Eastern Washington and northern Idaho aren't exactly hot beds of gay culture. Rural in nature, with conservative track records, this part of the inland Northwest sees far fewer visitation from LGBT visitors than the Pacific Northwest hot spots, such as Portland and Seattle - and even Eugene, Tacoma, Olympia, and Bellingham. Still, there are a handful of communities in this part of the world with relatively liberal social leanings - such as the increasingly hip and vaunted wine-making center of Walla Walla, WA, which is a couple of hours southwest of Pullman, and the gorgeous mountain town of Sandpoint, ID, which is about the same distance north.
Pullman, WA and Moscow, ID - which lie less than 10 miles from one another - are both major university towns, so while neither has any exclusive gay establishments, each has a sizable population of LGBT students, faculty, and other residents, and you'll find several bars and restaurants in each community that cultivate at least a somewhat mixed gay-straight scene. Washington State University, in particular, has been consistently ranked in recent years as one of the nation's most LGBT-inclusive campuses; an excellent resource at the school for LGBT students is GIESORC, aka the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center.
Pullman, WA Dining and Nightlife
With a year-round population approaching 32,000 and the campus of Washington State University, which has a student body of about 20,000, the hilly city of Pullman - which is surrounded by the rolling wheat fields of the beautiful Palouse region - has a bustling downtown area that contains a number of fun restaurants and nightspots.
Along Main Street, just across Paradise Creek from WSU campus, you'll find several hip and appealing eateries, including the excellent and highly popular restaurant Black Cypress (215 E. Main St., 509-334-5800), which is as inviting a place for dinner as for drinks. There's an extensive wine list, some great beers on tap, and delicious largely Greek- and Italian-influenced food, and the space is sophisticated yet quite casual.
Another favorite for upscale, creative dining in a refined atmosphere, Swilly's Pony Bar & Bistro (125 SE Spring St., 509-334-3395) occupies the historic BellTower building and has both a stately dining room and a breezy, romantic outdoor patio. The kitchen here turns out creative Northwestern dishes - seared ahi with wasabi aioli, grilled Columbia River steelhead with pomegranate glaze and baby bok choy, and filet mignon with Gorgonzola cream among them.
Along the same stretch are lively, student-approved coffeehouses like the Daily Grind (230 E. Main St., 509-334-3380) and a hip, contemporary outpost of the Spokane-based regional chain Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters (400 E. Main St., 509-334-2326). A block away, Porch Light Pizza (NE Kamiaken St., 509-334-7437) excels when it comes to flavorful pies, and beer and wine are served, too. Also in the downtown core, Paradise Creek Brewery (245 SE Paradise St., 509-338-9463) scores high marks for its honey wheat ale (Oh Beehave!), smokey Scottish Stovepipe ale, and distinctly pine-inflected Over The Hop IPA. Set inside Pullman's handsomely restored former post office building, Paradise Creek also turns out tasty food, including pulled pork nachos, bbq burgers, and mac-n-cheese made with locally famed Cougar Gold cheese.
In addition to being a highly LGBT-inclusive school, Wazzu has quite a reputation for partying. On campus, long-running dive bars like Valhalla Bar and Grill (1000 NE Colorado St., 509-334-7775) and The Coug (900 NE Colorado St., 509-332-1265) are veritable institutions for boozing - they're predominantly straight, but quite welcoming of all, and it's not uncommon at all to meet LGBT revelers in here. In downtown Pullman, a new, snazzy lounge called Etsi Bravo (215 E. Main St., 509-715-1037) opened in 2015 and has quickly blossomed into the city's hot spot - whether you're gay or straight - for dancing, mingling, and craft cocktails. It's a beautiful upper-level space that's steps from a number of popular downtown restaurants - in fact, it's directly above the previously mentioned Black Cypress restaurant.
Moscow, ID Dining and Nightlife
Like Pullman, the historic downtown core of Moscow, Idaho (popular 24,000) holds the majority of the community's best eateries and nightspots. It's also within walking distance of the pretty campus of the University of Idaho, which has a student population of roughly 10,500. Moscow is the site in September of Palouse Pride, which is held at Inland Oasis LGBT Center at 1320 S. Mountain View Rd., 208-596-4449.
Along a colorful block of Main Street from about 1st to 6th streets, you'll find a rich variety of restaurants popular with both students, locals, and visitors. Nectar Restaurant & Wine Bar (105 W. 6th St., 208-882-5914) is one of the most inviting and sophisticated options for sipping and supper - the wine list touches on everything from tried-and-true Old World varietals to emerging Washington State wines, and the kitchen serves well-crafted charcuterie plates, shrimp skewers, apple-fennel salads, and both beef and vegetarian burgers. With a bit of a boho vibe, Bloom Cafe and Arthouse (403 S. Main St., 208-882-4279) is open only for breakfast and lunch, but it's definitely a funky, LGBT-welcoming place, serving delicious bacon-tomato-chevre-avocado omelets, house-made granola, and mimosas. A few steps away, the wildly popular Breakfast Club (501 S. Main St., 208-882-6481) is another great bet for your morning meal.
Among Moscow drinkeries, consider the Moscow Alehouse (226 W. 6th St., 208-882-2739) if you're a beer aficionado - there's a nice selection of brews, plus hefty burgers. And set in the historic former Moscow Hotel Building, the spacious and rather elegant Garden Lounge (313 S. Main St., 208-882-8513) is arguably the classiest and most appealing spot in town for cocktails and conversation. The two-level space has plenty of cozy nooks for getting to know new friends or catching up with old ones.