Interior design is communication. In moving the bar at 21 W. Main from the absolute back of the building (as it was at Isabella’s) to near the front of the building’s large bank of windows, the owners of the new Saranac Public House have made a very clear statement that can be heard from the sidewalk.
They want you to drink here. Inside, they refine the pitch. The décor is spare and utilitarian — all dyed concrete floors, exposed brick walls, stainless steel tabletops and industrial-ish lighting. It is not flashy. Saranac Public House wants to be a pub and seems to understand what that means. The atmosphere is casual; the tables, booths and dinnerware are built to take a beating and the space is integrated — far more fully than Isabella’s ever was — into the neighborhood.
And the neighborhood responded on opening night. The place was packed, a seeming mix of Community Building after-workers and a smattering of Spokane’s food-adoring cognoscenti.
It was a mess, of course. Opening nights always are. The servers didn’t get ruffled, though, and people seemed to stay happy. The signature Saranac Burger ($9) was more fixins than patty: the veggies fresh, the Kaiser roll soft, the bacon rich and perfectly cooked. Other handfoods — a Kahlua pork ($10) and chicken caprese sandwich ($8) — were simple and tasty. Saranac makes its own potato chips. These were crisp and perfectly seasoned.
Two days later, a return visit found organizational issues fixed. Service was prompt and friendly. Food came quickly, as did the drinks. Branching out, we found plentiful vegetarian options, befitting a place that’s in the Saranac and across the street from a co-op. The noodles in the Yaki Udon stir-fry ($11) were a bit overcooked, but the ginger sauce was sweet and mild.
They still have work to do — like the noodles, the hamburger patties have a tendency to be overcooked; their mac & cheese ($8) is probably best described as mac & cream — but they’ve laid a solid foundation that is seemingly built for the long haul.
That’s good, because the best view is probably from down the block. Walking away after a meal and a couple beers, it was nice to look back over that hip stretch of Main and realize that a bit of the thrumming nighttime vitality that’s been a staple of the north side of the street had bled south. (Luke Baumgarten)
Saranac Public House • 21 W. Main Ave. • Open daily from 11 am - 11 pm • saranacpub.com • 473-9455