Take a stroll on North State Street between East Holly and the round-about and discover a treasure trove of Bellingham’s hidden eateries. While most Bellinghamsters are familiar with Rudy’s Pizzeria and the Old World Deli, other offerings on North State Street include Southwestern, Peruvian, Russian, French and American comfort food. Or why not enjoy a cup of artisan tea before walking the South Bay Trail?
There are so many options that, for the sake of this article, I am focusing on seven eateries ranging from the popular Rock and Rye Oyster House to Pelmeni which serves Russian dumplings in a bohemian setting complete with a turntable spinning vinyl.
Park your car downtown or take WTA Bus #1 to the bus stop in front of the Herald Building. Start walking south at the intersection of East Holly and North State streets.
Stop first at Pelmeni (1211 N. State Street). When you step through the door of the European-style restaurant, you are greeted by the aromatic steam curling up from simmering soup pots. Expect to see a variety of diners indulging in one of Bellingham’s best kept secrets.
Pelmeni has two items on its menu—beef or potato dumplings. One Facebook user mentioned that she traveled to Bellingham from Oregon to eat Pelmeni’s dumplings on her birthday. In fact, word-of-mouth and favorable reviews on social media fill the seats in this hidden eatery which is open for lunch and dinner.
If dumplings don’t entice you, hop across the street and enjoy Peruvian sandwiches served at Café Rumba (1140 N. State Street). Practice your Spanish and Indian dialects when ordering from the exotic menu. Try the beverage Chicha Morada made from corn juice, cloves, cinnamon and pineapple. Or, if you are vegetarian like me, try the Peruano sandwich made with yams, avocado, mozzarella cheese, spinach and Huacutay Sauce (Peruvian black mint pesto) or grilled potatoes. This cozy café sets a lively atmosphere. A big screen on the wall features a soccer game, while nearby window seats are available for relaxation. Patrons can watch chefs preparing food with names that resemble Latin dance steps.
Carefully cross the street for American comfort food. Leaf and Ladle (1113 N. State Street) serves fresh fast food made with local and sustainable ingredients. As the name suggests the owners Linda Melim, Taylor Melim and Morgan Gaunt ladle soup and serve up sandwiches, wraps, salads and other take-out selections.
The Cosmos Bistro (1151 N. State Street) also serves local and sustainable comfort food in a kitsch setting. Similar to the other eateries on the west side of N. State Street, the bistro is long and narrow with a loft in the back. I strode past the kitchen with the cook hard at work. Above, a bust of the late Elvis Presley stared down, probably desiring a hunk of comfort food love.
As the weather warms up this bistro entices me to enjoy its outdoor seating while munching on an Earth Burger (vegetarian). There are plenty of options on the menu to please any palate or dietary preference.
On the same block, Rock and Rye (formerly the oyster bar for Bayou on Bay) serves local and sustainable seafood, craft food and cocktails. This restaurant features a 25 foot bar that stretches towards the back. Diners have the option of downstairs seating or upstairs seating in the loft. Located at 1145 N. State Street, Rock and Rye is open from 3:00 to 11:00 p.m. for diners to enjoy French and New American cuisine.
Head south one block and explore Southwest cuisine at Pepper Sisters. Clarissa Mansfield (Vegan in Bellingham) recommended Pepper Sisters (1232 N. State Street) and Leaf and Ladle based on their vegan menu options. Pepper Sisters also serves gluten-free options and substitutions. When I showed up on a Wednesday evening to photograph the restaurant it was in full swing. I soaked in the terracotta decor and headed to the loft in the back to get an expansive view. This family-friendly eatery has a wide selection of enchiladas, burritos, tostados and quesadillas. It is open from 4:30 to 9:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and until 9:30 on Friday and Saturday.
Finally, at the end of N State Street, stop by the peaceful Saku Tea shop (833 N. State Street). Imagine sitting down with owners Sandra Loeffelmann (Austrian) and her partner Kuros Zahedi (Iranian) sipping crafted tea and joining a conversation about international travel and culture. This tea shop offers a respite for people who live yoga or meditative lifestyles. Where else in downtown Bellingham can we order lattes made from beetroot, Matcha (green tea), turmeric and cacao?
That ends our tour of seven eateries tucked away on North State Street starting at East Holly and stopping at the round-about. So get out of your car and take this journey on foot. Then top off your culinary adventure by walking the trail to Boulevard Park.