At This Historic Hotel, Some Things Never Change

And that’s a very good thing when it comes to the 1914 gem in downtown Spokane, Wash. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss when visiting The Davenport.

Yes, there will be prime rib

To say nothing has changed isn’t exactly true. This historic property, which was saved from the wrecking ball in the early 2000s by savvy businessman Walt Worthy, became affiliated with the Marriott’s Autograph Collection in 2014. In 2021, the hotel and its four sister properties were sold to KSL Capital Partners. The transition was seamless judging by the happy hum of arrivals and departures on a busy summer weekend when I recently visited.

Oh, the Davenport and I go way back. I have so many fond memories of this beautiful place created during the time I lived in the city. But I’d never before stayed in its guest rooms. What a fantastic flashback to mark 20 years since I left the city I called home for so long. It was deeply nostalgic visit, especially because of the view from my lovely room.

There, across the street and down the block from The Bing Crosby Theater sits The Spokesman-Review and the Spokane Chronicle, the newspaper where I began my food writing career in the… gulp… 1980s. Yes, absolutely. So much has changed since then, yet there are still so many familiar touchstones on these downtown streets. I’m deeply grateful to see Chicken-N-More, Domini’s, The Sukiyaki Inn (best agedashi tofu!) and The Onion are still going strong after all these years.

Of course, my food-loving friends want me to go try the hottest new haute spot, Sorella in the lively Kendall Yards neighborhood. Next time! This trip was all about fondly looking back and that’s how I found myself devouring a prawn-tini at the Davenport’s Palm Court Grill.

Back to the future

The lobby of the Historic Davenport Hotel evokes another time. The intricate details, the ornate fixtures and, wait, what’s this? A couple of couples of a certain age elegantly dancing to a set of standards beautifully performed by the Kate Skinner Trio.

Build in some extra time to wander the museum-like displays of photographs and memorabilia on the hotel’s mezzanine level. Very old school cool.

Of course, so much has changed in the years since they used to drag Model T’s into the hotel for the annual car show and huge crowds dressed to the nines and gathered. There’s a dude wearing shorts and a ball cap a couple tables over as I’m seated. No big deal, I only have eyes for those shellfish dangling off the edge of a martini glass.

It was a tough choice between that starter and a small version of the hotel’s famous Crab Louie. That salad has been a fixture since the beginning, and according to the menu, it was named for the hotel’s founder, Louis Davenport.

The prawns were on the brink of perfect, only lacking a clear horseradish kick to push it in that direction. The quest for that heat might have played into my decision to go with prime rib for the main course.

I rarely order prime rib because over the years, I’ve had so many blah versions of that roast. But if there was ever a place that could pull it off, well, here we are.

And, yes, it arrived ruby red, medium rare, as requested. This hefty slab of beef earned a loud round of mmmm’s because it delivered on the deep, beefy flavor so often washed out in commodity meats. The hotel sources this grass-fed product locally.

Only wish I could dish the same superlatives for the sides, which were straight-up meh. This majestic meat deserved better than lukewarm Boursin mashed potatoes and a few skinny stalks of asparagus. The creamy horseradish was also tame, but the assertively seasoned au jus made for a fine dip for each forkful of the prime rib.

It was still early enough for a night cap at The Peacock Room, but I just wanted to go back upstairs and enjoy my room.

Good morning at The Original Pancake House

I met up with a friend for a walk through Spokane’s gorgeous Riverfront Park — the site of Expo ‘74 — and a stack of fantastic flapjacks at a fairly new addition to Spokane’s culinary landscape.

The Original Pancake House was founded in 1953 in Portland, Ore., and has more than 150 locations. The Spokane spot debuted in the spring in the space that was once Luigi’s. No trace of that well-seasoned establishment remains, especially as the sun shone brightly on the tidy dining room.

Our accommodating server kept our coffee cups topped off and delivered the excellent bacon buttermilk pancakes in short order. Absolute heaven.

There was nothing remotely trendy about this meal, but it was so satisfying. As was my visit to the city where I celebrated so many milestones, made lifelong friends, covered incredible stories. Only bummer about my stay was that is was so brief. Miss you already, Spokane!

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If you go…

The Davenport’s hotel collection includes several properties, so if you have your heart set on going to the original, be sure and book the Historic Davenport.

While wandering around downtown, be sure and get a pink cookie from Rocket Bakery, stop in for a latte at Atticus Coffee and Gifts, check out the calendar for concerts at The Bing or The Fox, order a pint at Brick West Brewing Co., pick up some of the best peanut brittle ever at Bruttles.

A few facts about Spokaloo

Betcha didn’t know:

  • Father’s Day was “invented” here, first celebrated in 1910, a holiday created by a woman.
  • One of Madonna’s earliest big screen performances was filmed in Spokane. She’s got a cameo singing Crazy for You in the 1985 box office hit, Vision Quest.
  • Award-winning author Jess Walter is a Spokane native who fleshed out his hometown’s rich history critically acclaimed bestseller, The Cold Millions.
  • Pig Out in the Park is a wildly popular free concert event with loads of food vendors that’s been going strong every Labor Day weekend since 1979. Don’t miss Azar’s gyros and Longhorn BBQ’s pulled pork sandwiches.
  • Macklemore’s writing and producing partner, Ryan Lewis, grew up in Spokane before moving to Seattle during high school. The duo filmed the entertaining video for their 2016 hit Downtown in the 509. Can you spot baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr.?

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