Posts Tagged ‘best food in spokane’

Perhaps the best development in the Valley during recent years has been a certain kind of growth. It has nothing to do with population or plants but rather a veritable boom in barbecue eateries. For years and years here in the Valley, The Longhorn was the lone source of barbeque-generated smoke, the sweetest form of pollution man has ever produced.
Currently that lonely bellwether of barbeques has three competitors stoking their pits across the Valley. It is a competition I highly encourage and strongly support to the point of borderline gluttony. Like the meat on the barbecue, I am a pig.  I’m just glad to be a porker on the food chain a link or two above my distant relatives that I so lovingly devour.
Being an admitted slave to desire, I must show the utmost respect to the barbecue masters and so I will list them in chronological order as is only fair.
Starting with the youngest, Porky G’s fired up their smoker here in the Valley a few months back. Located on Sprague in front of Fred Meyer’s, the new kid on the block hails from Couer D Alene where it opened its first place in 1995.  I was impatiently knocking on the door a minute before they opened that first day here. My impatience was soon rewarded as I dug into their baby back ribs. All the drooling I had been doing as I had driven by during the remodel was wiped away as I prepared my chin to be covered in another warm, thick and much tastier liquid, barbecue sauce.
Since that blast of God’s bounty was opened to the Valley, I have been back a time or two to draw from the well. I particularly like the pulled pork sandwich and the ribs. Beyond those iron-clad recommendations, I would also offer my services to stand on the sidewalk and enthusiastically wave folks in to try their vast array of sides. They have a ton of superb sides, or maybe super”a” sides is more accurate. From the smokey bacon au gratin potatoes to the seasoned green beans with bacon, every side I tried was a hit. At the risk of sounding partial, I must say that when it comes to Porky G’s, you have to take sides.
From Porky G’s we take a short hop down the timeline to Charlie P’s, which has been open almost two years at Sprague and Vista.  The P-man, like the G-man, knows his Q. Since the first time I laid eyes on his menu to this day after trying everything on the menu that looked like my kind of thing, I have been a rabid fan.

I have written at least two blog posts about his menu and have more in mind. Because barbecue is my favorite that has been my focus, but seafood is a close second and I haven’t said a word about their amazing seafood fet or seafood calizone let their nose-, eyes- and mouth-wateringly good seafood omelet. Then there is the pizza and broasted chicken to tell the world about. Maybe I would carry on more about his food if I weren’t so busy carrying it out and putting it where it belongs which is in my belly.
The only problem with Charlie P’s ribs is that they scream out at me every time I open the menu, drowning out all the other worthy choices. Heck, those ribs are so obnoxiously good I can often hear them screaming at me from my house three miles away. My recommendation for Charlie P’s is their Smokehouse BBQ Combo for $16.95. It is perfect for Elaine and I to share because I am able to hog the pork ribs, give her the chicken and fight for a fair split on the fantastic sirloin roast.
Next in the birth order of our blessed brotherhood of barbeques is O’Doherty’s on Sprague between Bowdish and Pines. Savory smoke has been seeping past racks of meat that it richly flavors on its way out the smokestack and up into the Valley sky since the late 90’s when Smokey’s was there. O’Doherty’s moved there in 2002 and have been serving solid servings after solid servings ever since. It is the kind of place that when you look back you realize that everything you have ever eaten there was good.
The other night  I was there researching this story and refreshing my fond memories on a half rack of ribs with  Elaine. She ordered a salmon sandwich that we had not seen there before. It was so good, it almost made me wish I had ordered it instead of the ribs. Luckily, it was several bites over Elaine-size and so I enjoyed a rib/salmon combo that went straight into the old stomach’s scrapbook of memorable meals. You might call their food “good mood food”. Whatever mood your are in, order the food that fits it and you’re good.
The oldest of the barbecue boys by far is the Longhorn on Argonne. Today is Father’s Day and like every Father’s Day, the Longhorn will be packed with fathers who were given their one day of the year to choose where to eat. There will be a long line all day leading up to heaven where the world’s best barbeque buffet has been laid out. If the Longhorn had been around in biblical times, this would have been the disciples vote for the last supper.
At one time this buffet was only served on Father’s Day but now it is served several days and always on Sundays. This made it convenient to beat the crowd and have my private Father’s Day celebration a week earlier while the family was attending a graduation. As I sat there with just two all-too-brief plates of bbq resting peacefully in my swollen paunch, it dawned on me that this buffet should be kept at a once-a-year gift from heaven. There are no left-overs at a buffet whereas I normally leave there full with a full doggy bag in my hand. (I have never understood why they call it a doggy bag because they never have done our dogs any good, at least not the ones from Longhorn. Those I call Daddy’s lunch bag.)
There is one clear choice for me as far as recommendations go for the Longhorn. When we were first married 29 years ago, back before the kids came along and decided where the family was eating out, back when the Longhorn was a drive-in, we ate there at least half the time since it was always my choice. We ate there occasionally on Elaine’s turn as well because she loved their bbq beef sandwich almost as much as I loved the bbq ham and swiss.

In those wonderful years when calories were of little concern, The Longhorn Special featuring a sandwich and two sides was our favorite. While much has changed in, on and around us since those days, the Longhorn bbq sandwich remains the same, standing like an oak on Argonne where  all the fast food chains have grown up around it like spindly scrub brush,  trucking in every wimpy sandwich and burger their food labratories can concoct.
There is nothing fast about the meats cooked at the Longhorn or O’Doherty’s or Charlie P’s or Porky G’s. These boys have the slow-smoked-meat market all sowed up and there’s no need for a big bbq chain like the Texas Roadhouse moving in to these parts. Their scouts probably looked at the Valley Mall where they would have been right at home competing with other chains like Boston’s and Outback. That probably looked enticing until they nosed around the Valley a bit and got a whiff of the local competition. The Valley, they wisely surmised, is already covered barbeque-wise and so off they went to Couer D’ Alene with their plans of expansion rolled up under their arm and their tails tucked between their legs.






I caught this tired looking fellow out at True Legends annual Luau/ Pig Roast last Saturday. Everybody had a great time except maybe this guy.

This is one of Porky G’s strong selections, the Pulled Pork sandwich.

Porky G’s ribs aren’t bad either.

This is Charlie P’s combo plate. It takes a combo of two or three people to get it ate up.

O’Doherty’s ribs are a work of art tastefully framed with sides of ecstacy. Their corn bread is perfection.

After a round at their unbelievable salad bar, it’s time for the meat plate. This is one time I don’t mind things kind of running together on the plate.

If you made it all the way to the bottom of this blog post, then you certainly deserve a reward. This is it. Between 3 and 6 Charlie P’s has a two ribs and fries for $5. It is the perfect little dinner.

Porky G's Southern BBQ on Urbanspoon
O'Doherty Irish Pub & BBQ on Urbanspoon
Charlie P's on Urbanspoon
Longhorn Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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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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