Best of Food 2021 | Food

Young Kwak photo The smoked salmon toast at Wooden

Young Kwak photo

The smoked salmon toast at Wooden City Spokane, voted Best New Restaurant.

Best Tacos
COCHINITO TAQUERIA
You can pretend like it’s Taco Tuesday every day of the week at this downtown go-to for chef-created, Latin- and Mexican-inspired eats, owned and operated by chef Travis Dickinson and front-of-house extraordinaire Justin Curtis. One of the best things about Cochinito’s mix-and-match taco menu is the option to get totally wild and crazy with your order. From a fried maitake mushroom taco to the 20-hour carne asada (highly recommended by us), or the octopus taco to the dippable beef short rib birria, the choice is whatever your heart desires. Add a refreshing housemade marg and you’re all set. (CS)
2nd PLACE: De Leon’s; 3rd PLACE: Atilano’s; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Taco Works, Coeur d’Alene


Best Farmers Market
KENDALL YARDS NIGHT MARKET
You don’t have to tell us the Kendall Yards Night Market is incredibly popular, attracting visitors from all over town: We at the Inlander see it every week, when crowds flood the street right outside our front door to peruse local produce and food stands, artisan makers, food trucks and much more. (Parking also gets crazy — so carpool, bike, bus or walk if you can to save yourself the headache!) From spring through early fall, there’s often no better way to spend a Wednesday evening than taking an outing to this central marketplace that truly has it all. (CS)
2nd PLACE: Liberty Lake Farmers Market; 3rd PLACE: Perry Street Thursday Market; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Downtown Coeur d’Alene Farmers Market


Best New Restaurant (Opened in 2020-21)
WOODEN CITY SPOKANE
It was a wild ride during Wooden City Spokane’s first year of operations, to say the least. Opening in mid-2020, in the midst of a pandemic that brought constant limitations and changes to the restaurant industry, Wooden City is finally able to celebrate not just making it past one of the toughest milestones for a restaurant (year one), but doing so during a global health and economic crisis. While owners Jon Green, Abe Fox and Eddie Gulberg made plans to expand their carefully crafted American eatery from Tacoma to Spokane long before COVID-19, local diners are clearly glad they did. (CS)
2nd PLACE: Baba; 3rd PLACE: Bark, A Rescue Pub; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Terraza Waterfront Cafe, Coeur d’Alene


Best Outdoor Dining
CLINKERDAGGER, TWIGS (tie)
With its wraparound windows and a large deck overlooking the iconic Spokane Falls, Clinkerdagger has long reigned when it comes to some of the best seats in the city for scenic dining, both indoors and out. Another established regional restaurant, the Twigs Bistro & Martini chain, however, also got a top nod this year for its views when readers considered the bistro’s two (faux) waterfront patios on the upper South Hill and across town in Wandermere. (CS)
2nd PLACE: Osprey Restaurant and Bar; 3rd PLACE: Anthony’s; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Latitudes, The Lodge at Carlin Bay, Harrison


Best Local Chef
CHAD WHITE (Zona Blanca, High Tide Lobster Bar, TTs Old Iron Brewery & BBQ)
From being named a James Beard Award best-chef semifinalist to starring on season 13 of Top Chef, it’s obvious why Chad White lives up to the title of best local chef, which he’s now clinched for the third straight year. Whatever he’s cooking, locals love it, from ceviche at Zona Blanca to lobster rolls at High Tide and tasty Midwestern-style barbecue at TTs, not to mention the Mediterranean-inspired menu he created for Arbor Crest Wine Cellars and lots of contributions to local events and fundraisers. We’re always eager to find out what White’s working on next. (CS)
2nd PLACE: Adam Hegsted (Eat Good Group); 3rd PLACE: Michael Wiley (Wiley’s Bistro, Prohibition Gastropub)


St. Louis pork ribs and brisket, plus all the fixings at TT's. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO

Young Kwak photo

St. Louis pork ribs and brisket, plus all the fixings at TT’s.

Best BBQ
TT’s OLD IRON BREWERY AND BBQ
Let’s face it, the fact TT’s brews its own beer on the same premises where it smokes its incredible barbecue gives it a leg up in this category that’s hard for competitors to contend with. How better to enjoy some brisket, smoked turkey, pulled pork or a rack of ribs than by washing it down with some local brew. Obviously the meats are what count most for readers in the Best BBQ category, and Chef Chad White and his team knows how to do them to perfection. But don’t sleep on the sides; cornbread, smoked pinto beans and coleslaw are all musts for the meal along with the beer. And if you can’t save room for the banana pudding pie, just take some to go. You won’t regret it. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Outlaw BBQ and Catering Market; 3rd PLACE: Longhorn Barbecue; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Drummin Up BBQ, Coeur d’Alene


Best Gluten-Free Dining
COLE’S GLUTEN FREE BAKERY & CAFE
Whether you want to sit down for a hot meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner), indulge in some fresh breads or pastries, or you want to take a baking mix to make at home, Cole’s has got you covered. The gluten-free bakery not only provides plenty of options that are baked with food sensitivities in mind (they are completely gluten and peanut free), but they also cater to various diets, such as keto. From cheesecakes and lemon bars to burgers and pizza, Cole’s proves that gluten free doesn’t have to be bland. (SW)
2nd PLACE: Boots Bakery; 3rd PLACE: Wild Sage; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Cosmic Cowboy, Coeur d’Alene


Best Cupcakes
SWEET FROSTINGS
With a different selection of cupcakes every day of the week, and four locations in Spokane, Sweet Frostings Blissful Bakeshop has a sweet treat for nearly every craving. Salted caramel? Definitely. Vanilla confetti? Yep. Chocolate on chocolate? Mmmhmmm. While cupcakes are certainly their shining star, don’t forget they also offer bars, macarons, cookies, and even ice cream and milkshakes. (SW)
2nd PLACE: Celebrations; 3rd PLACE: The Blissful Whisk; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Temptations, Coeur d’Alene


Hello Sugar, we're here for the donuts. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO

Young Kwak photo

Hello Sugar, we’re here for the donuts.

Best Doughnuts
HELLO SUGAR
When Hello Sugar first opened, I wasn’t sure a mini-doughnut spot would work in a town with a lot of great full-sized doughnut options. Little did I realize the creativity that would come through those fresh little bite-sized wonders thanks to flavors like Lilac Lavender Lemonade, Maple Sizzle, S’More and Strawberry Shortcake. Whether sticking to one favorite or grabbing a mixed box, Hello Sugar is a good call, and you won’t feel bad for eating a half-dozen at a time. More good news? After starting in Kendall Yards, you can now find Hello Sugar locations in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, too. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Donut Parade; 3rd PLACE: Casual Friday Donuts; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Gross Donuts, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls


Best Pho
PHO VAN
Most of the pho you’ll find anywhere consists of the same basic elements. The difference is in the details. Just how savory is that beef-bone broth? How slurpable are those noodles? How fresh are the slices of jalapeño, the bean sprouts, the basil or cilantro? How melt-in-your-mouth good are the thin slices of beef (assuming you’re not going for a chicken or vegetarian version)? Pho Van nails the details and does it consistently at their spot on North Division. And while the pho is their calling card, there’s plenty more filling the menu that makes this a go-to for noodle lovers. Try the lemongrass tofu sometime. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Three Sisters Restaurant; 3rd PLACE: Vina Asian Restaurant; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Pho Thanh, Coeur d’Alene


Best Vegetarian/Vegan Food
RUT BAR & KITCHEN
I mean, have you had the buffalo cauliflower wings? There were moments during the trying last year when my household could have just lived on getting them for takeout every night, they’re such addictive things. Thankfully, while Rut’s menu rotates pieces now and again, the cauliflower wings seem to be a mainstay, as is their delicious Fried Not-Chicken Sandwich, their delectable parmesan and truffle-laced Dirty Fries and the house burger (made with a Beyond burger patty). No matter what you order, you can count on a flavorful meal, and the South Hill space is pretty great, too, especially if you have time to enjoy a cocktail at their beautiful bar while you dine. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Mizuna; 3rd PLACE: Cascadia Public House; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Cosmic Cowboy, Coeur d’Alene


Best Seafood
ANTHONY’S
Unless you’re a Kendall Yards Osprey — in which case you get your catch of the day directly from the river — you’re not going to get fish as fresh or a view as majestic as Anthony’s at Spokane Falls. Dine, on the patio or indoors, with the Spokane River as your backdrop. (DW)
2nd PLACE: Zona Blanca; 3rd PLACE: High Tide Lobster Bar NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Fisherman’s Market, Coeur d’Alene


Best “Pandemic Pivot” in a Restaurant
RUINS
Watching the Inland Northwest’s hospitality industry contort itself into all manner of barely recognizable shapes to survive COVID is something we’ll all remember long after the pandemic has passed. And while some spots merely amped up their takeout game or added outdoor seating, some faced bigger challenges due to their physical spaces or menus. Ruins, our readers’ favorite pandemic pivot spot, managed to keep their traditional ever-shifting menus going online for a while, shifted into some simpler grab-and-go fare for some stretches of the past year, and eventually stopped food altogether in favor of selling vintage clothing and renting out VCRs and videotapes for a bit. Chef/owner Tony Brown did the same kind of quicksteps at his other venues as well, and while all the pivoting was impressive, we’re pretty happy Ruins is back to (somewhat) normal, serving up some of the most creative small plates in town alongside excellent cocktails. (DN)
2nd PLACE: TT’s Old Iron Brewery and BBQ; 3rd PLACE: Spokane Comedy Club


Best Mexican Food
DE LEON’S
The competition in this category is getting tougher as more Mexican places open across the region, but it’s tough to beat De Leon’s when you want to taste something great from south of the border. Whether you’re at one of the three De Leon’s taco bars or one of their grocery stores’ hot counters, the flavors are always on point. The taco bars boast the ability to add a margarita or three to the meal, so those are my preferred spots for delving into a Sergio’s Burrito, a weekends-only pozole bowl or some of the “Holy Tacos,” delicious and tender marinated skirt steak grilled up with onions and named after the house creator Jesus. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Tecate Grill; 3rd PLACE Azteca; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Nadine’s Mexican Kitchen, Rathdrum


The Flying Goat's Kiernan pizza. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO

Young Kwak photo

The Flying Goat’s Kiernan pizza.

Best Pizza
THE FLYING GOAT
With things like the Meenach meatball sandwich and Roskelley dumplings on the menu, and one of the best patios in Spokane, there are several great reasons to visit the Flying Goat before you even get to the pizza menu. But those pizzas are the favorite regional pies in the eyes of Inlander readers, and the slate of pizzas is full of creativity and incredible flavors. Just look at the Dalton, a combination of cheese, honey apple barbecue sauce, pulled pork, caramelized onion and coleslaw. The “D” Street is another craveable bit of creativity, with its yellow coconut curry, potatoes, carrots, chicken, jalapeño, sriracha, cilantro and lime juice — it’s an Asian-inspired wonder. They do just as well with more traditional pizza approaches, so you can’t go wrong with ordering an Alice (red sauce and cheese), either. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Versalia Pizza; 3rd PLACE: Republic Pi; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Fire Pizza, Coeur d’Alene


Best Sushi
UMI KITCHEN AND SUSHI BAR
Umi sits a stone’s throw from the Inlander offices, and it’s definitely a favorite of more than one staffer, but the region’s readers travel from far and wide for what they voted the best sushi in the Inland Northwest. That might be because they had a pretty remarkable takeout operation going through the pandemic, but it’s more likely because of the skilled sushi chefs in the house delivering excellent takes on sushi rolls you can find most places (California roll, rainbow roll) and some you’ll only find here (the Kobe beef roll, the “Stuffed Pumpkin”). And if your friends or family aren’t as hyped on sushi as you are, Umi does great work with dishes ranging from fried rice to spicy seafood udon to Kung Pao chicken. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Sushi.com; 3rd PLACE: Izumi Sushi Bar; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Kaiju Sushi & Spirits, Coeur d’Alene


Best Ice Cream
THE SCOOP
At a certain point, true artists eschew the easy tasks and start giving themselves increasingly difficult challenges. Take The Scoop’s avocado ice cream, which was on the menu a few weeks ago. Sounds strange, even gross, perhaps? Yet the sweetness of ice cream turns out to blend perfectly with the richness of avocado flavor. The Scoop took a risk, and it paid off. (DW)
2nd PLACE: Pete & Belle’s Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop; 3rd PLACE: Sweet Peaks Ice Cream; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Panhandle Cone and Coffee, CdA, Moscow, Sandpoint


A bone-in tenderloin steak with garlic potatoes and snap peas at Churchill's Steakhouse. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO

Young Kwak photo

A bone-in tenderloin steak with garlic potatoes and snap peas at Churchill’s Steakhouse.

Best Steaks
CHURCHILL’S STEAKHOUSE
There’s an old piece of advice: Never order steak at a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in steak. Otherwise, you just end up paying a lot of money for a subpar experience. But Churchill Steakhouse not only specializes in steak, it’s perfected it, serving up a perfectly seared crust and a medium rare center, every single time. You can order luxurious sauces, but ultimately you don’t need them. The pure steaky flavor of the meat is all you need. (DW)
2nd PLACE: Wolf Lodge Inn, Coeur d’Alene; 3rd PLACE: Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops


Best Sandwiches
DOMINI’S
There are plenty of methods for judging a great sandwich, but one of the best is what we might call the Dagwood Bumstead Coefficient: Exactly how agape does your mouth have to open to consume the sheer quantity of meat and cheese the sandwich offers? It’s an area where Domini’s has always excelled — offering big sandwiches so generously proportioned that you may want to unhinge your jaw like some type of jungle snake to eat it. (DW)
2nd PLACE: Shamus’s Sandwich Shoppe; 3rd PLACE: The High Nooner; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Caruso’s, Coeur d’Alene


Thai Bamboo co-owner Matavee Burgess. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO

Young Kwak photo

Thai Bamboo co-owner Matavee Burgess.

Best Thai Food
Best Takeout
THAI BAMBOO
It takes a certain amount of swagger to build another restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, much less what owner Tom Burgess calls the “biggest and most elaborate restaurant” in the Inland Northwest. Not only that, but Burgess announced in a May press release that he’s shipped in “5 tons of authentic, vibrant decor” from Thailand to make dining out at the new South Hill feel like “visiting a museum of Thai & SE Asian cultures.” But Burgess had reason to be confident about the new location: Inlander voters have crowned Thai Bamboo the Best Thai Food in the region since we started asking the question in 2006. Besides, during a pandemic, it helps to be awarded Best Takeout, too. (DW)
BEST THAI FOOD
2nd PLACE: Bangkok Thai; 3rd PLACE: Kuni’s Thai
BEST TAKEOUT
2nd PLACE: The Mango Tree; 3rd PLACE: TT’s Old Iron Brewery and BBQ


Best Appetizers
Best Happy Hour
TWIGS BISTRO AND MARTINI BAR
Sometimes, an appetizer can be a meal on its own. And Twigs has a pretty deep list of options to choose from, like the Kalua Pork Tacos, Moroccan Beef or Ahi Poki Bowl. Get there 3-6 pm daily or 9 until close on Friday and Saturday for a good deal on select appetizers and cocktails on Twigs’ happy hour menu. (QW)
BEST APPETIZERS
2nd PLACE: The Gilded Unicorn; 3rd PLACE: Wooden City Spokane; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: White House Grill, Post Falls
BEST HAPPY HOUR
2nd PLACE: The Safari Room; 3rd PLACE: Max at Mirabeau; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: The Oval Office, Post Falls


Best Family Friendly Restaurant
Best Italian Food
TOMATO STREET
Pre-pandemic, it was hard to find a more raucous family setting than Tomato Street on a Friday night. With indoor dining open once again, you can bet those busy nights at Tomato Street will be back too. Order up a garlic chicken pizza or a plate of Aunt Rose’s pasta. You can even create your own pasta dish if you feel compelled. Mama mia, that’s a-what I’m a-talkin’ about. (QW)
BEST FAMILY FRIENDLY RESTAURANT
2nd PLACE: Bark, a Rescue Pub; 3rd: The Onion; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Dockside, Coeur d’Alene
BEST ITALIAN FOOD
2nd PLACE: Italian Kitchen; 3rd PLACE: Ferraro’s; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Tony’s on the Lake, Coeur d’Alene


Yes, please: The shellfish fettuccine at Clinkerdagger. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO

Young Kwak photo

Yes, please: The shellfish fettuccine at Clinkerdagger.

Best Fine Dining
CLINKERDAGGER
It’s hard to beat a classic, and Clinkerdagger is about as classic as you get in Spokane. Some of its most well-known dishes haven’t changed in decades, like the Broadway pea salad, and that’s just how the Clinkerdagger’s regulars like it. (QW)
2nd PLACE: Churchill’s Steakhouse; 3rd PLACE: Wild Sage; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Beverly’s, Coeur d’Alene


Best Bakery
THE ROCKET BAKERY
The Rocket Bakery really has it all: excellent pastries, great coffee and good people. Each of its seven locations feels like a fixture of the neighborhood, and each has its unique charm that reflects it. It’s that sense of community that keeps you coming back just as much as what’s on the menu. (WC)
2nd PLACE: Boots Bakery; 3rd PLACE: Chaps; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Bakery by the Lake, Coeur d’Alene


Best Breakfast
FRANK’S DINER
During the pandemic days when dine-in restaurants were closed and I wanted some takeout for breakfast, I kept going back to Frank’s Diner. There’s a reason for that. Even when you could have breakfast delivered to you from any restaurant around town, with Frank’s you’d always know what you’ll get: a classic, tasty meal each and every time. (WC)
2nd PLACE: Cottage Cafe; 3rd PLACE: Chaps, Old European (tie); NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Le Peep Cafe, Coeur d’Alene


Digging in on the deck at Wisconsinburger. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO

Young Kwak photo

Digging in on the deck at Wisconsinburger.

Best Burgers
WISCONSINBURGER
Living up to its name, part of what makes Wisconsinburger special is the Wisconsin cheese that they melt on top of each slab of locally sourced, fresh ground beef. And they’re not afraid to totally lean into their cheese credentials. Order the Awe Geez burger, you’ll get fried cheese curds on top of the Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese. No wonder this is consistently among the favorite burger joints in town. (WC)
2nd PLACE: Incrediburger and Eggs; 3rd PLACE: D’Lish’s; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Hudson’s Hamburgers, Coeur d’Alene


Best Cheap Eats
DICK’S HAMBURGERS
These days, you can go to a restaurant, see a burger that costs $12, and think it’s not a bad deal. But what if I told you there were still burgers in Spokane for less than $1.50? At the iconic Dick’s Hamburgers, that’s reality. As the price of beef stuck between bread soars higher and higher, Dick’s stays consistently cheap, giving you the best bang for your buck. (WC)
2nd PLACE: Atilano’s; 3rd PLACE: Zip’s; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Roger’s Burgers and Ice Cream, Coeur d’Alene, Hayden and Post Falls