Bite of the Palouse: Birch and Barley hits the mark but fails to impress

A worthwhile visit, but not the best of the bunch



The Cougar Burger with fries at Birch and Barley

CARSON HOLLAND, Evergreen columnist

Every college town seems to have that restaurant that everyone flocks to, one whose parking lot is constantly full of cars.

Pullman has a couple of such spots, and Birch and Barley can be easily counted among them. With the number of recommendations I have received mentioning B&B, it seems like the Palouse experience is not complete without hitting up such an iconic Pullman restaurant.

It is a testament that Birch and Barley was the first restaurant I visited when I was a freshman years ago, but now it is time to see if nostalgia can hold up.

Located on 1360 Bishop Blvd, it is hard to miss the bustling restaurant with its sign proudly displayed on the road. If you are visiting at peak dinner hours, you may find it difficult to actually grab a parking spot, as it is usually packed with people.

The restaurant keeps consistent hours, from 11:30 a.m.–8 p.m. every day, with the exception of Sunday. Make sure to plan ahead and make a reservation by calling the restaurant at 509-332-0108, as Birch and Barley is usually packed. If you are unable to find a table, you can always order takeout or delivery.

Birch and Barley also keep a separate lunch and dinner menu on their website. I would recommend checking them out before you make the trip so you are not disappointed if you miss a menu item.

While the restaurant feels big with a separate bar and restaurant area, it is also unfortunately very loud.

Usually, that is a good thing; a loud restaurant can indicate popularity, with people enjoying each other’s company. However, either due to the spacing or just the sheer amount of people inside, you may need to strain your voice a bit to hear people in your party talk.

The service at Birch and Barley is one of the high points of the experience. While they do look a little distressed by the number of people there, the wait staff try their best to not let that affect your experience. We received quick service and had our questions about the menu answered.

When my girlfriend and I went there for date night, we decided to try the near-full range of the menu: drinks, appetizers and entrées, though we left out the dessert for now.

Starting with the drinks, I got the Bradberry, and my girlfriend ordered the Strawberry Colada Mojito. Both were gorgeous, and despite how busy the restaurant was, the drinks were made with care and skill.

The Bradberry was made of blueberry and raspberry vodka, lime, simple syrup, lemonade and Sprite. For those who like a sweeter alcoholic drink, this is a winner: a wonderful mix of taste and freshness. Mojitos are usually pretty good, and the Strawberry Colada was no different. If neither of those sounds appealing, the drink menu is incredibly extensive: 9.5 overall.

Next up was our appetizer, the Birch Pub Pretzels, served with beer cheese and beer mustard dipping sauces. It would be more accurate to call these breadsticks than pretzels, and despite their warm and salty taste, they didn’t really live up to a good pub pretzel.

6 out of 10, though with the mustard, 7 out of 10.

And finally, our entrées. I ordered the Cougar Burger with bacon, and my girlfriend ordered the Cougar Gold Mac and Cheese.

The burger was nothing special, I am afraid to report. It was not bad, but it tasted like pretty much any generic burger I could have ordered elsewhere. The fries were equally as such, having a delicious crunch and soft inside but little to no seasoning.

The Cougar Burger and fries receive a solid 7. They could have been much worse, but for $18, they were a letdown, especially for how few fries are included.

The Cougar Gold Mac and Cheese, on the other hand, was delicious: a wonderful mixture of flavor and cheesy goodness that highlighted the strengths of the dish. I am not the biggest mac and cheese fan, but this one was a star; the bread it came with was a plus as well.

8.5 out of 10; my only complaint is that I was not the one who ordered it.

Unfortunately, the price point for Birch and Barley is not one of its strengths. You will be paying close to $20 per entree and even more for drinks and an appetizer. The price point is not the worst I have seen, but Birch and Barley is certainly not a restaurant where you can afford to try the whole extent of the menu.

Overall, Birch and Barley is a good restaurant in Pullman and is certainly a staple in the community. I can see why people like it, and I enjoyed my visit, but nothing really jumped out for me beyond the delicious drinks and service. I will be going back to try more of the menu, but I am going to be avoiding the burger and fries for now.

If you know of some food spots that I have not tried yet that you are just dying to brag about to your friends, let me know by emailing [email protected].