We rolled out of Boise, taking the same route as before, and stopping to visit the same old friend in Moscow. Unlike before, we didn’t cut through Pullman and head up the 195. Instead, Jill took us through the Palouse Scenic Byway. I didn’t like not knowing exactly where I was at, and I didn’t like slowing to a crawl for every little burg along the way; but, it was a beautiful drive. I loved the pastoral countryside and marveled at all the agriculture. Washington is a very beautiful state and this was just one little slice of it.
Jill eventually put us back on the 195 and we rolled into Spokane just in time for dinner at Waddell’s Pub and Grille. We didn’t make it to Waddell’s on our previous trip to Spokane, but figured that we probably didn’t miss anything special. Boy were we wrong. Waddell’s rocks.
They were packed and we had a short wait for a table. I don’t know what their business was like before Guy Fieri rolled through, but they need to add on another dining room. Waddell’s has one of the most impressive burger menu’s I’ve ever seen. It’s on the net if you want to check it out. We really wanted the nachos, but knew we’d be full before our burgers came. Four people can split an order of nachos, but it’s usually too much food for two people. We had a very difficult time trying to figure out what to order. Anna has a penchant for the barbecue style burgers with the barbecue sauce and onion rings, so her decision was a little easier than mine.
I ordered the Big Dog, which is two big hamburger patties, jalapenos, Zag sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon, grilled ham, pepper jack cheese and topped with an onion ring. The “Zag” is an homage to nearby Gonzaga University, and the sauce is a special blend of marinade seasonings, BBQ sauce, hot sauce and mayonnaise. This burger was featured on the show, and if you saw it, you’d want to order it too. You can see from the picture that the burger is a masterpiece, and it was just as much fun to eat as it looks and sounds. The fries were excellent too.
Anna ordered the Back Draft burger (a one patty version of the two patty Smoke Jumper) which is a 6 ounce patty with BBQ sauce, chipotle mayo, smoked Gouda, bacon, caramelized onions and topped with smoked brisket. No, that’s not a typo, it’s brisket on a burger. Is that inspired or what? Before I forget to mention it, she ordered sweet potato fries, and they were cooked to perfection.
I was so busy enjoying my burger, I didn’t give much consideration to Anna’s burger. It was like, Yeah… whatever. What a mistake that was. Anna finally insisted that I have a bite of her burger and it was one of those OMG flavor experiences. I just couldn’t believe how good that burger tasted. Damn! They should change the name to the Smack yo’ Mama burger.
Let me warn you before you go, Waddell’s has an irresistible assortment of sandwiches, ribs, tacos, wraps, dogs, desserts, nachos, and more. They have a house smoked brisket sandwich, and they even offer it in a Philly version. I mentioned in a prior blog that I doubt I’d ever make it back to Elk. That’s because I’d be at Waddell’s every day (unless I am at Chaps, Picabu Bistro, or Hills Restaurant).
In all seriousness, for my personal taste, I think Waddell’s has the most impressive menu I’ve ever seen (and the quality to back it up). When I think about asking them to make their menu smaller and easier to pick from, it’s probably like the scene in Amadeus when they asked Mozart to leave out some of the notes. Which ones? Not to relegate it to an afterthought, but Waddell’s also has a kick-ass bar. I will beat a path to Waddell’s every time I make it to Spokane and I hope they expand with a north location. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to check out their menu.
We struck out to spend the next day in Coeur d’Alene beginning with breakfast at Jimmy’s Down the Street, a classic diner that’s been serving hearty comfort food for over 50 years. We grabbed a comfy booth along the front and drew a friendly waitress. I ordered a breakfast burrito and Anna sampled the Farmhouse Eggs Country Benedict (over cornbread instead of an English muffin). The comfort food was filling and we were tempted to have one of their famous Southern Caramel Pecan Rolls (which were just fresh out of the oven). We ended up passing, but I just watched the segment to refresh my memory, and had we watched it prior to the trip, I’m sure we would have ordered one. It looks scrumptious. If we make it back, I won’t be repeating that mistake. We got to meet the owner, Jimmy, and chat with him for a few minutes. He was warm and friendly, and it was obvious to us that he loves what he does.
We spent all day hiking around exploring all the different shops and sights. We had been to Coeur d’Alene many times, and once even stayed at the famous resort (which is still the nicest room we have ever stayed in). I once played the resort golf course with the famous floating island green (you have to take a boat to putt out). It was too windy that day for me to hit the damned thing, but they let me drop. We had the best time at two stores in particular, the Coeur d’Alene Olive Oil Company, and a fabulous jewelry store called Super Silver Coeur d’Alene. They had the most impressive selection of beautiful sterling silver jewelry that we had ever seen (not to mention great prices). Go see the friendly girls, Stephanie and Kristy, and tell them Ken and Anna said hello.
We skipped lunch and wanted to make sure that we were good and starving in anticipation of the pig out that we were expecting to have at Capone’s Pub. Besides making their hamburger buns from scratch, it looked to me like they were using the best of everything for their burgers and pizzas. The place was packed and we had to wait a few minutes for a table. We got a good booth and a veteran waitress (I think she said she had been their for six years). Capone’s has a big menu and it was difficult to choose between the pizzas, burgers and sandwiches. We attempted to order all three.
The first thing that went wrong, when we tried to order our pizza, was that they don’t allow substitutions. I hate it when that happens. When I hear that people are rigid, it makes me not want to give them our business. We tried to order the “Heart Blocker” which is, red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, salami, grilled onions, peppers and romano.” I simply asked if we could substitute mushrooms for the green peppers. No. I asked if they could hold the peppers. No.
We ordered the pizza anyway, but got a small instead of a large. I was so upset that I knew if the peppers weren’t sufficiently cooked through, I was going to send it back.
We ordered a half pound “Ultimate Cheeseburger” and a grinder called the “Italiano.” Where I come from, a grinder is a hot sandwich. The meat and cheese are baked on the bread and then topped with lettuce and what have you (kind of like Quizno’s). The Italiano grinder at Capone’s is a cold sandwich (something you’d have for lunch but not dinner). You should have seen the pizza. Our waitress knew, or should have known, that I didn’t want green peppers. When the pizza came out, it looked like a green pepper pizza; like nearly a whole bell pepper (on a 9” pizza) cut up into huge wedges and barely cooked. I remember it sat on the table, which means that it must have been run out by a runner (before I had the waitress take it back).
Because of the cold sandwich and the ruined pizza, I don’t even remember the burger. Anna and I shared it, and it was maybe fair at best. Nothing special. If anything, I was disappointed. The owner was not in, or he would have got an earful. It’s just ridiculous. We could have had a great time and ran up a sizable check, but because we were pissed off, we held the check to 19 bucks. We wouldn’t have given them any of our business, except that a friend of ours drove over an hour to meet us there for dinner (his food was sub-par as well).
I hate to say anything bad about anyone, but that’s what happened at Capone’s. I thought for sure that I was going to love the place, and was looking forward to the food with great anticipation. Too bad. We managed to get through dinner well enough and went on to have a great evening.
One of the highlights on our return visit to Spokane was a return to the Picabu Bistro. I ordered the same burger as before (Cactus Burger) and remembered to take a picture this time. We got to meet the owner, Jane, and she told us all about the steps to making such a great burger. It’s inspired. Picabu Bistro is a hard-working, family owned business, and they’re putting out righteous food. They also have a killer menu, so good luck narrowing down your pick.
On this visit Anna ordered the Spicy Chicken Chop Wrap, which is chunks of grilled and chilled chicken tossed with black beans, tomato, onions, peppers, organic mixed greens, cilantro and blackened ranch dressing, wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla. It was as good as it looks in the picture and the blackened ranch dressing was amazing. We asked about it and Jane told us that one or twice a week they blacken a mixture of spices in a cast iron skillet, and it fills up the whole kitchen with smoke. We make wraps like this at home, but the blackened ranch dressing is the real kicker. Awesome. I will happily re-visit the Picabu Bistro every time I make it to Spokane.
We also stopped in to visit Celeste Shaw at Chaps. Our plans didn’t work out to sit and enjoy a great country farmhouse meal, but we had a great visit with Celeste, including a tour of the kitchen. We also got to meet Gina, the pastry chef at the adjoining bakery Cake. We were treated to some wonderful oatmeal scones (which a certain Food Network celebrity also happened to dig) and they were the perfect complement to the fresh coffee. It’s because of Celeste Shaw that Chaps is one of our most favorite destinations in all of DDD. I’m sure everyone who knows our favorite Chapsgirl will agree that she is the embodiment of hospitality, positive energy, passion, love, warmth, creativity, kindness and… deep humility. Not only is the place charming, the staff excellent, and the food wonderful; but Celeste has put together an amazing menu with a wide selection of tantalizing dishes from stuffed pork chops and beef stroganoff, to steak and great burgers. That’s to say nothing of the scrumptious desserts or the truly inspired breakfast creations. Next time I get to Spokane, I will be dining at Chaps at least two or three times.
After leaving Spokane, we spent a few days in Seattle. We made a return visit to Mike’s Chili Parlor. Phil was there, and had just returned from a much deserved vacation in Mexico. He was looking good. We revisited Pike Place Market and White Center Pizza (the place to go for grinders). We were planning to have a nice lunch at Pam’s Trinidadian Kitchen, but they were closed. We were also hoping to sample the food at Bizzaro Italian Café, but they are only open for dinner and that didn’t fit our plans.
We did manage to make it to Georgia’s Greek Restaurant, and there we ordered our very first Gyro. It was outstanding. I got to meet the head chef and owner, Laki, who was featured on the show. He was real friendly and was glad that we could make it in for a visit. I told him that it was going to be our very first authentic Gyro, and he did it up right. It had a very pleasing complement of flavors from the meats and contrasting crunch of the fresh vegetables and tasty sauce. I don’t usually roll that far north when I’m in town, but I would sure enjoy a return visit (and having the Gyro again).
We started our last day in Seattle with a tasty breakfast at Beth’s Café, and an unexpected turn of events at the nearby Red Mill Burgers. We went there thinking to get a great burger, but the real kicker is that we got some exceptionally good onion rings. In fact, Anna and I agreed, they were amazing… the best onion rings we had ever had. The staff was friendly, and I pressed the manager, Grace, for all the info I could get. Our first batch had been cooked by Meaghan, which had been set-up overnight, and cooked to perfection. Grace made a sampler batch (on the house) which had a shorter set-up time. We liked the first batch better. I might have to hire on there just so I can learn how to make those rings. Red Mill Burgers has set the bar. If you’re going to indulge in something deep-fried and rich like onion rings, you may as well have the best. Tell Grace we said hello.
Beth’s Cafe rocked with some great service with an attitude and great food. Maybe next time I’ll try the 12 egg omelette challenge. Must be harder than it looks.
It was a very short visit to Seattle, but we did get together with my brother and his wife for dinner. Following our all too brief visit in Seattle, we headed over to Sequim for a few days and visited with family. After a nice visit there (and some crazy good cupcakes) we headed south for a short visit to Portland, and some highly anticipated returns to Bunk Sandwiches and Blue Plate Lunch Counter.
As soon as we got checked in, we rushed out for some great food at the Bunk Bar downtown. I ordered the Pork Belly Cubano (and remembered to take a picture this time), and Anna ordered a grilled cheese. The food was just as good as I remembered it, and the pictures don’t begin to do it justice. This particular sandwich was rated as one of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” by Chris Cosentino, which speaks volumes because for the possible exception of Iron Chef Michael Symon, I don’t know of anyone in the world who knows more about pork than Chris Cosentino. The Pork Belly Cubano at Bunk is a masterpiece (and has earned its spot on Ken’s Top Tens).
During our one morning in town for breakfast, we drove over to the Arleta Library Café; a charming little place in a quaint neighborhood. The atmosphere is casual, the service friendly, and the food is super fresh and very high quality. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and Anna ordered a pancake. We needed to save room for lunch. I have to admit that Anna and I don’t really fit in with the young urban vibe of Portland, but we love the food, and they took great care of us at the Arleta Library Café. I’d love to go back.
We were thrilled to return for lunch at the Blue Plate Lunch Counter. This time, Anna ordered the sliders, and just to have something different I thought I would try my luck with a Sloppy Joe. I wasn’t expecting anything particularly special, but I was about to get my world rocked by Chef Jeffery Reiter (again). He is doing classic American comfort food and doing it right. I was completely blown away by how good the Sloppy Joe was. It is truly inspired. I asked him to share the recipe with me (I would have begged, but fortunately for me I was spared the humiliation and degradation of groveling). Actually, there is no recipe. Chef Jeff fired off a list of ingredients and said, “It’s how you cook it that matters.”
The Sloppy Joe begins with a two part process of making the sauce and cooking the meat (which are later brought together in perfect balance and harmony). Most other places would be well ahead of the game here to just dump some of that on a bun and call it a day. Not so with Jeff. He takes Tillamook Cheddar and melts it on buttery Texas Toast (almost like a grilled cheese prep). Under his watchful eye, Jeff perfectly times the addition of the meat to the sandwich and combines both halves to finish the world’s best Sloppy Joe. As Guy often says, “I’m so going to rip this one off and make it at home.” As crazy good as the Sloppy Joe was, I can’t forget to mention that the sliders were excellent too. They’re the best, just like the Blue Plate Lunch Counter and Soda Fountain. I just noticed on their website that they have a Beef Stroganoff special on Thursdays… Looks like I’m going back.
It’s hard to reconcile going to a DDD spot that has more than one awesome, killer, favorite, knock-out dish. I’ve been to the Four Kegs three times now and each time I had to have the Stromboli. Mario says the Sicilian Pizza is great, and they also have a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich (and an enticing selection of burgers). Or how about showing up at Nic’s Grill in Oklahoma City on a Thursday and having to decide between the Fried Chicken or the killer onion cheeseburger? Life’s full of tough choices, which are made none the easier when you’re 1,000 miles away from home.
I wouldn’t say this about just anybody, but I would seriously like to sample every thing that Chef Jeffrey Reiter has on his menu. Another chef who I feel the same way about is Matthew Buschle at Virgil’s Care in Bellevue,Kentucky. There’s lot’s of others, but the list would be too long to list here. What these chefs have in common, besides their uncanny mastery of food and flavors, is their approach to super high-quality, hand-crafted food, where each dish is the finest of its kind… and where each dish matters. Just like the burgers at the Nook or Hodad’s. The quality matters… every single time.
Pok Pok is a funky Asian joint with two floors. We got a little table on the upstairs balcony and sampled an order of the Asian BBQ ribs. The ribs were tasty. We got to talking with the people at the next table, because they told their server that they wanted to try everything that Guy Fieri had (which was the first time we ever heard that). As it turned out, it was the guy’s very first visit to a DDD place. He had heard how popular the show is, and this happened to be his first opportunity to eat at a DDD spot. It’s a small balcony. What an amazing coincidence. Even more of a coincidence, the guy was from Anna’s hometown. We told him he had to make it to Bunk, Blue Plate Lunch Counter and Podnah’s Pit. To that, the guy said that he was only going to have time to make it to one more place, and which should he pick?
Come on! All three places are so good, how could I pick just one? I’m always happy to recommend places and make suggestions, but there was no way I could know what this guy would like the most. I had to tell him it would depend on what food he was in the mood for. If I could only pick one of the three, it would be Blue Plate. But, they aren’t open for dinner, so it was a tough call. I told him to go to all three. There is no shortage of great food in Portland, and I’m surprised DDD hasn’t already been back through (maybe they have by now). We didn’t have time to make it back to Podnah’s Pit, and whenever I think of how good the food was there, I keep kicking myself for not sampling the pecan pie. What the hell was I thinking? A good old Southern Boy passing on pecan pie. It’s just not proper. As a punishment to myself, just for being dumb, I’ve not had pecan pie anywhere else either. I’m waiting until I make my own at home from scratch, or until I make it back to the South, whichever comes first.
Stay tuned for my next report on the best pie in the whole world. Whoever invented pecan pie must be some kind of an evil genius. It probably started off as a joke, or maybe someone lost a bet, “Not sweet enough huh? Well, I’ll show you sweet. Try this!” Were it not for eggs, it should be candy (sugar, butter and nuts). Through the magic of cooking, and the addition of a pie crust, it becomes a glorious custard which could only be improved upon by the addition of pecans. Genius. Sure, it’s sinfully sweet and decadent, but it’s also sublime. I remember watching my dad make it when I was a boy. It must be fun and tremendously gratifying for parents to cook in the kitchen with their children and show them how their favorite foods are made. I can tell Guy Fieri sure digs being at home and having his family in the kitchen.
Next DDD Destination: Sacramento (DDD count: 173)