South Perry’s southern-style restaurant Casper Fry reopens after a year-long hiatus with a new chef, menu | Food News | Spokane | The Pacific Northwest Inlander
Aa point this year, The Casper Fry restaurant in South Perry has almost become another victim of a pandemic.
Its owners have seriously debated closing for good while struggling to keep their other two restaurants, Durkin’s Liquor Bar and Madeleine’s Cafe, afloat amid ever-changing health regulations and declining sales as COVID cases -19 peaked and slowed down over the past year.
In early March, after being closed for just under a year, the southern restaurant finally reopened its dining room.
There’s also a new chef at the helm and a revamped menu that leans more towards casual fare than previous iterations of the restaurant, which often fell in fine dining territory.
“When we closed in March, like everyone else, we weren’t sure whether or not we would reopen,” says Deb Green, co-owner of Casper Fry. She owns and runs all three restaurants alongside her son Ben Poffenroth and daughter Megan Van Stone.
“When we started to open the other restaurants at the end of [last] May, we had had all this time as a family to think about what was going to be Casper Fry’s future. And when we got the staff together, we basically said, ‘Look, we don’t know what the future is, and we don’t know if there is one,’ “she continues.” That was the honest truth. We didn’t want to hold them back; they needed the opportunity to get out and find another job. ”
With many of Casper Fry’s former front desk and back office workers relocating, the family brought in chef Taylor Rainwater. He has spent the last few months reworking the menu to better match the restaurant’s new focus as a relaxed and friendly place for the neighborhood.
Rainwater’s updates maintain a basic collection of Southern-style comfort food: fried chicken, shrimp and grits, jambalaya, po’boy sandwiches and more, all simplified and refined by the chef. He previously worked for the family, holding various cooking positions at all three restaurants since moving to Spokane about five years ago. When the pandemic arrived, however, he returned home to Arizona to support his father.
“I think it was May of last year, I called Deb out of the blue and I was like, ‘Hey, we’re going back to DC, and I need some work. I know we are in a pandemic, but is there anything you can give me? “, Recalls Rainwater.
Green immediately said yes, and he found himself in a familiar kitchen at Durkin’s for the rest of the year as the city center went from take-out to limited seating and then back to take-out. .
When the time came to start working on Casper Fry’s comeback, Green says she knew Rainwater would be the one to run her kitchen.
“Honestly, he was the only choice,” she said. “We saw him grow up in this industry. He is what we needed here, a chef who understood the branding and the concept and what the menu should be.”
Ssince its beginnings in 2012, Casper Fry’s approach to traditional Southern comfort food has taken many forms. But in a post-pandemic world yet to come, Green says another big change is due. Take out continues to be a big sales driver for many of his restaurant customers and not everything on Casper Fry’s old menu has gone well.
A broad category is that of handheld computers. Among the options are two po ‘boys, shrimp and mushroom ($ 15 each); a fried chicken sandwich ($ 15); and two burgers ($ 15 / $ 17.50).
Green describes the new menu as being more “customer friendly” and “neighborhood friendly”.
“We decided to make it less complicated and a little more accessible and lower the price a bit,” she says.
“I think one thing that has happened here is that each chef has somehow put their own signature on the restaurant, and so over the years the menu has transformed from simple Southern cuisine and less complicated with which we started, then honestly, a little too fancy for the neighborhood, ”she continues. “That made it more of a destination place than” Let’s move on to Casper Fry for a burger and a beer. “”
The one-page menu begins with several shared platters: a plank of pickles ($ 10), chicken wings ($ 13), a trio of cookies – made at Madeleine and topped with homemade ham, jam and mustard at Creole – and rotary okra ($ 6 / $ 9), plus mac and cheese ($ 8) with the option to switch to chili cheese ($ 9.50).
“The way I like to cook is with good ingredients, and very simple,” says Rainwater. “I think a lot of times in the past some dishes went too far where there was a lot going on, but I like to flavor dishes with what is seasonal and simple.”
Of the three salad choices currently, there’s a classic: red beans and rice ($ 12) with fresh, roasted veggies and buttermilk blue cheese, topped with tahini vinaigrette. Some of Casper Fry’s spring dishes include cold-smoked pork chop ($ 22), fried chicken ($ 18), shrimp and oatmeal ($ 19), and jambalaya ($ 18). Dessert is donuts with caramel sauce or the cobbler / crisp of the day ($ 7 each).
“Like Taylor said, food isn’t complicated – it’s not 35 ingredients to put a great meal on the plate – and a lot of those ingredients are used to their full potential,” says Green.
At the bar, co-owner Ben Poffenroth has designed a new collection of seasonal cocktails. Strawberry Nights ($ 10) are popular so far, a concoction of vodka, appetizer, lemon juice, strawberry honey, egg white, and soda. All craft beers cost $ 6 / pint, or crack a tall domestic boy on the patio for $ 3.
Rainwater also creates rotating seasonal specials as well as a few specialty cocktails from the bar. One of its April highlights is an oven-seared Josper Salmon ($ 22) with andouille sausage, broad beans, a chopped pepper, remoulade and canned poblano.
Casper Fry’s first weekend brunch is Sunday, April 25, and again for Mother’s Day, May 9. Both are by reservation only with seats from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Otherwise, Casper Fry is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Even after almost leaving one of their restaurants, Green, his family, and his team are deeply grateful for the community’s support throughout the many trials over the past year. She now sees a light at the end, with vaccinations widely available and summer on the way. Still, enforcing mask policies, running at 50%, and chasing high-volume takeout orders remain daily challenges.
“We are working harder now than ever,” says Green. “It’s harder to do than your busiest Friday, Saturday night of the year. It’s harder to be halfway and to manage it, to manage guests and to maximize what you do.” ♦