What are best food experiences in Northern Idaho?

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Both Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene are lakeside communities with a variety of interesting and diverse food experiences. Here are five standout restaurants:

1. La Rosa Club. An unforgettable Northern Idaho dinning experience starts at La Rosa Club in downtown Sandpoint. La Rosa Club is an extension of Ivano’s Italian Ristorante, which is directly across the street. Start at La Rosa for a cocktail and a taste of their exceptional tapas and appetizers. If you have a reservation at Ivano’s, you can then simply walk across the street for authentic Italian food. If you start early enough, you should be able to catch a show at the historic Panida Theater a block up the street. The Panida draws people from far and wide for its live music performances, international film series and other art events.

2. The Wolf Lodge Steakhouse. Located 10 minutes east of downtown Coeur d’Alene on Interstate 90 is a Northwest dinning experience that you won’t likely forget. Known for its fire-roasted steak and seafood, the Wolf Lodge has a distinctive rustic, casual atmosphere with open fire pits and giant stone fireplaces. They are open all year but the rock fireplaces make this place extra compelling and cozy when the snow falls. Originally operating as a tavern in the 1930s (just a few years after prohibition), the Lodge has just recently obtained a full liquor license. The cut-off-the-prime, 16-ounce rib eye steak is the specialty of the house. The Wolf Lodge is extremely popular, so unless you don’t mind waiting for at least an hour, call ahead to make a reservation.

3. The Garnet Café. For a true Northern Idaho dining experience, have breakfast or lunch at The Garnet Café on Walnut Street in downtown Coeur d’Alene. The Garnet is a small café earning rave reviews from both locals and visitors. Every item on the menu is organic and non-GMO — and most likely some of the freshest food you’ve ever tasted. The owners are farmers and menu items are based around their farm-fresh ingredients and the seasons. Goat’s milk and cheeses, fresh eggs and hormone-free meats make their way to your table straight from their estate. The ingredients that they cannot produce themselves (such as wild salmon) are carefully selected from the best sources. The breakfast menu includes dishes such as homemade corn beef hash, duck sausage, lemon curd and salmon with orange marmalade. The Garnet has an equally interesting lunch menu. They are open Tuesday through Sunday, serving breakfast and lunch.

4. 315 Martinis and Tapas. Speaking of menus, 315 Martinis and Tapas at Coeur d’Alene’s Greenbriar Inn has perhaps the most innovative and original menu in the region. Owners Bob and Kris McIlvenna brought the concept of small portions of exquisite delicacies to Northern Idaho. The stuffed portabella mushrooms are rivaled by the ahi tuna and crab cakes as tapas favorites. Although the tapas are the restaurant’s namesake, the entrees offer equally rich and distinctive choices. The duck confit is served over a bed of marinated wild mushroom duxelles and huckleberry chutney that will be unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. The building’s low lights and vintage furniture convey a warm ambience — the historic structure has transformed from a bordello to a nunnery to a family home to a restaurant — that is highlighted by rich mahogany paneling and classic fireplace. On Friday and Saturday nights, you are likely to see patrons sipping on handcrafted cocktails and listening to soft blues and jazz performed live.

5. Syringa Japanese Café and Sushi Bar. The sushi bar in Coeur d’Alene has earned numerous accolades for its high-quality Asian cuisine. A visit to the cozy restaurant on Fourth Street (just a few blocks above Harrison Avenue) will show you why. In just a few years, the owners have acquired a devoted clientele in the region. The menu offers plenty of delicious choices for those of you who might not desire sushi. For fish lovers, a great selection is the Chilean Sea Bass Misozuke. The sea bass is marinated for three days in a white miso paste before it is grilled and served with a Japanese ratatouille. Another favorite for you to absolutely savor is the twice-cooked pork. Owners Viljo and Autumn Basso are friendly and accessible, and always work hard to assure that you make a return visit.

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