I’m a sucker for ambiance and good vibes in a pub or restaurant, and the Coeur d’Alene Resort’s Taphouse Unchained and Tito’s Italian Grill and Wine Shop and have plenty of both, PLUS that other vital ingredient: great food and drinks.
Like brothers-in-arms, the two eateries complement each other with their menus, ambiance, energy and commitment to good service. Family-friendly, with sidewalk dining and good prices, Tito’s and Taphouse are just a few steps from the Resort.
Benvenuti! Welcome to Tito’s. An oversized mural of candy-colored houses perched on an Italian hillside overlooking the Mediterranean sets the stage. The brick oven, arched passages, the scent of garlic and tomato sauce make it clear, you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
Check out the wine racks strategically placed among the tables. What a treat to browse the selection, read the labels and choose a hearty red or a mellow white to go with your entrée. So much more interactive than reading a printed wine list. Tito’s wide ranging, Italian-themed menu has all the favorites plus you can build your own pasta or piccata dish.
Kids love pizza, right? At Tito’s they can create their own. First they don a miniature chef’s hat (have your camera ready, Mom), then belly up to the counter where staff has slathered tomato sauce on fresh dough that’s resting on kid-sized wooden pizza peels. A little cheese here, some pineapple there, a few slices of pepperoni and your chef-in-the-making gets to watch their creation slide into the oven and pop out bubbly and yummy.
Across the hall, Taphouse Unchained is an entirely different experience and possibly even more interactive. You cannot miss the theme: a bicycle wheel chandelier lights the room, bike pedals are attached to the bar stools, sprockets are embedded in the table tops, whole bicycles hang from the ceiling and olde time photographs of cyclists wearing wool pants, long-sleeved white shirts and jaunty caps cover the walls.
And you gotta try the margarita bike. Climb aboard, strap on possibly the most beat-up helmet in existence, pedal like crazy and watch your margarita whirl in the blender attached to a plate on the front of the bike. When the wait staff thinks you’ve completed your own private Tour de France, they ring the kiddie bell on the handlebars and you can dismount and enjoy your beverage. This kinda fun would make a margarita drinker out of me. Oh, I already am a margarita drinker. OK, this will make a pedaling margarita drinker out of me.
Beer fans are not left out of the fun. Buy a bottled beer, pitch the cap into the jar on the back bar and if you sink it, you get a free beer. And anybody can take a turn at Jenga, the oversized stack of blocks that dominates a central table. Contestants strategically remove one block after another, and things have been known to get a bit boisterous when the inevitable fail happens and the whole thing tumbles to the floor.
But Taphouse is more than fun and games. A full service bar, 24 microbrews and ciders are on tap and the menu ranges from an array of uber-healthy salads to mac and cheese and deep fried meatloaf.
In charge of both kitchens, Chef Tim Heinig honed his skills in a colorful patchwork of restaurants and cafes from Idaho’s Silver Valley to Antwerp, Belgium. He was only 13 when he started bussing tables at Sweets Café, a Wallace, Idaho icon. An indelible memory, Tim says, is delivering Sweet’s gravy fries to the working girls in Wallace’s brothels. (And yes, houses of ill repute were still operating in Wallace until an FBI raid closed them down in the late 1980s.)
A few years later, Tim picked up speed at a Denny’s near Seattle-Tacoma Airport, but it was his years in Europe that gave him an appreciation for dining options beyond gravy fries and lickety-split chain food.
“I learned that bigger is not better when I lived in Europe and worked at a bistro in Antwerp, Belgium,” he says. “And I learned to slow down and enjoy a meal. Dining can (and should) be a way of life, not something to hurry through.”
Overseeing both operations with a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude, Jeff Messinger has brought energy and comraderie to the restaurants. On a busy afternoon, I watched the red-shirted manager bussing tables, taking orders, refilling water glasses and chatting with customers.
“We want folks to enjoy themselves, have a great meal and a good bottle of wine,” he says. “I think we have a lot of energy here.” And off he goes, back in the thick of good food and good times.
Check out the fun of Monday Night Football at Taphouse Unchained HERE!