By Ben Olson
The Festival at Sandpoint draws people to our fair community from all over the area. Some come for just a night, some stay for the whole two weeks. If this is your first time hanging out in Sandpoint, here is a quick guide to some of the best places to eat, drink and play while in town.
Joel’s Mexican Restaurant
Locals and visitors alike agree on one thing: Joel’s kicks ass. This family restaurant began humbly with a food truck in 1995 and has become the place to eat in Sandpoint. Joel’s features fresh, tasty Mexican food that is easy on the pocket book. Find Joel’s on the corner of Church St. and Fourth Ave. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but some of the most popular items are the asada burrito options, the tacos and the blackened chicken burrito. The only con to this amazing eatery is the long wait times during busy summer days. Shave precious moments off your time in line by calling in your order. 208-265-8991.
Trinity at City Beach
Located at Sandpoint City Beach, Trinity has some of the best waterfront dining in the area. With a diverse menu and an expansive, comfortable deck looking over Lake Pend Oreille and the Green Monarch Mountains, this spot has consistently been a Sandpoint favorite for newcomers. Trinity hosts live music on the lawn during the summer months and a full bar. Whether having breakfast, lunch or dinner, or simply ordering off the lounge menu, most of their selections are crowd pleasers. Local’s tip: Try the Jalapeno Popper Burger and/or the Huckleberry Pork Cassonade. 208-255-7558.
This little Thai restaurant is a local’s favorite. The dishes are fresh and of ample portions (great for saving enough for leftovers the next day) and the staff treats you like family. To get there, go down the alley on Cedar St. just west of Eichardt’s Pub and find it tucked away in the corner. Local’s tip: The Cashew Chicken is to die for. 208-263-9960.
No matter what night of the week, the 219 Lounge is where the locals end up. This “five-star dive bar” is a great spot to listen to live music on the patio, play a game of pool and catch up with friends. Try the 219er Pilsner brewed specially by Sandpoint’s own Laughing Dog Brewery. A word of advice: Don’t ring the bell above the bar unless you’re prepared to buy the whole place a round of drinks. That’s a mistake you only make once. 219 First Ave.
Idaho Pour Authority
This is a beer-lover’s haven, featuring over 300 varieties of craft beer and a dozen rotating taps. Located on Cedar Street, IPA hosts live music on the weekends and has a healthy local customer base who usually congregate after work for some frothy brews. Tip: Don’t ask for Budweiser here. If you want to drink Budweiser, see the 219 above. 208-597-7096.
MickDuff’s Beer Hall
Across the street from IPA, MickDuff’s Beer Hall is quickly becoming a hotspot for locals and visitors alike. Featuring live music, pool and darts, cornhole, a great courtyard and free popcorn, this is a great place to cool off on a hot summer day. They brew all the beer on site and do a damn good job of it, if I don’t say so myself. Local’s tip: Since MickDuff’s Beer Hall doesn’t offer food, you can order food anywhere in town and eat it at the Beer Hall. 208-209-6700.
Of all the pubs in Sandpoint, Eichardt’s is probably the one you’ll tell your friends about when back home. Dark, cozy and featuring a healthy selection of craft beers on tap, Eichardt’s is the spot where locals go to drink and be merry. There are decades’ of relics pasted along every inch of the walls and ceilings. Also, they serve food until 10 p.m., and it’s pretty incredible. Local’s tip: Garlic fries. They are a-maz-ing. 263-4005.
Sandpoint City Beach
Head toward the lake from First Ave. on Bridge St. and you’ll end up at City Beach. It’s a great place to swim, play
volleyball/tennis/basketball, launch a boat or just stroll around. The views are amazing, the water feels great and there is ample room for everyone. Word to the wise: If you are opposed to nudity, you may want to avoid City Beach after the bars close at 2 a.m.
Third Street Pier
This local’s swimming spot is a little more low-key than the beach. Take Third Ave. all the way to the lake and you can’t miss it. Local’s tip: Though it’s called “Third Avenue Pier” on the official sign, for some strange reason, locals have always referred to it as “Third Street Pier.” If you use the former, you’ll stick out as a tourist, trust me.
If you’re not spending time on the water, you’re not capitlizing on what this area is all about in the summer. Give the Holland Brothers a call at Action Watersports and they’ll set you up with watersports lessons, powerboat and jet ski rentals, as well as stand up paddleboards and kayaks to rent. They have one location downtown on the Sand Creek Boardwalk and another near the Floating Restaurant in Hope. 255.7100.
There are dozens of great hiking trails around Sandpoint, but one of the closest is Mickinnick Trail. Rising over 2,000 feet in 3.5 miles, this trail gives great views of the lake and mountains. Plug “400 Mountain View Drive” into your GPS to find directions, or simply take Kootenai Cutoff Road toward Schweitzer Mountain Resort, turn left on North Boyer, then go over the train tracks onto Woodland Drive. The trail is on Woodland Drive about a mile down on the left. Local’s Tip: This is a tough hike. It’s OK to quit early at Cougar Rock and have lunch. We won’t tell anyone you’re a sissy.
Lake Pend Oreille Cruises
Step aboard the Shawnodese, a 40-foot charter vessel that gives tours of Lake Pend Oreille throughout the summer months. It’s a great way to check out the surrounding areas, as well as learn a little bit about the history of North Idaho. 208-255-LAKE.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Ski hills aren’t just for the winter! Schweitzer features a plethora of fun summer activities, including chairlift rides to the summit for breathtaking views, mountain biking and hiking, huckleberry picking and much more. Local’s tip: Colburn Lake is a great spot to swim in cold water on top of the world. Ask the staff how to get there. 263-9555.