Reviews & Recipes

El Que

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Spokesman Review, In Food Section, January 13, 2010 

El Que adds some spice to the eatery scene.

There’s a new way to get a taco-truck fix: El Que. Taco-truck food and infused tequilas are the foundation of the new joint, which co-owner John Grollmus describes as “50 percent food- and 50 percent cocktail-focused.”

El Que, pronounced “el kay,” is a play on the name of big sister restaurant The Elk Public House. It is tucked in behind its namesake in Browne’s Addition in a space formerly home to Cabin Coffee on Cannon Street, with room for 35 people.

Grollmus and partners own The Elk and The Two Seven Public House in Spokane, Moon Time in Coeur d’Alene and The Porch Public House in Hayden Lake.

Tacos and banana-leaf-wrapped tamales are menu mainstays. Tamales wrapped with banana leaves, rather than the more common corn husk tamales, get a different infusion of flavor.

El Que is also experimenting with its own hot sauces. There’s a daily sopa de tortilla, or tortilla soup.

Grollmus says the infused tequilas and cocktails made from those concoctions have been well-received by customers.

“We’ve tried it couple of times before, but we’ve been having really good luck with these,” he says.

Restaurant general manager Marshall Powell says they plan to keep a regular slate of infused tequilas on hand, including beet; pineapple, vanilla and brown sugar; orange and cinnamon; and pineapple habanero.

Beet? “It’s one of those things that people either love or they hate it,” Powell says.

Some of the infusions take much of the signature “bite” out of the tequila, while enhancing its flavor. Of course, they’re adding a different kind of bite with infusions that include habanero, poblano and other chilies, both fresh and roasted.

Getting the tequilas just right has taken some trial and error. Some have been too spicy. Powell says he’s afraid to take the lid off the tequila infusing with a ghost pepper right now; the handwritten label for the creation features a skull and crossbones.

El Que employees are experimenting with other flavors. Powell says servers get a fifth of tequila a week to use. There have been attempts with huckleberries, lemongrass, raisin, basil and cucumber, cilantro and lime, to name a few.

The mason jars with the experiments line some of the shelves at El Que. The tequilas take on the flavors of the ingredients stuffed inside, as well as some of the colors.

El Que is open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. The kitchen closes an hour later than The Elk; that’s 11 p.m. most days and midnight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Grollmus says they’re still considering if and when the restaurant will open for lunch.

El Que can be reached at (509) 624-5412.