Are you planning some local travel this summer? Maybe you’re heading north across the border, or over to Lummi Island, as we recently did. Or you might be a Canuck heading down our way. Either way you’ll find yourself passing by Bellingham en route, hungry after being on the road or stuck at a border crossing for a couple hours.
Bellingham is an easy stop-off for I-5 travelers, and it’s not hard to find great bites to eat. On our three recent visits, we wandered downtown for lunch, where you’ll find all of the places mentioned here.
Rocket doughnuts; artwork inside Pel’Meni Russian Dumplings; a mint espresso doughnut.
Rocket Donuts was our first stop in December (well, Eric’s, as I shopped for pretty papers at Stampadoodle). We still had donuts on the brain after we’d stopped at Countryside Donut House on our way out of Seattle and sadly found them closed for the holidays. But once we’d arrived in B’ham, we realized there was still an entire half hour before lunch. Plenty of time for second breakfast!
Eric picked up my favorite, a plain cruller, along with an apple fritter and their donut of the month, mint espresso. The fritter had more apples than any I’ve eaten, and would have been a contender in our doughnut taste-off. The cruller was eggy and delicious, but the two of us fought most over the last bite of that mint espresso doughnut. The combo worked perfectly, and it may have been the moistest cake doughnut I’ve tasted. Oh, and they serve a pretty respectable espresso here, too.
Locals hanging out inside Old World Deli; pel’meni dumplings; waiting for the dumplings to boil.
Half an hour later, we were ordering Russian dumplings for lunch at Pel’meni. The colorfully painted restaurant has exactly two choices at the counter: potato or beef dumplings. We ordered one of each then watched the owner fiddle with the vintage turntable to fix a broken needle while our dumplings boiled. It wasn’t long before the vinyl was playing again and our dumplings were done. They were finished with a healthy dusting of yellow curry powder, some sour cream, cilantro, and the critical squirts of rice vinegar and hot sauce that transform the dumplings from good into the absolute perfect lunch. The beef version was by far my favorite.
Why can’t we have this in Seattle, I thought then. But wait. Not a month after our visit, they opened a location right here in Fremont. Swing by for your dumpling fix 5 pm until late in the night.
We loved the dumplings so much that we went back on our return trip the next day for an appetizer-sized reprise of the meat pel’meni. Not knowing the future, we figured this was our last opportunity to try them again for a while. It was tempting to have more, but we still wanted to try Old World Deli across the street.
The deli imports meats and cheeses, available hand-sliced or served inside one of their deli sandwiches served on Breadfarm bread. My parma cotta (ham and mozzarella) panino was melty and delicious, particularly with the house-made mustard. It’s a comfortable hangout for the locals, with artwork pinned to the walls and casual chairs where you might kick back and read the paper one morning. I might do that sometime, since the breakfast panini menu looked worth trying.
Pretzel sticks are one of over a dozen forms of pretzels at Ralf’s Bavarian Bakery; truffles at Chocolate Necessities; farm fresh eggs at the Bellingham Farmers Market.
It was a frigid December day outside, and ice cream should have been far from our minds, but we’d heard that Mallard Ice Cream serves up some creative flavors. While they certainly have the standards, like strawberry, chocolate, or cookies and cream, you can also choose avocado, yerba mate, or White Russian. After waffling over the extensive list, we settled on two: vanilla black pepper, and cider cheesecake. While it’s nice that they’re always experimenting and rotating through seasonal flavors, I am sad that I’ll need to wait months for another cold winter day to have that cider cheesecake ice cream again. It was heavenly.
Chocolate Necessities was our last stop on this visit. Almost an institution in Bellingham now, they have been making handcrafted truffles and chocolates for over 20 years. The location we stopped in also serves gelato, which we eyed with interest but there was no way we could fit in another bit of ice cream. Instead, we opted for a couple of truffles. The white chocolate peppermint truffle was a creamy version my favorite holiday treat (peppermint bark, of course!), and the scotch truffle was rich and boozy.
Mulunesh serving up her Ethiopian stew; 30 flavors to choose from at Mallard Ice Cream; the Bellingham Farmers Market.
In early April, we made a return trip to the Willows Inn, and found ourselves in Bellingham again on a Saturday morning, this time coinciding with the second week of their seasonal farmers market. What a lovely market! Larger than most in Seattle, the Bellingham Farmers Market sits under a series of permanent open-air structures, rather than tents. There’s a great mix of farmers of all sorts, crafters, and ready-to-eat food, with lots of open space, so while it’s lively, it doesn’t feel elbow-your-neighbor crowded. Street performers drew crowds, who were munching on soft pretzels from Ralf’s Bavarian Bakery and drinking homemade Chai from India Grill.
For lunch, we grabbed plates from one of the vendors, Ambo Ethiopian Cuisine. The owner, Mulunesh, was serving either chicken or lentil stew with beets, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, along with the spongy slightly sour Injera bread to sop it all up. Delicious, and in itself worth a stop.
So what’s next on the list for Bellingham? I’d like to try La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza, or maybe we’ll check out one of the breweries like Chuckanut or Boundary Bay. But what I’d really like to know is, what are your favorite bites in Bellingham?
306 W Holly St, Bellingham
Pel’Meni Russian Dumplings
1211 N State St, Bellingham
3516 Fremont Place, Seattle
Old World Deli
1228 N State St, Bellingham
Mallard Ice Cream
1323 Railroad Ave, Bellingham
Chocolate Necessities and Gelato
1426 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham
Ralf’s Bavarian Bakery
207 E Maple St, Bellingham
Ambo Ethiopian Cuisine
Bellingham Farmer’s Market