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Food Review: The Black Cypress – Pullman, WA

Here is the owner, only he's normally radiating coolness

Nick Pitsilionis: serious about food

I intended for the Black Cypress to be a first of mine.  I wanted to spend the first dollar they ever earned, in part because a friend of mine was the owner/proprietor of the restaurant (Nick Pitsilionis) and in part because I’d always wanted to do that.  I’ve stared curiously into the dusty frames of bars and coffee shops and wondered, ‘Was that dollar from a supportive friend or a lucky stranger?”  It looked like an essential bit of history for every business: proof that they sold something.  In the religion of capitalism it was a symbol meant to ward off failure.  I wanted to offer that protection to my friend’s endeavor.  I wanted that small scrap of fame.

When my wife and I arrived thirty minutes before the restaurant unofficially soft-opened, I thought we might end up lingering in a corner while the wait and kitchen staff dealt with their first night jitters, but they met their first day challenge with preparation and professionalism.  We were quickly seated and I grumbled to see that arriving 30 minutes early hadn’t earned me any advantage in the ‘first dollar’ challenge.  Two other tables were already seated with drinks in hand.  I hurried to catch up and ordered a beer. The incoming trickle of guests, many of them friends and supporters of Nick, was met with efficiency and smiles by the staff.  As tables were slid together our group took in the unpretentiously trendy sights, calmingly jazzy sounds, and wood fire cooking smells.

As I tasted my first appetizer (Grilled cheese sandwiches where luscious cheese is elevated by sweet fruit jam) my desire to be first customer began to take hold of my mind. I wanted to honor this place because it was important.  To me.  To my town.  To my friends.  This was a restaurant that brought class and refinement to a near-invisible town in the Palouse wheat fields.  The owner spent a lifetime in restaurants, from Greece to Alaska with training at restaurants in New York and now landed in Pullman.  As residents, we are witness to a new culinary talent that probably doesn’t belong here forever.  This restaurant should be a source of pride and inspiration for all locals.  We have a new place to take visitors we hope to impress.  There will be lines out the entrance for high school dances and romantic holidays.  You will have discussions with friends over who had the better dish.

I had been worried that opening day would be a slow start for quality and patronage.  I was wrong about both. The restaurant filled every table and bar seat. Each dish was passed by reluctant hands and received by greedy ones.  Our group tried 4 of 5 appetizers, a dazzlingly fresh salad, all but one of the available steak, pork, lamb, and fresh pasta options, and a desert that wasn’t on the menu.  If you are reading this, you are now in the know – ask for the brownies with house-made marshmallows and peanut brittle.

If you doubt the sincerity or adulation of this review I urge you to taste the food for yourself.  If there was a complaint, it was from guests sitting on the hardwood benches, but a steady flow of alcohol and food cured all discomfort.  This review is more memoir than menu-focused, because I wanted to share the experience by reflecting my appreciation of it.  And I was not alone.  Near the end of our meal, Nick hurried out of the kitchen for the first time, the huge list of tasks needing his attention showed on his busy face.   He had come out to deliver food, but he was greeted with a cacophonous roar of applause.  Thank you Nick.  Thank you for sharing what you love with all of us.

PDJ looks forward to spending many future dollars at the Black Cypress

PDJ looks forward to spending many future dollars at the Black Cypress

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5 Responses

  1. Great review/memoir/sharing. I’m already looking forward to a meal there the next time I’m in town.

  2. I like to eat and your words make me want to eat even more. Nice post.

  3. going tonight!

  4. Had dinner here last night with some friends. Decent wine and beer selection, very well prepared and presented appetizers, and excellent entrees. The Smore dessert with a little Port was awesome. The service was outstanding and the decor is very cool. It would be nice if they accepted American Express, but the overall experience was very positive.

  5. […] restaurant that has established itself quickly as one of the best dining experiences in the region. Here is a review, if you happen to be interested. Anyway, the thing about The Black Cypress that is […]

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