Bellingham WA food inquiries
- Sasha Jan 26, 2006 10:22 AM
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 :)
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I'm relocating to Bellingham from Bay Area and am seriously thinking about opening a gourmet food shop or maybe cheeses and wines. I, too, am in the legal field and think food is a lot more fun than law. Maybe we can chat off board and see if we may be thinking along same lines - never hurts to have a sounding board.
i ate at la fiamma--i would say a step below DiGiorno (yes the frozen pizza)--do not recommend.
Hi D'Anna's on State street has good authentic Italian Food. Speek Ezy on Meridian and Broadway has good southern style food, and great pulled pork sandwiches.
Stanello's on South side has Pizza, and other dinners, a nice eat in bar ..we've always had good service. And Boss Tweed on Holly is great for lunch, and weekend breakfasts
Bellingham lacks a good Chinese restaurant. I REALLY miss my Mapo Tofu!!!!
It also lacks a vegetarian restaurant. There are more vegetarians here than most anywhere else in the world and not a single dedicated vegetarian restaurant. It's crazy! I was a dog hair away from starting one downtown but decided against the risk and decided to go to teaching school at Western. But a good veg restaurant would take off like no other! Everyone I talked to about the potential restaurant were crazy about the idea. It would be great. Anyhoo, there's no good Chinese (or Thai for my money), no really good bread, either. That's my two cents.
For good bread in Bellingham. Go to La Vien Rose.. they bake in Anacortes but have a shop in Bellingham.
Also Great Harvest Bread ..
For organic and vegitarian food try the Food Co-Op
i have lived in Bellingham for 15 years and have seen many good to great restaurants come and go. Right now for the best food I go to Nimbus at the top of the Bellingham Towers. They serve food that has imagination; I like going somewhere where the food is something I can't make at home. Bellingham has just opened two high end cheese/deli places and I would say that was one thing that what was really missing here. But the thing I would love to see and so would most of my foody friends is a real, honest to goodness butcher shop. I want to be able to buy good meat from someone who knows what they are doing. I want to pick out my bird, quail, pheasant whatever. I want a big prime cut of meat. I want to be able to talk to someone who can tell me more than "Let me check in the back." Can you do that for me?
re: Lizzy Lou
Hey all - if you are up for a short drive - Chuckanut Drive is a great scenic drive along the coast going south of Bellingham (hwy 11) and there are several great restaurants down that way. Our favorite is the Rhododendron Cafe which is probably 14 miles south of the Fairhaven district. They do lots of great ethnic food and have their own garden for fresh salads and veggies. yumm. check it out!
I spent a 3 months in Bellingham in 2005. Dirty Dan's was very good seafood and steaks. I highly reccomend Boundary Bay Brewery, very good beer and outstanding food selection, not the typical brewery food selection here. Wing Dome has very good buffalo wings if you enjoy that. I was pleasantly surprised by Bellingham, I had very low expectations when I went and really found myself enjoying that little town while there.
Sadly, Fool's Onion & Tivoli are closed. So is Pacific Cafe. I never ate at Stanellos' but it is closed too. Good restaurants rarely last in Bellingham, and some that should close don't. The lack of a true restaurant critic in the local media protects those who should close their doors and make room for good, local restaurants.
Burgers? A great burger place is need in town (still). Bob's Burgers is fair to middling~ getting to be too much like a franchise chain. It depends on which one you go to, and on what night as to what type of service you get, and the quality of food. Too inconsistent. Chihuahua's in Ferndale was huge disappointment after the Mexican food I am so used to in the Bay Area (I know, I know...go back there~ but I have been a resident of the City of Subdued Excitment for three eyars now, so here I stay).
I would say that almost any type of GOOD food place would fit in well here~ keep the service standard high, the prices affordable and the food great and you will make everyone happy.
Welcome to the great Bell~ enjoy.....
Freida, can I jump in? I'm a 'Hampster. I've had Fiammaburger twice and it's so sad. It's nice meat totally done in by a too-rich bun and too much grease. I was so bummed. It's such a nice setup; I really hope they'll tweak it and start selling something that has less of a mushy mouth feel.
I wish they'd model their burger a bit more on Dick's in Seattle.
Less than enthusiastic restaurant recommendations in Bellingham make it necessary to find a great grocery store with selections aiming towards the Whole Foods, or Trader Joes end of things. Any suggestions? I have never been before and will be driving from the airport. Geez, I hope I can get great groceries in Bellingham!!
Oh, we do have great groceries. The Community Food Coop is full of wonderful goodies. We have a Trader Joes (but I hope you won't just default to this). We also have a wonderful artisan cheese shop in Fairhaven, Quel Fromage. We have at least two farmer's markets going right now, too. Saturday 10-3 downtown and Wednesday 3-7? in Fairhaven.
Which airport do you mean-- Seatac or Bellingham? The B'ham airport is practically in town.
Don't miss Mallard's for ice cream and the Bagelry. They're not chi-chi, but they're very much ours!
I flew into Bellingham early on Jun 16, 08. Friends who have been in Bellingham for 8 years tried to cram in all the sights in three (very sunny) days. We had our first taste of "SHIGOKU" oysters, (raw) at the oyster farm. Wow! What a treat! Cheese from the cheese farm, (extra sharp black pepper cheddar was a fav). Berries from the berry farm. And tasted wine made from two wine grapes I had never heard of before: Muller Thurgau grapes?? and Madeline Angevine grapes?? Wine country in Washington must have it's challenges. Very fun experience, none the less.
Those wine grapes tend to do well on the west side of the state, which is why they get made around here. Sometimes they're quite nice. But a lot of the local wineries import their fruit from eastern WA. This area is not representative of Washington winegrowing. I recommend you explore Walla Walla syrahs if you want to see some of the state's finest.
I'm so glad you got to go to Taylor's for oysters! Too cool. Can't beat that drive, huh? Now you've got me craving oysters and it's not even 6 am!
I know this was posted over 2 years ago. But I read through all the comments and I'm angry. I've worked in restaurants in Bellingham forever, you people have left out some very important places!
Supon's - Thai Food
Mt. Bakery - Pastries & Weekday breakfast, best crepes in town
Jerome - Saturday market, he is a French gentleman that makes the actual best crepes in town, but since he's only around on sat. he's ranked at 2nd. He uses a really old cast iron crepe 'stove' if you will. Check him out, delicious!
Prospect Street Cafe is nice.
Bayou on Bay - Awesome creole food!
Oriental Bakery - Asian buns, best snack ever
Harris Street Cafe - good coffee and lunch
Old World Deli - Meat and Cheese!
Quel Fromage isn't that great, Spokane even has a better cheese shop with a far more pleasant staff.
Boundary Bay has good quality burgers and excellent beer. and good music.
Don't neglect the 3 woodstone ovens either - Daisy Cafe, Wild Buffalo, and Mambo Italiano(bad lunch, good dinner)
And what Bellingham lacks in restaurant variety it definately makes up for in farms and local purchasing power. I know half the farmers in whatcom and skagit county - and they all make/grow amazing products
Bellingham is GREAT place for food.
Thanks for your careful listing of restaurants. Your response is why people come to chow hound for in depth and first hand food info. So what about La Vien Rose and the Rhododendron Cafe? We had lunch at Palmer’s on the Waterfront in La Connor just to see the boats go by in the Swinomish Channel. The view is way worth the price of admission. The food was fine. Service was very friendly. Cocktails were adequate but wildly weird. A Provençe Martini had lavender infused vodka, Hypnotic and pineapple juice. Tasted great but you got to wonder what strange puff contributed to the naming of the drink.
Given all the access to fresh produce and ingredients in the area, I was very disappointed with Supon's and Mambo Italiano.
At Mambo, I couldn't really tell if the food was freshly cooked or microwaved, it tasted like something I could get at the Olive Garden (over-starchy bread dough, salty water posing as "soup"). This happened at both lunch and dinner.
Asian food in general just doesn't fly in Bellingham. Especially not when you can just hop over the border quickly.
I do look forward to trying your other suggestions, though, since I'm in Bellingham quite a bit.
Thumbs DOWN. I have relatives that live really close by, so we've eaten there a couple times. Reminded me of Thai food I had in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (no, that's not a compliment). It epitomizes the whole concept of the culinary suffering of Asian-Americans living in small-town America. :-) And the "Mexican" place further down the street (Dos Pedros?) - shudders.
I know it's a vast generalization, but you can almost guarantee with 100% accuracy that any Asian restaurant in a community of less than 100,000 people exist because they cannot survive in larger communities with more competition (there are certainly exceptions - like Yuzen in Seal Rock, OR - population 500?). My aunt probably couldn't find a job as a line cook at Denny's, but retired a millionaire after relocating to Anchorage and operating a "Chinese" restaurant for only 6 years. It's amazing what a low bar of standard due to a lack of competition will do. I've heard endless repeats of this story from other Asians I know. Operating a "Chinese" or "Thai" restaurant in small-town America is a certifiable gold mine. That's why you'll see one in almost any community with over 500 people or so. It's well-recognized (at least within the Chinese community) that entrepreneuring husbands and wives will sometimes go to the "countryside" and "suffer" for 10 years or so - after which most of these people will be on easy street.
Bellingham does a number of things well, but not ethnic food (which is surprising for a college town - in a way similar to Eugene)
I agree with your last statement, but I really don't think that good Asian food can only be found in larger cities. I had access to GREAT Chinese food growing up in a Seattle suburb. I've had wonderful thai on the Oregon Coast. I just don't think it's as common.
I've warned my sweetie that if I win the lottery I'm bringing decent Vietnamese food to downtown Bellingham. It blows my mind that the lunch crowd has no access to pho!
I'm not that impressed with Pho 99, and it's not downtown (I only care because I'd loooooove to be able to get pho within walking distance for lunch on workdays). The place in Cordata is ok.
Have you suffered through the place by Lowes yet? They served us half-brown sprouts and truly dismal pho. Not even for a desperation fix.
As someone who spends a good deal of time paying attention to the Whatcom restaurant / food market, I feel that many have given this area a bad rap. Yes, we are not the bay area, Seattle or Denver.... but we do very well with our limited market and we are doing better everyday. Go to other cities the size of Bellingham and then compare. Comparing Bellingham to San Fransisco is like comparing Pittsburgh to New York! Larger cities with larger communities of ethnic people will always outshine the smaller ones.
I just spent 12 days in Pittsburgh and was very happy when I came home to our diverse market. While Pittsburgh has very good Italian and Polish restaurants, almost anything else just does not exist. Mexican, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese is no where to be found. This is very typical in smaller, non-international cities. Dare you to go to Salt Lake city and find good Thai or Indian!
Most all sectors of the restaurant business are avaliable here in Whatcom county. Most of these examples are good or better with two or more business representing the cuisine. Indian, Thai, Mexican, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and more! Most all these restaurants have a rather high service standards as most 'Hamsters will not tollerate poor service. With all that, plus the natural wonders, vibrant culture and lifestyle .... What else could a person want?
My take on some of the mentioned restaurants in this thread and then some....
Casa Que Pasa
Cali-Mex. Pretty good cheap grub. NOT real mexican!!!
Very good, one of the best IMHO. Excellent service. Salsa's are great, Chicken Mole is good (not great).
La Fiamma Wood fired pizza
Gluten free options. New york style.
Cafe Akroteri Greek
Very good, pricey for what you get.
Rhodes Cafe Greek
Sundays are Eggs Benedict day. Just the best to be found.
Mallard's Ice Cream
Famous and excellent
Good hippie food, great atmosphere, OK service.
Poor Siamese ( Now known as Luxe Thai)
Very good, cheap.
This maybe good when the head chef is on site. Ate there once and will not go back.
Great, cheap all you can eat fish. Too bad they closed for good.
Speak e-z's Memphis style
Very good ribs and pulled pork. Collards and hush puppies are great.
New York style, fair price and rather tasty. For sure in the top 3 of the best pizza in Bellingham.
La Vien Rose
Very good breads.
Excellent. Near 5 star, varied menu, great staff, great view, good place for just drinks. Spendy but worth it.
Cube steak burgers, good bread, al a cart ordering, costs too much.
Good is very good, prices are nice, service is great.
Excellent, hippie/french food. Coffee is excellent. Cash only business!
Bayou on Bay
Very good creole for the PNW. When in Everett, go to the Alligator Soul for the BEST in the PNW. Bayou is a good second.
Old World Deli
Very good, cheap price, high quality.
Very good, fast and cheap.
La Patisserie -Vietnamese
Excellent, affordable, eat in service is weak.
Han Teriyaki -Korean-nese
A little Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Cheap and very flavorful.
Humbow, cookies and cassava chips! 4 dollar bag lunch!
Mediterranean Specialties -High quality, great selection. They teach cooking classes also!
Asia Oriental Market -Lot's of product. Not bad for a little store.
Taqueria El Polivoz -Mexican groceries and food on site.
Spice hut -More of a chain place, but owners are great. The hut by Costco... NOT the MALL!!
Costco -Starting to get a better selection. Besides... who doesn't want a gallon of Ketchup?
Cash & Carry -Not bad for what it is. Good kitchen supplies, meats and chesses. Great place if you have a lot of people to feed but do not want to purchase a Costco membership.
Cost Cutter (Meridian) -Tons of ethnic food! Lot's of russian, mexican and the like. Produce is poor. Large organics section. Meridian location is much different than the Sunset location. A russian grocery is in the same mini-mall as this Cost Cutter. Well worth the trip.
Haggens -Higher end. May or maynot be worth the time.
Trader Joe's -Good organic grub, produce is very poor. Good wine selection!
Food co-op -Hippie Heaven!! Very good selection, good prices (Cost Cutter organic prices can be lower though). Great deli.
I spend a fair amount of time in Bellingham on business and like the following places.
Pelmini Dumplings (sp)
Sushi place in the Public Market
North Fork Brewery Pizza
Mallard Ice Cream
Nimbus is ok but not on Seattle level
I'm sure there are a few other gems but if i lived there I'd got to Vancouver for fine dining and Richmond for all the amazing food.
There are AWESOME places to eat in Bellingham especially for a smaller city. My aboslute favorite (I don't think mentioned) is Tivoli. Awesome food for a special (or not so special!) night out. Another spot is The Temple Bar. Great apps and smaller dinner items and GREAT drinks. Perfect night out?? Temple Bar first for a cheese plate and drinks AND then walk 2 blocks to Tivoli!
Breakfast in the morning?? Old Town Cafe.
Other places we LOVE:
Pepper Sisters (New Mexican)
Bajou on Bay (I think better than Alligator Soul in Everett)
La Fiama (pizza)
La Fiama Burger (good burgers, turkey burgers, veggie burgers)
Nimbus (2nd to Tivoli for a night out)...great view, good scene
Ran across this post looking for other resto ideas. I'm sure you know by now, but just in case someone is living in a well-designed cave, and just found this board, Tivoli has closed, (imagine warm, salty tear spots here). Nimbus closed also. As did Flats, Pastazza, Magnolia Bistro, Bistro du Jour. etc.
What to do? I'm cooking a lot more, hoping to start a supper club where home cooks gather, bring, cook, share.
There is a relatively new Mexican restaurant on Holly st called Tadeo''s I like the fact that they have some new dishes and a slightly different take on your everyday run of the mill mexican food, as well as fresh made to order tortillas. I'ts a small place and is usually fairly busy. Menu items are reasonable. Looking forward to trying some of the more unusual items soon.
Please try the new Soy House (Vietnamese) in the Bakerview Square shopping center. They have "homade" dishes far beyond pho (I had an awesome Vietnamese stuffed pancake as a special). Nice people; pretty place. I'm worried because they don't seem to be getting much business yet.....don't want them to go away before they've really had a chance.
My husband and I eat at the Little Cheerful every time we drive up 5 from SEA to VCR. Wonderful fresh breakfasts. There is also a really nice Farmer's Market in Bellingham.
You could also try this friendly little place. It's family-run and features Punjab cuisine. It's between Ross and the old Circuit City.
3930 Meridian St Ste 107, Bellingham, WA 98226