The sheer number of great local spots to grab an excellent bite that are hidden “in the wild” of the Inland Northwest are truly awe-inspiring. When we have the opportunity to try somewhere new, we always take it. There are two spots that come to mind to pass on to you, and I recently shared them in Spokane Coeur d’ Alene Living Magazine. You will be guaranteed to have a delicious meal, and find a new favorite in the process.
Hay J’s is my one-stop-shop for not just some great food to have on a date night with my husband, but also to grab a pizza from Piccolo to take home to the kids, and some gourmet specialties, meats, fish and bread from The Butcher Block, all located in an unlikely but convenient location in a gas station strip mall just off of I-90 near the roundabout in Liberty Lake. Yes, I said gas station strip mall - but don’t be scared away. If you are one of the few people who haven’t discovered this hidden gem yet, put it on your “must go” list. They use top-quality, locally sourced products, and the skill that their chef exhibits ensures high quality execution, and a strong following of repeat clientele. Their seafood cobb has a near-cult status amongst regulars. I’m partial to their buratta, white wine steamed clams, porchetta and foie gras french toast - all from the starters menu. We like to order a variety of delicious things to try and share. The Butcher Block next door is my go-to spot for exceptional quality meats - and from time to time they special order something truly incredible. This past April, we had the opportunity to order some A-5 Wagyu, and I’ve been told they’ll be doing that again soon. It was the most buttery, unctuous meat we’ve ever had, and all it needed was a simple sear at high heat in the cast iron skillet at home. They consistently carry Wagyu along with organically and locally grown meats that will set apart your home-cooked meals. They also carry products served in the restaurant (like their famous dressings) and freshly baked breads. Heading here before a big party has been my best kept secret for entertaining a crowd. In addition to food, they have a wildly popular wine club at the Butcher Block, and it features a variety of beautifully curated wines that will delight even the most discerning wine lover (like my husband).
Phontip is a snug little spot that is a lot like dining in the home of a beloved Thai friend. Growing up in a very diverse neighborhood that was rich with culture, and then moving to Spokane when I was little where authentic ethnic food can be tough to come by, it’s fantastic to see a place that gets it just right. The food is exceptional and has approachable prices that are often in the single digits, and because it’s prepared fresh, make sure you’re not in a time crunch when dining in. If you are in a hurry, or just want to be a dinnertime hero, you can pre-order online for takeout and pick it up at the counter. This seems to be a hugely popular option because the dining room is limited. When you walk in, the first thing you’ll notice is the exceptional service. My favorite on the menu is their Tom Kha soup with chicken, which is beautifully aromatic with ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, with a silky, rich texture that was practically made for leftovers (it’s even better the next day, and all your co-workers will be jealous). If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, their pumpkin curry can’t be beat. It’s filled with rich spices in a ridiculously complex red curry, but not too intense for those who are wanting to branch out to try something more daring than their usual Pad Thai. They also serve a delicious, traditional Thai iced tea and iced coffee. The staff is incredibly helpful, and if you have any questions as a Thai first-timer, they are happy to help you walk through the menu and pick something that will suit any taste and budget.
This snug little spot is home-like in the best way, and in a city where authentic ethnic food can be tough to come by, they get it so right. It is a very small establishment with just a few tables, and you will definitely not want to be on a time crunch to dine in here, because everything is prepared fresh. The service is exceptional, and the staff are happy to answer any questions you may have as a Thai first-timer. My favorites on the menu are definitely the Tom Kha soup with either chicken or shrimp, which is such a rich and sophisticated comfort food at a humble price. It is made with a lemongrass soup base which gives it a punchy tang, and has earthy mushrooms and creamy coconut milk to balance it out. I make it at home sometimes, but it doesn’t compare to the exceptionally complex version they have at Phontip. If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, their Pumpkin Curry can’t be beat. If you’re in a rush and need to grab takeout, you can even order online! It’s really convenient, and way better than getting some sad fast food. It’s also incredibly affordable - I can get out of there for less than $15 and feel like I went on a food vacation.
Do you have any favorites to share? Send them to us on our Nominations tab, or share your food finds around the Northwest using the hashtag #spokanefood and we will give you a shoutout if we love it, too!
Be sure to try one of these soon, and check out more of our articles in Spokane Coeur d’ Alene Living Magazine on a newsstand near you.