Pryor’s of Otis Orchard still hits nothing but net with its seafood classic

Posted: February 19, 2012 in Best Places to eat in Spokane Valley, Spokane Valley Dining, Spokane Valley Seafood
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Considering that we are located along the same longitude as the seafaring, seafood-loving Scandinavian countries and hence the blood of those countries flows through the veins of so many Valley natives , it has always struck me as odd that the Spokane Valley is bereft of seafood restaurants. There is not one in the Valley and I have to go back to the beginning of our marriage, 28 years ago, to recall a time when things were different. Looking back, it brings to mind Richard Harris speaking forlornly :  “Don’t let it be forgot / That once there was a spot / For one brief shining moment / That was known as Camelot!” That is exactly how I feel about the old Sea Galley where Elaine worked as a waitress not long after we were married.

She had actually begun her waitressing career at another long-ago-and-far-away-but-not-to-be-forgot downtown sandwich and dessert shop called The Early Dawn Ice Creamery on the street level of the Parkade. From there she moved to the Valley and worked briefly at another golden memory called the Golden Hour at University City in 1984 just prior to Pat and Greg Kreotch taking over, closing for remodel, and then renaming it Percy’s Eating and Drinking Establishment. That was a lifetime ago, (at least for the Valley’s beloved Percy’s) but I have carried a torch in my heart for The Sea Galley where Elaine went after we realized the remodelling was going to last longer than our savings.

It is interesting looking back because those are what I would rank as the two best restaurants the Valley has ever seen, in my years at least. The Golden Hour and The Sea Galley were culinary versions of King Arthur and Sir Lancalot. For a brief time, they were the brightest stars in the hospitality heavens in Spokane Valley. There were a few other great though slightly less noble spots nearby that also have fond memories still rumbling in my tumbly. How could a kid not love the old IHOP with its careening blue roof sheltering the most sinfully scrummy pancakes and waffes and crepes. In the now-distant time before the Happy Meal, IHOP was every kids vote for dinner. It was like going to the candy store for supper.

Then there was the old Holland House attached to Newberry’s east side at University City. That was back when they called buffets smorgasboards. They should have called them gorgeasboards because that is what diners did, gorge themselves. To top it all off there was the Karmel Korn Shop just across the mall from Newberry”s, where the tastiest form of carmel popcorn the world has ever seen was stirred up with a large wooden paddle in a shiny copper kettle the size of a wine barrel. Those were the days when a place like the Sea Galley and the Golden Hour were able to swoon the Valley through their doors just by laying out steaming good food that drew healthy crowds by the dent of their scent and words from their appreciative customers’ mouths.

How far that is from then to today as the Valley’s mall sprawls far from its center on the other side of  I-90, with its corporate franchise restaurants resting on their parking lot pads, using national, million-dollar marketing campaigns to draw customers like mouths to a flame. Not one of them could hold a candle to the Holland House, let alone the Golden Hour or my beloved Sea Galley. Time, of course, adds seasoning to all the dishes I fondly remember from those beloved old places.

It was way back at the Sea Galley, where I dined every Friday night and my young bride served me, that I always ordered my favorite version of  a dish served by many restaurants called “The Captain’s Plate”. It typically comes with deep-fried clams, shrimp and fish filet accompanied by a potato and salad, preferably coleslaw. The Sea Galley outclassed every place I have ordered the Captain’s Plate by giving me a merry go around their circular salad bar that my belly’s eye still weeps for as it lovingly dreams of their baked beans and jello and a vast selection of savory salads .

I have tried the Captain’s Plate at dozens of places through the years and not only has no one ever offered anything remotely close to the Sea Galley’s round salad bar of delight, nor has anyone in modern times  come close to the quality of the fish, the texture and taste of the clams and the succulence of the shrimp. I have eaten the C Plate once at the Northside’s Red Lobster and once at the Valley’s Black Angus and will never return if mine is the deciding vote because I put them both up to bat at the old C Plate and they struck out like the mighty Casey.

I know that of which I speak concerning this matter of the Captain’s Plate, the dish that I have ordered a hundred different times at a hundred different places. I had actually given up on it because no one seems to be able to deliver the goods any more except one place that I had all but forgotten about until this Summer. That would be a lowly but lovely little diner out on Wellesly in Otis Orchards called Pryor’s. I used to build homes out there in the early 90’s and had their Captain’s Plate for lunch at least once a week.

This summer I was at a wedding up at Riplet’s Mansion and a lady came up to me and said “Captain’s Plate with fries,chowder and coleslaw, right?” I had no idea who she was or what she was talking about . Come to find out she was one of the owners of Pryor’s and had served me my lunches in those few years I had worked out in Otis Orchards  15 or so years before. That reminded me that there still existed a place that served a Captain’s Plate that made me heart swell like a puffer fish, not to mention me tummy.

So it wasn’t long before I found an excuse to be in Pryor’s vicinity around the vicinity of lunchtime. I was curious to see if they were still able to put out what others have failed to do. I was very nervous as I waited for my meal to arrive. Fifteen years, after all, is a long time to maintain a standard of excellence. But then my coleslaw arrived and it was just as creamy and full of flavor as I remembered it. Then came my clam chowder and I began to quiver with excitement as I tasted the same rich chowder that I remembered.

My stomach did flips like a Sea World dolphin as it  looked forward to the prawns and filets and clams it had not seen in 15 years. On top of all this, Pryor’s does something that no one, not even the mighty Galley of lore did: they pack the plate with two more delicacies, two of my favorites: the oyster and scallop.I have found no one but Pryor’s, in all my vast experience of ordering the Captain’s Plate across America and up into Canada, has ever included both of these worthy mollusks on the C Plate where they so richly deserve to be bedded amongst the other little fishies.

And so after every last piece of Pryor’s prizeworthy C Plate had plummeted down into my paunch and I  ached in ecstasy, I slowly stood and waddled my way out. I could barely make it through the door because I was beside myself knowing that even though the Galley of my youth had long ago sailed away with the other worthy vessels like the Holland House, IHOP and the Golden Hour that had so nobly served the Valley from their U City district moorings, Pryor’s still served a worthy Captain’s Plate. The thought of it warmed my Scandinavian blood as it rushed to my swollen belly to help digest all that sumptuous seafood.

Ecstasy in a basket. Not shown in this picture are the highly worthy supporting characters: Coleslaw, fries and chowder.

If you love shellfish, I highly recommend a Pryor engagement.

Pryor's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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