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
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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.

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.

 

 

Back in the distant days of my childhood when I first converted to N.F.L.ism at the tender age of ten, the congregation was much smaller than it is today. Since time immemorial, games were only observed on the Sabbath, but then in the early Seventies we were given a latter day night game on Monday evenings. For me, it was always a bad way to start out the week as far as school was concerned since even the lamest match ups were always more interesting than homework assignments.
Unbeknownst to me as I sat in the living room watching Monday Night Football by myself throughout my youth, there were millions of adult followers faithfully attending M.N.F. parties in bars across the land. Local watering holes would try to build their football flock with cheap food and drink specials and giveaways. It was a competitive game but back then Monday nights were well attended.
In the past few years, however, Monday nights have become less special as the powers on high have chosen to give America more of what it craves with Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. So now we have S.N.F. on NBC., M.N.F. on ESPN, and T.N.F. on N.F.L., all of which can be watched from the safety of your living room with just the basic cable package.
The odd thing is that while the fans stay home for the most part to watch the night games, they come out in mass on Sundays. At the risk of ruffling the same sort of feathers that John Lennon did, I have to say that the N.F.L. seems to rival the Lord in popularity at least for a few hours on Sundays during the football season. There is neither hyperbole nor hypocrisy in my hypothesis as I have been have been dropping in at several different local bars to get a grip on the Sunday gridiron gatherings.
Two weeks ago when the Seahawks played at 10, all the good seats at Goodtymes were filled by kickoff. Owner Debi Smith has added two mega screens that occupy a huge portion of the southern wall. At both ends a trained parrot roots just for the Seahawks. On top of all that, the kitchen puts out a great breakfast buffet for $12.
The 1# ranked Seahawks are a huge boon to the Sunday bar business and while the wily veteran at Goodtymes has built a large patronage with her deft plays, sophomore sports bar, The Ref, seems to have scored most of the remaining Valley Seahawk fans. Somehow last year in its rookie season The Ref came out of nowhere and became Seahawk Central. That same morning that Goodtymes was packed, the Ref was a sea of Hawk fans from the banquet room across the large bar area and into the family dining room. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but blue jerseys being stretched a bit further with beer, pizza and chicken wings.
You would have thought that everyone was at these two places but just around the corner from the Ref, Bolo’s had a good crowd of their own. For years Bolo’s has been serving a breakfast buffet at just $10. Like the Ref, they have the Season Ticket which lets the bar play any game on any big screen. Debi at Goodtymes, on the other hand, has given up on it because she thinks the $200 weekly price is not worth it.
While I can commiserate with her, as a true believer in the power of the game, I see no reason to just watch the Seahawk game when I can watch all the others out of the corner of my eye on several nearby screens at the same time. The Season Ticket is probably the reason the flock ventures from their living rooms on Sunday only.
The Season Ticket helps me relate to today’s youth lost in front of their computers playing games. I am thankful that I was not exposed to it as a kid because it would have been a sensory overload that surely would have zapped all of my desire to live in the real world. It is bad enough that as a middle-aged guy it zaps my desire to live in the real world on Sundays from the season opener though the final minute of the Super Bowl.
Two more great venues in the Valley to catch all the games are the Sullivan Scoreboard and True Legends. The Scoreboard is more of a blue collar, baseball cap kind of a bar, but that can be a good thing when watching football. True Legends draws a whiter collered crowd, though no less enthusiastic of one. Both True Legends and The Scoreboard put out great breakfast fare for Sunday football and are actually neck and neck when it comes to their Eggs Benedict, (which is the only thing Elaine likes or understands about Sunday football). True Legends, however, has the Scoreboard and everyone else whupped when it comes to size of their big screenie weenie and when it comes to football, size matters.
While I highly commend and recommend all of these N.F.L. tabarnacles, there is one that I deem the best place to observe the N.F.L. on Sundays and that would be the Black Diamond. They are really on their game with breakfast served all day as well as a great normal menu. I have been attending there for the past two years and have seen their flock grow. The Black Diamond is a Valley gem that is gaining in popularity each year and deservedly so.
If you are a nonbeliever and would like to see what the fuss and fun is all about, go to the Black Diamond next Sunday. You’ll see scenes like I did last Sunday where grown men in Raider jerseys cheered for their teem in front of one big screen while across the pool hall a group in Chief jerseys watched the same game and erupeted with cheers and boos at the exact opposite times as their counterparts.
Then when all the games are ending you might be lucky enough to catch a cliffhanger like last Sunday’s game between the Saints and Patriots where Drew Brees threw a last-minute miracle touchdown only to be answered by an even more miraculous last-second touchdown bomb by Tom Brady. If you are lucky enough to see that and still don’t believe then I don’t know what to tell you, because I’m thinking that is what the original Miracle Man had in mind when he instructed us to find heaven on earth.

This was a tastey bratwurst sandwich with carmelized onions that I got at the Black Diamond. I also love their garlic fries. With N.F.L. on every screen, and dozens of pool tables and shuffleboard, there is a lot going  on at The Diamond on Sundays

This was a tastey bratwurst sandwich with carmelized onions that I got at the Black Diamond. I also love their garlic fries. With N.F.L. on every screen, and dozens of pool tables and shuffleboard, there is a lot going on at The Diamond on Sundays

Debi Smith at Goodtymes is for the birds. Beyond the Seahawks on Sunday, she and her daughter raise 42 birds at home.

Debi Smith at Goodtymes is for the birds. Beyond the Seahawks on Sunday, she and her daughter raise 42 birds at home.

Good Job, Elaine

Posted: September 15, 2013 in Best Places to eat in Spokane Valley
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When it comes to a waitress job, not all restaurants are created equal. That is why Elaine, with my gentle and good guidance, went about her recent mission to secure a part-time position at a local eatery with diligence and deliberation. Having waitressed off and on all of her adult life, and having run her own place for four years, Elaine has been on both sides of the table as well as stood over both ends. She has had it very good most of the time but also has had it rough enough to know there are a lot of variables involved and this time she wanted to make sure all the variables were aligned just right.
The perfect place had to be in the Valley. Her last waitress job was at Ferraro’s on north Divison. Pat Ferraro had asked her to help him open the bar in his new restaurant. It was the third time she set up a new bar and it was suppose to be temporary until it lasted two years. The only variable she hated about the job was the location, or rather the drive it took to arrive at that location. The new job had to be easier on her 72′ Mach One that she loves driving everywhere except rush-hour freeways.
The perfect place could not be a chain. One of her first jobs was at the old Sea Galley across from the old University City. It was owned by a big corporation and she loved her job. The problem with the Red Robins and Black Anguses in the Valley today is that they are all run by managers. Most of the managers are young or at least younger than Elaine. They are also less experienced and often intimidated when they see the word owner on Elaine’s work history. It is kind of hard to know that for sure but that is what I concluded after watching her get passed by when she tried to get a job shortly after we closed our place seven years ago.
Another variable the perfect new job had to have was a working owner. Even if the chain managers are not insecure and immature, they are still managers. It is not that we look down on managers, rather it is more that we look up to owners. There is a big difference between running someone else’s place and running your own place. Elaine is the type that gives everything when she’s working and she loves working for an owner that is doing the same.
The new place she was looking for also had to be established with a good reputation. More than most other lines of work, a waitress’s take home pay is directly tied to the success of their employer. While the minimum wage is no longer anything to sneeze at these days, for the waitstaff it is all about the tips. Personally, I think somebody pulled a fast one when the standard tip went from ten to twenty percent and while I haven’t fallen for it, I heartily appreciate all of Elaine’s customers that have.
Along those lines, the perfect spot had to have class. Her spouse not withstanding, Elaine loves classy things. A wait staff is a part of every restaurant’s atmosphere and setting. At the same time a restaurant’s atmosphere and setting is the wait staff’s working environment. All things being equal, why shouldn’t Elaine be surrounded by good taste on her job? If nothing else, it takes a little pressure off me.
Given that all these variables had to be in line, there were not a lot of job opportunities. Only Ambrosia Bistro and Wine Bar at the Argonne Village had everything she wanted except an opening. The fact that they have a very slow turnover is a bad thing only when you are trying to get a job there. She dropped off a resume anyway. During one of her return trips, she told Scott Cook, the owner that he had to hire her sooner or later because she was not going to work any place else. Eventually her persistence fulfilled her prophecy and Scott and his wife, Kara hired her recently.
Elaine soon found that her dream job is even better than she dreamt it would be when she discovered how good they are at running the place and how hard they work at it. The Ambrosia wait staff, which includes their teen-age son, loves working there.
It is the kind of place that when I tell people she got a job there, I always get positive responses. Ambrosia has a great reputation and is loved by everyone who has ever dined or served the diners there. As for me, I have also loved everything I have ever eaten there and have always rooted for them. Now that they hired this cute little waitress that I have the hots for, I am their newest devotee. I win all around because at Ambrosia good things come to those who wait as well as those who eat.

Sandwiches and salads are around $11 while entres hover just south of $20.

Sandwiches and salads are around $11 while entres hover just south of $20. Elaiine and I split this great Club sandwich and then upgraded the salad that came with it to the Ambrosia salad which is chock full of tasty tidbits and covered in a very good raspberry vinaigrette. So we got away with a good lunch there for $6 apiece.

plantation
Mark Baier and his partner David Birge deserve a medal for what they are doing to the old historic building at the corner of Sprague and Vista. I would actually call it important to the Valley as it preserves a small piece of the past, while at the same time promising enjoyment in the present and future. For a while there, I would have bet that corner would have gone the way of the old Ethan Allen building and others throughout the neighborhood that got flattened into car lots.
The building sat vacant for months, stripped of its equipment, for sale and unwanted. Because of the state the building was in after years of neglect, and other issues, nobody wanted to touch it even for the land-only price of $160,000. Demolition of a 10,000 square foot old building just to get the land apparently did not pencil out. Gus Johnson has a pretty good head on his shoulders and I know he looked at it.
I also know a guy named Jesse who looked at it seriously with the idea of bringing it back to life as a night club which it had been for decades. He said mold and asbestos issues made remodeling a losing proposition. I myself thought about the possibilities and even had someone who was thinking about buying the building if Elaine and I wanted to go back in as the Rock Inn, the night club and restaurant we had run years before in that beloved location. Unlike Jesse, I knew the night club business and so I did not need to look at the building.
That building’s demise was set in stone decades before when it was doubled in size, adding what was back then called a dance hall to the established restaurant and bar. It might have been a good move back in the 50’s or early 60’s when the cops told drunk drivers to pour out their drinks on the side of the road and drive straight home and back when there were likely few if any hopping nightspots that size in the Valley. Our landlord, Jack Riley, used to tell me about the good old days when his aunt, Rose Townsend, ran the place. “Craig,” he said a dozen times as we sat and had a few drinks at the bar, “this place is a goldmine.”
That is what I and a very long line of risky business owners thought when we signed his lease. The goldmine soon revealed itself as the money pit. What I took away from my four years is that the building was too big and the business you had to run there was too big as well. It should never have been anything more than just the restaurant and bar. That is how it should have remained and how it is now returning. And I say kudos to them and congratulations to the Valley.
The land itself was historic long before the building was built. The rock pyramid in front is a commemorative marker to the Mullen trail. It was a special place on the old trail where the Walla Walla wagon road intersected and many travelers ended the day’s journey and camped for the night. Slowly the Dishman business area grew around it and the storybook stone building was built to house a zoo with rodeo grounds in the back.
Continuing the location’s destiny as a public gathering spot, the stone buildings were eventually remodeled into the restaurant and bar. It was a place worth keeping and preserving way back in the 40’s and even more so 70 years later. It is one of those odd looking places that you have know idea what you are getting into as you enter and once you are in you are still not sure. You just know that the whoever dreamed up the design and built it out of native stone and virgin logs was a creative and talented and skilled craftsman.
Longer than anywhere else that I am aware of in the area, Valley folks have been eating and drinking and enjoying a few moments of their allotted time in this warm and impressive and unique dining room. Now Mark and David have rescued this castaway from cremation.They own the two adjoining parcels west of the old Plantation building and they originally planned to demolish it.
Luckily, they realized that it was too unique and beloved and historic to reduce to a pile of rubble. Mark said he does not want to even advertise for a tenant until he restores it according to his vision as close as possible to it’s original glory.

Tragic fatalities jar the community, always coming out of nowhere and never making any sense. From the families and friends and coworkers that are at ground zero of the sudden loss out to those who never knew anyone involved, the level of the jar goes from emotional devastation to passing feelings of sadness and thoughts of condolences as we mentally put ourselves in the shoes of the suffering.
Because of the internet and the smart phones most people carry, the news that will move everyone that hears it begins going out immediately. A Facebook page called Spokane News posts all noteworthy incidences as they roll across the police scanner and follows up with the official report as soon as it is released. The page has 36,700 followers and I am one of them. But on Wednesday, August 7th, one of the most jarring days I can remember in the Valley, I was at the scene faster than the speed of Facebook as my path passed by the location of the first of the day’s two tragic fatalities within a few short minutes of the accident.
Heading downtown on the freeway to get to an 8:15 dentist appointment, I could see the traffic up ahead coming to a crawl and so I opted out on the off-ramp that wraps around into Fancher at Sprague. I was going to go all the way into town on Sprague but after waiting through one signal light and calculating that I was about three signals back in the long line of like-minded commuters, I whipped out of the turning lane and went across Sprague and flipped a U-ey by Home Depot. It dawned on me that Third had a lot less lights and so I went back across Sprague on Fancher which shortly turns right into Third.
As I rounded the corner, I could see something had happened just ahead. A man on the north side of the road was beginning to motion for cars to slow down, I noticed he looked very concerned and shaken. The mini-van in front of me quickly parked and blocked the lane, I could tell they were getting involved. As I went around, I was grateful they had blocked the lane and I would have hoped that I would have done the same if I had been the one in front.
Beyond diverting traffic, it appeared there was not much else to do but wait for the emergency vehicles to arrive. As I went around the blocking mini van, I saw a young man lying all alone on his side on the shoulder of the road. He was facing the other way and if he had been lying in a park he would have looked as though he were taking a peaceful nap. But the car with the smashed windshield just beyond him and his stillness told me that he had abruptly come to his final rest.
I drove by at about 8:02. There were no emergency respondents or even sirens in the distance, but the incident was about to be posted on Facebook via Spokane News. When I drove back by on the far side of the freeway 90 minutes later, the area was swarming. Though I had passed by twice, I could not piece together what had happened but as soon as I got home and fired up Facebook I learned exactly what was going on from Spokane News latest update and the comments that had begun streaming in at 9:37 AM.
Mathew Miller, a young and well-loved Valley man, was getting on the freeway right there where Fancher turns into Third and two lanes peel off to the left onto I-90. Apparently he was in the right freeway entrance lane, when the car in the left entrance lane decided, as I had earlier, to get off and avoid the traffic jam. Trouble was that he did not see Matt , who had the right-of-way and they collided. Matt stopped next to the freeway, the other driver stopped on the far side of Third. Matt crossed Third to talk to the driver and then was headed back to his vehicle while talking on the phone when he stepped in the path of another car. He was only 30 years old and had just celebrated his anniversary the night before with his wife Brandy with a dinner at Anthony’s by the Falls.
Spokane News began reporting Wednesday’s second heartbreaking fatality minutes before it even occurred at Trent and Vista. Shortly after 5 pm Spokane News posted a scanner report that someone in a black Jetta hit a car in the Fred Meyer parking lot at Sullivan and Sprague. The man then staggered into the store and when he came back out he got in his car and then hit another car as he sped out of the parking lot.
Minutes later Spokane News posted the report of an accident at Trent and Vista. The man who could not negotiate a parking lot full of slow-moving and parked cars, had somehow made his way to the other side of the Valley. He was on a course of his own making as he drove recklessly and impaired. Brittany Babinski, a beautiful 21-year-old girl that everyone who knew loved, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The car in front of her had time to swerve out of the path of the black Jetta coming head on and full speed into the wrong lane, leaving Brittany no time to react.
As with Mathew Miller, I did not know Brittany and so my feelings were those of sadness and feeling sorry for the families and friends who were suffering from the worst kind of loss. It turned out that the loss of Brittany hit much closer to home as both of my daughters went to West Valley with her. In the old days they probably would have lost touch after graduation but these days friends can stay in touch through Facebook, which they all had.
My daughters were truly heartbroken when they heard the news of Brittany’s accident. Though they seldom saw each other in the flesh, they saw bits and pieces of each others lives posted on Facebook. Sadly, I only knew of her and Matt in death, via the same social network. What an interesting phenomenon, Facebook. What a terribly sad day for the Valley.

Scott Creach part 1

Posted: July 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

I cannot think of a newsworthy incident that has occurred in the Valley so shocking and puzzling as the deadly gunplay between Southern Baptist preacher, Scott Creach, and Sheriff deputy Brian Hirzel, on a hot summer night nearly three years ago.
I first heard the news the next day, Thursday August 26th, on the radio as I drove up to a light on Appleway. I was not paying close attention to the news as I turned north onto University and so I distrusted what I thought I had heard.
How could it be true that Scott Creach, an elderly Valley man, had died at the hand of an officer of the law? I had known the man since 1965 when he brought his wife and three small kids up from Oklahoma, he was a young man of 29 and I was 7-year-old boy.
Even though I had seen him only occasionally since he left my family’s church at 8th and Pines to go preach at Greenacres Baptist Church six years later, Scott had ways of maintaining a presence in a lot of local lives. You might say he wove an interesting and colorful thread through the fabric of Spokane Valley life.
I remember he was running the building project when I worked on my dad’s crew putting in the foundation for the greenhouse he would be shot in front of forty years later. He would go on to build his fledgling plant growing operation into a thriving family enterprise, The Plant Farm, on his property at 4th and Rees .
He preached the last Southern Baptist service I ever sat through 15 years ago. It also happened to be the first one had I sat through in 15 years and I was there because he was baptizing my nephew, Trevor Clark, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost just as he had done for hundreds of others during his 45 years as a preacher.
Far more often I heard his mini-sermons about growing plants that aired weekly for 30 years over the same station that was now broadcasting his bizarre demise. As soon as I got home and went online, I learned that I had heard right.
I waited four weeks before I wrote about what I thought of the affair. I wrote that I found it unbelievable that the officer involved went on a pre-planned vacation the day after the shooting. It would take nearly two weeks before we learned his version of what took place the night Scott died.
He died at 11:07 to be precise, a few hours after he and his wife, Imogene, got home from Wednesday night prayer meeting. A couple of minutes before 11:07 he heard a car pull onto his property. Through the years, The Plant Farm had endured its share of trespassing and thievery and Scott had always policed his own property.
So once again he got up out of bed to investigate. He put on his pants, grabbed his .45 handgun and a flashlight and then went outside, not bothering to put on a shirt. Imogene did not awaken until she heard him go out the door. She immediately glanced at the glowing clock by her bed and it read 11:06.
She got up and looked out the partially opened bedroom window but could see nothing and she heard nothing until she heard her husband shout something out. His voice was silenced by a gunshot. Other ear witnesses that night also heard the gunshot. Less than two minutes had transpired between when she awoke and the shot.
Eventually, Hirzel officially reported that while he was minding his own business filling out paper work on his unmarked cruiser’s computer, Scott approached him with his gun drawn. He said that he told Scott 20 times to put his gun down but Scott told him that he did not have to and instead put the gun in the waist of his pants behind his back and continued to approach.
He said he ordered Scott to drop down and when Scott refused he struck him on the side of the knee with his baton. Rather than comply, Scott went for the gun behind his back, even though it was later determined the chamber was empty.
Hirzel said he feared for his life when he saw Scott reach behind and begin to pull out his gun. He said he believed he had to shoot Scott before Scott shot him. That was it. That was the whole story. Everyone in power stood behind him, from the prosecutor to his boss, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, to the Spokane police department that conducted the investigation.
While I found parts of the story hard to swallow, I finally wrote my blog after it seemed we had been given the whole story, or as much as we were going to get for the time being. In addition to being maddened by the officer’s ill-timed vacation, I wrote that I felt the bottom line was that Scott put himself in harm’s way that night. His untimely death was ultimately his own fault for approaching an officer with a gun anywhere on his half-clad body.
I posted that blog at 5 in the afternoon and by 10 that night, Alan Creach, Scott’s vocal son and my old friend, posted a well written and thought-out comment. After I commented on his comment, he asked to meet him for coffee the next morning. We met instead met at Donna’s Diner in Veradale for lunch where he filled me in on his family’s side of the story.
He told me how his mother had hurriedly dialed 911 after she heard the shot. She then rushed out but was intercepted by one of the police officers that had begun arriving less than a minute after Hirzel’s call went out over the radio. She could see her husband lying in the cruiser’s spotlight on the ground as he looked toward her and feebly raised his hand.
The officer guided her behind one of the cars and out of view. She asked him if it was serious and the officer said it was very serious. When she asked if she should call their kids who lived nearby, he told her that she should. But when she asked to go to her husband’s side, he said she could not, even though at that moment Scott was still alive. He would take approximately 4 minutes to bleed to death from the gunshot wound in his chest.
Imogene later said that was the hardest part of the whole thing, to be held back as her life’s mate of 51 years died without her at his side.
Alan told me during our lunch how difficult the rest of the night was for him and his family as they stood nearby in utter shock and disbelief and despair as investigators went about their task of gathering evidence and recording the scene, the center of which was their father’s lifeless body, stiffening on the ground as his blood congealed beneath him.
Only Alan could share moments like when the fire department came by later and attempted to cleanse away the blood of the slain preacher with a fire hose. Alan said he had to get his tractor and re-grade the lot, working in the blood-stained gravel that had been blasted in every direction by the over-rambunctious stream of water.
Alan talked to me for more than an hour about his family’s ordeal and how he had learned about the way things really work. He was mad and he was frustrated. He felt that he and the community had been lied to repeatedly by the sheriff’s department and that he did not believe, as I had said in my blog, that his father was responsible for his own death.
He felt the official story was full of holes. While I found his side things very interesting and I sympathized with all of my heart, I chose to give the story more time to develop.
That was almost three years ago and I had not seen Alan again until we met recently for another marathon mid-day meal at Max at The Mirabeau. I wanted to hear his take on the family’s $2 million settlement. After the news went out on Friday, June 20th, I emailed Alan. He agreed to meet for lunch Monday.
I felt that Alan and his family and their investigator’s must have had a strong case. Their high-priced, successful lawyer surely was the kind that works only for a percentage of the settlement and so he had to believe they held a winning hand.
It also seemed to me that the insurance company, guided by their own high priced-council, must have concurred, considering how hard they fought in the recent Zehm vs. police lawsuit. It seemed obvious from the beginning of that trial that the family had a good case.
I did not agree with Knezovich’s assertion that the insurance company acted irresponsibly, sending the wrong message. He said people would perceive that Spokane County was easy to sue and ready to settle out of court. I think we already live in a sue-happy world in which everyone would sue the county if they could.
Not everyone, however, has a case that would convince nine out of twelve jurors to reasonably conclude that someone had done wrong and that there needed to be a multi-million dollar reckoning. The Creach family believed they had such a case, their lawyer felt they did and the insurance company did as well. After listening to Alan, it all seemed fairly reasonable to me as well.

Click here for part 2

Scott Creach part two

Posted: July 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

After he prayed over his meal and I took a picture mine, Alan once again took me into the surreal and eye-opening episode that has been a part of his family’s life since 11:07 p.m. on August, 25th, 2010.
Alan started with what he felt was one of the most interesting pieces of evidence. The autopsy, he said, showed that his father’s right thumb had fine speckles of blood in a directional pattern that was a part of the spray pattern that burst out from his chest as the bullet ripped into his body.
Alan maintained this proved that his father’s right hand was in front of him, not behind his back. Forensics from the spray pattern also showed the whereabouts and angle of the officer’s weapon which was just inches away from Scott’s chest pointing down at a 56-degree angle.
Alan told me the spray pattern hit Hirzel from the waist down, revealing that Scott was on his knees not standing up as they were told from the beginning. He said they were never told anything different than the bullet came at a slightly downward angle and toward left.
Another piece of evidence came from the reenactment that the sheriff’s department conducted a year later on a night chosen to have similar weather conditions as the night of the incident. Alan was there as they parked the same car in the same spot at the same time of night and then went through the whole episode just as the officer said it happened. Sherriff’s personnel acted out both parts.
What they did not tell the family was that they also had personnel positioned at the locations of the three people who heard the shot. A neighbor who was in their house with the sheriff’s personnel during the re-enactment later told the family that they all clearly heard the orders to drop the weapon. None of the ear-witnesses heard any orders on August 25, 2010, though they were as close as 225 feet away on a calm summer night.
I finally asked Alan as he was finishing up his salad and starting in on his bbq sirloin sandwich special, what he thought had happened. He certainly did have a theory that was very different from the official story.
He felt that his father probably recognized that it was an unmarked police car as he approached. If he ever had his gun out at all, he put the gun behind him in his pants long before he got close to the cruiser so that he would not appear armed and threatening.
Alan believes his dad startled Hirzel who then jumped out of his car and struck Scott with his baton. Scott immediately dropped to his knees and put both hands out front. Exactly why Hirzel pulled the trigger, Alan is not sure. He just feels positive that it was not because his dad was pulling out his gun to shoot the officer that stood menacingly above him with the gun pointed at his bare chest.
Whether it was a moment of panic, or accidental, or temporary insanity on Hirzel’s part, Alan believes strongly that his dad’s gun had nothing to do with anything. The fear the officer said he felt for his life came from being spooked by Scott.
Alan surmises that the officer could have been unaware his father had a gun until he fell face down , revealing the gun tucked into his waistband before rolling over onto his back. He theorizes that it is possible that Hirzel was assisted by the first police officers, helping him rig the scene by rolling Scott back over, undoing his belt to pull out the gun and then place it nearby off to the right.
That would explain why Imogene was led out of view as she approached. Furthermore, Alan said the witnesses who first began coming out of their homes to see what was going on said they had seen, as Imogene had seen, the officers doing something over Scott and it was not providing medical assistance.
I had to admit that Alan’s story had gotten more interesting through the years. It took away the hard-to-fathom suggestion that Scott would refuse to drop his weapon and continue to approach an officer who was authoritatively and repeatedly commanding him to do so. Scott had not had a traffic ticket in 30 years. He had always preached that the police were “God’s hand over you.”
I could also see Scott being irritated that this officer would trespass in a dark, unmarked cruiser and then sit there like he owned the place. I can see Scott approaching and not saying a word until he was close and then maybe saying gruffly something like, “What’s going on here?” and detonating a situation that never crossed his mind would occur in the next second or two.
But I also knew that Alan’s theory was based on evidence and allegations that any opposing attorney would turn and twist to discredit the family’s version and support the police officer’s. I had heard Knezovich complain bitterly about the case not going to trial. His department and their attorneys felt the evidence supported the officer’s story and would vindicate them of any wrongdoing.
I can see that neither side could prove beyond all doubt that their version of the episode is true, but I also see that the Creach family did not have to in order to win a settlement in civil court. Laws were broken and property rights were violated by Hirzel. Had the officer not done so, Scott Creach would still be alive. I think insurance companies and jurors pay a lot of attention to things like that.
It does not matter if our law enforcement agencies have decided not to acknowledge or obey or enforce a law, it is still a law. Cruising in an unmarked car in a residential area is breaking Washington state law RCW 46.08.065. Pulling onto a person’s private property and setting up office, was a violation of Scott Creach’s property rights.
You take those actions away from the night of August 25th and you got Scott Creach waking up the next morning to live another day. It kind of seems like the Sheriff’s office just got a $2 million ticket for all those times they did not write themselves any tickets for breaking the law over and over as a matter of routine.
What Hirzel did that night happens all the time. That is why I stick with my stance in my original blog and respectfully hold Scott accountable for approaching a cop car, gun drawn or not, in the middle of the night. Either Scott did as Alan maintains and walked up to the officer peacefully or he walked up there as Hirzel maintains, defiant and deadly. Either way, Scott approached.
I would go one step further and say that even if Alan’s theory were correct, Hirzel still was not guilty of any crime when it came to shooting Scott. He mistakenly identified Scott to be the bad guy, but that can happen late at night out in the field. He made a mistake like everyone does, and while we often get away with ours, his was tragic.
As to whether or not there was any kind of a cover up, I would like to hope not. I always thought, however, that the delay in getting out Hirzel’s version looked badly at the very least. It got fishier when Alan told me that their detectives discovered that he did not leave town to go to Montana to visit family the day after the shooting as we were told. They talked to witnesses who said he was in town until he left for Vegas a few days later.
Alan’s theory is that they were buying time to see if there were any eyewitnesses. I hope that Alan’s theory is wrong and I tend to have more trust in our local law enforcement officers than to believe he is entirely right. I do, however, think Hirzel should have had his blood tested immediately just like Scott’s blood was tested and that he should have given his full story before going on vacation, just like the rest of us would have had to.
I have picked up through this episode that the sheriff’s department feels they can do what they want. If they need to prowl in an unmarked car, so be it. If they need to park and do bookwork on private property, so be it. If they want to let an officer who just shot an elderly citizen go on vacation, so be it. I agree that they have a very difficult and complicated task trying to make our community a safe place to live and they need leeway to get the job done.
But when they break laws and violate rights and a God-fearing, law-abiding citizen dies as a consequence, I believe they should own up to any missteps, correct the problems and move on. No one can learn from those highly effective educators, known as our mistakes, if we don’t first admit we made them.
It appears that is what the Sheriff’s department has failed to do. Alan said his mom would have accepted the County’s second offer of $1 million (the first was $250,000) if the county agreed to attach an apology to it. Rather than apologize, the County preferred instead to offer $2 million with a threat attached to go after the family for legal expenses if they were not awarded at least $1.7 million by a jury.
Alan said that made going to trial too big of a gamble. He said they were disappointed, not because of the amount of the settlement but because they wanted the community to hear what they had learned. He wants things to change so no one else in Spokane Valley dies like his father died.
I agreed that people should hear their side and so I had to write one more blog before putting the whole troubling affair behind me and moving on. I pray for God to give the Creach family the strength to do their best to do the same as they live out their lives, carrying Scott heavily in their hearts until that day he always preached about when they meet up before “the great judge of all the Earth” who can make the final call on this tragic affair.
Until then, I think people need learn what Scott learned too late. We cannot wait until the police do everything just right, people need to realize that all police officers need to be approached and handled with caution. They have a dangerous job and they are trained to be dangerous and the wrong move can be deadly.

creaches

To read a tribute blog I wrote a fews days after the shooting click here.
To read original blog, click here.