Archive for the ‘Spokane Valley Dining’ Category

Things to do on st. patrick's day in the spokane valley

   It is more than a wee bit ironic to me that St. Patrick’s Day, which honors a saint, is the most hell-raising holiday on the calendar. The Spokane Valley, a family- orientated place if ever there were one, will be stage to a scene replicated in every town of any size across the nation.

Amazingly, St. Patrick’s Day is a two-part party on every year that it does not fall on a Saturday or Sunday. The St. Patrick’s Day parade is always held on the Saturday before the holiday and it is also a day when the top o’ the morn will be toasted to with a good stiff drink by many who imbibe. For most it is the only day of the year for such day-long shenanigans and that is why when the holiday falls the next day on Sunday it is barely celebrated since so many revelers are still suffering.

On years like this, however, when the holiday falls on a weekday, St. Patrick’s Day will be a two-day celebration. There is ample time between Saturday and Tuesday for all but the feeblest to recuperate and then recharge for the St. Paddy party part two.

With my finger on the pulse and plenty of opinions on the matter of Spokane Valley wining and dining, I can offer a few tipsy tips for them that tip their glasses and some tasty tips for the hungry and sober but fun-loving folk.

A crowd will be forming at eight in the morning at the Trent N Dale Pub as the early birds begin to gather for the establishment’s annual pre-parade breakfast. The Trent N Dale, located at Tent and Dale, serves as the Valley’s rabbit hole to the downtown revelry which features a parade for the young kids and a full-town, day-long pub crawl for the older kids.

For $30.00 the TND offers a buffet style breakfast, commemorative tee shirt and a round trip bus ride hither and yon twixt their parking lot and the corner of Division and Main, which is a fair walk to the parade route but right smack dab in the middle of the crawl.

With the first bus leaving for town at 10 and the parade starting two hours later, it is likely that several of the unseasoned would not make it to the parade even if it ran right past on Division. If they did, they would be seeing two parades by that time.

For those wanting to whet their whistles at a festive Valley site, O’ Doherty’s Irish Pub and BBQ will be a spot of gold on Saturday from morning to midnight. Several times during the day, the Spokane County Fire Fighter’s Pipe and Drum group will be blowing and tapping the roof off with their bagpipes and snare drums. They play about 10 minutes and are as inspiring as they are loud.

O’ Doherty’s is our version of the Irish pub, a global phenomenon which numbers 1,694 in America, 861 in Ireland, 100 in Asia, 18 in the Middle East and 11 in Africa, according to Though Ireland would only be the 23rd largest if it were one of our fifty states, this leprechaun-sized country’s drinking establishments apparently set the bar for bars globally.

Our Irish pub was Porky’s Barbeque when Terry and Renee Best took over several years ago. With that business in the pits they teamed up with the downtown O’Doherty’s and transformed it into an Irish pub with southern style barbeque and traditional Irish vittles, drinks and decor.

Personally, I never have strayed from their savory barbeque until writing this story. I tried an item on their menu called the Butte Pasty, a lunch meal that Irish wives in Butte, Montana, lovingly prepared for their hard-working miner husbands. Why so many Irish migrated to Butte and how they came up with this scrumptious ethnic beef brisket delicacy, covered in rich brown gravy, I was not able to clearly Google.

The robust atmosphere at O’Doherty’s on Saturday will treble if not quadruple on Tuesday, the day a clock on the wall has been counting down to by the tenth of a second since last St. Patrick’s Day.

If you can’t get a seat there, and do not want to stand like many will, ride on down the road to the Iron Horse. This horse of many colors celebrates all holidays with flair and once again starting on Saturday the 14th it will be so green it should be temporarily renamed the Irish Horse.

The best answer, however, to the question “how green is our Valley?” is Conley’s Place, the local icon amongst independent restaurants. The owners, Jennifer and Ed Conley have been jauntily dancing to the tune of their own Irish jig since 1992 when they bought the Pioneer Pies restaurant that Jennifer had been managing for seven years.

Like the Bests at O’Doherty’s, the Conley’s reinvented their place and took up the Irish flag while keeping a delicious remnant of the old business, which in their case was the Pioneer Pies actual Pioneer Pies’ pies which sell like hot cakes by the slice or by the pie.

While it is a comfortable, fun and tasty place to dine all year, during March it looms above the rest like the jolly green giant of the Valley dishing out tasty Irish niblets all month long from a special St. Patrick’s menu featuring all the traditional Emerald Isle staples like pork chops, baked salmon and corned beef made with Conley’s private recipes and personal care.

As in years past, the month-long celebration reaches a lofty false summit on parade day with live entertainment by The Crooked Kilt Ensemble and Irish Dancers starting at 5:30 and then peaks on Tuesday the 17th when they return and get things rolling at 4:30 in the afternoon.

At Conley’s Place that day it will be a gaily Gaelic scene running simultaneously at thousands of venues across Spokane and the Northwest, and across North America and apparently across the globe. There really is no other holiday of the year quite like it with so much global goodwill and good cheers, which befits a holiday honoring a saint.

Their Irish flags will proudly be displayed on St. Patrick's day, on this day however, they were not so much.

Their Irish flags will proudly be displayed on St. Patrick’s day, on this day however, they were not so much.

This Butte Patsy I had at O'Doherty's was did a lot more for my tastebuds than it did my eyes. While it looks like part callizone and part burrito, it ate like a savory pot pie.

This Butte Patsy I had at O’Doherty’s  did a lot more for my tastebuds than it did my eyes. While this plain little dish looks  part callizone and part burrito, it ate like a savory beef brisket pot pie.

When the timer on the wall hits zero hour, O'Doherty's expldes.

When the timer on the wall hits zero hour, O’Doherty’s expldes.

I have to wonder how long the herd will continue to stampede Buffalo Wings Sports Bar and Restaurant that opened last month at the Valley Mall. Since this is the chain’s 455th place since 1983, I am assuming this not a flash in the pan, but I would think only a Times Square location could sustain what I have been seeing at our new B-Dubs.
If this were a movie opening, it would be like James Cameron’s Titanic, riding high at the top of everyone’s list of must-see dining. I have been Buffalo-watching since they opened and have been astounded by the numbers that have flocked the place. During the first few weeks the wait at times was two hours long. I went in by myself once on a Sunday around noon and told the hostess I just wanted to sit at the bar, expecting her to let me pass and seat myself. Instead, she started taking down my name like she expected me to wait for the first available bar stool. I told her I am not a waiter when it comes to sitting alone at a bar and off I went down the road a bit.
The next Sunday I went back earlier and I was able to get a spot at the bar. It was a first for me when the hostess escorted me to what turned out to be the last opening. I found it a bit embarrassing, like I needed any help finding a bar stool. Though I knew that I was there to research this blog, to the rest of the packed bar, which all seemed to turn and watch me following my young guide, it had to look a lot like I was drinking alone fairly early on a Sunday morning. That is something I prefer to be more stealth about.
While I might have been sinning solo on a Sunday morning, there were a lot of others there skipping Sunday School to watch football as well. If you consider how popular this chain is and that the scene I was witnessing was being repeated 455 times across the nation, B-Dubs is responsible for a lot backsliding across America. It is a great place to relapse and relax with large-screen, high-def plasmas lining the walls broadcasting every N.F.L. game being played. Back to back jumbo screens in the center of the building separate the bar from the family dining area, which is only slightly bigger and only slightly less boisterous.
Part of the appeal is the noise level which for a place to eat, B-Dubs is like being at the stadium live. If you are going there to have a nice quiet meal, go somewhere else. Likewise, if you are going there for really good food, go somewhere else. It is not that the food is bad, it is just that I find it very chain-esque, meaning it holds its own with Red Robbins and IHOP and all their nationwide rivals competing in the hunger game.
Though they have a fine and full menu, it is a success story that came in on a wing if not prayer. I find it interesting that the Spokane Valley took so long to get our first B-Dub while distant outposts like Billings and Missoula have been enjoying their Buffaloes for a while now. Could it be that B-Dubs was buffaloed by, or perhaps just plain chicken of the established local wing slingers? Though I am not sure how healthy a chicken wing is, there does seem to be some healthy competition selling it.
I believe Flaming Joe’s was the Valley’s first wing joint and from the start they have been a testament to the fact that the Valley loves its wing just as much as the next town. I have never been a fan of the vinegar-based buffalo flavor nor the heat when it comes to hot wings, but if a person feels different about these things, Flamin’ Joe’s has always had their wing. Apparently, more than some like it hot since Joe’s features eight increasingly hotter original buffalo sauces that peak at a sauce they call Code Red. I am a sweet and gooey kind of a guy and they have me amply covered with 18 different sauces. Elaine, on the other hand, is a dry rub kind of gal, only wingly speaking, of course, and they easily take care her kind of bird with 7 different versions.
The Ref opened not long ago and proved that the Valley had a big enough appetite to fly two wing joints at the same time, though apparently our wing cravings had increased since a few years before when we let Wingers down at the Mall. Unlike Wingers, but like Flaming Joe’s, The Ref is locally owned. Unlike Flaming Joe’s owner, The Ref’s owner Fred Lopez, has not been involved in any federal sting operations and has been on a tear opening the Roadhouse country night club, the Black Wolf gaming center and is now remodeling The old Moose Lodge just off Francis into a country night club and concert hall after opening The Ref.
The night to try one of his 31 flavors is Wednesday when they sell them for 65 cents apiece. They are great wings and I am sure they sell a lot of them but I can’t be sure because on that night I am at Boston’s where they sell wings in the bar for only 35 cents. They have been doing it for years and it is not a very well-kept secret. It is elbow to elbow, as the ravenous, heaving crowd pile up gleaned and cleaned wing bones, going through yards of napkins, attempting to keep the sauce from oozing past their own elbows and onto the elbows of their neighbors.
Though you could never tell it by the Wednesday night crowd at Boston’s, I would guess that the Buffalo has sucked a lot of wing lovers from the Ref and Joe’s and Boston’s, with which it shares the parking lot. Like all types of food enthusiasts, Buffalo wing enthusiasts tend to roam when something bigger and better and more boisterous comes to town. I root for B-Dubs and the army of young servers and cooks they have put to work, but at the same time I am partial to the wing status quo. Hopefully, the Valley is up to the task of eating our way to the success yet another wing eatery. Judging by our overall slowly but steadily increasing average weight, it is likely that we are up to the task.


These are the wings from B-Dubs and these are how they serve them. Elaine did not like eating out of paper boats though she did like their wings.

These are the wings from B-Dubs and these are how they serve them. Elaine did not like eating out of paper boats though she did like their wings.

The Refs wings are dang good. Afreind of mine from New York who has been eating wings since they were invented in Buffalo thinks these are about the best in the Valley.

The Refs wings are dang good. Afreind of mine from New York who has been eating wings since they were invented in Buffalo thinks these are about the best in the Valley.


While The Ref's taste may compare with Boston's wings, their Wednesday night price of 65 cents a wing does not stack up next to Boston's 35 cents. Elaine and I can gnaw our way through about 20 of these. That's $7.

While The Ref’s taste may compare with Boston’s wings, their Wednesday night price of 65 cents a wing does not stack up next to Boston’s 35 cents. Elaine and I can gnaw our way through about 20 of these. That’s $7.

Flamin' Joes has a lot of good grub. I like the waffle fries they serve with their wings.

Flamin’ Joes has a lot of good grub. I like the waffle fries they serve with their wings.

My advice for you when dining at B-Dubs is to stick to the well-worn path. Daring to try other items beyond their tried and true wings could lead to disaster. This Tailgater Sampler looked interesting but tasted not so much so.    All three dips were bland and tasted watered down. When Elaine told the mananger who ecame by and enthusiastically inquired how much we like the food, he replied they never watered anyhthing down because it all came prepackaged. Maybe that is the problem. But the wings on the sampler were quite tastey.

My advice for you when dining at B-Dubs is to stick to the well-worn path. Daring to try other items beyond their tried and true wings could lead to disaster. This Tailgater Sampler looked interesting but tasted not so much so.
All three dips were bland and tasted watered down. When Elaine told the mananger who ecame by and enthusiastically inquired how much we like the food, he replied they never watered anyhthing down because it all came prepackaged. Maybe that is the problem. But the wings on the sampler were quite tastey.



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

I was sad to see two Valley hospitality establishments did not make it into the 2012. Both Victoria’s Espresso on Pines and T Prano’s  on Sprague near Bowdish have been around for perhaps as long as 10 years ( though T Pranos was known nearly all that time as Pinnochio’s.) Small independent eateries are like marriages in that they often dissolve after years of weathering the trials of life.

On a brighter note, Monica Sanders and her Love at First Bite  cupcake bakery just down Sprague a ways from T Pranos is going like a batter out of hell cooking up as many as 20 dozen each day. Elaine and I stopped in Saturday around 2 in the afternoon and found her display case nearly empty as she appeared from the back with a batch of freshly baked  Red Velvet reinforcements which another waiting customer and I snatched  two of before they could take their  place on the front lines.

It has been an ongoing battle each day to keep enough of her sweet ammo stocked up to meet  the onslaught of daily desserters  who come in each day seeking her little nummy-nummer bellybombs. She told us that since this was her first year she did not know what to expect and was told not to expect much in January. But it turns out she is doing way better than she or anyone else guessed that she would and has been caught on more than one occasion with her apron  down.
I guess I have been in La La land these past few years and was not aware that cupcakes have been making a run on doughnuts for the top pastry snack. Saturday’s outing brought me up to speed fast. On the one hand I was flabbergasted that this one-woman shop tucked away in an easily overlooked strip-mall location could sell so many cupcakes by 2 in the afternoon.
On the other hand, as I devoured this small but heavenly gourmet-level snack that only cost $2.50, I could see why cupcake shops like Monica’s have sprinkled across America in recent years. And on a final hand (if one is allowed to have more than two), I learned that the Spokane Valley has a very crafty and talented soldier fighting keep up with our demands, helping us to win the cupcake war but perhaps not so much with our battle of the bulge.

Monica Sanders, a Columbian native married to a Valley firefighter, said her husband inspired her to create a job she loved showing up at each day. Though she does not have a website, her Facebook page has 1,131 fans that get daily updates on the twelve flavors, out of 80, that she baking that day.

We had to take a few home. Clockwise and tummyfoolish: guava cheesecake, lemon huckleberry cheesecake,german chocolate and red velvet. They ate as good as they looked.

Facebook page: Love @ First Bite
Love @ First Bite Desserts on Urbanspoon

Caruso's Sandwich Company is nestling in at a building the Valley has been dining at since 1965. Located at the corner of Argonne and Montgomery, it is in the heart of the Valley's most intense culinary beat. If I was told I had to pick a two-block area in the Spokane Valley where I would be forced to dine every night for the rest of my life, this would be the spot. Across the street to the north lies a Pizza Hut, Ambrosia Bistro, Subway and Panda Express. Just to the south soar the towering signs of the behemoths of fastfood including Jack, Wendy, BK and McDonald's. Given that Longhorn Barbeque and Timber Creek Buffet are also in the hood, I could easily spend all eaternity dining around this cornucopia of eateries.

To compete in this mad melee of marketed meals Caruso's has sunk a lot of bread into the old and venerable building. Some of it went into this unusual little statue/art piece between the building and the sidewalk on the Argonne side. Around the corner on the northside of the building they put in a raised concrete patio with an outdoor gas firepit covered by what is left of the old carport that served for years when the building housed the A & W Rootbeer stand.

Converting the interior from Scotty's Bar and Grill, the building's most recent occupant, to the stylish sandwich shop it now is , took the most serious amount of lettuce. Gone are all traces of the former bar and everything has been redone, costing somewhere between 200k and 300k, I would guess. They are going to need a lot of dough to raise that kind of bread. While Caruso's is not a mint, they do indeed knead their dough each morning and make their own bread fresh from their secret recipes and I can testify to the tastiness of their sourdough variety.

As tasteful as the remodel project was done, the Cordon Bleu sandwich I had there recently was done even tastier. However, like remodelling these days, Caruso's sandwiches are spendy. A half sandwich is around $6 and a whole is $12 which is more than you would spend at a sit down restaurant. But most restaurants don't make this good of a sandwich, certainly the sub store across the way does not. Caruso's also serves pizza and breakfast as well as beer and wine which makes them unique with the speed and casualness of a fastfood plus the quality and variety of a good restaurant

But will this newcomer in the old building make it in today’s vast and competitive hospitality trade that is so well represented in the surrounding neighborhood? While most people love to play armchair restaurant owner  and believe they know all the moves new places should and should not make, I am agnostic which means I don’t know. It is a lack of false pride and know-it-allness based upon having owned and operated one for four years in sickness and in health. But I do know this property and  its history very well. Maybe there are hints about the future in the past, maybe not.

In 1965, one of the three Armstrong brothers who operated the  first national burger franchise business in the Spokane Valley, A & W, hired my dad  to put in the foundation to the building. My dad and his partner, Don Barden, had been running their sub-contracting company, Custom Basements, for three years at the time. Dad has been retired for nearly 13 years now and Don Barden has  passed away. I know A & W preceded McDonald’s in the Valley because Dad put in the foundation for that franchise’s first Valley location on Sprague across from U-City when I was in about 4th or 5th grade.

At their peak, the Armstrongs had five A & W’s in the Valley from Greenacres to Dishman. The Argonne store prospered and they called upon Custom Basements again in the summer of 1975 to install the foundation  for the eating area they were adding on to the west side of the drive-in. Since it was a summer construction project, I worked on the job myself. To call my father frugal, would be like calling Bill Gates wealthy. He still takes pride retelling the story of how he pulled off and reused the original footing formboards that had been buried in place for ten years to save the Armstrongs a few bucks. “They were a little soggy after all that time, but they worked fine,” Dad told me recently when I quizzed him about his history with the building.

For one reason or another, the A & W at the corner of Argonne and Montgomery did not make it out of the 80’s, nor did the other A & W’s run by the Armstrongs. In 1989 a guy who I had gone to school with from 3rd grade , Terry Mazzie, was hired by new owners to convert the A & W into a Wolffy’s. His construction company gave the building its second major remodel, updating it to an older burger selling era, the one just before the one  it had originally been built for. Through the 90’s Wolffy’s sold old-fashioned burgers and shakes the way they did in the 50’s.

Then around 2002 another friend of mine, Del Stratton, was hired to convert the premises from its Wolffy’s trappings into Scotty’s Bar and Grill. I watched this transformation fairly close since I was in the business at the time and Scotty was often at my business. He told me it cost $250,000 to give the place its third setting in 37 years. Though Scott Reckord  left that business not long after he and Patty opened it and went on to start up Sullivan Scoreboard with his new partner Deanna, Scotty’s made it for approximately 9 year’s before following Wolffy’s tracks down the trail of broken dreams and financial setback.

I don’t know who the Caruso people hired to complete this most recent do-over, but I know enough to know that they did a good job and that it cost a fair to middlin’ amount. Is the fourth time the charm? Most armchair owners would say the location is jinxed since three businesses ended there. But I don’t know.

It reminds me of another location in the Valley that my Dad and his partner also put in the foundation for back in the 60’s. Having stewarded their profits wisely through the years, by 1968 they were able to buy the old Torrey’s Lockers property at the corner of Sprague and Moffit and build a building for Mr. Steak. For 20 years that national franchise stayed and paid the rent, but then they left and were followed by a succession of forgotten ventures. By the time Mike Robb and his family tied up their Iron Horse there, the place had earned the reputation as a loser. That was about 12 years ago and the Horse is at full gallop.

So it seems to me that Caruso’s has a good shot. I know they have found a worthy building that has a rich history serving the hungry Valley well, built and rebuilt through the years by hard-working guys like my Dad and Terry and Del who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty and then go into places like A & W and Wolffy’s and Caroso’s where they wash those hands and sit down for a good lunch.

(Well actually, Dad was too frugal to take the time to eat lunch at a restaurant or drive-in on a work day. He never took more than a 30-minute break to eat the lunch my mother prepared for him. But that is why he has been retired all these years and still owns the building at Sprague and Moffit along with other investments that allow him to travel with Mom and pick up the tab when he takes his family to places like Caruso’s.)
Caruso's on Urbanspoon

This is an old Valley Trivia piece from a past Scoop newsletter:  Long before the Valley had McDonald’s it had A & W Rootbeer stands and quite a few of them. One was at the current Conley’s Restaurant location next to the White Elephant, one was at the corner of Montgomery and Argonne where Scotty’s Bar and Grille is now located, another was on Trent near Fowler road ,one was just east of Deja Vu(the old Dishman Theater), another was at the current location of King’s restaurant in Greenacres  and the last was located at the Mustard Seed location recently torn down when Winco Grocery opened.

To read more Spokane Valley trivea click here.

A feature story on Sullivan Scoreboard’s start.

One on the Iron Horse.

The above Scoopon (poop on Groupon) may seem a bit meager and not worth the effort to those unfamiliar with Deanna Reckord’s daily lunch special which she makes one at a time with as much love as your gramma put into anything she ever cooked just for you. The photos below depict a few of the reasons why my eyes well up with tears of sadness and joy each time Deanna sets my midday meal before me. Sadness because I’m reminded of both of my dear grandmothers who have long ago moved up to that big kitchen in the sky, and joy because I know I’m about to eat something that they would have been proud to feed me.

This is what I’m talking about. Elaine and I always have to split her sandwiches. There is too much ooey-gooey, cheesy-weezy, yummy-nummy goodness stuffed into each one. Forgive that I took a bite or two before snapping this picture with my Droid. I started to take the picture first but as soon as I got this juicy thing into focus, my left hand reached into the picture and snatched up the sandwhich to my mouth as my stomach over-ruled my brain. It was a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.

This is the same kind of sandwich, I think she calls it her turkey-bacon melt (her specials could be called “uniques” because they aren’t on the menu). This day it was like super special because it came with French Onion soup. Forgive that this picture is out of focus. I was crying so hard that this was as close as I could get.

I’m not even sure what kind of wrap this was besides fantastic. I had to go without Elaine on this particular day (you do what you got to do) and so I could only wade through half of it. The other half served as dinner since Elaine was still at work.

This is what a “grilled ham and cheese” looks like at the Sullivan Scoreboard when Gramma Deanna is cooking it up as her lunch special. This was so good that I had this pic enlarged to about 36×42 and professionally framed. It now hangs above the fireplace.

And this is the grandmotherly gourmet who sees to it that none go away hungry. By now these pictures have given you a pretty good picture of how special things are around lunchtime at the Sullivan Scoreboard. That  is why our “one dollar off” Scoopon is a better deal than any of those screaming Groupon deals that the masses flock to. Truth is, anyone who reads this should be sending me ten bucks for giving them the scoop on this remarkable repast that deserves to be remarkably reknown.

Scotty's Sullivan Scoreboard on Urbanspoon

For my kids, the A & W east of Sullivan on Sprague has been there the better part of their lives as well as a part of their better memories. They were stunned when I told them on Saturday that I had just driven by and saw all new signage for an interloper called “Wraps.” What had happened to our old family friend? I told them I was buying lunch on Monday and we’d find out what in the blazes was going on around there.
So five of us headed down yesterday and discovered that while there was no trace of the old A & W from the outside, it is still pretty much there minus all the franchise branding and advertising. Turns out that the people who own the franchise here in Spokane decided to try something new. While their other three A & W’s in town are remaining as A & W’s, they decided to create a new kind of fast food joint called “Wraps” at the Valley location.
Though there are plenty of wraps, the name is a little misleading because there is a lot more on the menu. They seem to have everything that A & W had including the 21 piece shrimp that I often ate, the chilli cheese hot dogs and fries that were standards there and even the good old root beer floats though I would be surprised if it were A & W root beer since they had Mug rootbeer on the pop machine. Beyond the items you would expect at a fast food place that sold wraps and burgers (which is a combination you might not expect), they also have lots of chicken, salads, Mexican and five different kinds of fries – regular, juicy, gravy, chilli cheese and cheesy gravy. On top of all that have a big breakfast menu.
We all thought the food was fine and the portions and prices were quite fair and so I’m thinking these guys may be onto something at their new fast food joint with everything.
BTW- they are open for breakfast.

Wraps did not make it long. It closed recently.

Ferraro’s on east Sprague has what I consider to be very good Italian food and it also has what I unequivocally know to be one of the very sharpest owners in this town. Elaine and I split a wonderful seafood fettucine there for dinner last week. It came with fresh french bread and homemade garlic butter, tossed green salad and ice cream dessert – all for $14 which means we had a nice meal for $7 apiece. The alfredo sauce was rich and creamy and there was nothing but cherished chewing followed by savory swallows. It was the kind of food where one looks forward to any after burps that might bring back gaseous mementoes of the gone-too-soon delicious dinner.
For us, however, the good food is a distant second to the waitress who served us and the hostess who sat us. The former was named Crystal and the latter was Jacque and both their last names is Swanson which happens to be our last name as well. How could we not love them, they are our beautiful teenage daughters. Crystal, who just graduated from West Valley, began working as a hostess more than a year ago and was recently moved up to serving. Pat Ferraro thought so much of her that he hired Jacque when she turned 16 last fall. He thought so much of both of them that he just hired Natalie, 17, their best friend and cousin.
There is an interesting story behind Natalie recently being hired. She had a summer job lined up at Applebee’s, or so she was led to believe. But when she went in for her orientation she was told that the person who hired her was no longer with them and that they were overstaffed. So this Apple bummer bee assistant manager, or whatever he was, has her take an aptitude test. She is a kid and so she tries to be honest which is more than he was being. Based upon her responses, the guy tells her she is not cut out to be a hostess at Applebee’s. What a crock of crap. (That is one of the reasons I seldom eat at the chains – they are managed by corporate-trained managers whereas independents are normally run by life-trained owners.)
This being her first job experience, Natalie was devastated and went home and cried herself to sleep. When our girls heard about it they immediately told Pat, who had been interviewing for a hostess, that Natalie was available. He reasoned that Natalie was family to his trusted employees, which are family to Pat, and that was good enough. I would wager that in his entire career as a long-time restaurateur,Pat has never used an aptitude test to judge the worth of a person and that makes him smarter than all the corporate run restaurants in this town. But I have further reason to believe that he is smarter than his local competition as well.
That night as we were leaving Ferraro’s, Pat asked Elaine for the tenth time or so if she would come to work for him at the new place he was opening at the old Dewey, Cheatum and Howe location on north Division. He had been asking her for weeks and Elaine had just kind of laughed it off. She was making a living painting and working with me building houses and was not looking for a job. But Pat was very persistent and that night he told her she could make out her own schedule and take the shifts she wanted. Pat said he needed her help in the bar where he had no experience.
While Elaine was honored and moved, I thought to myself that it was about time that someone appreciated this women like she deserved. I bought a niteclub/restaurant, The Rock Inn, nine years ago because I believed in Elaine so much. She has more personality and professionalism than any owner, let alone wait person, that I have seen in all of the Valley watering holes. Yet in the 5 years since we left the Rock Inn, no one in the Valley has been smart enough take advantage of her. She has tried to get a job at different times but only offered a few lousey shifts when a couple of the owners were desperate.
I crave Charlie P’s food, and I love the atmosphere at the Iron Horse and the Sullivan Scoreboard is a lot of fun, and furthermore I consider all the owners of these Valley establishments and several others to be our friends. I have thought for years, however, that they were all foolish for not asking Elaine to come whip their staffs into shape, considering none of them have really great service. She would be an example to everyone that local bars do not have to settle for the mediocrity in service that they all have become complacent with.
At the Rock Inn, Elaine not only took care of our 4 kids, she also ran our wait staff, waited on tables, organized and served dozens of banquets and meetings, and bartended 4 nights a week. On top of all that she did our books and the year we did 1.2 million in sales she was off $1.36. Now that is a person that has something to offer. But until now, no one was smart enough to see that but me.
While he knows we owned a place and that Elaine helped run it,Pat has never seen her serve nor has he interviewed her or given her a silly aptitude test. But he knows what an outgoing and upbeat person she is and he knows how much how he loves the daughters she raised. Based on that and what he knows about the business and what he knows about people, Pat felt he had to have Elaine at his new place. I think that is about the smartest thing I’ve seen in a very long time.
Pat’s persistence finally paid off and Elaine is going to retire from painting and go to work doing what she loves to do at the new Dewey’s Burgers and Brew on Division later this month. She put together a schedule that allows her to help me on the houses and still be there for Pat 5 days a week. It will be a challenge for her, but she is more than capable of delivering and living up to the tremendous belief both Pat and I have in her.
Elaine and Crystal who started hostessing at the Rock Inn when she was 10.
Jacque the hostess that we love the mostest.

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Yesterday was one of those weird mornings when all the day’s plans were swept away with the first peek out the window. I didn’t actually have to look past the rain-soaked window pane to see that I wouldn’t be doing the outdoor painting to which my morning had been committed. For some reason that caught me off guard yesterday. Disoriented, with an uncommitted morning on my hands, things only got weirder as Elaine towed me out for breakfast at the new Qdoba Mexican Grill, which had opened earlier Sunday night at midnight.
It was weird enough that Elaine would go to breakfast because, even though it is both the kids’ and my favorite meal out, if she has the choice between sleeping in or going out for breakfast, she is fast asleep. Beyond that,it would have been weird enough to have breakfast at a Mexican fast food joint that does not serve breakfast. But yesterday morning all of that weirdness wasn’t enough. It turns out that Qdoba Mexican Grill openings are turned into a media event. For this one they hired 92.9 FM to do a blitz campaign on it and they were capping it off with a live remote which Elaine had been listening to all during the hour plus that she takes to prepare herself each morning.
I first wondered what the heck was going on the day or two before when I saw people camping in tents in the parking lot out near the southwest corner of Pines and Mission. I figure it must have had something to do with Qdoba’s eminent opening but I was baffled why anyone would find that worthy of parking-lot camping. I was pretty sure they weren’t going to sell Justin Bieber concert tickets.
According to my kids who had been hearing about it on the radio, Qdoba was giving away something like a one-year free pass to the first hundred or so patrons that showed up. The details don’t matter, the point is that we were talking about it and so were the thousands of people who drive through that intersection each day and the thousands who listen to 92.9. I have no idea if it is cost-effective or not but I believe it did a very good job of letting everybody know that the new Qdoba here in the Valley is open for and means business.
I’m sure the hyped-up hoopla is a tried and true recipe that has opened hundreds of bustling Qdoba’s across America, as is everything else about the new Qdoba. Even though I was having dinner for breakfast because of the unusual circumstances,I actually found the pulled pork burrito with their special Mexican bbq sauce to be very good and plenty to eat. Elaine’s grilled steak and cheese quesadia was good enough that she had to finally shoo my darting fingers away from her plate as I attempted to go beyond a few taste-testing nibbles.
The thing that impressed me was the way they took the Subway format and applied it to burritos and tacos. I liked that I was able to build my burrito just the way I wanted, though I was surprised they didn’t nuke it at the end. I like my salsa mildly hot, not my burrito. Even so, it was tasty and the wrap was the softest, chewiest and lightest I had ever had. The thing that I was not impressed with was the price. Every item is in the $7 price range and so with a drink and tax you might as well figure $9 a head. That is stretching it a bit in this neck of the woods for a fast food dinner let alone a breakfast.
But I don’t think company headquarters wants us to look at Qdoba as a fast food joint. While the ingredients are fresh and the decor and in-store marketing is designed in New York, the food prep and seating are fast food. The same prep can be had at Subway and better seating can be had at the Argonne McDonald’s.
To sway our minds to place them a notch above and so pay their price, Qdoba uses the Big Bang theory at store openings and then works all the angles to keep the hype hot.
I know the ads do a pretty good job because I had thought Qdoba Mexican Grill was a restaurant based on the media that I never paid a lot of attention to. It appears to be company policy for individual stores to also manipulate the social networking media from the get go with Twitter and the rest. After being open just one day, the Valley Qdoba is right on track with more than 1,100 friends on their Facebook page.
While all these thoughts were forming a blog post in my mind, Elaine was paying attention to not one detail of the new place. I doubt she could remember what she ordered, especially since she just glanced at the menu and quickly told me to get her a quesadia as she bee-lined it to the table right in front of Dave, Ken and Molly doing their popular morning radio show right there live in the Qdoba dining room. There they were, as Dave would say, transformed through the miracle of radio technology from voices over the airwaves in our bathroom to live people just a few blocks away.
There sat her favorite celebrity in the whole world. Elaine loves Molly not because she is the world’s biggest radio personality, but because she has listened to her every morning for years as she gets prepared for the day. Molly is her kind of gal. If you ask Elaine to give you the first and last name of any other local radio host she could not. The only two whose first names she could give you would be Dave and Ken. Until yesterday in fact, she had always put Ken’s voice with Dave’s face on the billboards and vise versa.
That amazed her and she was glad to get things straight because she does appreciate the guys and loves the chemistry between all three of them. But then Elaine would like anyone that Molly Allen liked. Through the years I have been a casual listener and I like them a lot as a team, all equal. Be that as it may, none of them, individually or collectively, could have gotten me in there to eat a pork burrito for breakfast.
But there I was right beside Elaine, eating Mexican food for breakfast and taking in this once-in-a-life time event. For both of us it was it was a Kodak moment. Elaine wanted to preserve the moment when Molly came to our neighborhood for breakfast. I wanted the picture to remind Elaine that she really can go out for breakfast as long as she loves the company enough.
As for Qdoba I am sure they won’t miss Elaine for breakfast, especially since they don’t serve it.

Look us up on Facebook, we are quite a distant third behind Qdoba and Molly, who has 4400 some friends.


Conley’s Place is one of those rare Spokane Valley restaurants: it is an independent and it has been around for more than 20 years if my guess is correct. Anyway, it seems like at least 20 years  since it was Pioneers Pies, which was a relatively short-lived endeavor compared to Conley’s which came after it  and the A&W Rootbeer stand which went before it.

That is where my sister got her first job running out burgers and root beer on those old trays that hooked on the windows of the driver’s door of the cars parked under the awning like they do now at Sonics for nostalgia. That was back around 1974 and the place was a bit of a relic back then. Between Conley’s tenure and the history of the building, when you eat at this setting, you are eating at a place that Valley diners have been going to for decades.

Conley’s was long established before the power house chains like Applebee’s and Marie Calender arrived in the Valley to instant success. Conley’s has years on the slew of Valley Mall eateries like the Red Robin and Boston’s and Outback Jack’s. Time and heritage is one thing Conley’s has on these high-profile, big name restaurants. Family operated is  another advantage none of the big boys can ever match Conley’s on.

Breakfast is perhaps Conley’s biggest leg up on the corporate competition. Partly because most of them do not serve breakfast, but mostly because those places that do cannot come close to Conley’s cozy comfort cuisine. They have a menu with such a wide array of choices that Denny’s, IHOP and Shari’s would have to join forces to come up with half of the original dishes that Conley’s offers.

I took my daughter there a few weeks ago, (breakfast is every kid’s favorite meal out) and the choices were so vast that we took nearly till lunch to decide what we wanted for breakfast. I finally decided to try their interesting dish that sounded like a  delectable version of biscuits and gravy where they put eggs and bacon on top of the biscuits and under the gravy. My daughter had to try their stuffed croissants even though all my kids always go with French Toast.

I have a feeling that we could have gone with anything on the menu and we would have been happy as clams, it all sounded so good. I know for sure that our choices turned out to be as good as they sounded on the menu. You got to love a place where the food is as good or better than the menu promises. The corporate breakfast places not only have overly enthusiastic descriptions of their selections on the menu, they also employ magical photographers to illustrate them.  I would encourage everyone to be independent minded and try breakfast at Conley’s where their menu actually under promises and their cooks over deliver.

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Conley's Place Restaurant on Urbanspoon