Geno's Steaks Phili

Spokane’s Food Identity

Phili has cheesesteaks. N’Orleans has gumbo, po’ boys, and jambalaya. New York has bagels, hot dog stands, and pizza. Albuquerque has green chili, and on and on….

Great cities have great food reputations.

Spokane’s food reputation has dramatically improved in recent years. Look no further than the LA Times raving review from 2016 – “Wine and dine to your heart’s content in horn-of-plenty Spokane, Wash.” And, if the LA Times’ media market is too small for you, here’s another from the Wall Street Journal“6 Great Small Cities for Food Lovers.” Scour the internet and you’ll find plenty more positive Spokane food reviews.

But it’s not Spokane’s creative, hipster dining scene that defines our food culture. No, no. Like all things cultural, our food roots run far deeper than that. The one food that is uniquely Spokane, served house-made at nearly every restaurant in town, with secret recipes kept in vaults guarded by anti-government para-military groups, is tartar sauce.

We dip everything in the stuff – burgers, fries, fish – you name it. From Dick’s to the Steelhead to Churchill’s, nearly every restaurant in town serves it and every recipe is different. There’s an on-going debate amongst locals about who serves the best stuff. Indeed, wars have been waged over disagreements far less significant.

The website Far and Wide recently published an article “Best Regional Foods in the USA” and, wouldn’t you know it, Spokane made the list because of our tartar sauce. As Kate Hudson from Visit Spokane rightly points out, “I’ve never seen anything like it in any other part of America. The sauce is downright revered. Order a burger and French fries at any Spokane restaurant and you’re sure to get tartar sauce with it, whether you want it or not. It’s a quirk here in this part of the Pacific Northwest.”

Tartar sauce as the beating heart of our food culture is quirky, indeed, but only for classless heathens that may judge. For us, however, tartar sauce is more than our prime accoutrement, it’s an art.

So who serves the best stuff, you may ask? Below is the top-secret recipe to the best tartar sauce in town, sourced from an individual steeped in the witchcraft. However, even he was unwilling to divulge exact measurements and he made me take an oath baptized with my own blood that I will never reveal the restaurant that serves it. Nevertheless, what follows is nothing short of mystical.

  • Mayo
  • Mustard
  • Milk
  • Minced Onion
  • Dill Relish
  • Season All
  • Celery Salt
  • Garlic Salt

In a world full of secret sauces, Spokane is the cultural hearth.