Downtown Spokane has many faces. Venture into the core and experience a picturesque cosmopolitan shopping Mecca. Turn another corner and hunt down the galleries and wineries hidden in an ill-lit, labyrinthine warehouse district. Follow the scent of frying oil to conclude your evening on fast-food drag. It’s all here.
On an unusually sunny weekday afternoon, bartender Dan Kvamme unlocks the front door of Mootsy’s (406 W. Sprague Ave.), home of the aforementioned $1 PBRs, and almost instantly the regulars begin trickling in, settling in their respective seats. Kvamme has been a downtown fixture for years. If there were a Spokane Barkeep Hall of Fame, he’d be an inductee. I figure he might be able to send me in the right direction for nightlife.
“Well, I’d have to say the karaoke at Monterey Cafe (9 N. Washington St.) is the best downtown. The guys who run it are great. You should ask this guy from next door, they do some cool events, too.”
Kvamme motions to a heavily pierced fellow who settles into a bar stool next to me. Jeremy Youngman, a tattoo artist who recently joined the crew at Missing Piece Tattoo (410 W. Sprague Ave.), participates in the parlor’s ongoing ugly tattoo contest, which involves a select panel of judges slinging witty insults at models who strut up and down a makeshift catwalk, proudly displaying their tribal designs, leaping dolphins, pornographic Looney Tunes, dream catchers, etc.
“It really helps people feel good knowing that many people have gotten really bad tattoos,” he says.
And what of those who win and are told they indeed have the ugliest ink? What do they get? A voucher to remove the monstrosity, of course.
I double back and head around the corner to Monterey, where owner Ray (aka Ray Ray) Wilson is chatting up the dinner crowd. On the weekends, his joint gets intense: Patrons chug beer straight out of 40-ounce bottles, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, straining to see who is to blame for the last rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”
“I like a low-key rock n’ roll bar with a good jukebox, like the one at Revolver (227 W. Riverside), somewhere that I can hang out with friends and not have to talk business,” says Wilson.
He also gives props to the atmosphere at Nyne (232 W. Sprague Ave.), and makes a point to hang out there in the summer, when the breeze flows in through the open garage doors.
From Nyne it’s just a short walk over to the East End, Spokane’s newest nightlife district. Among other things, you can drink and dance at Zola (22 W. Main Ave.), catch an indie film at the Magic Lantern Theater (25 W. Main Ave.), get a burger at the Saranac Public House (21 W. Main Ave.), watch a basketball game and eat barbecue at the Red Lion (126 N. Division St.), or cavort with co-eds at Fast Eddie’s (1 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.).
After all the evening’s songs have been sung, awards won, and martinis guzzled, there’s not much else to do but hail a cab, right? If it’s after 2 am, there are two alternative options: Get some grub or shake what yo mama gave ya.
Late-night dining options downtown now include Rex’s (14 N. Post St.), which slings burgers until 3 am. Those inclined to go Greek(ish) can hit Pita Pit (707 W. Main Ave.).
If sweating that buzz out sounds more appealing, then the crown jewel of after-hours dancing, Irv’s (415 W. Sprague Ave.), is your final destination. But be warned: Alcohol does not magically bestow upon you the ability to climb that stripper pole. Just don’t do it.
... BE REWARDED FOR GOOD TASTE
If you’re in the mood for a scotch neat, say, or a sazerac or a Ramos gin fizz, you’d kinda want to order it in the sort of place where the bartender would nod knowingly, and say, “Very good, sir.” Tenders at the Peacock Room (10 S. Post Ave.) know a great number of classic cocktails. Bistango (108 N. Post Ave.) has a stupid-huge selection of top-shelf booze, and the bars at Mizuna (214 N. Howard St.) and the Sapphire Lounge (901 W. First Ave.) have some of the most interesting, innovative and fun drinks downtown.
... EAT LATE-NIGHT GRUB YOU WON’T REGRET THE NEXT MORNING
Many competitors in late-night dining have come and gone, but no one has yet outdone The Satellite Diner (425 W. Sprague Ave.). There’s something great about seeing friendly faces who don’t judge you when you scarf down an entire double grilled cheese bacon burger with fries and a side of gravy.
... GET THE BIGGEST BANG FOR YOUR BOOZE BUCK
Both ill-lit and crawling with colorful characters, these two fine establishments are among the best places in Spokane to get crunk on pocket change. The Mayfair (202 S. Washington St.) is Spokane’s grand-daddy dive bar, with shots served in rocks glasses and clientele as old and weathered as the Palouse, whereas Carr’s Corner (230 S. Washington St.), the new kid on the block, hosts ear-pounding rock shows and a steady rotation of dirt-cheap drink specials.
... FIND HIPSTERS
At The Baby Bar (827 W. First Ave.), you can exchange mustache-grooming tips while sipping on a fresh-squeezed gin gimlet and absorbing slam poetry or bombastic beats from the next up-and-coming local DJ. Or, scarf a delicious vegan burrito while flipping through the latest issue of The Stranger, longingly wishing your favorite band would stop here on their way between Seattle and Ontario.
... SEE A LIVE HOCKEY GAME
Every Wednesday and Thursday night, the Riverfront Park Ice Palace (507 N. Howard St.) hosts drop-in hockey for those who are so inclined. If you’re not lucky enough to own any equipment, don’t despair. Any sport that requires a signed waiver is a night of high-quality entertainment.