Just about everyone has one of those T-shirts with a terrible pun or a slightly (or heavily) crass phrase that makes readers either giggle or cringe. My mom certainly has one. It was obtained during moonshine-tasting extravaganza in Tennessee and reads “put the south in your mouth.” She wears it with surprising frequency and hilarious pride. It was all I could think about whilst reviewing the cocktail menu at Spokane’s own taste of the South, Casper Fry.
Named after the owners’ great/great-great grandfather, Casper Fry’s classic, locally inclined values harken back to a time before supermarkets and convenience stores, when produce was only available when it was locally in season and chefs were able to pick out exactly which steer to use for dinner that night (gruesome, but great, too). A large chalkboard mounted on one of the exposed brick walls lists each and every local purveyor and which products come from which source. The well-stocked bar proudly displays all manner of whiskey, including several brands of bourbon and moonshine, and is made all the more tempting by the additional offering of absinthe and the occasional appearance of a few small Woodinville Whiskey “Age Your Own” whiskey barrels (my family has one, and it’s way fun). Steampunk-style furniture and the lack of superfluous artwork lend a utilitarian air to the wide-open space and emphasizes the points that Casper Fry lets its food do the talking and speaks for the restaurant as a whole.
On this particular visit, I went with my Texas born-and-raised granddad. I mentioned to him that prior to visiting Casper Fry, I’d never tried grits before. He reacted with shock and proudly declared, “I’m from Texas. We eat grits all the time.” As I myself lived in Texas for a few months a couple of summers ago, I, too, was surprised that I’d not jumped on the grits bandwagon earlier. Better late than never, I suppose. That said, it’s almost mandated that a Southern-style restaurant offer their own version of shrimp and grits, and Casper Fry is not exception. Served with a hefty handful of monstrous prawns; roasted okra, peppers, and asparagus; a bit of ham; and cheddar red mule grits, this kickin’ dish will fill your mouth with the most savory spices and your head with visions of the French Quarter in no time at all. If you’re more of a hands-on diner, they’ve got just the thing: the shrimp po’boy is full to bursting with four crispy fried shrimp, as well as fresh red onions, tomatoes, and lettuce. Drizzled with sweet chili aoili, this behemoth of a sandwich is sure to satisfy even the most voracious appetite.
No trip to Casper Fry is complete without a bourbon or absinthe-laden cocktail. For those feeling both fancy and dangerous, the Corpse Reviver may be just what you need to shake your day up. Served in a small coupe glass, this mysterious green libation is sweet, tart, and old-timey as can be. Made with gin, lemon juice, Dolin Blanc, Cointreau, and absinthe, you won’t be able to resist clinking glasses with your pals and adding a slight drawl to your speech. For the whiskey-inclined and absinthe-curious, I recommend the Omaha Sour. This little number involves both bourbon and absinthe, as well as a bit of syrup and lime juice. As fun as cocktails are, nothing compares to the calming simplicity of a beer, and Casper Fry’s got you covered there, too: they have several taps, including local breweries such as No-Li and Iron Goat, ready to slake persnickety drinkers’ thirsts.
Last Saturday, Casper Fry celebrated its one year anniversary, and I can only imagine that there will be many more anniversary parties to come for this treasure of the Perry St. neighborhood. Within the past several years, the neighborhood has really turned around and is now home to numerous flourishing businesses and restaurants and a weekly farmers market. With the upcoming addition of the South Perry Brewing Company, the neighborhood is all but guaranteed to continue to thrive. Without a doubt, Casper Fry’s arrival and success have had terrific influences on the neighborhood, not only in terms of economy, but in introducing a bit of southern flare to Inland Northwest. You will, truly, want to put the south in your mouth.