Now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, northwater at Holiday Inn & Suites-Bellingham aims to share what makes our region so special, from the mountains to the bay and everything in between. Their goal is to bring the outdoors indoors, serving the freshest, local ingredients in beautiful preparations.
northwater is the brainchild of Holiday Inn & Suites-Bellingham’s Director of Operations and General Manager, Ragan Humphrey, and his wife, Martha. After decades in the restaurant business, Humphrey leapt at the opportunity to share his vision for a restaurant that is deeply inspired by the natural beauty of our region.
“This has been a labor of love and it’s neat to be able to share it with the community,” shared Humphrey. “This is going to be the swan song of my career.”
Bringing the outdoors in is reflected in the restaurant’s decor as much as it is on the plate. The northwater logo was designed to look as if it had been eroded by water, the seat backs inspired by the colors of sea glass, and if you look close at the wallpaper you’ll see that it looks like tiny rain droplets or birch bark. The wavy glass water feature was made in Canada from a decorative glass called Mirage by internationally acclaimed designer and glassmaker, Nathan Allan Glass Studios. The bar is even outfitted with a custom glass top with river rocks below. “It’s like you’re looking down into a stream,” shared Axelsson.
The design elements of northwater celebrates being in harmony with the natural world. That same concept of harmony translates back to the restaurant’s team culture. Instead of being treated as resources to be used, staff are valued for being living, breathing, emotional and intelligent human beings. Theirs is a culture of fostering trust between team members at every level, regardless of title.
“That’s why northwater is spelled all lowercase,” shared Holiday Inn & Suites-Bellingham’s Director of Sales & Marketing, Randi Axelsson. “When a team works together, no one is above anyone else. We are all equal.”
This culture of trust fosters a collaborative environment where team members are encouraged to work together toward common goals and individual ambitions. The culture of trust extends to restaurant guests.
“We’re really looking forward to people sharing their thoughts about our place and their reactions to it,” shared Humphrey. “It’s a very nimble concept where we’ll be able to take feedback from guests and our team. It’s a very open, collaborative culture.”
“Yes, it’s my menu,” shared Executive Chef, Christy Fox, “but everyone on my team has a say and has some ownership.” Known to many locally as co-owner/co-founder of Evolve Truffles, Fox brings 25 years of experience as a chef to northwater. She has found the experience to be humbling and intimidating so far but is obviously passionate about the opportunity to foster creative collaboration in an industry often known for indulging hierarchy and ego. “It’s a culture we’re creating for ourselves,” she said.
And with the opening of northwater, Fox is now able to share her longtime passion for regional cuisine through food produced in her new kitchen. The restaurant roasts its own northwater blend coffee and the kitchen comes equipped with new Wood Stone ovens and a vertical rotisserie that allows Fox’s team to cook everything from chickens to vegetables side-by-side without any cross-contamination.
“We’ll be marinating vegetables for 24 hours and then hanging them on the rotisserie to roast,” shared Fox. (You read that right – marinated, rotisserie vegetables. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Add a single malt Scotch with their cold-smoked ice to the party and I’ll be good to go.)
“We’re trying to make a very diverse offering,” shared Humphrey. “We really are locally committed.”
northwater also uses technology for efficiency, turning things like once-discarded vegetable scraps into dehydrated seasonings. The goal: Zero food waste from the kitchen. “We’re just about as green as you can possibly be,” shared Axelsson.
This commitment to sustainable practices and supporting local agriculture is a reflection of Bellingham’s values. The responsibility of being the first restaurant visitors see outside of the Bellingham International Airport isn’t lost on Humphrey and his team. “We’re trying to weave a unique culinary experience into a comfortable environment, not only to appeal to our local population but also to make sure we welcome our guests to the north.”
And now, after months of preparation, Chef Fox is excited to provide a place for folks to gather. “We’ve been planning, talking, dreaming for so long,” shared Fox. “I’m ready to go.”
northwater is located at the new Holiday Inn & Suites-Bellingham, situated across the parking lot from the Bellingham International Airport terminal. Like them on Facebook to stay updated on opening plans and ongoing specials.