306 Spokane St., Post Falls.
(208) 457-0228 -- facebook
A hunkering solid iron Victorian era wood stove looms near the door. Then there's this montage of objects on a display shelf behind the counter: St. Vincent du Paul dish room cookie jars; dust encrusted straw fruit basket from probably Shopko; Country Living magazine September 1987 she-scarecrow rag doll; a framed photo of a beaming cute baby in a little chef's outfit surrounded by vegetables. A clothes iron without a power cord or vertical steam surge or even a demineralizer.
Plastic tablecloths in retro avocado, mustard, and rust colors, patterned with pleasingly tacky acid flashback coffee mugs. Real-deal sugar shakers and syrup spouts. Double-wide chic stained ceiling tiles, bright overhead fluorescent lighting, and the spirit aura of wood paneling. Faded framed-and-matted-in-mauve-and-salmon floral prints. Forlorn country and western music drifting through behind the kitchen clang and clamor (cue Willie Nelson's "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain")
So yeah, this place is basically all grandma'd out all to heck, but don't have fits of disappointment about the fact that you ain't ever gonna run into dear Grandma Zula herself around here. She's, uh...gone to a better place. But owner Kari Turnbough is Zula's granddaughter and the decor and home cooking she's been dishing up in her cozy Post Falls strip-mall diner since late last year are rooted in her fond childhood memories of, well, Grandma Zula's Kitchen.
Turnbough was quoted in the CDA Press last November as saying "I want people to walk in feeling like they're in grandma's kitchen." Well girl, mission accomplished. You are serving us up some serious grandma realness. In fact, if some big time marketing and design team was handed only the general concept of "grandma realness" to work with, it would have been impossible for them to come up with a plan to beat what's happening at this place.
Food as comforting as Nana's big pillowy bosoms is the mainstay on Zula's menu. Oatmeal is oatmeal, but I have a hunch it becomes something a little more dynamic and authentic than Quaker Instant here, with the addition of brown sugar, raisins, and milk ($4.95). I've literally received ecstatic text messages from two different friends, mid-orgasm, after diving into Zula's Chicken Fried Steak Two-Egg Breakfast ($8.75), and they're not the types to fake it.
There are four Benedict style plates of offer, including Salmon with cream cheese, tomato and their own dreamy hollandaise sauce ($9.95). Zula's does the lunch thing as well, and items worth investigation include the Pepper Jack Burger on Sourdough ($8.49), the Tuna Melt ("did somebody say tooooonahhh?" ~ my cat) ($6.95), the Buffalo Chicken Wrap (served with an unexpectedly healthful fresh fruit plate) ($8.25), and a "lighter menu". Since when is homemade mac-n-cheese ($3.95) considered light? Give me two orders then, I guess.
Naturally, upon opening up the menu, the very first grouping of words that caused my eyeballs to pop was "Original Monte Cristo". A cult resurgence has brought the Monte Cristo (battered and deep fried ham, turkey and cheese sandwich served with berry jam) slightly back into fashion, but it's still quite a rare thing to see on the menus of local eateries.
A deeper dive into the menu and my salivary glands were suddenly all pumped up about the possibility of Johnny Apple Cakes (unrelated to the porn star of the same name). This carbo-loaded breakfast dessert is two buttermilk pancakes folded with red applesauce and topped with honey cream cheese. Amazing, right? Not according to the waitress, who recommended "Zula's Fried Apple Pancakes" as a better option if I was truly interested in the apple scene. Okay, I'm easy. I ordered them as an upgrade of the "Hot Cake Breakfast" - two of the fancy apple cakes along with œufs brouillés and bacon.
Our waitress and her co-workers fit right into the blood-relative homespun vibe of the place. In fact, I mentioned to my roommate that it was sort of like actually visiting your grandmother's kitchen and running into a handful of jolly favorite cousins all running about and being a little goofy while getting dinner out on the table while grandma naps. (Going to be a looong nap for Miss Zula - apologies, couldn't resit it). In other words, the service was well friendly and warm as a hot, fluffy biscuit.
Speaking of which, the only mild complaint was related to my roomate's biscuits and gravy, which arrived quite a few minutes after the main part of his breakfast, and when they did, he took several bites and poo-poo'd them as "just not all that". Of course, my roommate is also a picky bitch, and instead of taking his word for it, I dug in and tried them and thought they were tasty in a old-timey kind of way, but yes, they could have used a little extra pizzazz. He did say his Chili Cheese omelet was "so extra cheesy good" and that his hash browns had a "crispety crunch", so two out of three isn't bad.
My Fried Apple cakes were each as big as a three wolf moon and stuffed with humongous fried-in-butter red apple chunks. There was no way I could finish all of this hypnotically delicious pile of dough, pats of real butter, syrup, and thunder glory apple goodness, and I didn't. The bacon was perfectly bacony and the scrambled eggs were scrambled eggy, and I did manage to kill both of those, even though my Pyloric valve was about ready to call in sick and take an early leave for the July 4th holiday.
Stuffed and awestruck, we bid Kari and crew adieu and flopped our way back to the car like two overstuffed pink animatronic beanbag chairs waving happy little roly-poly marsupial arms.