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Jun 16, 2014 12:51 AM

Bellingham's Rock & Rye

<From the Herald>

Rock and Rye Oyster House is planning to be open to the public starting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, at The Herald Building on 1155 N. State St., with a grand opening scheduled for Tuesday, July 1. The restaurant/bar will offer a full dinner menu of oysters, seafood and other items, a family-friendly area and a full bar. The oyster house will seat about 130 and has a mezzanine and outdoor patio.

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  1. We ate at Rock and Rye last night and were pleasantly impressed. Service was pretty much perfect, and it's a nice atmosphere. It's a very hard room, so noisy. But that encourages leaning in for intimate conversation, so it was OK for the two of us. Nice cocktail menu; I had a clipper ship (gin, elderflower, lime, and absinthe). OK. I had two.

    Mr. Nightshade was very happy with his duck confit cassoulet. I was happy with my pasta carbonara with house-cured pork belly, duck egg, oyster mushrooms, and reggiano. Now we are pasta makers and pasta snobs, so we felt they've got a little ways to go with the actual pasta, but the pork belly, and the entire dish was rich and wonderful. We also had an oyster starter (of course, the full name is Rock and Rye Oyster House), kumamotos, shigokus, and Skunk Island. What is mystifying to me, is that we regularly stop at Taylor's oyster farm to pick them up fresh, but these were fresher and tastier than any we've brought home (shigokus and kumamotos are from Taylor's). I don't know if Taylor's saves the best for restaurants, or if there is a flaw in our technique for a brief transport home, but wow, these oysters were wonderful.

    We'll be back, in fact, we're already calling this our place.

    10 Replies
      1. re: L.Nightshade

        That menu cracks me up. It is so hard to take a place seriously when they call a gastrique a gastric (mm, gastric juices?) and don't use spell check. It's like the Nimbus menu writer has come back to torment us all.

        Edited to add: Oh lord, I can't help it, PUDGET SOUND? I weep.

        1. re: Vetter

          Well, I do see typos on this kind of paper menu, a menu that changes and gets reprinted frequently, but I know what you mean. You don't have to take the place seriously! It's just someplace fun and new to try in Bellingham, lord knows we need that!

          Actually, I don't want to become the Rock and Rye apologist; I've only been once. But we were happy to have it here.

          1. re: L.Nightshade

            Don't get me wrong, I plan on going and I hope it's fabulous. But I get so tired of the local fine dining places aiming for classy and hitting silly and pretentious. (I didn't read gastric as a spelling error.) There is nothing wrong with plain and simple English OR in taking the pride to get the term of art correct. I guess I'm just hypersensitive after years of riding the elevator in the Towers and rolling my eyes at the Nimbus menu, former home of vegan charcuterie ;)

            I do wonder - isn't the place owned by the same people as Bayou? Will they keep investing the money in quality ingredients and a spotless interior? Bayou started out as a MUCH different creature than it is now. I hope this is a fresh start.

            1. re: Vetter

              From BoB's FB page:

              "Bayou on Bay shared Rock and Rye Oyster House's album.
              June 19
              The new Rock and Rye Oyster House is now open!! If you miss the Oyster Bar at Bayou on Bay then miss it no longer... we're over here! It's located at 1145 N. State in the first floor of the Herald building in downtown Bellingham. Here's the menu, so go on down and check out the beautiful new restaurant and bar!"

              1. re: Vetter

                I have no idea about the provenance, and I haven't researched it (I hate Bayou, it smells like a septic tank and the food, well, stinks).

                And I don't think Rock and Rye has presented their establishment as "classy," but I know they are a long way from silly and pretentious. They are, in fact, wonderfully welcoming and down to earth.

                We were (more or less) profoundly happy with our evening here. There is probably not any place in Bham that is capable of outdoing the food we cook at home, and the food that comes to the table in our supper club. But, once in a while, very infrequently, we want to have a dinner outside of our home. If you can suggest a better place in Bellingham, believe me, we are all ears.

          1. re: L.Nightshade

            Thanks for the detailed review! Looks great.

            Do they have a decent wine list?
            Or is it all mixed drinks focused?

            1. re: sedimental

              Sorry to say I didn't even look at the wines. I was dead set on a cocktail, and Mr. NS set on an IPA. If we get back before you do, I'll take better notice and report in.

              1. re: sedimental

                From the brief list of wines by the glass shown on their menu above, well, not too thrilling. So cocktails might be their focus. Wonder if they'll have a bottle list too. Bham sometimes seems like such a beery town, maybe because I don't drink beer, so it's nice to have good cocktails available. Good wine would be great.

            2. Wow that looks great for Bellingham, will definitely check it out next time I'm up there.

              1. The original comment has been removed
                1. Went there tonight for happy hour...leading into a dinner.
                  Way too loud..LOUD! Gawdawful. Reverb in your head loud. I can't imagine this place on a weekend night. There were only three tables in the room with people in them tonight and it was THAT loud.

                  Ordered cocktails off the happy hour menu. Basically it was a " beergarita". I make them at home.

                  Ordered oysters and a plate of fries. Mediocre. Oysters from Taylor's (quality and tasted fresh) unfortunately 4 of the 6 had sand and shell in them. Someone needs to learn to shuck!

                  Ordered 2 more cocktails, good ones. Rye soaked cherries recommended by the server. Good rec! They were the highlight of the night. Need to soak some cherries in rye at home. Yum.

                  Dinner was fish and chips (halibut) mediocre at best, I do much better at home. Rather tasteless, big portion, didn't finish it because it had no taste, same mediocre fries. We brought them home for the chickens. They liked them.

                  My dinner was a confit salad with blue cheese. The confit was tiny, a big slab of wobbly, pale duck skin comprise 50 percent of the confit. The salad was 50 percent frisé Who does that? The best part of the salad was the blue cheese triangle.

                  Dessert was the key lime cheesecake. That was good.

                  Color me not impressed. Menu was cliche, predictable, trendy... slider/confit/pork belly/buffalo mozzarella, yada yada. Predictable and uninspired for a $100 tab. Fit for foodies, not chowhounds. Better fish and chips at bow tavern or Fairhaven, better salads at fountain, better fries at maple falls cafe, better oysters direct from Taylor's, better cocktails..almost anywhere else with a good bartender. Ugggh.

                  It was a birthday dinner and the birthday girl said " well.... that was disappointing" in the car! :(

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: sedimental

                    Wow. Doesn't sound at all like the place at which we ate. Except the sound. It is a very hard room, so definitely tends to be loud. Hope they're not going downhill already.

                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                      I don't know. I got home and checked yelp, wondering if it was just our bad luck tonight. Very mixed reviews there too so it is not just me. Maybe it matters what you order?
                      Still, an uninspired, cliche menu for the price. Kind of reminds me of the thread recently here (kind of a joke) with the menu ...( blank) confit with roasted (blank) on a bed of (blank), etc...bill :$100.00, you're welcome for the photo op.

                      1. re: sedimental

                        By now we've probably had about eight dishes there, and we've enjoyed all of them (we even remarked how perfectly their oysters were shucked, not a speck of grit!). Now, it's not Seattle, that's for certain, but it's just down the street. And for most places in this town, we're better off cooking at home. We don't tend to order, or like, the same things you do, I've noticed that before, so that may account for some of it. But we did have the duck confit salad, which was lovely. A local chef who also had it, enjoyed it, and commented that it was underpriced. One dinner we had there was only $70 for two, with several dishes and drinks, so I certainly didn't think the prices exorbitant.

                        Still, crossing my fingers that your meal was a fluke, as we've got a date for dinner there this week.

                    2. re: sedimental

                      Sedimental, we ate at Rock & Rye twice this week. The first night with Linda and Mr. Nightshade, and the second, one day later, with an unexpected arrival from out of town.

                      First night: started with a Sazerac after confirming that each was made by hand. Decent but a tad too sweet, masking the complex rye flavor. Linda had a divine gin/cucumber drink named something about 'Charlotte'. Shared three starters (sardine, ceviche and pork belly) which were merely okay. The seafood in the ceviche was was 'overcooked', the pork belly seemed undercooked, and the sardine was actually quite good but I discovered I just can't deal with tiny bones.

                      The mains: my duck cassoulet was outstanding, best dish on the table. The leg of confit was as good as I've had anywhere. A house ravioli was prettier to look at than eat, the ravioli pasta being a little rubbery-chewy, not al dente or overcooked but too elastic. Wasn't thrilled with the filling (mushroom, probably bulked out with a mashed bean because it was vaguely grainy). Mr. Linda's halibut and chips was superb, not at all like what you had. Excellent fries from real potatoes and a delicious huge piece of halibut that was moist and full of a garlicky complex flavor from the expertly crispy coating. Not at all like what you got. And Linda's cioppino was not bad, but kind of underwelming and not something any of us would order again--it was a bisque with a few pieces of whole seafood in it.

                      Desserts: a chocolate torte that was like a solid chocolate truffle, not too sweet--terrific. Plus a strawberry shortcake that I didn't try, but which didn't seem to impress those who did.

                      Good service.

                      Second night: We discovered they do sell wine by the bottle though you'd never know it from the menu. That is, most of the wine's by the glass are also available by the bottle, price unknown.

                      We ordered the halibut and chips to share three ways as an appie. Gave us all a bit of that fried food delight without much guilt. It was as good as the night before. Our server, who was diff from the night before, returned often to ask if we'd decided on mains yet. Took awhile, as we had so much news to catch up on with our visitor.

                      She finally came and the visitor and I ordered half a dozen oysters. They offer six kinds. Oh sorry we're out of that one. No problem, we ordered another, but why not tell us before we chose. Then I ordered the duck confit salad and the gents ordered the porchetta and cassoulet. Oh sorry, but we don't have those tonight either. Okay so why wait until NOW to tell us?

                      My salad was good in concept but severely overdressed, every bite felt like it had a teaspoon of oil in it and a huge pool of oil remained in the bottom of the plate as proof when I was done. The duck part was very good, though, and generously portioned. The slab of blue cheese on the side didn't quite seem to have a reason to be there if it wasn't incorporated into the salad, but I like blue cheese and ate it. Bob ordered the rib eye, just about the only thing left on the menu he hadn't already had, wasn't allergic to, or they weren't out of. Good dish, well prepared. Tony's poached salmon was overcooked.

                      So, some hits, some misses. Hope they get their act together--they need to. Only, I'm not sure they think their act isn't already together.

                      Re your criticism of the menu: kind of agree, kind of don't. No nothing's 'new' here, but if Hamsters were more into creativity then Tivoli would still be here. And judging by the number of orders of halibut and chips I saw flying out of the kitchen, boring as you may find staples like that, they can never take that one off the menu.

                      1. re: Neecies

                        Your post reminded me, they were "sold out" of the pork belly and "buff moz" at 4:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday.... ?? Growing pains maybe. Also, they may still be changing out the kitchen staff. I will try them again in the fall and see what shakes out.

                        However, certainly inconsistency in the dishes themselves, which is more concerning to me. When I find a great place for "x" I want it to be great for "x" all the time! If it's not, if it's a crap shoot, I won't be back.

                        Regarding these types of restaurants (trendy, foodie) in B' ham.... Well, all I can say is that most of my peers regularly travel and Seattle and Vancouver are just too easy to get to for excellent chow. If a cookie cutter menu/small plates/ "ingredient of the moment" place is what you are looking for locally, then it can't be at a Seattle or Vancouver pricing level for noticeably inferior dishes -or it won't survive (as we have seen). Bellingham has great chow, if you actually chowhound.

                        1. re: sedimental

                          Sed, no mozz or porchetta on our first night either. I am convinced that "sold out" is just putting lipstick on the pig--it's a euphemism for didn't get around to making that this week or 'we lost our supplier'. Can't blame them for trying to put a positive spin on it, but it was especially irritating on the 2nd night that finding something to eat turned into a dart game of sorts--we only found out what wasn't available when we tried to order it.

                          I sincerely hope the problems are just growing pains. I also hope they plan to add to/upgrade/change out the menu more frequently than it seems they're doing. The weekly specials printed up front on the menu seem to be the same week in, week out. And the lack of daily specials gives the repeat customer fewer reasons to go back.

                        2. re: Neecies

                          The unevenness is concerning, for certain. As I commented at dinner, the ceviche was better the first time we had it. And when we had the confit salad it was very lightly dressed. I hate overdressed salads, so I that would have bothered me greatly. Their pasta-making has a long way to go before we'll be happy with it.

                          Bottom line, we're all enthusiastic cooks, and we can all do better at home. That's probably true for every restaurant in Bellingham. But sometimes one just wants to dine out, and the hour and a half drive to Seattle is not realistic. I hope they iron out the kinks. In the meantime, I'm happy to show up now and then and help keep them in business until they do.

                          Quite dark inside, but just to give an idea for those who haven't been yet...

                          1. re: L.Nightshade

                            Linda, we'll be showing up too. I think they have a successful model here, they just need to refine it and concentrate on consistency at a higher level with both food and service.

                      2. Speaking of Rock and Rye, during our second visit this week the oddest looking woman came in and walked from the front of the place to the back and out the front door again. She marched purposefully, but seemed to have no purpose. She had big black hair, was on the chunky side, and wore sun glasses, a zipped up jacket and skirt, multiple necklaces, and a water bottle of sorts plus something that had blinking lights on it.

                        When we left and went to our cars, which were parked below State street in the parking area used by the Saturday market, we saw her again, in fact had to stop for her. She was sauntering up the alley with a gal pal (dressed not dissimilarly) only now her jacket was unzipped and her black bra and Dunlop stomach were on display for all to see.

                        Apparently, a "working girl" though not so much of a girl anymore. I have seen ho's all over the world, but not til now in Bellingham.

                        Bob and I decided that it was a little bit embarrassing that our girls, like our restaurants, aren't quite up to Seattle standards. :)

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Neecies

                          That wasn't me. I wear a white bra.


                          1. re: Neecies

                            Hahaha, Bellingham has some real characters.