Bellingham, located in Washington State’s northwest corner and an hour south of the Canadian border, is known as a scenic college town with a thriving beer scene. But on a recent trip to explore the area’s food offerings I came away with some exciting new Bellingham foodie finds in addition to their well-known craft beer and pub grub.
Bellingham is a popular outdoor adventure town but there is a side of Bellingham that isn’t quite as well known: its fresh foodie scene! You may have heard of the restaurant on Lummi Island where it is difficult to secure a reservation. The New York Times named The Willows Inn on Lummi Island one of “10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride.” The Willows Inn is known for locally sourced cuisine at its best. Their award-winning head chef Blaine Wetzel describes his approach to food as a “story about the land.” They take pride in a menu that is both seasonal and local… fished, foraged, and farmed daily.
While The Willows Inn is on my foodie bucket list, I wasn't able to get there on this visit to Bellingham.
Fine French Dining at Bellingham’s EAT Restaurant and Bar
UPDATE: Unfortunately, EAT Restaurant is no longer in operation.
There are some surprisingly wonderful options that are more accessible in Bellingham. Our small group of food journalists had the pleasure of dining at EAT Restaurant at 1200 Cornwall Avenue one evening and gave us great exposure to the Bellingham foodie scene.
Chef Eric A. Truglas selected five courses featuring the bounty of Whatcom County with a French twist. Each course was paired with a glass of American or French wine.
Chef Truglas, decked out in his Chef’s jacket and hiking shorts (it was summer, after all), first let us in on the secret of the restaurant’s name: EAT is simply his initials and it works. Chef Truglas is a native of Paris and a graduate of the Culinary State School and Hotel, Tourism and Restaurant Management University in Versailles, France. He keeps in touch with all that is French by traveling back on a regular basis. And, his commitment to sourcing locally is evident as he frequently meets with winemakers, farmers, and growers from the Pacific Northwest.
The restaurant, bar, and outdoor dining area have a simple, bistro vibe. It’s a comfortable place for happy hour or for a special occasion dinner. But, if you have been out hiking or kayaking all day, don’t worry about dressing up. Casual dress is just fine.
We began our journey through local foods and talents of Chef Truglas and Sous Chef Austin Postle with an Amuse Bouche. The flavors melded together as we savored the spiced sage and Sky Farm lamb baguette, accompanied by a basil crème Fraiche and eggplant puree. The starter was paired with a refreshing Cremant de Loire Brut from France. And so went the dinner, each course featuring Bellingham foodie freshness and intricate plating and preparation. And, each course artfully paired with wine. Enjoy our slide show. And yes, it is all as good as it looks!
The New Opera Bakery in Bellingham, WA
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Opera Bakery is no longer open.
After dinner, Chef Truglas, took us two doors up to 1206 Cornwall Ave. He had recently opened a French bakery. Open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, the new Opera Bakery serves a variety of baked goods made from scratch, including croissants, cakes, and fruit tarts. The coffee comes from local roasters Hammerhead Coffee and Fidalgo Bay Coffee Roasters.
Historic photos of French street scenes grace the walls of Opera. Where did he get the name? Well, Chef Truglas wanted the bakery to look like those in the Paris Metro. Opera is one of the stops.
More about the bakery can be found on the website and Facebook page.
Discovering the Source of the Bellingham Foodie Scene
You may be inspired to explore the Bellingham foodie world more in-depth once you experience a farm-to-table dinner like the one we enjoyed at EAT. To get a sense of the area’s offerings, we planned a trip to the Bellingham Farmers Market at Depot Market Square. The market is open Saturdays through mid-December.
This indoor-outdoor market is well known for attracting large crowds to shop the 100 vendors that sell local produce and goods. There are street entertainers and special events. We found parking not too far away and were immediately impressed as we walked into the market.
There were many stands with crisp lettuce, carrots, broccolini, herbs, and flowers. I was impressed with the number of small farmer meat vendors, always a plus for we carnivores. This was definitely a place to get a feel for the Bellingham foodie scene.
There are also food carts and specialty food stalls. Drayton Harbor Oyster Company was grilling oysters to order and selling shucked oysters to take home. Drayton Harbor Oyster Company works and advocates for improvements in water quality while also taking part in native Olympia oyster restoration and reintroduction.
At Cascadia Mushrooms, they had a wide variety of mushrooms, both foraged and farmed. They offered a mushroom growing medium and mushroom spawn so you could get your own growing at home.
Sea Witch Botanicals had scents wafting out of their booth that enticed us. They were offering incense, creams, and lotions… all-natural home and body products using vegan, cruelty-free ingredients. I was drawn to the Absinthe body lotion with an interesting and refreshing licorice scent.
The market was a fun place for kids, too. One entertainer sang and played instruments and welcomed the children to sing along… and they did. There were face painting and berry tasting.
And then there was the pottery, jewelry and hand made home décor items. Those were nestled indoors next to bakeries. What we learned was that there was much to explore in the farmlands around Bellingham. The market was just a small offering of Whatcom County’s agricultural bounty.
When You Check Out the Bellingham Foodie Scene
With 140 miles of shoreline and 100,000 acres of highly productive farmland, Bellingham and Whatcom County, Washington are a fresh foodie haven stretching deliciously between the Salish Sea and snow-capped Mount Baker, just south of Canada. Visit the Bellingham and Whatcom County tourism website for farm tour information, more on farmers’ markets, and a handy Food and Farm Finder Guide. They also provide a comprehensive list and guide to Bellingham area restaurants.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations and meals for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.