Tucked into the rolling hills of the Palouse along the Washington-Idaho border, Moscow boasts a vibrant food scene – especially for a city of its size.
Downtown – walkable, charming, home to one of the best and longest-running farmers markets in the Inland Northwest – is dotted with restaurants, cafes and coffee shops that are often filled with University of Idaho students camped out in corners with laptops and notebooks.
During a recent visit, a sign strung across the main drag read, “Welcome Vandals.”
Here’s where to go for grub around the U of I.
Cheap eats: Mikey’s Gyros
This unfussy Main Street staple – open since 1981 – serves up hearty Greek gyros and pitas at prices both college students and adjunct professors can afford, or about $5. They’re all topped with lettuce, red onion and tomato. Vegetarian offerings also get sprouts and black olives. And house-made cucumber yogurt dressing is the norm, unless otherwise noted. The Greek gyro – regular or deluxe with more meat and cheese – is the specialty. It’s stuffed with “blamb,” or a combination of seasoned beef and lamb. Falafel, hummus and chicken pitas are also available along with a few salads, soup, chowder, tabouli, nachos, chips and salsa, spanakopita and a Greek sampler. Stuffed avocado and the Leapin’ Lizard – with seasoned chicken, cream cheese and a house-made sweet-and-spicy sauce – are other specialties. 527 S. Main St., Moscow. (208) 882-0780. mikeysgyros.com.
Sweet treats: The Pie Safe Kitchen and Bakery
It’s a bit of a drive – 24 miles east of Moscow – to Deary and this charming pie and pastry shop, which shares a building with Brush Creek Creamery. So you might want to call ahead for the daily selection of pies, breads, cakes and pastries. Look for cream puffs, scones, cookies, chocolate croissants, cinnamon rolls, apricot-almond tea bread and berry, apricot or cheese Danishes. Frozen custard is made weekly and sold by the scoop. There are milkshakes, too. A limited selection of breakfast items are also served along with brick-oven pizza, panini, soups and salads. Plan to take some award-winning cheese home, too. 307 Main St., Deary. (208) 877-1200. www.piesafebakery.com.
Coffee: One World Cafe
This eclectic and comfy coffee shop in downtown Moscow is a perfect spot to camp out for extended study sessions. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to set up a laptop or meet with a study group, and they’re all outfitted with mismatched tables and chairs, couches and recliners. Take the back steps to the mezzanine for a better view of the antique doors that hang from the ceiling. Local artwork adorns the walls. Used books are for sale on a back shelf near the staircase. Snacks, pastries and sandwiches such as the Totes Ma Goats – with turkey, goat cheese cucumber, red onion, lettuce, mayo and mustard on a croissant – are also available. There’s live music Friday and Saturday – and often other – nights. Coffee comes from Landgrove, a longtime roaster in nearby Troy. 533 S. Main St., Moscow. (208) 883-3537. www.owc-moscow.com.
Date night: Nectar Restaurant and Wine Bar
Grilled, bacon-wrapped meatloaf is a specialty at Nectar, which opens later and offers exposed red brick walls, wines by the glass and seasonal craft cocktails. Good Tidings features gin, cranberry cordial, lemon, lavender bitters, rosemary and egg white. The Lana Del Rye features rye, elderflower liqueur, Lillet Blanc, grapefruit, and cardamom bitters. Dishes are new American. Plates are small. Look for charcuterie, bacon-wrapped shrimp skewers, steak skewers, bread and butter, fried garbanzos, and clams in lemon and butter with chives and tarragon. There are three salads, too, as well as entrees such as Cougar Gold mac and cheese, pan-seared steelhead, pasta puttanesca and filet mignon. 105 W. Sixth St., Moscow. (208) 882-5914. moscownectar.com.
Bloom is no greasy spoon. This casually elegant eatery in the heart of Moscow specializes in breakfast and lunch and offers and array of omelets, scrambles and Benedicts as well as a quiche of the day. Look, also, for brioche French toast, house-made biscuits and sausage gravy, sandwiches, salads, burgers and crepes with fresh fruit or Nutella and whipped cream. Presentation is simple but refined. And mimosas come in three sizes: 8, 12 or 30 ounces. Walls are done in robin’s egg blue. Outdoor seating offers prime Saturday people-watching during the Moscow Farmers Market. 403 S. Main St., Moscow. (208) 882-4279. moscowbloom.com.
Note: For a big and hearty breakfast with more of an old-school diner vibe, the first-come, first-served, no-reservations-accepted Breakfast Club serves up skillets, home-style breakfasts, omelets, sandwiches, burgers, pancakes, waffles and its special Huckleberry Zucchini Bread French Toast. 501 S. Main St., Moscow. (208) 882-6481. www.thebreakfastclub moscow.com.
Burgers: Humble Burger
This minimalistic burger joint is worth bragging about. Humble Burger offers a streamlined menu of burgers, fries, shakes and house-made sodas. The beef is fresh, never frozen, and picked up daily at the Moscow Food Co-op. Patties are hand-formed in house. Fries are crispy and thin. Cheese is American. The space is small but bright and airy with white square tiles and red brick walls, high ceilings with exposed beams and duct work, and lots of natural light. Humble Burger started as a food vendor at the farmers market in 2014. The brick-and-mortar location opened a year later. Note: There’s no on-site business phone so Humble Burger can’t take call-ahead orders. 102 N. Main St. www.humbleburger.com.
Beer: Hunga Dunga Brewing
Hunga Dunga, a reference to the Marx Brothers movie “Animal Crackers,” opened in 2016 in a renovated Quonset hut. Offerings at this craft brewery include an oatmeal pale ale that features Lyon barley, created at Washington State University, as well as a red rye, cold brew coffee stout, citrus wheat, pilsner, black rye IPA and Hopnipotent Hazy IPA. The small, ever-changing and elevated menu, written in chalk on a wall near the bar, isn’t to be missed, either. Hunga Dunga doesn’t serve your regular brewpub fare. Look for mushroom tartine, a beef-and-noodle bowl, smoked pork with polenta and apple mostarda, cauliflower dip with vadouvan butter and crostini, and braised chicken for two. 333 N. Jackson St., Moscow. (208) 596-4855. www.hunga dungabrewing.com.
Pub grub: Tapped Taphouse and Kitchen
This downtown eatery offers 25 Pacific Northwest beers on tap as well as a modern American menu of elevated pub grub. Look for rotating gourmet but hearty burgers and sandwiches as well as sides such as beer cheese fries, beer cheese mac, an oversized sourdough pretzel, soups and salads. Tap take-overs are a common occurrence. The vibe is modern, rustic and industrial, with exposed red brick walls and duct work as well as polished concrete floors. 210 S. Main St., Moscow. (208) 596-4422. www.facebook.com/ moscowtapped.
Pizza: Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana
Pizza is served uncut at this contemporary and casually elegant Italian downtown restaurant, which specializes in Neopolitan-style pies. They come with a pizza cutter so you can slice your own. Starters include calamari, mussels, meatballs, and charcuterie and cheese plates as well as traditional antipasti. Look, also, for a few salads, a daily fish special, lemon-garlic-rosemary chicken and flank steak. The wine list features selections from Italy. When the weather’s nice, opt for the expansive, patio lined with planter boxes. Pizza is half price with a drink purchase every night after 9. Consider the Salsiccia with pork-fennel sausage, local and seasonal greens, house mozzarella, fennel pollen, tomato sauce and smoked chili oil. 602 S. Main St., Moscow. (208) 882-2694. http://maialina.com
Game day: Corner Club
Get here early on game day, when it’s standing-room only at this no-frills, nothing-fancy, cinder-block community staple that serves 32-ounce “tubs” of beer with a side of Vandal memorabilia. Photos, balls, ball caps, jerseys, a cheerleading uniform from 2008 line the walls at this super popular watering hole, founded in 1948. It’s been featured on Sports Illustrated’s website at www.si.com under the headline “Finding America’s Best Sports Bars: Idaho’s Corner Club Has Nailed the Formula.” It’s been recommended on ESPN’s website as a place to go before you die. And The Spokesman-Review’s own John Blanchette dubbed it “the Vandal bar” in his Aug. 4 column. 202 N. Main St., Moscow. (208) 882-2915.
When the parents come to visit: Lodgepole
Dinner reservations are recommended at Lodgepole, which offers some of the region’s finest dining. The atmosphere is casually elegant and quintessentially Inland Northwest – rustic but refined with exposed red brick and beams, plenty of wood, an open kitchen and lots of natural light from large windows overlooking a large patio. Bench seating lines one wall, and there are high-backed stools at the bar where you might be able to squeeze in on a weekend night during prime hours if you failed to make that reservation. (Best to call at least 24 hours in advance.) Lodgepole is open for dinner Tuesday through Friday and for lunch and dinner on weekends. There’s an extensive wine list. Chicken and waffles are the special on Wednesday nights. Start with deviled pickled eggs in smoked paprika oil or fried Palouse garbanzos. The seasonal gnocchi is popular. Look, also, for a selection of salads, pasta and mains such as a grilled pork chop, butter-basted ribeye, pan-roasted chicken, seasonal fish or the half-pound Lodgepole burger made from ground brisket with porchetta, American cheese, pickled onion, lettuce and barbecue aioli on a house-baked sesame bun. 106 N. Main St, Moscow. (208) 882-2268. lodgepolerestaurant.com.
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