Rico’s Pub encourages involvement in events

Oldest bar in town offers trivia, wine nights, even ghostly patrons for anyone looking for activities



Rico’s is named after Tony “Rico” Talarico, who bought the business in 1947 and revamped it to become a Pullman staple.

MAGGIE QUINLAN, Evergreen reporter

Between live music, local history and popular dining, Pullman’s oldest bar and grill presents a different activity for every day of the week.

A wide range of people favor Rico’s Pub, from professors to graduate students at WSU. Located downtown, with its historic location and tasteful decor, Rico’s is the only place in town where you can work on your trivia chops any given Tuesday, listen to live jazz on any Thursday and host a party any night of the week.

Luckily for incoming WSU students, minors can come in for lunch or dinner any time before 7 p.m. Rico’s offers a diverse menu, with a number of full salads, simple seafood dishes and a large range of sandwiches and goPropheurmet burgers.

Rico’s owner Tawny Szumlas said she opened Rico’s up to minors only a few years ago, in part because she had her own kids. As a single mom, she wanted to be able to bring her kids into work and said the open atmosphere proved good for business.

“We were sending so many people to eat down the block because they had one person who was 18, or one baby,” Szumlas said. “We were watching all this money walk away.”

For those over 21, Szumlas said bartenders love to make Duck Farts and Flaming Dr. Pepper shots, and on Wednesday nights, women get a  discount on drinks.

“Women make 79 cents on the dollar to men, so we give women 21% all day on Wednesday,” Szumlas said. “Wednesday we also do half price on a bottle of wine, so women can come in and just rack up the specials.”

Before Wine Wednesday, women’s suffrage and jazz nights — when jazz was only a budding possibility — Rico’s was a smokehouse down the street from where it stands today.

The pub’s legacy began in 1909, according to the business’ history write-up Szumlas provided. Business at the former smokehouse was nearly unaffected by Prohibition and the establishment upgraded to its current location in 1927.

The smokehouse also survived the Great Depression, riding on the sales of its extremely popular “Smokehouse Milkshakes.” In 1934, the bar received Pullman’s first beer and wine license under state authority.

It was 1947 when Tony “Rico” Talarico bought the business. But only a couple of years after he sold the bar, in the late 1970s, the building was run  down.

“My dad bought Ricos in [19]80, after it had been let go and had fallen into a bad spot,” Szumlas said. “I was raised with Rico’s being part of the family. I didn’t ever want to see somebody else own Rico’s.”

When Szumlas’ father Roger Johnson bought the business, he remodeled the building and changed the name to honor its former owner, Talarico.

After over 100 years of service, Rico’s might have picked up some ghostly patrons.

“There is purported to be a ghost,” Szumlas said. “All I can say is, I don’t like being in this place after 3 a.m.”

Szumlas said she has heard strange sounds late at night, and that she’s had many employees swear they’ve encountered a ghost.

“I’ve had people say that it’s [Talarico] making sure we’re not doing our jobs wrong,” she said.

Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday Rico’s hosts live music, and every Monday there is an open mic night. If you decide to try Rico’s food during these busy first weeks of classes, Szumlas recommends the Reuben. As it says on the menu, Szumlas said it is “the best Reuben in Washington.”