Archive for May, 2012

Ay Caramba! What is going on with all the activity here in the Spokane Valley hospitality scene? I don’t believe I have seen the scene in such a seismic state of shift. I know of five eminent openings and one business moving out of an oft-failed building making way for a personal favorite to move in. With eyes and ears as open as my mouth at a barbecue buffet, I have gathered some interesting tidbits. Some of it rock solid, having talked firsthand with the owners and some of it a bit like dust in the wind having merely caught a whisper here or there.
Before I talk about what is yet to come, I should mention Porky G’s barbeque which opened a month or so ago. I have spent so much time researching their product that I have yet to find time to write a blog post. It is out there next to Fred Meyers where A & W was for several years. This place is not one that I can take the family to help me out. Barbeque is far too serious of a culinary genre and I insist that my data be gathered firsthand with messy fingers. I can only say for now that Porky’s is the sort of place I cannot afford to think of my belly or my family, but rather selflessly sample as many dishes as possible on my own in order bring Scoop readers the most accurate report.

    1) The Blue Kat next to Halpins

I wrote about Jesse Martinez and The Blue Kat in my last blog post. They are still hoping to open in a few weeks.Read the blog here.

    2) The Handle Bar in Greenacres

This one is a whisper in the wind, though I have heard a lot of whispering. For example, I talked to the food distributor rep who told me they would be serving California Sandwiches which she explained but I never really understood except that they are kind of souped up deli sandwiches.
I also ran into their bar manager at Kinko’s as I was printing off the floor plans I had drafted for the Blue Kat. She was waiting to use the printer to make copies of their layout that the liquor board requires. This chance meeting gave me the opportunity to get a peek at just how the business would be configured. As I had been hearing, it is going to be three businesses in one location. The concept and focus are not bad since it is aimed at servicing the baby boomer bikers which is an ever burgeoning segment of the population as the boomers thunder into their advanced years looking for ways to spend their leisure time and spare money.
There will be an apparel shop and mechanic shop to go along with the bar. It is located out in Greenacres where The Hat Trick used to be which is where Huppins used to be which is where who knows what used to be.

    3) Little Euro on Pines

My dirt on this place I got firsthand from one of the owners named Dave Sevier, who was sweeping in his parking lot the other day as I happened to be conveniently walking by. Since I did not reveal my secret Scoop identity, he did not realize we were both collecting dirt at the same time.
I had been watching the renovation progress since it began and had already guessed it was the Old European gang by the name on the reader sign and the familiar colors they were painting on the building. I was just making sure that the Valley would once again be able to indulge in their heavenly Ableskeevers and devilishly delicious stuffed French Toast. The place is only 1600 square feet compared to their 6,000 square foot Northside location. Living just around the corner with fond memories of the old place at Sprague and Bowdish, I told Dave we would be glad to take what we could get.

Update The Little Euro opens June 18th

    4) Two Columns at the old T Pranos/Pinochios on Sprague

This is some more owner-direct dirt I picked up the other day when I strolled over from the convenience store parking lot next door. Here my clandestine snooping was thwarted by my poor hearing and the owner’s thick Greek accent. I know his first name is Masada but I gave up trying to understand his last name after several attempts. What I did understand him to say, I think, is that he plans to serve Greek and Italian. He is an interesting retired gentleman. He told me he used to have a Greek restaurant at the old Riverpark Square and a creamery next to Godfather’s Pizza by Hastings on Sullivan.
As we talked while he painted the ceiling tiles with a roller, I thought he was a bit daft at least as far as this venture was concerned. But I could tell he knew kitchens and service and recipes by the things he was saying. I stopped second guessing him when he told me he had been a teacher for 18 years before he moved to the Spokane Valley back in the 70’s. When I asked what he taught I was expecting something like history at a junior high somewhere in Greece. When he said he taught business at a school in Seattle called the U of W, I figured I would wait to pass judgement on his prospects.

    5) Something or Other at the old Luxury Box/ Percy’s

Ok, I admit this one is pure Dustin “the wind” Hoffman. But I bet I am right. I have been smelling the smoke for a while and where there is smoke there is fire, some times. My secondhand smoke signals inform me that the original owners of Casey’s sandwich shop at Sprague and Evergreen have signed a lease and plan to open in August. That is all the Scoop can divulge at this point in time and probably more than good journalism would allow.

Lastly, on a sad note Winger Brothers has joined the growing list of ventures to come and go at that spot at the Valley Mall. But my beloved Hong Kong Buffet has boldly decided to go there where no man has profitably gone before. I am betting on them since the same could be said of the spot in the mall near the movie theaters that they successfully conquered. To see why I think they will be winners at the old Wingers, go to this recent blog post.

The last time I wrote a blogpost about a couple of new places I took a little unexpected heat. The owner of Holly Rock, one of my subjects, weighed in with a comment within 30 minutes and Fred Lopez who owns The Ref commented first thing the next morning. Neither were appreciative of my musings about their establishments. I guess that blog taught me that owners not only know how to read, but also that they find my blog interesting, though perhaps not entertaining, when they are the subject.
What I found interesting was that I ended up writing a long article on Fred for my Scoop newsletter and then another blogpost reviewing the newly opened Ref and we became pretty good friends in spite of all my writing and critiquing. I am sure he was more surprised than me because I already knew that I was a decent chap, while he had to get to know me beyond my caustic comments concerning his career choice. Once he did that, everything was fine. While I pretty much follow the Thumper Rule and only say nice things about an establishment, I have been known to get on my soapbox and preach about the road to hell by way of opening a new bar or niteclub. This does not make entertaining reading for the brave few who have already committed to that sort of venture.
So I kept all this in mind one day when I got a phone call out of the blue, well actually it was out of the Blue Kat where Jesse Martinez was standing as he talked to me on his cell phone. He had found my ad in Craig’s List about my drafting services and he asked if I could draw plans for the nite club he was working on in the vacant space where Habitat For Humanity had been next to Halpin’s in the Valley. Little did he know that he was talking to Spokane Valley’s self-appointed busybody blogger. I told him I was on my way.
Upon arriving I found a small crew busy at work and quite a ways into the process of converting the space into a niteclub. It was actually way bigger than I remembered it and my experience goes back to the days when it was a fitness center back in the early 90’s when we were members. As I went through measuring rooms and hallways for an as-built set of drawings, I was swept by a wave of deja-vu when I came upon the old hot tub I had soaked in back in the days when my biceps were bigger and my belly was smaller which meant it was quite a distant memory. The tub is tucked away in a section of the building that won’t be a part of the niteclub which a blessing considering The Blue Kat is aiming for the 35-plus crowd which is often populated by folks wearing plus-size clothes and do not look good with them off their plus-sized bodies.
Once the drawings were completed and Jesse and I had gotten to know each other a bit, I finally told him about my secret identity and how he had been unknowingly revealing all of his plans and dreams to the snoop behind Scoop. I actually knew he would not mind since I had learned from my short experience with him that he, like myself, was a decent chap. I also knew that he was enthusiastic about the Blue Kat and so I predicted with great accuracy that he would be quite eager to help me in my effort to cast whatever spotlight of publicity my humble blog could shine in his direction. I told him he would not need to shield his eyes or don sunglasses to protect himself from the glare of attention the Scoop would shine in his direction. I told him to think of a pin flashlight with a failing battery.
Jesse, who moved to America at age 12 from Paraguay, plans on running a nite club like the Valley has yet to see. For starters he plans on opening only four nights a week, Wednesday through Saturday and opening at 6 on those nights. After measuring the entire space it dawned on me that there was another unique feature about the Blue Kat. “Where’s the kitchen?” I asked him when it finally dawned on me there wasn’t one. He said they planned on using caterers each night. His idea would be to charge a cover at the door that would allow access to the buffet line.
For now he is planning to have a DJ playing Blues and Jazz in the early evening with a live band starting at 9. The live music would not be limited to blues and jazz as it would include classic rock as well. The Blue Kat also features an awesome VIP room complete with plush white leather furniture and private bar, another novelty among the various Valley venues.
Another interesting idea of Jesse’s is to have theme nights where the staff dresses up. For example Jesse said that they have a projected opening target of June 1st or 2nd and they are planning on a Roaring Twenty’s theme for that.
So will all these new ideas add up to a home run? I think Jesse is taking a big swing and he’s got the stuff behind it to clear the fences but it remains to be seen if the ball goes foul or fair. I am not the ump calling the game but rather a fan in the stands who roots on everyone who steps up to the plate whether I think they should have entered the game or not.