If you’re pulling into downtown Bellingham after a long day hiking in the Cascades or biking on Galbraith and start to get that oh-no-I-need-food-right-now-or-else feeling in your stomach, don’t worry! You can stop at Electric Beet Juice Co. for a Chocolate Superhero, which owner Kara Marklin says will help replenish your system with minerals after an active day, “especially if those activities involved beer.”
The Chocolate Superhero features cacao, banana, dates, almond milk, and sunflower butter, and “tastes like a chocolate shake.” Alternatively, you could head next door to Simmering Tava, where owner Rajat Damani recommends the thali; the vegetarian thali has rice, lentils or beans, two types of curry, and naan. “Thali is essentially a plate of food, the closest thing you’d get to something cooked in somebody’s home,” he says. “The idea is to have a complete meal with all the nutrients you need. It’s designed to nourish and heal the body.”
These neighboring businesses don’t just share a wall and a place to park your bike; they also share values of highly local food that is, as Damani puts it, “simple, delicious, and seriously addictive.” Simmering Tava goes the extra mile to source their ingredients from within two or three counties. Sometimes that extra mile turns into 90, as Damani often travels to Seattle to purchase organic Indian speciality ingredients that can’t be found in Bellingham.
One of Damani’s favorite ingredients is fenugreek, a plant whose leaves add a “bitter and fragrant” quality to 60% of Simmering Tava’s curries, and is often supplied by one of his many gardener friends. Pollen Folly Farm harvests vegetables and greens every week and delivers them to Damani, who says, “We don’t know what’s going to be in the curry two days before it’s made. It’s exciting to me.”
As for the popular potato and vegetable curry (perfect for warming the soul on a rainy day), “Ninety-nine percent of the potatoes are from Skagit. It’s actually harder to buy potatoes not from Skagit.”
And it’s not just veggies that are sourced locally. Paneer (the Indian equivalent of cottage cheese) for the beloved Local Butter Paneer Bowl is from Appel Farm in Ferndale. The cheese is so good that Damani brings one-pound blocks to family in Canada whenever he visits.
Marklin also buys from local farmers or the Puget Sound Food Hub to provide ingredients for Electric Beet’s many offerings, including her favorite off-menu drink, the Strawberry Cheesecake (strawberry, maca, hemp milk, date, and a little bit of lemon).
This focus on high quality food has brought Electric Beet many devotees. In fact, Marklin says she connects to the Bellingham community “through friendship. We’re friends with a lot of our customers; they’ve been coming to us for years.”
Electric Beet offers customizable, specialized meal plans for people to prepare for a healthy week: “I have a person who sets it up so on Sunday she tell us what she wants. She’ll usually do a juice, a smoothie, a salad or sandwich or spring rolls, and then Monday through Friday she’ll swing by before work to pick up her work meals.”
Marklin’s emphasis on health doesn’t stop at food, though. A healthy workplace culture is integral to Electric Beet. “I grew up in the restaurant industry that was very toxic and male dominated. Sexual harassment was a problem,” she says. “We really take a lot of care to try to change that. We’re extremely supportive of women and women-identifying people who want to work here and want a different type of lifestyle.”
This type of supportive, healthy lifestyle is integral to the Bellingham community, something that both Marklin and Damani appreciate. Damani is quick to note that, “I’ve seen businesses step up above and beyond. Kebab Casual and New Public Food Truck are making an effort to not just call it organic but make it a better product. Electric Beet is a great example of people who don’t make compromises when it comes to quality.”
That quality extends to Electric Beet’s staff, too, whom Marklin describes as impressive. “I adore my staff; they are completely engaged. They’re an impressive generation—21, 22, 23 years old. They have an intelligence about aspects of life that we didn’t have when I was in my twenties.” And they have great taste in music, too; Sugaree plays in the light- and plant-filled space (selected by Maddie, playlist extraordinaire).
Close community relationships extend beyond employees and employers, too. “Anywhere we go there’s always someone who’s like, ‘Hey! How are you?’” says Damani. “Being a part of the community and being recognized by the community is a huge reward in itself. We’ve been helped by a lot of people, without any agenda. We try to do the same in return. Pay it forward.”
The next time you feel like investing in both your health and tastebuds, pay it forward at Electric Beet and Simmering Tava. Your body, and the community, will thank you.