A Legacy of Neighborhood Flavor

Sitting in Picabu Bistro before business hours, Jane Edwards doesn’t want to reflect on nearly 14 years as owner and operator of the quaint, eclectic Spokane restaurant. On December 15th, Jane and the crew (including her three kids) will serve their last Saturday night dinner on the lower South Hill.

“I’m just operating the business like always,” she laughs. “Doing the best we can until we close on our last day.”

I’m not the first to share what the restaurant means to my family (I live a few blocks away). Jane has been flooded with well wishers, regulars, and neighbors who want to tell their Picabu stories. And of course, people share which menu items will cause them to go into harsh withdrawals (for me, it’s the Fire Pasta). To help us with this problem, they are in the process of selling several hundred cookbooks, so families can create their favorite Picabu dishes in their own kitchens. Something tells me it won’t quite be the same.

Instead of selling the restaurant, Jane decided to simply close it. “I’ve never heard a single person say that one of their favorite restaurants improved when the original owners left,” Jane says. “I don’t want to hear that from people, or worry about changes. I just want Picabu to be what it was: for fourteen years, this was a place we all really enjoyed together.”

As we continue talking, some stories come to the surface. The foremost is of a regular who lives in the Tri Cities. He traveled to Spokane regularly to see cardiologists for a severe heart problem, and each time, he would stop in to Picabu for lunch. Getting to know this gentleman, Jane and the staff learned that he needed a heart transplant. After a long wait and some near successes, the day finally came when a good match was available.

“His wife came in to tell me that his transplant was successful, and he was resting in the hospital,” she says. “I ran over to Rosauers to get a card, and the whole staff signed it, letting him know how glad we were, and that we wanted to see him soon.”

When the man left the hospital, he came to Picabu. He looked great, even in early recovery.

A year or so later, he came in for a meal with a family Jane had never met. It was his donor family, who lost their son. “That was really special,” Jane remembers. By the look on her face, it’s clear these are the connections she’ll miss most.

Of course, there was the time Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives featured Picabu. While that moment propelled the business’s following and created even more addicts of the Cactus Burger and Potstickers, Jane will better remember the moments with neighborhood regulars who treated Picabu as an extension of their south hill homes.

Plus, she’ll remember the people who shared the journey through years of hard work: her adult kids Nathan, Bud, and Nicole of course; Jesse (the chef who has been there since Day 1); Tony, Wayne, Tiana, Devin, Josh. There are too many to list... but Jane tries!

“It’s going to be hard,” she says. “But it’s time for something new.”

Jane looks forward to spending lots of time with her grandkids, doing the traveling she never had time to do, and volunteering with service organizations and missionaries she knows. She hopes to find a way to teach cooking classes at some point.

For those of us who are sad to say goodbye to Picabu, we’ll do our best to picture Jane enjoying this new season, and to use our cookbooks to recreate those flavors at home.

-Ross Carper