I don’t often come across the perfect, middle-of-nowhere town. One that’s charming, historic and revitalized, with fabulous scenery and one main drag.
Too often, such places go in one of two directions: straight downhill—because there’s nothing left to sustain them—or overrun and loved to death. Hitting the sweet spot of overlooked yet vibrant is the rarest of feats.
I might have found the holy grail in Palouse, Washington, a “city” of 1,000 and a stone’s throw from the Idaho border. Perhaps its greatest attribute is the location, along the eastern edge of the other-worldly Palouse Hills and their rich farming soils.
But that’s just for starters. The broad, tidy Main Street is lined with historic, refurbished buildings, housing a diversity of occupants: a funky gallery with a tearoom, a newspaper/printing press museum and an 87-year-old car dealership. A block away, the little Palouse River winds through a thicket of woods.
Need more convincing? How about a summer music festival, an annual hot-rod gathering or a couple of haunted houses?
Palouse’s only real link to civilization is little state Highway 27, which leads south in 15 minutes to Pullman (population 30,000), home of Washington State University. No doubt, some Palouse residents make this leisurely commute to work in Pullman or perhaps to the nearby, also oh-so-charming Moscow (University of Idaho). It’s likely that Palouse is a weekend country destination for some of those city folk.
There’s one final piece in the puzzle that, in my books, elevates a middle-of-nowhere town’s status to legendary: a killer diner. Palouse kindly obliges with The Green Frog Cafe.
The Green Frog is in a wonderful space with high ceilings, bright green and orange walls covered in local art and light streaming in the picture windows. The real test, of course, is the food and drink, and owners Tiana Gregg and Paula Echanove certainly deliver.
We start with excellent brews and Americanos—made from beans roasted by Tobra Coffee, in little Tekoa, to the north—followed by a chunky mushroom barley soup. The showpieces are thick, made-to-order sandwiches, on house bread, like the Tuna Turner or my Madison, a two-fister loaded with grilled ham, turkey, Swiss and fixings. Really, it’s two lunches on one plate, unless you’ve just been ploughing the back 40.
This lovely lunch is the perfect cap to a wonderful two-hour visit to Palouse. You should check this idyllic town out, too, if you get the chance. On second thought, forget you ever read this.
The Green Frog Café
100 East Main Street, Palouse, Washington
Tuesday-Wednesday 10 am-3 pm, Thursday-Friday 10 am-8 pm, Saturday 8 am-4 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday