by JENNIFER K. BAUERPULLMAN — Almost every decent-sized town has an institution, a restaurant or bookstore that has endured for years as generations come and go. Often they remain unchanged as time passes, but sometimes they get better with age.
Swilly’s Pony Bar and Bistro in Pullman has long been a go-to place for fine dining for locals and the college crowd. Long before the relatively recent birth of similar restaurants like Black Cypress, South Fork Public House and Birch & Barley, Swilly’s was serving visually appealing dishes with an eye on local ingredients.
Last October, Swilly’s shed its old, too small skin and settled into a new location in a freshly built addition to the BellTower, a 1927 downtown church extensively remodeled into an event center. Located in back, it now boasts an expansive outdoor patio shaded by old trees. Inside, open rooms are accented with modern art and metal sculpture, lending a metro ambiance.
The food is still spot-on, fresh American fusion. The locally smoked pulled pork sandwich is served with mango slaw on ciabatta ($10). I had the Montana Kobe burger that comes topped with purple port-braised onions and a creamy blue cheese ball ($14). A mocktail of muddled cucumber, ginger and lemongrass ($3.50) is a tempting addition.
Appetizers include Cougar Gold-stuffed roasted new potatoes and fresh steamed coastal mussels ($7/$12). On the lighter side is an Asian-influenced salad of mesclun greens, pineapple, sprouts, scallions and peanuts with ginger vinaigrette ($9).
At dinner, grilled fresh Columbia River steelhead come with a pomegranate glaze, Israeli couscous and baby bok choy ($22). There’s duck, beef and pasta, but one can also go worldly with Brazilian Stew, a blend of tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, ginger, spices and coconut milk ($16).
IF YOU GO
Swilly’s Pony Bar and Bistro, 125 S.E. Spring St., Pullman, (509) 344-3395