Connected eateries People's Waffle and Emma Rue's take diners from coffee and brunch to cocktails and dessert – Pacific Northwest Inlander

By
In one half of the corner space, a colorful retro vibe sets the tone for People’s Waffle, which serves sweet and savory waffles from morning to mid-afternoon. Next door, meanwhile, gold-toned accents and plush, velvet furniture are set against a backdrop of emerald green walls for the swankier, 1920s, Euro-inspired setting of Emma Rue’s cafe and cocktail bar.
Both eateries are newly opened in downtown Spokane, split between the former location of the Observatory bar and music venue, and are owned and operated by a trio of local entrepreneurs: Aaron Hein and Bryan and Alyssa Agee.
While People’s Waffle opened for in-person dining earlier this spring, Emma Rue’s debuted a few months later in late August as part of a phased rollout, largely due to pandemic-caused disruptions in construction and the global supply chain.
The owners’ grand vision for Emma Rue’s is an all-day coffee shop and cocktail bar specializing in house-made desserts, pastries and absinthe spirits, yet it’s currently serving only espresso drinks and an abbreviated selection of gluten-free pastries.
“The bar is being built still, and will be done in the next couple weeks,” Hein says. “Thanks to COVID and the challenges of everything, the timeline is shifting, but we will be fully open by the end of the year.”
Emma Rue’s espresso bar serves Portland-based roaster Coava Coffee as its “anchor” coffee, but owners also plan to have a regular rotation of featured roasters from across the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
“The goal is to introduce Spokane to something new, and feature roasters from outside Spokane for the most part, just to be able introduce people to something they’ve never tried before,” Alyssa Agee says.
Future plans for Emma Rue’s also include educational, in-person events like coffee cuppings and cocktail classes.
“Absinthe is going to be a huge piece of what we’re doing in all our cocktails,” Hein says. “We will have a beautiful absinthe fountain and a lot of options, and will teach people about all the classic ways to enjoy it. It’s a really cool spirit, and is a huge flavor profile in French bars.”
Emma Rue’s spirits extend beyond absinthe; however, the bar won’t have any beer taps, just cans and bottles, and the focus for its wine list is on French imports, including champagne.
For its wide selection of baked goods and desserts, head pastry chef Emily Krug has crafted an entirely gluten-free menu of traditional French pastries and more — cookies, coffee cake, cream puffs, tarts.
While Emma Rue’s opens early to offer coffee and pastries throughout the day, Hein and Agee envision it becoming an intimate late-night stop for the downtown crowd to enjoy a decadent dessert and cocktail once the full bar debuts.
“Our intention is to do this into the evening, so if you go to the Fox and want to go out and get some dessert afterwards, you can come over here — or maybe you want coffee and dessert,” Hein says.
Emma Rue’s has been a concept in the making for over a decade between Hein and the Agee couple.
Spokane’s Greek Food Festival is back in action for its 85th annual celebration
Saturday’s West End Oktoberfest is a first-of-its-kind event in downtown Spokane
Not enough money to go around in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund prolongs struggles for local operators in the hard-hit industry
“We’ve known what we wanted it to be like and the feel of it, and knew it would be about the people we’re serving and we’re staffing,” Agee says. “And when this space became available, it was less about the perfect timing and expertise, and more about finding a place where this would work.”
The Agee family, including Bryan’s father Mark Agee, own the entire four-story, historic Symons Block building in which Emma Rue’s and People’s Waffle are located, and have plans to turn the upper stories into nontraditional offices, residences and a micro-hotel.
“We want to be invested and a real cultural influence to downtown,” Agee notes.
Although Emma Rue’s and People’s Waffle share a space and ownership, the businesses operate as separate entities, which means customers can’t cross-order from both menus in one or the other eatery.
“We want different experiences, and what they each offer to stand alone,” Hein says.
Even so, and since the seating inside People’s Waffle is somewhat limited, on busy weekends customers are welcome to order coffee at Emma Rue’s while they wait for a table. The waffle shop also offers its complete menu to-go via online ordering.
“I like to think of it more like what you see in some larger cities, where it’s shared amenities but separate entities,” Agee says. “Which I know is a little unique to Spokane, because even though the [restaurants] share a restroom and a kitchen, it doesn’t extend much beyond that.”
People’s Waffle originally debuted in 2020 as a food truck operating near the Wonder Building. Its concise menu features housemade waffles ($9-$15) loaded with sweet or savory toppings. Savory waffles include creative combos inspired by a banh mi sandwich, pulled pork tacos and eggs benedict. The waffle shop’s signature London Fog is topped with Swiss meringue, honeycomb crumbles and an Earl Grey tea sauce.
Sweeter waffles include strawberries and cream, lemon blueberry and the “Plain Jane” ($9) with only butter and syrup. Other breakfast staples ($3.50-$4.50) can be ordered on the side, including yogurt with granola, sausage, bacon, eggs, avocado and fruit salad. ♦
People’s Waffle / Emma Rue’s • 15 S. Howard St. • Emma Rue’s open daily 7 am-3 pm; People’s Waffle open Wed-Sun 8 am-2 pm • peopleswaffle.com / emmarues.com
The original print version of this article was headlined “Day to Night”
The Garland District finally welcomes its own neighborhood brewery, Garland Brew Werks
By Chey Scott
The tiny pop-up beer bar Camp Taps debuts in the North Monroe Business District
By Chey Scott
New South Perry Lantern offers eclectic food and craft beer in a restored, historic space
By Chey Scott
Biscuits and gravy is a diner classic; here are some local spots that do it right
By Inlander Staff
Spokane’s Greek Food Festival is back in action for its 85th annual celebration
By Madison Pearson
Saturday’s West End Oktoberfest is a first-of-its-kind event in downtown Spokane
By Derek Harrison
Local wineries and restaurants get creative with wine-based drinks that change with the seasons
By LeAnn Bjerken
Not enough money to go around in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund prolongs struggles for local operators in the hard-hit industry
By Chey Scott
Out for Inlander Restaurant Week 2020: Table 13
By Samantha Wohlfeil
Prohibition Gastropub changes hands from one local chef to another
By Chey Scott
Submit an Event
Submit an Event
or
Browse all Film Times
Not enough money to go around in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund prolongs struggles for local operators in the hard-hit industry
By Chey Scott
Updates from the region’s food and drink scene: closings, openings, events and more
By Chey Scott
Founded in response to the pandemic, the Spokane Quaranteam continues to provide aid in the community, wherever it’s needed
By Chey Scott
Wandering Wallace: The historic Silver Valley town is a wonderful, quick trip with plenty to see, do, eat
By Chey Scott


source