The Satellite Diner and Lounge: Spokane’s meeting place

The Satellite Diner and Lounge: Spokane’s meeting place

by Phoebe Droz


In the midst of all the hip coffee shops and trendy breweries that are popping up all over downtown Spokane, there stands a shabby little establishment with local art lining the walls, friendly people around the tables, and diner food that’s served almost 24 hours a day.


The Satellite Diner and Lounge both integrates and separates itself from the neighborhood that owner Colleen Freeman established it in around 15 years ago. Like the businesses that surround it, it is a bar that is frequented by locals. As I peak in, my gaze is welcomed by tall black tables, mismatched metal stools, and a couple big screen TVs that provide just as much lighting as the low-hanging lamps evenly spaced throughout the large room. The walls are dark and the bartender stereotypically wipes the counter with a clean white rag. He looks up and I disappear around the corner, back into the diner. A happy chatter follows me through the open door that separates the dimly lit bar from the active late night diner. The bar is not too full tonight, but it’s hectic enough to keep the waitress, who is serving both the diner and the bar, very busy.


“What can I get ya’?” the waitress asks with a smile. She didn’t have the time to be interviewed, but she did point me to some regulars sitting at a clean table in the diner portion of the business. She handed me a menu, and I walked to the table feeling a comfort that came from the smell of fresh pancakes, a relaxed atmosphere, and perhaps even the walls, that were a warm shade of yellow. The funny little menu, advertising boiled leaves with hail (iced tea) and muddy cow juice (chocolate milk), was well-lit by the diner’s inviting glow, and the waitress came around often to refill water glasses and check in with a, “seein’ anything that looks good?” and, “how’s everything tastin’?”


“The customer service is great,” said James Dotson, 22, with a smile, “they are thick skinned because they always have to deal with drunk people.” Dotson, a Spokane native, is a patron at the Satellite. He orders a regular cheese burger and beer battered fries with ranch and tartar sauce and talks about the wide range of people that come through the door. “Young, old… everyone really, it’s too broad to explain,” he concludes. He begins to talk with one of the woman sitting beside him, and I take a look around and realize that his words couldn’t be more accurate. There is an older couple on a date that sits in a booth towards the back of the diner, a younger man sits intensely staring into his MacBook screen and drinking cola while waiting for the rest of his meal to come, and a middle-aged woman is zipping up her coat and preparing to leave.


Even “Bennie is here!” D’Angelo Harvey, 22, one of the people Dotson is sitting with, chimes in. Bennie is an older African American man, who the men described as the Satellite’s late night greeter. He sits at the counter, and literally greets everyone with a, “Good Morning,” or, “Hi,” followed by a jubilant wave. Dotson and Harvey aren’t sure of Bennie’s story, but they conject that he once had a baseball career and was given laced drugs which had long term implications. Everyone that I talked to in the diner seemed to have a different history for the funny little man sitting on a bar in front of the dinner’s grill, but all were elaborate and celebratory towards a man that could have been considered a nuisance. Regardless of his backstory, Bennie just make sense in this place, because it is a place for everyone. It is a place for Spokane, and this thought is reiterated in the diner’s décor.


Unlike other diners with themes that inform their décor, this spot’s design is entirely informed by Spokane itself. Along the walls this month is the collection, ‘Western Front,’ created by Pier Zambrano. Pictured are landscapes of discolored mountains and skylines of shadowy tress. The art that lines the walls changes about once a month, as different local artists are invited in to the little Spokane diner to showcase their work. In a way nothing, aside from this local art, could better explain this diner and lounge in the midst of a bar heavy block of Sprague Avenue. This place is feeding Spokane, is decorated by Spokane, and is showing Spokane better than any coffee shop or brewery can. It serves the old and young, folks like Dotson and people like Bennie, those who want a beer and those who want pancakes, and all the while does it with thick skin, not regarding what other bars are doing, just focusing on serving Spokane in the way that it obviously wants and likes to be served, with classic diner food at all hours of the day.


Spokane may be hip coffee shops and trendy breweries, but it is also Starbucks and sketchy bars. This city cannot be put into a box, and the Satellite knows that and doesn’t try to do so. Rather, it serves as a meeting place for generations, economic classes, and pancake enthusiasts.


Satellite Diner

425 W. Sprague Ave.

Spokane, WA 99201



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