Have you ever accidentally put a red shirt in a load of white laundry? Even if you haven’t, you know what happens: the color bleeds off of the red shirt and rubs off on everything else in the load. A similar phenomenon happens with friends: even if you’re dissimilar in so many ways, after spending time together, she’ll start to rub off on you. I’ve noticed this happening a bit as of late: one of my good friends, the one with whom I visited the MAC and the Flying Goat earlier this spring, recently graduated from Washington State University’s interior design program. By virtue of her field, she’s very cognizant of wherever she is, noticing the way a room is constructed, how its contents are arranged, and how lighting completely affects the feel of a space. In our travels together, she has brought these aspects to my attention, and now, almost automatically, I find my focus shifting to them whenever I go someplace new. This was the case last week when I made my first visit to Saranac Public House in downtown Spokane.
Saranac Public House resides in the Saranac Building, next door to the Magic Lantern Theatre and across the street from Zola and Boots Bakery. The Saranac Building itself, recently renovated to become LEED Platinum-certified, played host to the single-room occupancy Saranac Hotel for nearly 100 years. The exposed brick walls and abundance of natural lighting present in the modern pub are indicative of the building’s long history, though the modern artwork spread throughout the restaurant the the constant rotation of new taps suggest more concurrent affinities. The vibe is open and relaxed, an ideal setting for a happy hour meeting after a long day or a relaxed lunchtime get-together with friends. This particular outing was one of the former variety.
Saranac boasts a fine line-up of a dozen taps, most from northwest breweries, including a house beer brewed by Spokane’s own No-Li Brewhouse. The day seemed like an IPA kind of day to me, so I opted for a pint of Lovely Reida from Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing Company, while my friend went with something a bit fruitier: Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale from another Seattle brewery, Elysian. Other breweries of the day included Mac & Jack’s (whose African Amber is a staple around these parts), Ninkasi, and Lost Coast. Featured on the pub’s rotating nitro tap was Pyramid Weiss Cream, an offering I found to be an nice alternative to the standard nitro option of a stout.
As we caught up over beers, my friend and I worked up an appetite. To remedy this, we took to Saranac’s selection of happy hour appetizers, which includes one heck of a pretzel (who doesn’t love a pretzel with her beer?), a hummus plate, and some good ol’ chips and salsa. We opted for the polenta. Pan-seared and baked, the polenta was light and fluffy, just enough to curb your appetite before dinner, but not so much as to entirely eliminate your hunger. Topped with a generous scoop of tomatoes, mushrooms, and caramelized onions, the warm polenta is cooled by a healthy addition of fresh basil. In addition to being a most savory appetizer, the polenta is also one of Saranac’s many vegan and/or gluten-free offerings. While I know many vegans and vegetarians will appreciate this, carnivores (myself included) need not worry: the restaurant also offers more traditional pub fare, such as burgers, sausages, and tacos. See? Something for everyone!
We were enjoying the polenta so much that we’d nearly forgotten that we ordered dinner, too, and hurriedly shuffled to make room when our meals arrived. Fixin’ for somethin’ hearty, I had the pork verde stew: seared pork shoulder smothered in spices and seasonings, including tomatillos, cumin, and pasillo, all served over brown rice and season pinto beans. All of that heat was blessedly countered by a topping of cilantro and sour cream. Also feeling the need for beans, my friend went with a cup of the vegetarian (or vegan, if you wish) black bean chili, a thick, kickin’ blend of onions, peppers, and jalapenos with locally-grown black beans. Yep, in addition to being and IPA kind of day, it was a spicy beans kind of day. By the time I finished off my bowl of stew and sipped the last of my beer, I was full and on my way to being stuffed, though, thankfully, not quite there. Had I wanted to (which I did, but had the restraint not to act on the impulse), I could have lingered a while to try one of the flatbreads, a small house salad, or a bite of dessert, but I elected to save such an adventure for another day.
As it’s a few blocks away from the hustle and bustle of the center of downtown, Saranac is a place to get away from it all without being too far away. The space’s century of history is apparent all around, though its presence complements the modern accoutrements of the pub rather than detracting from them. With the debut of summer upon us, I look forward to a few afternoons at Saranac enjoying the sun, a brew, and good company, be it in the form of a friend or a building with stories to tell.