I pose this question to you eaters of Spokane: Where do you take your friends visiting from out of town to eat?
I recently had two friends in town from Columbus, Ohio. Both of these fine ladies know what good food is and expect that when they are paying money for food, it be good. After traipsing through all of the usual hot spots downtown, we were hungry, as the Hawaiian shave ice just didn't quite fill us up. The pressure was on me to pick a good place to eat that would show them Spokane has tasty eats. I racked my brain, which at the time was slightly swollen from a mild concussion, and came up with Hill's. I watched the episode on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on the Food network and could not wait to eat there! I pass this restaurant twice a day and each time think, "I really need to eat there."
Hill's Restaurant boasts to be a local hot spot with a roof top garden taking fresh to a whole new level. They are known locally for their pulled pork and for pairing pork with pasta.
We arrived for lunch on a Tuesday at 2 PM. The place was absolutely dead and the decor was off. My friend commented that it was a blend of modern Asian with country barn chairs. The waitress was nice enough. Friendly but bordering on creepy. She listed off the day's specials in a weird accent, which were Thai tomato basil soup and chicken and artichoke pasta. And each time she came back to our table was sporting a new accent. I'm not sure if she was having an identity crises or just trying to make the minutes tick away faster. Plus, her gums were a bit unnerving and made my stomach churn.
At first glance their menu seems to have an eclectic mix of diner classics made with a twist. No one dish in particular popped out at me as looking extra delicious. I also found the prices to be a bit off. A lot of their dishes were a little too spendy for what they were. I know they are popular for their pulled pork and sandwiches. I decided on the Reuben. The rest of my party ordered the pulled pork, the pasta special and a Philly cheese steak. When our food arrived, everything looked appetizing but the pasta special. It looked like a weird gelatinous pile of overcooked pasta dotted with slimy artichokes and dry chicken.
The Reuben was pretty terrible. It had all of the right components to classify as a Reuben but missing all of the flavor. The bread was not rye-y enough, the sauerkraut was missing the wonderful expected tangy flavor, the sauce tasted like watered down Thousand Island dressing and the pastrami was dry and cut too thick. My brother ordered the pulled pork and when asked how it was simply replied "It had flavor. But not good flavor." The Philly Cheese steak got a so-so review, nothing special. And no one needed to ask about the pasta special. It was obviously terrible.
Our lunch was cut short at Hill's due to an unexpected trip to the Emergency Room. So, somewhat thankfully but somewhat unfortunately we bid farewell to our food that we overpaid for that had only 3 bites taken out of it. I left with a bladder full of weak Iced Tea and $20 poorer.
Because our trip was cut short I do not have any pictures of the food we attempted to consume. I have it on good faith from a Twitter friend that perhaps this was just an off day at Hill's and I should return and order the Scotch Egg, which will make anyone smile. So perhaps next time I am downtown looking for grub, and feeling generous about where I spend my hard earned cash and don't mind spending it on something potentially terrible, I will give this Spokane "Hot Spot" another go.
Hill's Restaurant & Lounge is located at 401 W. Main Ave. Spokane, WA and can be found online here.
On Wednesday I felt I needed to show my friends a good time. And yes its hard to top the free entertainment in the emergency department of Sacred Heart, but I thought I would at least try. My father suggested we all pile into his mini-van (they do have other uses besides grocery getting) and venture to Sandpoint, Idaho. Recently he has been reading restaurant reviews on Urban Spoon and stumbled across this one for Babs' Pizzeria. He was sold. We worked up quite an appetite walking around beautiful downtown Sandpoint and food was on our brain. After some trial and error, we finally rolled upon Babs' and enthusiastically got out of the car and went inside.
The atmosphere at Babs' is bright and cheery giving hints to its NY roots. Babs' is a pizza place that dishes up authentic style NY pizza. It was voted best pizza in Bonner County in 2010 and we were about to find out why. The marinara sauce, or "gravy" as it was referred to is an old family recipe homemade by the owner's mother, who has Sicilian roots. Babs' is a family affair and you are treated as such from the moment you enter. They offer pizza by the slice and Stromboli already made for a quick order.
We were dining in and were talked into the Garlic Knots. For $3.75 you get a basket of 10-12 delicate, wonderfully doughy knots, lightly buttered and dusted in garlic powder and Parmesan cheese. They are accompanied with their homemade gravy. Their menu offers a good selection of salads, pasta, Stromboli and speciality pizzas. We ordered a large Meat Lovers Pizza, which is marinara, mozzarella, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, mild Italian sausage for $20.95, a large Long Island White Pie, which is brushed with olive oil, ricotta, mozzarella, chopped garlic, Roma tomatoes, basil, shredded Parmesan for $21.95 and lastly the homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs for $9.95. Our eyes are much bigger than our stomachs.
While our pizza was baking and our pasta cooking, we were offered samples of their homemade Jalapeno bread that just came out of the oven. 12 loaves were on their way to the local Farmer's Market and we were happy to give it a try. It was just the right amount of spicy without being overpowering and would appeal to a wide variety of pallets.
Once our food arrived, we happily realized that we would be eating pizza for many meals to come. Not only was their pizza highly appealing and spot on NY style pizza, but it was even better tasting than it looked. The dough* was incredibly fresh tasting and just the right amount of crispy yet chewy and not too thick yet not too thin, as any NY style pizza should be. I couldn't decide which kind I liked better, the meat lovers or the white pie. The combination of meat and marinara sauce on the meat lovers was divine. Where as the subtle use of garlic coupled with the creaminess of the ricotta and the saltiness of the Parmesan on the white pie was heavenly. The only downside to this pizza was that they were out of fresh basil and so our pizza was missing that extra umpf that wonderful herb would have added.
Those who sampled the spaghetti and meatballs enjoyed them as well. The meatballs are also an old family recipe and homemade by Babs' mother, which came through in the flavor and texture.
This was a wonderful dining experience albeit a toe crushing one, as my toe was stomped on by the waiter when he came to refill our water glasses. Even severe toe pain could not take away from the joy of dining at Babs' Pizzeria. It was definitely the redemption meal I was looking to score for my friends and I think it was at least that and then some. I strongly encourage enjoying this pizza the next time you find yourself in Sandpoint or take a mini adventure and point your car to the North. It is well worth the drive. I give it 5 fist pumps and an ooooh yeah!
Babs' Pizzeria is located at 1319 Highway 2 Suite C, Sandpoint, ID and can be found on the web here.
* Babs' Pizza dough is available for purchase for $5 a bundle.