SPOKANE, WASHINGTON – Sometimes you find exactly what it is you’re looking for, but in the least likely places.
Most major cities, and virtually every big urban enclave, provides visitors and residents alike with that most familiar of roadway sites, the franchise chain restaurant. It could be providing fast food, or it could be offering something more upscale, but essentially everyone recognizes the name, and goes there because they know exactly what they’re going to get.
But what if you’re one of those patrons, like me, who has a craving instead for the unpredictable, for the surprise meal that doesn’t taste like it was made assembly-style?
There will be times when it feels like an uphill climb as you cruise down those busy commercial corridors and see one chain after another. But then ….
It’s called The Old European Breakfast House, and it’s a restaurant located on a busy commercial strip.
It’s in a shopping plaza that includes stores like Michaels Arts & Crafts, Cash & Carry Food Service and the Big 5 Sporting Goods retail chain. Old European also looks like it should be a chain, but it is most definitely not.
From the yellow and blue exterior that welcomes you inside, Old European has paintings from the old country on the wall to add to the ambiance, but it’s the menu, not the interior decorating, that stands out.
Check out, for example, the Old European Breakfast Burrito – a plate served with red potatoes that are mixed with peppers, onions, ham, sausage, bacon and eggs, plus cheese and tomatoes in a green sauce.
Another tempting meal – and a quite delicious one, I can attest – is the Swedish Crepes, described on the menu as “thicker and softer than French crepes” since “our recipe is made with fresh orange juice and many eggs.” It also doesn’t hurt that this meal is served with whipped cream, and the crepes are filled with sweet cream.
This is also a place to savor the pleasures of Hungarian Goulash – prepared with a choice of cheddar, Swiss, Pepper Jack or feta cheese. You might instead lean toward the delights of a Danish Aebelskiver, a round pancake served with blueberry syrup and cooked inside, with whipped cream on top.
As you can probably tell, Old European offers a cut above what the chains are listing on their menus.
Then again, you might want to read up on the Old European owners’ philosophy.
“We believe dining out should be a wonderful experience, not just a place to eat,” the Old European menu notes. “For most breakfast and lunch restaurants, the art of real home cooking gets lost because they choose to accommodate a fast-pace society by being quick, efficient and inexpensive. Fearing the risk of inconsistency and the demand of constant training, few establishments use scratch butter.”
That may sound simple and elementary, but it goes to the heart of what I love about family-run (as opposed to franchise-owned and operated) restaurants: the ability to deliver a meal you really can’t find elsewhere.
In fact, it’s something this restaurant brags about.
“Our ‘Old European’ recipes not only take time, but also combine the ‘raw ingredients’ that make our foods noticeably better,” the menu adds. “We hope that from the time you walk in our doors until you finish with your meal, you will experience this special pleasures”
Their hopes were realized with me. Now, granted, Old European does offer very familiar dishes – from omelets to chicken salads, from homemade soups to a Reuben or Monte Cristo sandwich for lunch.
But what impresses me more is the Scandinavian Cake Plate – a Strawberry Swedish Crepe, a German Potato Pancake, three Danish Aebelskivers and Buttermilk Hotcakes, all for $10.25.
You can also sample the German Sausage with two eggs, or the Old European Benedict with ham on toasted muffin and a medium cooked egg, plus potatoes on the side.
The biggest surprise about Old European isn’t the excellent home-cooked meals, the friendly service, or the fact that the staff is in no rush to get you in and out the door. No, it’s the fact that it’s located in downtown Spokane, Washington, a city in the eastern part of the state with a number of charms – but one so much smaller than other Pacific Northwest cities like Seattle and Portland that you wouldn’t expect it here.
But there is it, at 7640 N. Division St., operating on Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It’s a place where you can buy an Old European To-Go Coffee Mug for $9.99, or their Compass Creek Coffee to brew at home.
And it’s a place where not for a moment will you feel like you’ve walked into a franchise.
And if you like that, this restaurant – which the staff says has been operating for about 10 years — is a hidden gem.
To learn more, call 509-467-5987.
Contact us at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.