(1.) HARVESTER RESTAURANT
401 West First Street, Spangle, WA
MOST POPULAR “neighborhood” restaurants feel as if their ambience came packed in a shipping crate marked “kitsch,” their almost-too-perfect arrangement of quirky signs and fake-vintage photographs. The whimsical conglomeration of old signs, newspaper clippings and other bric-a-brac at the Harvester Restaurant in Spangle, however, feels organic, the natural accumulation of years of yard-sale spoils. This is the type of neighbordhood-hangout atmosphere that can’t be faked.
The menu at the Harvester is the real deal, too, a fine-tuned collection of old-school comfort food-and unlike most comfort food, which is so heavy and greasy that it winds up being rather discomforting, here it lives up to its title. All the staples are there: burgers, steaks, chicken, and the by-now Americanized Italian and Mexican basics such as spaghetti and burritos. There are also a few surprises, such as the buffalo burger, which has a lighter yet richer taste than its bovine counterpart (and is part of the Harvester’s two-item calorie-conscious menu). Vegetarians have several options, such as the veggie burger or Widmer Hefeweizen-battered fish and chips, the latter of which accompanied by near-perfect fries and a refreshing coleslaw. Be sure to try the pie, which deserves its reputation as some of the best in the area; the chocolate-peanut butter cream, like the rest of the Harvester’s offerings, is smooth and flavorful without being regrettably rich. AARON THEISSEN
WHEN YOU GO: Head south from Spokane on US-195. Take the Spangle exit. Turn left onto Main Street and follow until Main crosses with First Street. Distance from Spokane: 13.05 Miles. The restaurant and lounge are open 7 days a week, food can be ordered to-go.
(2.) THE SPRAG POLE INN AND MUSEUM
Main Street, Murray, ID
THE TOWN of Murray, an outpost of civilization near the Idaho-Montana border north of Wallace, has served as a resting point and destination for over a century since its founding as a silver-mining town. Today, Murray is little more than a ghost town, with a population of about 25 that doubles in the summer. The Sprag Pole (est. 1885) currently operates almost exclusively as a restaurant and bar, though it also houses an eclectic museum.
The museum is dedicated to the local pioneer spirit characterized by Walt Almquist and Molly B’Damn. Almquist started the museum, including in its attractions his whittled wood chain, the longest in the world at 121 feet. An 85-foot chain, also whittled by Almquist, graces the mantle above the bar.
The Sprag Pole has a menu that will please just about anyone. Except for your brother’s girlfriend, who is a vegetarian, since the hamburgers only come with onions and pickles and nothing on the menu was meat-free, except their milkshakes, which reportedly bring folks up all the way from I-90.
The humongous hamburgers, “made with 100 percent real beef” were delicious and well worth the drive, but if you really want to get a taste of the local lifestyle, perhaps you can join the hand of bridge being played while the regulars wait for the lunch buffet. MIRA COPELAND
WHEN YOU GO: From Spokane, take I-90 East through Coeur d’Alene and Kellogg to Wallace. In Wallace, take 6th Street, which takes you toward Pritchard and will lead you all the way to Murray. Wait until the Highway comes to a T at the Husky gas station, then take a right, and continue on to the antique storefronts of Murray, where you’ll find the Sprag Pole Inn and Museum just before the large totem pole and across the street from the town’s quaint office. Distance from Spokane: 92.85 miles. Open 10 AM to 10 PM.
(3.) LOS HERNANDEZ
3706 Main St., Union Gap, WA
SOUTH OF YAKIMA, in a non-descript white cinderblock building, Felipe Hernandez and his wife are making some of the best tamales you will find in the Northwest. Chicken or Pork Tamales are made fresh daily, with asparagus available from April-July.
A tamal is simple in theory. There is a filling of some sort, often a shredded pork or chicken in a sauce of peppers, garlic and onion, the “masa” which is a corn mush dough and a “hojas,” or cornhusk that holds it all together while it is steamed. When done correctly the cornhusk peels off easily to reveal a tender, spicy steaming tamal.
Making tamales is a long and time consuming process, traditionally done with the entire family pitching in to cook the meat, create the masa, scrape and prepare the husks and finally assembling, wrapping and steaming the batch. As with most foods, they are at their best when eaten fresh, but if that is not an option, the good people at Los Hernandez do ship within the U.S. If you are feeling adventurous and want to do a little cooking, the masa and hojas can be ordered directly from them as well. BILL BLOOM
WHEN YOU GO: From Spokane, head West on Interstate 90. Drive about 169 miles. Take Exit 110 toward Yakima. Head South on U.S. 97/I-82 E. Drive 36 miles. Take the Valley Hall Blvd. Exit 36 toward Untion Gap.Turn Right onto East Valley Mall Blvd. Turn Left on South Rudkin Rd. Turn Slight Right onto Main Street/ South 1st St. South First St. becomes Main Street. Distance from Spokane: 207 miles. Open 11 Am – 11 PM Monday through Friday, 10 AM – 7 PM on Saturday and 11 AM – 6 PM on Sunday.
(4.) FEEDING STATION
205 North Crosby “Main Street,” Tekoa, WA
TUESDAYS AT the Feeding Station is Broasted Chicken day. The all-you-can-eat lunch buffet features “real” mashed potatoes and gravy, six or seven salads, dessert and drinks-all for $7. Known to attract cyclists roaming the Palouse hills during warmer weather, the Feeding Station delivers in quality and quantity.
The small corner restaurant located along the historic “Main Street” in Tekoa has been servicing local farmers for years. Conversations from neighboring booths will likely involve the purchase of new combines or the current condition of the crops. Juanita Paden and her daughter, Shawn Smith, own and run the Feeding Station as well as the beauty salon next door.
While the broasted chicken is a local favorite, Paden and Smith also have a Thursday buffet, that is more of a mixed bag of “whatever we’ve got” says Paden. There are Daily Specials as well. Fish Fridays proudly serves a flaky-but-not-too greasy fish sandwich with homemade clam chowder on the side. Breads and desserts are handmade each day by Paden and you can tell. The Forest Berry Pie is loved for its delicate crust, and not-too-sweet filling. If you can’t make up your mind, Paden will bring over a sampler of three of her favorite desserts to wrap up your meal. JULIET SINISTERRA
WHEN YOU GO: Head south on US-195 from Spokane toward Colfax. Exit at Rosalia/Oakesdale exit. Turn left toward Oakesdale. Right before Oakesdale there will be signs to turn off to Tekoa. This road will bring you into Tekoa, turn left on Crosby and head down 3 or 4 blocks. The Feeding Station is located on your left. Distance from Spokane: 42 miles. Open 6 AM – 7 PM Monday through Thursday, 6 AM – 8 PM Friday, 7 AM – 2 PM Saturday, and 8 AM – 3 PM Sunday.
(5.) TENDRILS RESTAURANT
Cave B Inn at Sagecliffe
344 Silica Road NW, Quincy, WA
(509) 785-CAVE (2283)
TENDRILS RESTAURANT is part of a 500-acre retreat and winery located above the Gorge near George, Washington. The ritziest of the OTM foodtrips, Tendrils overlooks the Columbia River in Quincy, WA. During warmer months, concerts from the popular George venue can be overhead from the outdoor terraces.
Besides the vineyards and main inn (housing the restaurant) the site is dotted with various buildings housing a spa, lodging accommodations, and the winery.
The food, or cuisine rather, at Tendrils aims to be local, natural and organic whenever possible. Menu items consist of standard restaurant fare of salads and sandwiches prepared and presented thoughtfully. Unique is the development of an “Ancient Lakes Cuisine.” Here you will find Penn Cove mussels, Hama Hama oysters and Broken Arrow Ranch antelope. All wines come from Cave B Inn. Chefs Fernando and Marlene Divina also lead a periodic culinary series on regional foods.
As well as fine dining the retreat also offers hiking, nature talks, the aforementioned spa and a driving range. BARBARA SNYDER
WHEN YOU GO: Head West on I-90. Drive for 130 miles. At George, WA take Exit 151. Take a right onto WA-281 SPUR. Take your first left on WA-281-N. Turn slight right onto Beverly Burke Road N, go about 2 miles. Take a right at Baseline Road W. Go 5 miles. Take a right on Silica Road NW. Cave B Inn and Winery is on the left. Distance from Spokane: 138 miles. Open for breakfast and lunch daily. Dinner: 5 PM – 9 PM Sunday – Thurdays and 5 PM – 10 PM Fridays and Saturdays.
(6.) HONEYSUCKLE NATURAL FOODS
310 East Railroad, Plains, MT
ORGANIC SOUPS are their specialty, but you can also get a full-body massage. Honeysuckle Natural Foods in Plains, Montana, is a self-service soup bar, small natural grocer, purveyor of locally-made items, and juice bar-all that with a massage clinic in the back.
For the past 6-1/2 years, Sue Williamson has lovingly crafted one vegetarian and meat soup every Monday through Friday in the small retrofitted residential building. Her soups are diverse and impeccably prepared. Williamson has served everything from borscht, chicken gumbo, and and cioppino to indian potato cuban black bean, zuppa toscana and mulligatawny. She also bakes muffins and biscuits daily and serves either a pasta salad or a green salad at the bar. Communal tables are located past the small store where customers can pick up some organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and vitamins.
If you aren’t too hungry, Williamson also makes fresh organic smoothies & juice. JULIET SINISTERRA
WHEN YOU GO: Head east on I-90 for about 124 miles. In Montana, take Exit 33 toward St. Regis. Turn left onto MT-135. Drive for 21.5 miles. Turn left onto MT-200, drive for 8.6 miles. MT-200 brings you into the center of Plains and is also called Railroad Avenue. Honeysuckle is just abou 1/4 mile West of the center of town. Distance from Spokane: 157 miles. Open Monday through Friday 11 AM – 6 PM.
(7.) CORONA VILLAGE
1810 Second Street, Cheney, WA
FINDING EXCITING food in Cheney can be tough, especially in the winter. From the outside, Corona Village appears to be stuck between a hardware store and a pet place, but inside this narrowly-nested restaurant, authentic Mexican flare brews between warm saffron-red and yellow walls. Though a small eatery, the chefs behind the counter actively prepare some already famous burritos.
For those on the go, they offer the Andale Rapido lunch menu for fast restaurant dishes, in addition to dinner. With several vegetarian options represented, most other plates are easily transformed with a “hold the meat” request. One of these versatile items is the Corona Andale Burrito, which is packed with fluffy rice, black beans, and smooth guacamole in a tortilla of your choice.
The simply stated 3 Fish Tacos are a major hit, even for the lacto-ovo-vegetarian. The lightly fried tilapia fish are laid on soft corn shells with the staple lettuce plus tomato. Add a squeeze of sweet lime inside and a summer classic is born, begging to be revisited.
While the fish tacos can beat out any others in town, don’t forget the salsa. It is spicy and a perfect consistency that’s not too chunky and won’t liquify the corn chips. Salsa, burrito, tacos and a beverage sharing the establishment’s namesake qualify Corona Village as a new unique favorite. ARGYLE BAUKOL
WHEN YOU GO: Take I-90 to the Four Lakes/Cheney exit to the WA hwy 904. After the first stoplight, the hwy becomes 1st St, after the second stoplight look right to a small shopping center with a yellow pet store on the end. Distance from Spokane: 16 miles. Open 11 AM – 9 PM Daily, except Sundays 12 Noon – 8 PM.
(8.) The Waterfront Restaurant
Blue Diamond Marina
Cavanaugh Bay, Priest Lake, ID
Looking for a romantic Valentine’s roadtrip? The Waterfront, a small restaurant near Coolin, Idaho overlooking Priest Lake, makes for a great getaway. Chef Matt Irvin will be preparing a package meal including chilled shrimp cocktail, spinach, pear and blue cheese salad, roasted prime rib or cornish game hen, side vegetables, bread, drinks and dessert all for $59.95 per couple. Seating starts at 6:30 PM. The restaurant is only open during off-season for special events or holidays. Call for reservations.