The day after graduating from Lewis and Clark, I left Spokane and embarked on a series of mild of adventures that would take me down the West coast and last me about five years. Upon my return this past February, I have had the interesting chance to discover Spokane’s bar scene for the first time. A dark, gritty underworld of which I had no prior knowledge.
Born from my beer-fueled trials and errors comes my gift to you, dear reader. A user’s manual to Spokane’s bars; The good, the bad, and the just plain sketchy. May this guide serve you well, and save you some of the expensive bar tabs that I racked up while conducting… ahem… research.
PART I: The Satellite Diner (425 West Sprague Avenue, Spokane)
In high school, the Satellite Diner was the perfect late-night spot to hang out. Dingy and grimy, the cigarette smoke that hung in yellow clouds provided us with the perfect cover for our parents. “Ugh, I know, I totally smell like cigarettes!” We would moan, when confronted by our mothers. “We just went in for some fries, but all the weird old people in the bar portion just have no consideration for other people’s health!”
Some of the best nights were spent at that diner. Ten of us crammed into one booth, all nibbling off of one plate of cheesy fries, chain-smoking, and getting refill after refill of watery coffee. At some point, the smoking ban went into effect, and not long after, our beloved dive began to make some changes. Gone were the ripped vinyl booth seats. The layers of smoke were scraped from the walls, and replaced with a cheerier color. The bathroom door finally closed all the way.
By the time I left, the place where I had spent such a large part of my high school years had been given quite the facelift. I was sure it was still the same, deep down, but it was not quite recognizable to me. Despite the changes, I was itching to pay a visit to the Satellite when I got back to Spokane this year. My birthday is in March, and I could think of no better way to get the festivities started than by downing some mimosas at the ‘lite. Although it was about 11 A.M. on a Tuesday, it didn’t take me long to round up a friend to join me for a little day drinking.
We walked in and settled down into a cozy booth near the back. Our waitress came over soon and took our order, to my dismay, they did not offer bottomless mimosas, or even pitchers of them. But our waitress was kind, and, knowing that it was my birthday, said she’d see if the lady in the bar could hook it up and at least make them strong. Moments later she returned with large glasses full to the brim with what I assume was Cook’s champagne and Sunny D, accompanied with a platter of cheesy fries. Overjoyed, my cohort and I sipped greedily from our steins, and we each ordered a couple more as we chatted and snacked. I slouched back into the booth, happy to know that, despite the cosmetic changes, the Satellite was still the comfortable hangout spot I had loved so much when I was younger. After we had whetted our whistles sufficiently, and my friend realized she had to get back to work (that’s right, we keep it classy), we asked for the check. Our waitress, who had been kind and chatty all morning, dropped the check on the table and scurried away without making eye contact. I reached and flipped the check over and, as my eyes saw the number in front of me, they bulged out of my head.
I showed the bill to my companion in disbelief. Surely, this was a mistake. Friends and I had eaten whole meals here in the past, and combined, our totals never amounted to more than $30. Quickly and drunkenly, we did some arithmetic. Let’s see: 3 mimosas each, and some cheesy fries. That means, with the fries being about $7, the mimosas we had been greedily sipping had been about $12 each. Now, I understand that $12 is not an incredibly high amount, but I am the type of person who goes to dollar beer nights when I drink in order to save money. I put saran wrap over my 40s so I don’t waste any, and then drink them later. In other words, I’m cheap as fuck. I also, however, am not the kind of person who will argue over a bar tab. Especially when it’s before noon on a weekday. I paid the bill and slunk out into the harsh light of day in shame.
I felt betrayed. I had opened up to this familiar spot, hoping to find the love I had once had, but instead got a slap in the face. But in the words of Gertrude Stein, “There is no there, there”. You can never truly go home.
RATING: C+ Dive feel, not dive prices.
ADVICE: Don’t order Mimosas.