An expert’s guide to life in Pullman

Small town options, being a minor might stand in your way, but one writer can tell you where to go



Sunsets from the Palouse on May 31, 2016.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

Pullman is one of those great college towns that require some creative thinking in order to make the most of what’s here. If you’re new here, and especially if you’re like me and have more familiarity with a city, it can be hard to see what’s so special about this tiny quintessential university town.

From the recently bought Cougar Country Drive-in to taking a drive into one of the surrounding national forests, Pullman grows on you. Most of these suggestions for how to spend your time are exactly that — suggestions that I came up with based on two years of living, working and playing here. This is by no means a total list of all the awesome businesses, hikes and other activities available, so make sure you spend time with yourself to go out and explore what is around town.

If you want a more comprehensive list of what our fellow Cougs have voted for the best local places, look at our 2019 Students’ Choice Awards special edition.

Places to eat

As I mentioned before, Cougar Country is one of those fast-food burger joints that’s specifically unique to Pullman. For a college student, who everyone can agree are generally not rolling in cash, the prices may be a little steep, so I save Cougar Country for the pre-game food experience. Honestly, nothing in the world tastes as good as one of those cub burgers and a hearty milkshake right before you lose your voice in Martin Stadium.

If you’re a fan of Thai and Chinese cuisine, you lucked out with Pullman. Mandarin House is a local classic and super easy to order — I used to order a bunch of food right to my dorm in Rogers Hall and they’d deliver it within twenty minutes or so. While the price can add up, the crab rangoon is delicious and you get at least three meals with every dish, so it’s more of an investment.

My second favorite in this category would be Thai Ginger, which has the same amount of “there’s no way I won’t need a to-go box” food with each order. The curry dishes and pad thai are amazing, and on average the plates only cost $10 to $15.

The Old European is a traditional sit-down breakfast place inspired heavily by Slavic food traditions. The prices are really what sell it for me, as the plates come with a lot of great food — including warm hashbrowns and a delicious selection of fun coffee drinks. The Old European is the perfect spot for the morning after a long night out, and the staff there are always friendly.

If you’re looking for a date night idea, I tried to narrow down my three favorites — South Fork Public House, Birch and Barley, The Black Cypress — to just one even though all three are fantastic. The Black Cypress, a Mediterranean style elegant restaurant, is more suited for when the parents come to town, as it’s great food with a price range that might be too high for many students.

South Fork really takes the cake for me; it has a wide range of food that’s all delicious and not overpriced. Those under 21 can also enjoy a wide selection and there’s no fear of being kicked out past a certain time. I personally love the hustle and bustle of a busy establishment, so the bar upfront and televisions showing different athletic competitions only adds to the homey feel of the place.

Connect to nature

I grew up in Las Vegas, so if you know, you know. That place is hot and full of dirt and sweat and nothing really grows there. That’s why I implore you to take advantage of the scenery here on the Palouse; for those of you from the west side of Washington, it may be underwhelming since the hills outnumber the trees, but places like Idler’s Rest and Palouse Falls are hidden gems that I wish I had known about sooner.

For a green forest environment, check out Idler’s Rest, about a 30 minute drive from Pullman. The park has a number of awesome conservationist volunteer programs that allow you to help the earth even in a small way. There’s also a number of trails ranging in difficulty for anyone and everyone to take on.

The park is open from dawn until dusk and while there’s a number of programs and guided hikes throughout the school year, Idler’s Rest basically leaves the rest up to you. For a day of peace and quiet or budding photographers looking to expand their nature portfolio, I can’t say enough good about this place.

Palouse Falls is also a great experience for a nature-lover. You’d have to plan far ahead, as there is a fee to get in and the park rules are stricter in order to ensure safety, but overall it’s a fantastic experience.

Locally, the arboretum in Pullman offers a relaxing stroll, especially during the famous Pullman sunsets. This serves as a great place to take photos, so if you’re looking for more artistic inspiration it lends itself to both. The arboretum in Moscow, with Japanese rose gardens and other natural attractions, is also a local favorite.

Recently I have taken to driving around the Palouse with the sole intent of finding interesting nature walks. The Potlatch, Idaho area is about 30 minutes out of town and has a few hikes and camping grounds available in the forested area. Iconic natural landmarks surround the area that it would be pointless to list them all here, so I suggest taking a day to yourself or with a friend or two to explore that entire area, near the Saint Joe National Forest.

If you follow Old Wawawai road and skip the turnoff for the dunes, you’ll end up along the river. This is the spot for a shrubby, almost Southern California canyon hike. A rock climbing spot and place to dive, Granite Rock, gets a little more traffic, but all along the road near the river are small trails and camping areas worth checking out.


As with any hiking expedition, make sure you have a full tank of gas, that you pack at least a gallon or two of water as well as some healthy snacks for fuel. Some of the trails are not as guided or tamed, so let a friend or family member know where you’ll be and what time they should expect you back. It’s always better to be safe when you’re in an unfamiliar place.

Make it work as a minor

Bars are popular spots in Pullman, but mixed parties of those over and under 21 can compromise. The ZZU Bar and Grill recently opened up for minors until 10 p.m. and Lumberyard offers an all-ages space featuring two full bars. Until 8 p.m., two pubs, Rico’s and the Coug stay open to minors.

For a club atmosphere, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for 18 and over nights. Stubblefields, also known as Mike’s, holds an especially popular 18 plus night. Friday and Saturday are the summer 18 plus nights, and Thursdays have been the semester night in the past.

Writer’s note: Several people pointed out that Ketchum, Idaho is an 8-hour drive from Pullman. I initially thought the drive we took was in the Ketchum, Idaho area but because we were on back roads and not near any town while on our hike I made a guess as to where we were. The original story has been updated to be a more accurate representation of where we were. In addition, in order to make this a condensed list we left out many of the awesome businesses, activities, hikes and other fun ways to pass the time.