began transforming it into the Arbor Crest Winery. We were there when they started their summer Sunday night concerts years ago and have been going ever since.

Though it was more exciting when we had it to ourselves, it has remained our sure-fire date night destination. With all the vino and  vistas and vibes, I am sure lots of Viagra finds its way down into the bellies and beyond of many  middle-aged men who know which direction things are headed. Though I would not know of such things, I do know there is no better setting in this area as far as we are concerned.

Our favorite local performer has always been Sammy Eubanks and we try to never miss when he plays there. He sometimes dedicates our favorite song, “Austin City Limit Sign”, to us and we slow dance together with eyes closed and we are for the moment once again all alone. It is the only time I lead Elaine by the hand up onto a dance floor, normally she is tugging me up by one ear.

The one wedding that we had the honor to attend at Arbor Crest was so beautiful that even I, who puts weddings a close second to funerals in order of places I don’t want to be, was glad to be there. You talk about a romancer enhancer, Elaine had stars in her eyes as we slipped off to the spot we had been alone on many nights the summer following our own wedding 30 years before. The only thing that night that made my own eyes  starrier was the amazing buffet and open keg.

Now it appears the place is going to get even better this summer. According to one of my sources who heard it from one of their sources who heard it from one of their sources, Jackson Browne has signed on to perform there to raise money for charity this summer. 

There is even a rumor drifting about that Bonnie Raitt might possibly show up this summer. I have loved her even longer than I have loved Elaine, though in a purely platonic and professional way. For that matter and in the same regard, I have loved Jackson Browne longer than Elaine.

Rest assured that if the rumors bear out, Elaine and I will be there adding to our rich treasure chest of cherished moments at the mansion. But just as assuredly, our favorite song of the summer will be the one Sammy serenades  as we dance with closed eyes and go back to our hot summer nights long ago when we had Spokane’s  most romantic spot all to ourselves.

Amy and Joey Tilton's wedding at Arbor Crest was over the top under the big top tent. It is a great place for special memories. Elaine and I know this firsthand, though ours cost considerably less and were way more private.

Amy and Joey Tilton’s wedding at Arbor Crest was over the top under the big top tent. It is a great place for special memories. Elaine and I know this firsthand, though ours cost considerably less and were far more private.

Aside  —  Posted: February 18, 2014 in Lessons on Loving, Uncategorized
Tags:

2013-12-16 09.26.41

You would have to be about 70 years old to remember when Halpin’s was not located just west of Sprague and Bowdish since it has been there since 1949. I know that it has always been there for me and I was raised just up the road at Alki and Bowdish, until I was 7, in the same home I bought as an adult 20 years ago. I would guess that I have passed through the light  at Sprague and Bowdish more than any other intersection on Earth.

Actually I do not have to guess since we went up Bowdish to get to the family church each Sunday morning and Sunday night for the first seven years of my life. Just those 4 weekly trips added up to 208 and if you throw in the rest of the Vacation Bible Schools and other special occasions I was escorted to, they probably added up to 208,000. Between church and school, it seemed I spent most of my precious youth trying to stay awake or slyly slip in a nap as I was being taught hundreds of lessons that failed to captivate my attention.

If that were not enough to make Sprague and Bowdish my most visited intersection for life by the time I was 7,  my great grandparents lived a little further up the path at 12th and Bowdish. By the time I came along, Grampa Dean, a logger from Arkansas, was doing lighter work at Appleway Florist and Granny Dean seemed to always be babysitting me.

Probably the best and worst part about spending so many precious moments of my youth passing north and south through the Sprague and Bowdish intersection was the Dairy Queen located where the loan business is now. This was long before we had a Baskins and Robbins or anyone had ever heard of frogurt. Remembering how much I loved the Dilly Bars and Mr.Misty floats always made it the best intersection. Realizing we were not stopping to fulfill my fantasies, made it the worst.

Always there just beyond the queen was  Halpins, with its Treasure Room and its regal sign towering just below the massive red “H”.  It was there the whole time of my youth and adult life. In the old days there were six independent drug stores, which slowly dropped off one by one until there was just one. For several years Halpins stood alone, the remaining mom and pop drugstore, though they craftily survived by also becoming a gift store.

Times change as economics and advertising and the internet lead consumers  in other directions. But when an old tree falls , it makes way for another to grow up. The one bright thing concerning the loss of Halpins is that the large and mostly empty building will not be empty for long, which seems to be the fate of an alarming number of  buildings along Sprague over the past several years.

Brad and Julie Markquart, who opened their first Complete Suite Furniture store in the Valley in 1998 have bought the building and are busy remodeling the old Halpins into their 7th retail location and the lower part of the building into warehouse space. Obviously, they are go-getters and I hope their success lasts at least as long as Halpins’, longer in fact.

I root on all new business ventures  but I also mourn the favorites a bit when they close and I try to remember the ones from the past. The people and places we love do not go on and on like the roads we travel to get to them. But at least there is some kind of comfort, though it goes unnoticed and unappreciated mostly, from travelling along the roads and through the  intersections that were laid down long before my great-grandparents arrived in town, and will be here long after we are all gone.

Brad Markquart is hoping to open Complete Suites here in February.

Brad Markquart is hoping to open Complete Suites here in February.