Monday, October 17, 2005

The Lilac City Remembered

Spokane, Spokanistan, SpokeVegas, the 'Kane, Spokaloo, call it what you will. I called Spokane home for three years, from 1991-1994. Actually, I lived about 15 miles from Spokane, but spent most of my time in the city. I have always rooted for the underdog, and there is no greater underdog in the Pacific Northwest than Spokane. This city of 200,000 is usually described by most who visit as tragically unhip. Located on the dry, eastern side of the Cascades, Spokane is all too often in the cultural rain shadow of Seattle or Portland. I believe this is due to the conservative politics that dominate the region, stemming from its history as a mining and farming center. Spokane does have a small core of dedicated Democrats and libertarians however, sharing the West's live-and-let-live philosophy. A very small core.

Like the Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team, Spokane has had it's moments- the World's Fair was held in the city in 1974, which many believe was Spokane's 15 minutes of fame, and they are probably right. Waterfront Park, built for the World's Fair, is in need of a makeover, though I hear there have been some improvements to this downtown park since the last time I passed through (in 1999). If you ever find yourself in downtown Spokane, get out of the car for a moment and check out the waterfalls. The waterfalls on the Spokane River are impressive.

Mullets and bad chain restaurants aside, Spokane will always have a place in my heart. When traveling to new places I always try to search out the local eateries and bars that make each town unique. Even in a town like Spokane there were a few cool spots to eat, drink, and listen to music. I may be going out on a limb here, but here are a few reasons to give Spokane a break:
  • Big Mamu Burritos- Creative burritos with an African influence
  • David's Pizza- 99 cent slices and punk music on the stereo
  • Viking Tavern- Smokey pub with over 100 beers, from Bud to $27 pitchers of Belgium brew. I'm sure I have lung cancer from all the second hand smoke I inhaled while drinking there.
  • Mars Hotel- I heard it recently burned down, but in the day it was a cool venue to see music and had one of the only lounges downtown.
  • 4 Season's Coffee- Classic coffeehouse, great place to hang on a rainy Sunday afternoon
  • Birkebeiner Brewing Company- Great handcrafted beer and blues
  • Browne's Addition- This tree-lined neighborhood built on a bluff has classic Queen Anne style architecture and views of the Spokane River. Still affordable I hear.
  • Minnehaha Park- Rock climbing and access to mountain biking in the city, just be careful of the broken glass and used condoms.

Listening to: The Rolling Stones- Black and Blue


CHW said...

Excellent many memeories of our college youth. Don't forget about Jack & Dianne's (is that the right name?) and the Blue Dolphin where that biker rode his Harley right into the bar one night. Too funny. Thanks for jogging my memory.

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JMH said...

I love wood.

I have many memories from the Blue Dolphin, not all good, so it didn't make the list. I know it holds a place in your heart though. Jack and Dan's was a cool pub, wasn't it owned by someone famous? Or the parents of someone famous?

Other places I dug included The Elk and Fort Spokane Brewery. Good times.

CHW said...

Yeah, J&D's was owned by the parents of John Stockton - famous NBA star of the Utah Jazz.