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Bellingham WA food inquiries

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Dear PNW Hounds,
My family may be relocating to Bellingham later this year for employment (WWU) and I have 2 questions for you.

First, can you tell me something about the food scene in the region - what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses. What are some good spots that are nearby and destination, everyday and special occasion.

Second, what is missing in the region (types of restaurants/cafes, types of cuisines, types of food stores or vendors) that you wish you had? I have a passion for food and cooking, and am considering turning that into work if the legal market in Bellingham is not as active as in southern california :)

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  1. Casa Que Pasa's potato burritos are a great everyday food - very casual

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dana

      I second that. If I am visiting friends in Seattle, I happily drive the hour north just for the potato burrito. Their margaritas are also excellent.

      La Fiamma has delicious pizza. I recommend the Spuddy for something a little different from the usual toppings.

      Cafe Akroteri makes amazing Greek food. The saganaki is my standard appetizer there.

      1. re: Kate

        wow how things change. Case Que Pasa is gone and re-opened with new owners, so readers here would not know it is not the same place as was reviewed here in 2006. www.BellinghamEats.com has current reviews of restaurants in Bellingham. La Fiamma opened a burger place rightnext to the Casa Que Pasa location. Bandito Burrito is pretty good, and excellent for the salsa selection (many time winner of Bellingham's Best Burrito).

    2. My favorite thing about living in Bellingham was going to Canada. Vancouver is only about an hour away and it's one of the best cities on the planet. Food is great and affordable. Don't forget to bring home Canadian wine!

      1. I recently lived in Bellingham for just over a year, and I have to say coming from a larger city (Denver) I was pretty disappointed in the Bellingham food scene. There are a few things that are excellent; pizza at La Fiamma, bagels at the Bagelry, ice cream at Mallard, and the most of the menu at the Calumet Cafe (which I heard has since closed down) but beyond that there are few things that I can say are truly memorable. Two other posters mentioned the potato burrito at Casa Que Pasa. After hearing everyone rave about them I had to try it, boy was I disappointed. It wasn't bad, but it was hardly anything special, or worthy of another trip.

        Moving to Bellingham from Denver, where there are many great Mexican restaurants, I was surprised at how little Bellingham had to offer. The only Mexican restaurant I think is reasonably good, is Taco Loco, a casual order at the counter type of place.

        What does Bellingham lack; Mostly restaurants that serve good ethnic food (mexican, chinese, thai, vietnamese, indian, etc.).

        Another glaring need is for a good burger, preferably with a bar attached so you can get a beer at the same time. I think I tried almost every burger place in town, both with and without a bar, and was not able to find a single restaurant I would classify as great. As a matter of fact, as I now think about it, I can't even think of one I would consider good. The local favorite seems to be Bob's Burger and Brew, with several local locations (and growing), but in my opinion, they practice the quantity over quality approach by serving large mediocre burgers for a reasonable price.

        Anyway, that's probably enough for my Bellingham rant. I will say though that aside from the food scene my wife and I loved Bellinhgam, the water, the mountains, the nice people. What a great place to raise a family. Hope you enjoy it.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          Well, yeah, bellingham is waaaaay smaller than denver and not as wealthy either so, no, don't expect a wide range of foods. It's a very outdoor oriented town that tends to hibernate during winter. Very organic, farmer's market type of place. Good breweries too. But that's why you go to Vancouver. If you want fancy food in fancier restaurants, do not plan on seeing it in Bellingham. It's a college town. Go to Canada for that.
          Oh, and I can't BELIEVE I forgot to mention the Bagelry. I'm no new yorker or anything, but it's been 10 years since I lived up there and I still can't find a bagel as good. I have friends bring them down to Portland for me when they visit from the Ham.

          Enjoy, it's a gorgeous place.

          1. re: Morgan

            I agree with Morgan about going to Vancouver for fine dining, and don't forget that Victoria is only a very pleasant ferry ride away in the summer months. I AM from New York and the Bagelry stinks! Who ever heard of a bagel shop that refuses to toast their bagels? Go a couple doors down the street to Avellino's where they not only will toast your bagel but offer you some really tasty baked products as well. Cheers, and welcome to beautiful Bellingham!

            1. re: Chefrobare

              H & H - probably the best in NYC doesn't toast 'em either

          2. re: Steve

            Good Mexican: twenty minutes north of Bellingham in Ferndale is Chihuahua's.

            Fine dining: I've heard really good things about Pacific Cafe, though I've never had the money to eat there myself. The Cliff House is also supposedly very good.

            And yes, Mallard ice cream is fantastic.

            Breakfasts: Colophon Cafe in Fairhaven (also good for lunch), Old Town Cafe on Holly Street.

            Yes, Bellingham is smaller than Denver, but it has a pretty good food scene for its size.

            1. re: Steve

              Almost forgot to add that for Thai food, there is Lemongrass Cafe and On Rice, both on Samish Way and very tasty.

              And my favorite burgers come from Boomer's, a drive-in which also has indoor seating. It's on Samish Way and they also make good milkshakes.

              1. re: Steve

                I'm from NY and have been in Denver quite a bit. Let's see.. Denver population 3 million and growing, Bellingham 65,000. How can you compare? Seattle is about the size of Denver. 90 miles from bellingham and plenty of food choices.

                The problem with ethnic foods in Bellingham is scale. What restaurant can survive serving a few people per day looking for authentic thai,or authentic something else? They have to cater to the market, and that means burgers, fish and chips, Amercianized chinese take out, etc. I write reviews for www.bellinghamEats.com and since I started sampling I have discovered plenty of good food in Bellingham.

              2. I lived in Bellingham for about 10 years, now in Seattle, but often visit friends there. One of my favorite places is in Ferndale, 15 minutes N., called the Poor Siamese. Very small, friendly, and terrific Thai food. Also, Pepper Sisters is an imaginative baja-style mexican, very homey, relaxed and some great menu items. If you want fancy, the Cliff House, Dirty Dan's, Oyster Bar are well thought of, but personally I enjoy the smaller, quainter, friendlier places. Great brew pubs including Boundary Bay, which makes some of the finest craft beers in the NW, and they have a good bar menu to compliment. Enjoy the area, no place quite like it!

                1. I have lived in Bellingham for 4 years now, and as a WWU student who lives on fairly cheap take out for many meals I have searched for the best food at bargain prices. That said, it is true that Bellingham's food scene overall is much less sophisticated than Seattle's or Denver's.So without any particular order I'm just going to list some things off.

                  Super Mario's taco truck(which I have just become aware of) is excellent. It is unlike any other taco truck I have been to in Seattle because it is salvadorian. Many things are the same, but there are new twists. Don't miss the pork and cheese papusas ($1.75), the carne asada tacos and the wonder burrito.
                  Located on Forest and CHampion streets next to the Toyota dealership.

                  Rudy's Pizzeria, Fairhaven Pizza Co. and La Fiamma all of great pizza, although different styles.

                  Hawaii BBQ Noodle House - cheap Chinese food here is good, but make sure to get the mixed BBQ plate, best deal in town.

                  Super Teriyaki
                  House of Orient-best thai in Bellingham.

                  Boomer's- solid burgers, any burger is $2.49 until February!

                  Wingdome - extension of the Seattle chain, great wings, kind of indifferent service though.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Josh

                    Josh -- did you ever open a gourmet food shop? I thought immediately of Slough Food in nearby Edison WA when I read your post. They specialize in wine, cheeses, and chocolates. They are a must stop for us when we visit friends in Anacortes, along with the bakery next door (amazing fig anise rolls) and Taylor's on the water to pick up some seafood for dinner.