Archive for July, 2010

One thing that I try to have is an open mind. I believe that our opinions limit us and cause us to miss out on many good things that the confines of our narrow minds won’t allow us to experiment with. For example, for the first few years of our marriage Elaine swore that she hated seafood but one day I got her to try something that I had ordered. She loved it and could not really remember why she thought she hated seafood.

While I don’t know if I have ever passed on an entire category of food, I have been guilty of not trying a lot of eateries here in the Valley because of one silly notion or another. This Sunday I cast aside a handful deterring opinions and strolled into the Ambrosia Wine Bar and Bistro at the Argonne Village. I must admit we were planning on going to Panda Express when I looked over and saw Ambrosia was open.

I’ve not been interested in it because I’m not a wine bar or bistro guy. To be honest I have never been sure just what a bistro is, I just knew it did not sound like my kind of thing. Well, if all bistros are like Ambrosia then I guess they are my kind of thing. I am into good food to start with and what’s more I love anything seafood. The crab ravioli is so much better than anything I ever tried at the Red Lobster that it is not even a laughing matter.

Everything was good. I mean really good. We had sweet potato fries with some kind of wonderful sauce and goat cheese sprinkled on top. We also had desert that was like amazing. I am pretty sure that I could have ordered anything on the menu and it would have been good. But then again, this is one of the few places in the Valley that has a  true chef conjuring up culinary creations in the kitchen.

I used to think everything a chef put his name on had to be expensive. Wrong again. I’d say their prices are fairly competitive with the Red Lobster and when you consider how much better the food is at Ambrosia, then they really look good. Now I would not say that anyone is as stupid as I am, but if you have just read this blog and do not check this place out ASAP, then I would have to say maybe you are a little dumber. On the other hand, if you have been enjoying Ambrosia for a long time, I tip my hat to a much wiser soul than me.
Ambrosia Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

<a href=””><img alt=”Ambrosia Bistro &amp; Wine Bar on Urbanspoon” src=”” style=”border:none;width:200px;height:146px” /></a>

For the fourth time in for years another operator is making a run at Norm Thomson’s old Bottom’s Up location. Will this new guy make it? Well if anybody can he should but I am not sure anybody can at that spot. I do not know what Norm was thinking when he bought the building and opened the Bottom’s Up about 4 or 5 years ago. That location is far from Valley central and it is a drive across the tracks that I do not want to make with a few drinks in me. But I realize that people will drive anywhere if the bulb is bright enough, we are like moths in that regard.

The new operator has been around and he knows what he is doing. His name is Steve Manning, if I got it right, and he has done alright around here in the hospitallity trade. Years ago he opened Hunters in Couer d Alene which is still going strong in Post Falls. Later he was a third owner in the Blue Fin and Moxie joints downtown and so he has a proven track record. He also owns the Capri Hair Salon in the Valley and so I would say he is a savvy entrepenoir and probably knows a lot more than I do.

Location aside, he is off to a sound start. The place now looks great after a couple of loosing engagements. His menu looks sound and I know the ribs I had were to die for. Word is that he is going to set up a Wii station and may do some karaoke which is all good. For now the place is done with live music and DJ’s which is probably for the best.

I have never given that location much of a chance but you never know what can happen at any given time or spot and so he may very well know just what he is doing and I certainly hope that he does. Good luck is what I say.

  Last Sunday we  met the new owners of McQ’s who took over the business on July 8th. Their names are Steve and Kenna and I have to say that I would give them better odds at making it than most for a few reasons. First of all, this is Steve’s idea and desire but Kenna is there to support and it is great that she is there and willing to even work in the kitchen which is often below most new owners. Then I really like the way Steve bought the business and negotiated the lease. It shows he is smart.

  He originally looked at the business months ago when it was for sale at $110,000. He said it had been a life long dream of his to own a pool hall but after looking at it closely he decided to pass. By then he sort of had the bug to get into the hospitality biz and so he looked at our old place at Sprague and Vista and then he looked at Bottom’s Up. He seriously considered both and even began negotiations with Norm Thomson to go into the Bottom’s Up location. But then the McQ’s people contacted him again. Turns out the guy who had bought the business 2 years before for $170,000 was two months behind on rent and things were bleak. So Steve negotiates first with the landlord and gets a way better lease and picks up the business by paying the guy something like $25,000 for his assets. So he is into the place right because he was patient and savvy.

   Steve has acquired his business acumen the old-fashioned way: experience. For thirty years he has run a street sweeping business in San Francisco. A few years ago, he and Kenna moved to Spokane but still run the sweeping business through a manager.

  The other reason I give them a good chance is because that even though they did not pay for the pool business they did get a going concern. Pool leagues love McQ’s and have been supporting it for years. Steve and Kenna plan to remodel the end away from the pool tables and get a restaurant and niteclub going. I always look at building a hospitality following like building a campfire. Each feature like a good happy hour or Monday Night Football is another log on the fire and contributes to the blaze once it starts to burn. The pool business they have inherited is a great bed of coals that an operator with Steve’s patience can  get a bonfire going on top of that we can all go to and warm our little booties at on those cold Spokane winter nights.

The Fubar which is located at our old place at Vista and Sprague put out the open sign last Friday night. This should be interesting. Both of the new owners are really nice people. They should be allowed to do well. But given the location,the time of year, the economy and the volatility of the niteclub biz, it is not a given that all will be well. In fact the odds are against that. But God bless them and the horse they rode in on.

People always ask me how long I think a place will make it. “L if I know,” is always my answer. If they have a lot of money to lose then they may be able to last however long it takes to get established. That’s the key. Anyone can make it if they can afford to lose money for at least two years. That is the magical number, as far as I am concerned. It takes two years in this biz to get established and you have to be able to pump money into it for that long. Simply put, If the owners of the Fubar have the resources to cover their losses for 2 years then they will do fine in the long run. If not, they are goners. It’s that simple. If they have the bucks to run it out then they just might make it, if not they will go the way of all the other well-intentioned owners at that location. It’s all about the depth of  their pocket-book. If it has legs, they might make it. If it is skinny and shallow, then they will not survive. But the depth of their resources is a private matter and only that will tell the tale.

We are going to find out if we are as sophisticated as the South Hill and Downtown or even the Northside for that matter. Twigs is finally getting up the courage to bring its eclectic menu and massive martini list out to the Valley. It is noteworthy that this Spokane based  eatery has waited this long to come out to here which shows they are fairly savvy. Or they have been fairly savvy up to now.

The Valley is void of any of the smaller Northwest or Spokane chain restaurants  like say a C.I. Shenanigans, or Cyrus O’Leary or Clink’s. I remember Rock City gave it a go several years ago but didn’t make it long. The Mustard Seed and Old European lasted years but eventually h pulled up stakes out here and settled for greener areas around Spokane. These guys are very good operators that don’t usually make mistakes like trying to make it in the Valley.

The three I mentioned who did try the Valley were all located on Sprague while Twigs is going in at the Mall where T.G.I.F used to be located. Let’s hope that makes the difference . Twigs is all about cutting edge cuisine and atmosphere and martini’s while the Valley is all about standing in line for a burger at the Red Robin or stuffing themselves at the Old Country Buffet. It will be very interesting to see if Twigs can stay on a roll and conquer the Valley as it has other parts of Spokane or if the Valley will continue its streak of defeating anyone who doesn’t belong to a franchise large enough to have their own semi trucks hauling in frozen food from a central processing plant back east. I am rooting for Twigs but they are up against a formidable foe.

   Charlie P’s is throwing an all day party this Saturday beginning at about one. Details are al little sketchy but at one time they thought they were going to rope off the parking lot and have a dunk tank and maybe a band. Anyway there will be good food and karaoke at night.

True Legends on Harvard out at Liberty Lake is throwing a grand opening bash tonight.