By Vinnie Richichi
PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — It’s hard for me to imagine that given the sparse attendance of Pitts first two CBI games at the Petersen Events Center that there are going to be many fans headed out to the Pride of the Palouse, Pullman, Wash., to root on the Panthers in the tournament finals against the Cougars of Washington State University.
Yet stranger things have happened in sports so I figured as a service to the few hearty souls or some Oakland Zoo kids that might think of venturing to Eastern Washington for Monday night’s game, I thought I might give you a quick rundown of some of what you will find in Pullman or better yet the spots you must not miss.
Having spent 18 years in Seattle some as a pre and post- game host for Cougar Football and Basketball games, I have a pretty good perspective on the small town of Pullman, Wash., population 27,030 that is home to Washington State University, a Land Grant College and The National Lentil Festival.
The town lies about 80 miles south of Spokane, Wash., and just eight miles west of Moscow, Idaho. Be careful though, the eight-mile stretch of highway between Pullman and Moscow has been acknowledged as one of the most dangerous in the country largely due to the number of intoxicated drivers that can tend to travel it on Friday and Saturday nights.
Most of those amber waves you see at the end of town, once you get past the Chevy dealer and the Shopko, are lentils. The Palouse produces more of the legumes than anywhere else in the USA.
The place to stay in Pullman if you don’t have a pal who you can crash with is the Holiday Inn Express. It was formerly run by one of the assistant football coach’s wives and she set the standard of excellence that is still there today! Many WSU student athletes work at the hotel so look out…that big guy who brings you that extra towel might be tomorrow’s Steelers defensive back.
Note that the Denny’s next door is open 24 hours and last time I was there was the only restaurant in Pullman that is.
One stop you need to make above all others is Ferdinand’s Gourmet Ice Cream Shop and the Cougar Creamery. Produced by the School of Food Science at Washington State University since the 1930′s, Cougar Gold Cheese is acknowledged as some of the best produced in the USA and is packed in …get this…cans! $18 bucks a wheel and well worth it. The milkshakes and ice cream at Ferdinand’s also produced by the school’s dairy are well worth waiting in line for.
The Cougar Cottage or “The Coug”. Every college has a place like The Coug but there is no place quite like The Coug! Former students names are carved into the wall,(look for mine above the jukebox) a pitcher of beer is cheap and nobody looks at you weird if you just drink right out of it. Just don’t drink out of anyone’s Cougar Club Mug! The Coug is hot, it’s crowded, it’s noisy and if you don’t down a beer at The Coug you just have not been to Pullman! If there is a line, go round the side door and ask for Shelley…it used to work!
The Bookie is really the only place in town where you can get your WSU souvenirs. C’mon at least a t-shirt or a Butch the Coug stuffed Cougar. Short of finding the Swedish guy who sells the sweaters out of the back of his car this is going to be the place for that little remembrance of your trek to Pullman.
The Pullman Walk of Fame…Located at Main and Kamaiaken Streets the walk of fame pays tribute to some familiar names that have been a part of the small college town including Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson, sports broadcaster Keith Jackson, legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, quarterbacks John Elway, Mark Rypien and Drew Bledsoe. They all have plaques embedded into the sidewalk.
If you are going to eat something while you are there make sure you stop at the Cougar Country Drive In for delicious greasy drive in fare. For a more upscale dining experience try Swilly’s or back over to Denny’s. The Old European has great breakfast…try the Swedish pancakes or the Aebelskivers! Be warned though…stay away from the Pizza…there is nothing that comes close to Mineo’s in Pullman. My best bet though for late night dining: the hot dog/mystery meat cart set up at night across from The Coug. Never quite knew what I was eating but it sure did taste good. And yes Virginia…there is a Starbucks…come on this is Washington!
Pullman is a great little college town…almost like a Hollywood directors idea of what one should be. Beautiful campus buildings among rolling hills in the early spring should be a great place to spend a day or so. Just look out if you are driving because the Pullman police are always looking for speeders and those cops in neighboring Colfax (speed limit 25) really don’t like people who are going to Pullman. You see they are still mad that Pullman got the college and Colfax only got the jail!