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This Diner Will Get Customers By The Busload

Last week a chauffeur picked me up and took me to the gala grand opening of a new restaurant.

But first, to tap into the free chariot service, which was intended mainly for government bigwigs, it was necessary for me to take a short hike from The Spokesman-Review to City Hall.

There, my limousine awaited - a 47-passenger Greyhound bus that was to convey me and dozens of other invited guests to the big to-do.

That I can recall, this was the first time I’ve ever taken a Greyhound bus to lunch.

But then, too, this was the first time I’ve ever gone to lunch at a bus depot.

At City Hall, I arrived early, expecting a line. There wasn’t a soul around except Greyhound driver J. B. Tan.

We made small talk for about a quarter of an hour. Then council member Bev Numbers, city public facilities manager Mike Kobluk, and another man and woman whom I didn’t recognize showed up together and climbed aboard.

I never did learn the identity of the gent, but the lady turned out to be my hostess, Rosemary (Rosie) Adkins of Dallas, general manager of Greyhound Food Service.

As the only VIPs, councilwoman Numbers and I did not lack for attention from our escorts aboard the big highway cruiser.

Quite a number of other dignitaries put in appearances for the ribbon cutting and free lunch. But evidently they didn’t share my enthusiasm for Greyhound’s red-carpet limousine service.

America’s largest intercity bus line has restaurants like the new one here in just 50 of the nation’s large population centers. So we are privileged here in Spokane.

In many lesser depots, said Rosie, “If you don’t have a bus ticket, you don’t get into the restaurant. But here you’ll be welcome around the clock, seven days a week.”

Greyhound is in the city’s new $9-million Intermodal Transportation Facility, a restored and expanded century-old railroad depot at 221 West First.

It is an immensely successful meld of old and new architectural design. Upon its opening a few months ago, I speculated that it might be the best-looking least-used bus depot in America.

Rosie didn’t touch that. But she did rate this among the “top five finest” facilities in Greyhound’s nationwide system.

So what does Spokane’s new Food Fare, as the carrier’s restaurants are called throughout the country, have to offer?

“Atmosphere,” said Rosie. “Good food at a good price. Quick and easy service. (Cafeteria style.) And a gift shop for cards and gifts and little necessities like pantyhose and aspirin.”

A tiny porcelain-faced clown that dangles from a suction doohicky caught my eye. The price tag was either $39.99 or $3.99. Shop manager Phyllis Stevens said $3.99, and I made my first purchase ever of a trinket in a depot or airport.

“Our signature entree,” said Rosie, “is the Cruiser.” It is a big loaf of fresh-baked bread, with the center hollowed out and filled with chili or beef stew or Italian sauce or chicken ala king, etc. It runs around $4, depending.

A quick perusal of the bill of fare suggested the Highway Special might be popular with traditional breakfast-goers: Eggs, bacon or sausage, hashbrowns and toast - $3.59.

The only criticism I had of the menu was a dearth of low or nonfat items. But Rosie said the restaurant regularly will have a chef’s salad that can be made nonfat.

Anyway, this would not be a problem for the average bus depot patron. But this restaurant has aspirations far beyond other bus depot cafes.

With an over-abundance of meeting room space in the cavernous intermodal, Greyhound is going after the downtown business, civic and fraternal crowd - the Kiwanians, Rotarians, Girl Scouts, community groups, chamber, neighborhood organizations.

And the restaurant will cater events and functions throughout the community.

All this makes the Spokane facility “unique” among bus depot cafes, Rosie said. “And,” she advised, “we are dead serious about competing for business.”

To the extent Greyhound realizes its high ambitions, the cafe will bring new life into the great empty expanse of the intermodal, and make the cavernous transit hub more a part of the downtown community.

Thanks for the invite. Best of luck.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

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