825 N. Monroe
The tiny building on the corner of Monroe and Mallon was actually pretty close to ruins when local chef Tony Brown took on the task of reviving it earlier this year. But to those who stopped by Ruins during its quiet opening a couple of weekends ago, nothing would indicate the historic building's former deterioration.
Just as when Brown and mom Marti opened their nearby sandwich shop Stella's Café more than two years ago, word of Ruins' opening was spread quietly but quickly by friends, family and faithful followers of the Browns' concept at Stella's.
To dine at Ruins the way Brown intends, you'd order a dish from each section of the brief, continually changing menu. For now — Brown already has swapped a few items in and out — the menu is organized by salads, small plates, sides and dessert. Small plates, like Andouille sausage with toast and mustard ($7) and barbecued tofu with succotash ($6), offer heartier portions, but are small enough to not overfill with a complementary side — some sautéed kale ($4) or potato croquettes ($5). Save room for the day's featured dessert item ($5), too.
Skipping food would be regrettable here but not unwelcome, as Ruins operates during traditional bar hours. Its intricate craft cocktail menu ($8-$12) is just short enough to maintain variety and make ordering less indecisive. Three taps are set to rotate local brews and ciders, and bottled beer, wine and well drinks ($5) round out the bar offerings.
109 S. Cedar St., Sandpoint
You might say Baxters on Cedarhas been decades in the making. Owners Tommy Dageford and Richard Curtis picked up a few tips over the years spent working in restaurants, and other careers like construction and landscaping. They know what kind of bar towels work best, what sort of music to play, that great meatloaf will sell and that a bathroom can never be too clean.
"We are hands-on owners that really care about everything we do," says Curtis, who progressed from cooking school to restaurant owner/operator for 13 years before moving to Sandpoint in 2005. Prior to that, he worked at Nicollet Island Inn in Minneapolis, where he and Dageford met. Dageford also worked at Minneapolis' Zagat award-winning La Belle Vie.
High standards are a driving force at Baxters in Sandpoint, says Curtis. The turkey in the soup with rosemary and wild rice ($4.50/$6) or in the artisan-bread sandwich with cranberry, sweet onion and extra-sharp white cheddar ($8.50)? It's roasted in-house. They overnight seafood for the daily fresh catch and Dungeness crab cakes ($15), use local ingredients like Wood's bratwurst, which they serve with onions and peppers ($6). And they break down all their own meat, like in the duck confit sandwich with hoisin sauce ($9.50).