Hello friends! I've finally come out of hibernation and am excited to share with you the latest goings on for Kale and Compass. After a move to a new home in the fall of '18 and then spending time with family for the holidays back east, we're back in the PNW and excited to explore new territory (and bring you along the way, of course!).
This season, we're focusing on showcasing the best sights, eats and drinks the upper left coast has to offer. I've got an eye out for businesses and destinations that are eco-friendly and sustainably-minded and will highlight those where I can. Most importantly, we're focusing on experiences (big and small) that you can afford to check out in a short amount of time (like a weekend, or a day-trip, for example).
Our first stop this year was Bellingham, WA. Bellingham is a small city about an hour and a half north of Seattle and just south of the Canadian border. They call themselves B'hamsters and describe their home as the "City of Subdued Excitement."
Well, we were excited to find some of the best food and drink on this side of Washington state! Along with beautiful views of Bellingham Bay and plenty of lively neighborhoods. Whether you're looking to visit Bellingham for a couple nights or a couple weeks, the spots below were some of the favorites that we highly recommend.
We will definitely be back!
Where to Stay
I love using Airbnb to book our trips near and far. I cannot recommend this service enough. It makes it so easy to find quality accommodations and connect with local residents. We can really tailor the experience we want to have based on our preferences.
If you're interested in signing up, I can email you a referral link. Contact lauren [at] kaleandcompass.com for $55 off your first visit with Airbnb.
Super cozy studio sized “apartment” that was part of an old Victorian house (from 1907).
We chose it for the view of the bay (Bellingham Bay) and it did not disappoint. Super comfy bed and a little porch perfect for watching the sunset. It must be a dream during spring and summer (was a bit too cold to stay out there for long during our stay).
Tiny but well-equipped kitchen. Coffee, tea and hot cocoa provided. Loved the pale blue hues, the refurbished shabby chic furniture and the comfy sectional. This was the perfect size for our two-night stay.
The Amtrak is nearby so you can hear the train horn every now and then but it didn't bother us one bit. The host provided earplugs but we didn’t need them. We slept really well.
Huge portions, whoa! The buttermilk pancakes come with almost every menu option, which was great because these were on our must-try list. The Birth Door Cafe uses sourdough yeast in their pancakes to make them light, fluffy and extremely flavorful. They did not disappoint.
The interior was spacious, airy and well-decorated in a cozy European farmhouse/cabin style with dark wood tables and plenty of brass/gold accents. They had an awesome wallpaper wall and plenty of antique rugs spanning the floors.
When we arrived, around prime time brunch on Saturday (~12pm) we only had to wait about 15 mins even though they said it would be longer.
The service was great, super friendly and they didn’t balk when we asked to split a breakfast order.
The coffee was spot on and plentiful (bottomless) and the whipped butter on top of the pancakes added a nice richness and a touch of salt. Overall this was an extremely satisfying first meal in Bellingham and set us off to a good start.
We went for brunch and were pleasantly surprised with the food. Shared a french onion soup and a plate with smoked salmon spread and butter toasted baguette. I especially enjoyed the $5 mimosas.
They had a build your own mimosa flight offering which was $15 and allowed you to pair your sparkling white wine with various fruit juices.
This place gets amazing light and is probably really fun at night too. It’s on the third floor of a really old Victorian building with a central foyer and a fountain in the ground level. We explored a couple more floors after we ate and they housed salons and health and wellness small businesses.
Spacious deli with plenty of tables to dine in our take out. One wall contains shelves of groceries and Italian delicacies.
The Italian sub was delicious and well balanced between rich cured meats, pickled spicy peppers, olive oil and oregano. Good bread that didn’t get soggy but offered a soft but crispy bite all the way through to the end. Generous pickles as a side. Loved them!
Only drawback is that they served the sandwich on paper so not 100% zero waste. But I liked that they had a water and cutlery and napkin station in one section of the room so you weren’t forced to use paper napkins if you don’t want to.
Was our first time trying natural wine and now we’re obsessed. Most surprising was the white wine (the Pinot Gris) which came from an 11th generation winery growing on biodiverse land. They said the wine tastes like the sun and we have to agree! Super juicy and buttery without any dryness and lingering tannins.
They have a great selection of small plates and their cheese options were awesome. Super friendly waitstaff and a really laid back yet quaint French bistro vibe.
Great French music too.
Cozy space that was pretty quiet on a Sunday night which ended up resulting in a really personal experience.
We dipped into this bar/cafe to hide from the pouring rain that hit after we left the Bellingham Farmers Market on Saturday morning. In the time it took us to finish a flight of 6 (6!!!) different kombuchas this place has on tap, the rain was letting up and the sun was shining through. In perhaps typical Washingtonian fashion, a bunch of dudes sitting at the bar at this place left their drinks and belongings to head outside in search of a rainbow. We're not sure if they found it, but it was probably worth the pilgrimage 😉
The kombuchas were delicious, and all so different. Brewed with a variety of tea leaves, some of the most notable ones were flavored with ginger and beet juice. It was a nice change to sample something so refreshing!
We hadn't planned to go to this little cafe/brewery initially but I'm glad we did. They serve food as well and are super eco-friendly. Here's an excerpt from their site:
Our power is 100% offset by renewable energy through Puget Sound Energy, and the brewing system is fired by clean burning natural gas. The only waste from our production process is spent organic tea, which makes great compost!
One of my favorite beers comes from Chuckanut Brewery. It's their classic pilsner and it's a light and refreshing standby when I want something less hoppy/bitter. So many breweries these days go overboard with IPAs! Chuckanut describes themselves as serving award-winning European-style craft beers and we agree they have perfected these varieties.
We ordered a flight that had a Kolsch and a variety of lagers.
Ironically, one of our favorite selections from the tap was a single-hop lager that used Citra hops (a favorite of many IPA brews). It had that great flavor of the Citra hops but without the added bitterness/hoppiness you get from an IPA. In my mind, it was really the best of both worlds.
We filled our growler with their single-hop lager and headed back to our Airbnb for a great nights' sleep.
Very interesting layout with great outdoor spaces which would be awesome in the summertime. Flights served in 8oz wide-mouth jars. There was a community guitar to play and a firepit. These are not things you see at just any brewery!
This is one of those places where we'd frequent if we lived nearby. Seemed low-key and relaxed, unpretentious and just good vibes all around. Their beer was awesome and hopefully, they will start sending it down south to Seattle. 😛
Plenty of tiny shops and historic buildings. Great character and small-town feel. We had a really nice time walking the blocks in this area, popping into stories to browse their wares. Some notable places we went to:
Such a cute little storefront with classic black and white design inside. Tiny but plenty of places to sit. Beautiful selection of baked goods. We shared a huge slice of carrot cake and a drip coffee which was the perfect pick-me-up after our lunch at The Black Cat. Was a bit odd that even though we asked for our cake "for here" to try and avoid disposable packaging, they served the cake on a compostable plate. The coffee, however, was served in a ceramic mug. Maybe they were out of plates?
Huge bookstore right in the center of Fairhaven. Multiple floors and a cafe at the top. To be honest we only popped in for a few and then left to find some food so I didn’t manage to locate the used book selection which would have been neat to browse through.
Used bookstore down the street from the art co-op, filled to the brim with books. So much so that they were multiple stacks of them in front of all the occupied shelving. A bit hard to find what you might be looking for because of the sheer quantity of books available but still fun to browse nonetheless.
Really nice hike up to the observatory. It had just rained before we got there and so the trail was very muddy but easily walkable. Lots of inclines! For an arboretum, it feels very organic and untouched, unlike the one we’ve got in Seattle. Also liked that even though it was late on a Saturday and smack dab in the center of Bellingham (practically) it was basically empty. We saw some runners, some folks with dogs etc. but not huge crowds. Some more details:
The view from the top of the tower was very impressive and if we had come earlier in the day I might have wanted to stay a bit longer.
A man was preparing a camp at the top of the tower, said he had watched a storm roll through Bellingham Bay earlier.
Plenty of parking and we walked the road back to our car at the base of the arboretum.
Plenty of trees and growth on the trail and good signage. Probably a bit sparse since it’s wintertime.
We drove into Larrabee State Park on our way back south from Bellingham to Seattle. It was a quick visit into the park where we drove and parked our car close to the beach access trail where there is space for camping and other outdoor activities. Not too much going on there at this time of year, though, and it was quite cold.
We had a nice time watching the waves come into the shore for a bit and walking to the various viewpoints of the bay.
Overall, we fell in love with Bellingham and even though we covered plenty of the Fairhaven District neighborhood, there are surely more hidden gems throughout the rest of the city.
What are your favorite places in Bellingham? What destinations would you like Kale and Compass to explore next? Let us know in the comments below!