Best of Bellingham 2013
Best of Bellingham
SunnylandThe center of gravity has shifted in Bellingham.
In the years we’ve been polling readers on their favorite haunts and hidey-holes, we’ve seen the focus crawl from the Southside to Columbia, veer south again to the central district and now eastward to what was not so very long ago perhaps the least likely of favorite neighborhoods, Sunnyland. Why Sunnyland? Well, Trader Joe’s, for starters. HomeSkillet. Kulshan Brewery and StrEAT Food. Hardware Sales. In fact, it is that delightful mix of residence and industrial-strength business that yields Sunnyland its wondrous, quirky charm. Artists work from their back of their homes and sell from their commercial storefronts—their efforts showcased each summer in the Sunnyland Stomp.
But favorite places are found all over Bellingham. Here again we present our readers picks of the best, brightest and boldest in the City of Subdued Excitement.
Rabbit WildeWith all the worthy bands in Bellingham, it can be tough to stand out. But as Rabbit Wilde’s (formerly Wild Rabbit, formerly Br’er Rabbit) multiple wins in this category attest, they’ve managed to distinguish themselves—and then some. Their high-energy Americana folk-stomp draws ever-growing audiences, earning this band not only awards, but also their rightful place in Bellingham’s proud musical tradition.
Best Fast Food:
Boomers Drive*InStanding like a beacon of hope among the much-maligned and increasingly dangerous urban blight along North Samish Way, Boomers continues to serve up delicious basketfuls of Bellingham's favorite fast food--thick burgers bursting with flavor, giant orders of fries, milkshakes and more--with unwavering culinary gusto. In the name of urban improvement, I'd love to see Boomers expand over there.
Where: 310 N. Samish Way
SunnylandWhat's the best neighborhood? The one you live in, judging from this fiercely competitive category. With more than 2,400 entries in the Cascadia Weekly readers choice awards, every neighborhood was named again and again. But with so many terrific places--Trader Joe's, Hardware Sales, Kulshan Brewing Company, Jeckyl & Hyde, Homeskillet, on and on--Sunnyland comes out on top.
Blue Fin Sushi
Blue Fin calls heaven—
The silver flavors carouse,
and sing opera.
Wisdom fleets yet truth emerges:
Dishes dance and mouths return.
Where: 102 S. Samish Way
Tandoori BitesIn an unlikely convenience mart at Sehome Village, you’ll find a mashup of Mexican, Mediterranean, Chinese and the wonderful flavors of India. Choose Tandoori bites for a fabulous selection of curries, masala, vindaloo, briyani and—of course—the gold standard of tandoori chicken. On a whim, I tried the goat cooked on the bone with tomatoes and onions. It was delicious. The Seekh Kabob is a house special, the real Star of India.
Where: 505 32nd St.
Girl'd CheeseI feel the same way about puns that I feel about grilled cheese sandwiches: when concocted correctly, they are a wonder to behold. It's no wonder, then, that Girl'd Cheese has attracted my attention. In addition to the clever wordplay evident in its name, Karyl Lawson's lunch window in the Freeland Keystone Building in downtown Anacortes features to-go comfort food of the best kind—grilled cheese sandwiches that range from traditional (cheddar) to what can only be described as gourmet (Jarlsberg with bacon and apple slices, anyone?). Diners can call ahead for a hot lunch, or take their sandwiches home, grill 'em, and serve them straight from the frying pan. You go, Girl'd.
Where: 619 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Best Coffeeshop, Best Barista:
Black Drop CoffeehouseThe Black Drop Coffeehouse wins this award every year, and for good reason. They also employ this year’s Best Barista, Reilly Hannigan. This means the city’s best coffee is being made by the its best barista. I’m not sure Bellingham can handle this much caffeinated excellence in one location. Make sure to seek out Reilly's expertise and order a Level 10 Fireball. If you do, your head just might explode (in a good way).
Where: 300 W Champion St.
Best Place for a First Date, Best Cocktail:
Where: 306 W. Champion St.
Pure Bliss DessertsI have sampled (read: scarfed with abandon) nearly every sweet treat that can be found in regular rotation at Pure Bliss and can attest that I understand with perfect clarity why they earned the majority of your votes in this competitive category. From cakes (I favor the coconut and chocolate bliss) to bars (the lemon and Nanaimo bars cannot be beat) to seasonal offerings (pumpkin cheesecake, I am coming for you) along with a host of beverages, beer and great coffee, Pure Bliss lives up to its name with every blissful bite.
Where: 424 Cornwall Ave.
Make.Shift Art SpaceAn arts community success story since it got its scrappy start several years ago, Make.Shift has blossomed into a full-service, multipurpose nonprofit, complete with its own studios and gallery space. All manner of art—which rotates on a monthly basis in order to showcase established and up-and-coming artists—can be found hanging on the walls upstairs, and all manner of all-ages music can be heard in the basement below. Make.Shift owes its existence, in no small part, to strong community support, and your votes are a sign that support remains firmly intact.
Where: 306 Flora St.
Salon EvaFor many years, I preferred to play the field when it came to where I got my hair cut and styled—and then I got a haircut at Salon Eva and have never strayed again. These days, when people talk to me about my tresses, instead of asking, “Did you get your hair cut?” they simply tell me that I have great hair—compliments that should be directed to Eva’s stylists, as they are the ones responsible for keeping me looking respectable. A full-service, no-tipping Aveda salon that places a premium on pleasing its customers while making them look their best might sound like the hairstyle holy grail, but it’s business as usual for Salon Eva—adorable shop dog and mascot Maude is just a bonus.
Where: 1201 Cornwall Ave.
Christianson's NurseryLike the plants they carefully tend to ensure continued longevity, the growers-that-be at Christianson's Nursery have made putting down roots a part of their business plan—whether it's via the dizzying array of annuals and perennials on display and up for sale, or by ensuring their verdant Mount Vernon acreage also works as a way to help preserve the storied history of the Skagit Valley. The former is helped along by a bevy of green thumbs (including owners John and Toni Christianson) and the latter can be seen in a variety of historic structures that have been relocated onto the property and restored to, once again, be of use.
Where: 15806 Best Rd.
Best Bike Store:
Skagit CycleFor a 10-spot, area women can sign up for an April 17 workshop happening at the Skagit Cycle Center and learn a few valuable life lessons—such as how to fix a flat, spruce up a drivetrain, lubricate a chain and give their two-wheelers a safety check. You see, in addition to selling bikes, the longtime retailer is interested in not only keeping riders on the road, but also sharing their love of cycling with others. A sentence in their online bio sums up their community-minded ethos: "We welcome friendly chats with fellow riders who want advice on local rides, how to improve technique off-road or on, or where to get a good sandwich to stick in your seat-bag before you head out for the day's ride."
Where: 1704 Burlington Blvd., 1970 Walton Dr. (also in Burlington), and 1620 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Best Place to Impress a Date:
Anthony’s at Squalicum HarborGrab a date. Take them to Anthony’s on the water. Your date’s mind is blown and you are guaranteed a life partner. While I can’t substantiate that order of operations, I can tell you that Anthony’s will garner you brownie points and you will enjoy the view, menu and general pleasantness that is part of this seaside attraction.
Where: 25 Bellwether Way
Best Shoe Store:
Stowe's Shoes & ClothingStowe's. The name just sounds sturdy and dependable, doesn't it? Founded in 1940, this Burlington outfitter tailors an authentic Pacific Northwest style. Normcore? More like Stormcore, keeping our feet warm and dry in the chill we call summer.
Where: 420 E. Fairhaven Avenue, Burlington
India GrillWhenever my pops leaves his hermitage on Lummi Island to come into the big city for lunch, he requests we meet at India Grill for its can't-be-beat afternoon buffet. I don't know if it's the paneer, tikka, masala, lamb curry or rice pudding that gets him excited, but I do know that, time after time, he gets up for seconds and, at the end of the meal, is left with a clean plate and a full belly.
Where: 1215 Cornwall Ave.
Washington ParkOgle the Olympics. Rubberneck Rosario. Behold behemoth barges and bevies of buoyant birds. Hike the hilly headland habitat. Observe ophiolite outcroppings. Scrutinize sandy seashore stretches. Brave the bodacious boat launch bustle. Populate picturesque picnic tables. Gormandize grilled goodies on the grass. Negotiate a noon-hour nap. Salute sanguine sunsets. But whatever you do out there, make sure to luxuriate long and linger lavishly because of all the publicly owned pearls in Anacortes, this 220-acre parcel of parkland beams brightest beyond.
Where: 6300 Sunset Ave., Anacortes
Fiamma BurgerAs any burger lover knows, a good burger is far more than the slab of mystery meat stuffed into a boring bun that you'll find at any fast-food drive thru. Which is why Bellingham's burger lovers take themselves to Fiamma Burger when desire strikes. Sure, the standard-issue beef (or grass-fed, if you prefer) is delicious enough, but why stop there when lamb, chicken sausage, salmon and more are on the menu? And the choices are not limited to type of meat; you can top your burger with everything from hatch green chiles and guacamole to smoked onions and an egg. Slather everything with delectable curry mayo and allow it erase all your memories of mediocre fast-food fare.
Where: 1309 Railroad Ave.
Best Shoe Store:
Mi ShoesTo say that Mi Shoes owner Michelle Bouma knows what women want to wear is a bit of an understatement. Not only has the small-but-beautiful business she founded on Railroad Avenue a decade ago been awarded Best Shoe Store winner for pretty much every year we've had this competition, but the statuesque beauty also has other tricks up her (very fashionable) sleeves. On Fri., Nov. 6, Bouma will open Heroine, a new boutique for women. “Mi Shoes and Heroine will be similar in the sense that I am drawn to feminine, textural pieces with a fashion-forward edge,” Bouma says of the new Commercial Street venue. “I have an eye for quality at an affordable price.”
Where: 315 Railroad Ave.
Best Indian Food:
India GrillI’ve learned a couple tricks in the years I’ve been frequenting India Grill’s lunch buffet with coworkers, friends and family members. I take it easy on the naan (which is warm and delicious, but also filling) and focus instead on the main courses—menu items such as chicken tikka, tandoori and various curries and paneers. Once I’m nearing fullness, I pause at the table for a few minutes before heading back for a serving of kheer—a sweet Indian delicacy that’s better than grandma’s rice pudding.
Where: 1215 Cornwall Ave.
Best Coffee Shop:
Black Drop CoffeeHouseI used to live above the Black Drop. I'd wake up in the morning and its dark black"kick-ass" coffee would waft under my nose. That is when the addiction started. Since then, I've been buying bags of it. Come to find out, the coffee isn't even the best part. The Black Drop people are pretty kick-ass too. Head on down, and enjoy the veritable ass-kicking from the coffee--and the people.
Where: 300 W. Champion St.
Best Tulip Farm:
RoozengaardeEven longtime Skagitonians who cringe at the influx of tourists and traffic the Tulip Festival brings to the Skagit Valley every April admit to making time to stop by the Roozengarde display garden when the blooms are in their full glory. They're smart about perusing the petals, however, and suggest those who visit the artistically crafted garden —which itself contains a quarter-of-a-million bloomers—and surrounding 15 acres full of the festival's namesake get there early in the day to avoid the rush, wear shoes that can withstand a little mud, and bring umbrellas in case of rain. One more thing: It's hard to resist the urge to tiptoe through the tulips, but, alas, you must.
Where: 15867 Beaver Marsh Rd., Mount Vernon
Best Happy Hour:
Anthony'sWe all know that when you go fishing you're supposed to be drinking. Anthony's now allows you to do both, right from the comfort of their amazing restaurant in Anacortes. Order a fish type appetizer and wash it down with the a pint from a local brewery. What's better than that? Maybe knowing your hard-earned dollars will go a long way.
Where: 1207 Q Ave., Anacortes
Best News Story:
Jamison Rogayan JailedHe was the cheerful, upbeat face of a promising new restaurant downtown, but Jamison Rogayan presented a darker side. The former co-owner of Cosmos Bistro was jailed on Sept. 25, after six women accused him of sex crimes dating from 2006 to 2014. A seventh soon emerged. All gave similar stories, that Rogayan would invite them to his home and offer drugs and/or alcohol and then initiate unwanted intimate contact. He remains jailed pending trial, unable to make the $500,000 bail. His thunderstruck former business partner, Cinnamon Berg, continues to serve delicious food out of her kitchen. She didn’t ask for what happened; give her some business!
Avenue BreadI'd like to think I know my way around a sandwich pretty darn well--a sort of self-proclaimed sandwich connoisseur, if you will. So where does the Maestro of Mayo, Queen of Clubs head for her favorite sandwich? Avenue Bread, naturally. And now that the weather has taken a turn, nothing compares to a delectable sandwich accompanied by the ever-exceptional (and personal favorite) Creamy Tomato Dill soup.
Where: 1313 Railroad Ave./1135 11th St./2301 James St.
Best Thrift Store:
Value VillageHeading to a 1950s-Evil-Villain-Gaudy Jewelry Party for the holidays? Just need a new pair of drawers? While many thrift stores abound in our neck of the woods, Value Village's vast selection can't be beat. I recently located a 1980s pink pantsuit and wide-brimmed pink sun visor for $9. While their use will remain a secret, Value Village's popularity will not.
Where: 525 East College Way, Mount Vernon
Garden Spot NurseryPlease hold for a special report from the Garden Spot Nursery: Due to the recent spate of rain and wind, hatches are being battened and the walls in the greenhouse have gone up. Does this mean the popular Alabama Street plant center is closing for the season? Far from it. Whether it’s autumn or winter, spring or summer, owner Marcy Plattner and her merry band of Master Gardeners can be found selling—and giving advice about—perennials, annuals and everything in between. You’re really growing on us, Garden Spot.
Where: 900 Alabama St.
Best Movie Theater:
Pickford Film CenterIn the past, this category has been, admittedly, a shoo-in for the Pickford. But now that Bellingham is home to the Barkley Village theater, competition is a little stiffer for the tiny-but-mighty art-house cinema. But the Pickford has a beautiful newish theater of its own, the Pickford Film Center, as well as the kind of customer loyalty that only years of great programming, responsive customer service, reasonably priced concessions and real butter can buy. See you at the movies.
Where: 1318 Bay St.
Best Coffee Drive-Thru:
Cool BeansHow can the city’s best coffee stand be near the city’s worst freeway interchange? O.K.,now I know it’s early morning and you haven’t had your caffeine jolt, but think about it, will you, while you idle at the light, the aroma of fresh beans filling your senses, hot espresso warming your cold hands. Cool Beans roasts theirs fresh every day. Their baristas are bright and cheerful. They’re a welcome green light to your morning.
Where: 20 Lakeway Dr., 1817 Cornwall Ave., 2716 Meridian St.
Best Place to Get a Massage:
PRIME Massage and Sports MedicineThis is not your average massage studio. And after being open for only a year and a half, Kerry Gustafson is making quite the name for herself. PRIME Massage offers the athlete and active person assistance by reducing tension, increasing range of motion, improving performance and helping achieve peak performance—in addition to offering athletic training. With an impressive list of certifications and achievements in the athletic field, Kerry is your go-to gal for all your athletic wellness needs.
Where: 1433 N. State St.
Best Place to See Live Music:
The Conway MuseConway might be the smallest of small towns, but what it lacks in population, it more than makes up for in culture. Indeed, I can think of cities that are much larger that don't boast a locale quite like the Muse. Local, national and international artists have graced the Muse's two performance spaces (the Renaissance and Evolution rooms), and music of all varieties can be found there several nights a week, thanks to the unceasing efforts of owners Elfa Gisla and Tom Richardson. That those efforts are well and truly appreciated is evidenced by the Muse's continued Best of Skagit wins.
Where: 18444 Spruce St., Conway
Best Place to See Live Music:
Wild BuffaloBased solely on personal observation, I'd guess that the Wild Buffalo has sold out more shows in 2014 than ever before, making their continued supremacy in this always-competitive category unsurprising. After years of refining their strategy, they've nailed down an approach to booking that really works, offering a little bit of something for everyone while keeping prices as reasonable as possible. The Buffalo has also developed a reputation for treating bands and patrons exceedingly well, and is doing more than their fair share to maintain Bellingham's reputation as a live music destination that is second to none.
Where: 208 W. Holly St.
Best Hardware Store:
Hardware SalesI recently found myself at Hardware Sales and it occurred to me, “If it all hits the fan and anarchy prevails, the first place I’m going to gear up is Hardware Sales.” You will find nowhere in the region with more qualified and knowledgeable employees. Granted, if it hits the fan, I’m pretty sure those fine people won’t be working there to answer my questions.
Where: 2034 James St.
Kulshan BreweryLast year, they were the new kid on the block who upset Goliath. This year, Kulshan Brewery is an established purveyor of penultimate pints. With an expanded tap selection, a covered patio on the way and the best selection of food carts in Cascadia, they don’t look to be losing this title anytime soon.
Where: 2238 James St.
Best Lunch, Best Pizza:
Goat MountainNobody makes a crust like Goat Mountain, cracker-crisp on the bottom, chewy tender where they layer on the house-made sauces and cheeses and fresh herbs. Each day there's a different menu board of pizzas, and they go fast. Get some!
Where: 215 W. Holly Street ?
Best Gear Store:
REIWalked into Cabela’s last weekend and thought, “REI for rednecks!” No, seriously: I tease REI because I love REI—and so do readers, growing stronger every year. REI carries the gear you need to enjoy the outdoors you love. Bikes, skis, camping and fitness gear, and quality clothing. Their knowledgable staff will help you with all your recreational needs, and they can tune your craft with frequent seminars.
Where: 400 36th St.
Best Place to Buy Women’s Clothes, Best Consignment Store:
LabelsWhen Labels made its big move from Ellis to James Street—right across from Trader Joe’s—they had to put up a sign reminding those who were struggling to find a parking space at the popular grocery store that their lot was only intended for Labels customers. You see, Labels needs every space they can get. Women flock there on the regular to find deals on everything from brand-name shoes to party dresses, jeans, blouses, accessories and more. And since they can sell their wearable wares to the consignment store, there’s always the promise of cold, hard cash.
Where: 2332 James St., 3927 Northwest Ave.
Silver Reef CasinoLummi Nation has done a remarkable thing with their hotel and casino complex: Not only is Silver Reef a great place for slots and cards and entertainment, dining and drinks, but it has also become a remarkable community center in the county’s heartland—a great place to hold a conference or attend an event. Lummi has infused their casino with a tribal spirit and sense of place. Will it stand the test of seven generations? Sure feels that way.
Where: Haxton Way at Slater Road, Ferndale
D’Anna’s Cafe ItalianIf I were to have a last meal and was afforded the wherewithal to choose it myself, it would no doubt be the manicotti from D’Anna’s Cafe Italiano (with both marinara and Alfredo sauces), with a ravioli platter starter and tiramisu for dessert. Food trends may come and go, but huge plates of traditional, scratch-made pasta (try the butternut squash ravioli, Dungeness crab linguini, chicken D’Anna or eggplant parmesan if manicotti doesn’t whet your whistle) made with great skill and love right before your very eyes in an open kitchen never goes out of style—and D’Anna’s has the lock on this category that proves it.
Where: 1317 N. State St.
Best Place to Eat in the County:
The Fork at Agate BayIn the chill of fall, we hike the Hertz Trail along the foggy north shore of Lake Whatcom. Afterward, we’re famished and stop at the Fork at Agate Bay. Like a fine pastry, the place is plain and bit crusty on the outside, warm and delicious inside—with simply the best Eggs Benedict you’ll find north of Seattle, fantastic salads and bistro finger foods with ingredients from local farms. Dinners are served on white table linens with fine wines. Outstanding.
Where: 2530 North Shore Rd.
Best Food Truck:
StrEAT FoodThere are tons of food trucks in Bellingham. They are everywhere and they are good. But none are better than StrEAT Food. These culinary kings even have a name for their followers—“street urchins.” That’s a level of loyalty you don’t find at every mobile eatery. James, Poem and the whole StrEAT Food team have taken food truck cuisine to a different level. They are so popular they opened a cafe at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal to meet the demand.
Where: Trailer location changes daily
Best Place to Buy Chicken Feed:
Skagit Famers SupplyA cooperative supplying farmers since 1934, this country store has grown to serve a dozen communities east to Montana. From feed and seed to pets and vet supplies, this company keeps Skagit's agricultural roots growing.
Where: Stores in Burlington, Freeland, Mount Vernon, Oak Harbor, Sedro-Woolley, and Stanwood
Café AkroteriThe Weekly once hosted a Christmas party at Café Akroteri’s bar that got so rowdy our dancing plastic Santa lost an important limb. But thanks to the spread the longtime Greek restaurant provided—a mix of dolmathes, spinach filo, gyros, feta and tomato salad, souvlaki, and other Mediterranean delicacies—nobody was sipping ouzo on an empty stomach, and we all went home sated—and more than a little silly.
Where: 1219 Cornwall Ave.
Best Best Place for a First Date, Best Place to Meet Women, Best Coffeehouse:
North Cove Coffee HouseSkagit County, you've managed to jam coffee, finding a date and then going on a date into one highly caffeinated locale. Considering it's North Cove Coffee House, we're not surprised. Since coming on the scene in 2011, you've relied on them to keep you alert and abuzz with their specialty coffee drinks. May you find everlasting love and perfectly brewed coffee on your next trip to North Cove Coffee House.
Where: 1130 South Burlington Blvd., Burlington
Soy Housebeef stock and noodles,
tofu thick and onion sweet,
slurp it with a smile
Where: 400 W. Holly St.
Village BooksAt Village Books, world-renowned authors read from the same podium as regional scribes and up-and-coming wordsmiths. Also sharing space are new books and used books, a curious cadre of kids and adults, a café that also doubles as a gathering space, and owners Chuck and Dee Robinson—Fairhaven mainstays who have proven time and again that community is important, and, darn it, so is reading.
Where: 1200 11th St.
Fiamma BurgerBellingham is home to some pretty good burgers, but none of them mix substance with style quite like Fiamma Burger. The ingredients are high-quality and super-local, elevating even their basic cheeseburger to great heights. But the joy in the Fiamma Burger menu comes from deviating from the norm, and sampling everything from bison to salmon to their homemade (and delicious) veggie patty. If you’re feeling frisky, I suggest the B’Ham Burger, which features prosciutto, a fried egg and abject burger bliss.
Where: 1309 Railroad Ave.
Best Brewery, Best Brewpuller:
Tess Golling at Kulshan Brewing CompanyKulshan offers the full spectrum of finely crafted brews, from frosty pilsner pales to a roasted barley red and rich, chocolatey stouts. Mature beers served by people who know beers to people who love beers. The food, the frills, they leave in the trucks.
Where: 2238 James St.
Best Tattoo Shop:
Old School TattooTattoos have surged in popularity recently, thanks in part to a declining stigma and an increase in interest about the traditional art form that’s been gracing bodies for thousands of years. Bellingham, no stranger to the alternative and artistic side, has its fair share of inkers. In this fiercely competitive category, Paul and his crew at Old School buzz their way to the top once again for this year’s “Best Tattoo Shop” award. Clean, knowledgeable and incredibly talented, there’s an artist for every aesthetic, from traditional to custom. It's beautiful art that’s addicting in the best way possible.
Where: 209 E. Holly St.
Best Pet Store:
Whatcom Humane SocietyBellingham loves its four-legged (and two-legged!) friends. The Whatcom Humane Society recently opened their new home this year, and we couldn’t be happier for them. Although neither the Humane Society or its Fairhaven Store, Paws Awhile, is technically a pet store—one helps you find your new best friends, and the other offers gently used items and gifts that directly benefits the WHS—you can take comfort in knowing that both help Fifi, Fido, and the occasional errant chicken.
Where: 2172 Division St.
El Gitano Mexican RestaurantBest South of the Border south of the border, Gitano's boasts a big menu of Tex-Mex in generous portions. Several locations from LaConner to Mount Vernon and, yes, even Bellingham. My favorite is Burlington, tucked away on Fairhaven Avenue like an old Spanish mission. Their margarita is the best swallow this side of Capistrano.
Where: 624 East Fairhaven Avenue, Burlington
Best Thrift Store:
Assistance League of BellinghamA welcome newcomer to this category, the Assistance League is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization serving Whatcom County children, adults and seniors. ALB provides school clothing and shoes for kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The program is expanding to include homeless high school students. The Hospital Patient Support program provides sweatshirts and sweatpants to patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital in emergency situations such as assault and trauma. This program also provides clothing, underwear and footwear for homeless people who come to the emergency room. They do proud work, and we’re proud readers voted them best in this category.
Where: 2817 Meridian St.
Kulshan BreweryBellingham’s craft beer scene has exploded. We’re also the “Snobbiest Beer City in America.” Basically, we rock at all things beer. Since winning this title last year, Kulshan has doubled down and opened up another brewhouse in Bellingham that they have dubbed K2. I guess if you’re the best, you usually have the most—and having more breweries than anyone else in town pretty much means you rule at all things beer.
Where: 2238 James St.; 1538 Kentucky St.
Boulevard ParkThis perennial favorite is getting a facelift as city and private contractors complete a beach softening and shoreline improvements that replaces old rebar and rip-rap with real beaches of sand and gravel, a pleasing and public use of the Greenways levy you voted for. You could always play there; now you can wade there.
Old World DeliIt is one of the Great Truths of my life that I don’t decide my day’s eating plan until I see what the specials at Old World Deli are. I eat there so often and love it so much even Old World’s owners, Anna and Christos Adams, have been known to mock me. The deli offers so much to love, from the aforementioned sandwiches (oh, how I love them) to drool-inducing deli meats and handmade sausage to a surprising selection of cheese to a carefully curated collection of wine, and their landslide victory and multiple wins in this category mean I’m not the only one under its spell.
Where: 1228 N. State St.
Best Place to Dance:
The Edison InnI don't dance anywhere, and I've danced at the Edison Inn. Judging by your all your votes and the Edison's previous wins in this category, I'm not the only one who has given the more than 100-year-old dance floor a workout. With live music every weekend, this homey bar in Bow is the de facto entertainment destination for locals and visitors alike. In fact, one of the Cascadia Weekly's own editors went on a first date at the Edison Inn, and five years later, credits the bar's many charms for her continued happy coupledom.
Where: 5829 Cains Court, Bow
Fat Pie PizzaBellingham, you love pizza. Your ballots told us so. But, if you haven’t been to Fairhaven’s Fat Pie Pizza, I can confidently tell you you’re missing out on a little slice of heaven. And this perfect pie just keeps on giving—even the small pie will likely have you nibbling on it for days. My personal favorite? Chicago-style Motown (with basil!). Al Capone would be impressed.
Where: 1015 Harris Ave.
Best Place for a Massage:
Calm Water MassageCalm Water Massage gets our super-prestigious secret gold medal award, because technically, this would be their fifth year winning (we skipped a year). And knowing how much you folks love this place, it only makes sense. Seriously Skagit, you've made it clear there's only one place in the valley that gets your vote. Calm Water, better living.
Where: 308 Pine St., Mount Vernon
Cafe AkroteriThe last time I was at Cafe Akroteri was during happy hour, and the ladies I was with in the bar ordered a table's worth of appetizers to share--everything from dolmathes to spanakopita, feta with olives, hummus and pita bread (and more). When our food came we descended upon the meal like hungry Greek warriors and, before long, the platters were empty. That was per usual at the longtime restaurant, which has been making traditional Greek dishes at its downtown Bellingham locale since 1986. Leftovers from CafAe Akroteri? Nope, not gonna happen.
Where: 1219 Cornwall Ave.
Boulevard ParkI'll never forget the first time I slipped out of my steaming-hot, mud-caked work boots and went frolicking over the grass patch at Boulevard Park. After spending the previous five months building trail through some of the most rugged, rain-soaked jungles the North Cascades have to offer, that place felt like a luxury resort. And it was there--while I skipped barefoot around the grounds chucking Frisbees and footballs with my crew mates for hours on end--when the thought inevitably dawned on me that relocating to Bellingham for the rest of my life would probably be a good idea.
Where: 470 Bayview Dr.
Best Running Store:
Fairhaven Runners & WalkersThe staff at Fairhaven Runners isn’t content to find you a pair of shoes and shoo you out the door. Instead, they’re likely to invite you to one of their many weekly runs or walks—which, by the way, are free—or suggest you show up for one of their Fitness Forums, where local experts will either share their own tales of athleticism or give you tips on how to become a better, more healthy one. And, since they’re located within throwing distance of one of Bellingham’s most popular trails, once you do have those new shoes—or other running and walking-related gear—all you have to do to get started is step out the door.
Where: 1209 11th St.
Skagit River Bakery & CafeIf you've got a sweet tooth, chances are good you've stopped by one of the two Skagit River Bakery & Cafe locales—either in Anacortes or Mount Vernon. Whether you're interested in muffins the size of Glenn Beck's head, cinnamon rolls, vegan cookies, scones, hot-out-of-the-oven rolls or other delicious confections, you've made it clear this Skagit-based bakery is your go-to when your sweet side just won't shut up.
Where: 315 Main St., Mount Vernon and 808 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Info: (360) 336-3900
Taco LoboIt’s never a shocker when we count the BoB ballots and find Taco Lobo emerging as the clear winner in this category. Since Luis Santos opened the eatery in 1999, the Magnolia Street staple has proven to be just what Bellingham wants in its Mexican food; authentic and contemporary fare served just right, with smiles for everybody—and margaritas for some of us.
Where: 117 W. Magnolia St.
Quite a PickleThings haven't been pleasant at Pleasant Valley Farms, the briny bottler of pickles, peppers and sauerkraut products in Mount Vernon. The company filed a restructuring bankruptcy in 2011 only to shutter in late 2013, eliminating a full-time workforce of more than 80 employees. The company found itself in court again last September, accused of financial improprieties in the auction of company assets to continue operations in the last functioning pickling company left in the region.
Best Stop on Highway 542:
Chair 9It’s the final stop for a cocktail on the way up to the Mt. Baker Ski Area; or, if you prefer, it’s the first stop for great pizza on the drive home. On the last warm day of the fall, I’d stumbled down from Church Mountain, crossed the Nooksack at Coal Creek, and was in desperate need of an icy beer and a Lone Jack burger. A game was on, and the locals gathered for the big-screen excitement. I took a seat on the deck out back, hemmed in by tall forests. Travelers had brought out their instruments and pitched an impromptu open mic. What a day.
Where: 10459 Mt. Baker Highway, Glacier
Black Drop CoffeehouseThis category says as much about our readers as it does about their coffee. In a town with more coffee chains and franchises than a woods has trees, Weekly readers choose the tiny, warm and intimate Black Drop. The roasters and servers are friends, and like the best of friends they need no second introduction to know how you like your coffee served. It’s like your neighbor’s kitchen, only cleaner. Now joyously sing, “Sweet sweet coffee nectar of the mind, restorer of the soul.”
Where: 300 W. Champion St.
HomeSkilletThanks to Tina and Kirby White—spouses who met as cooks in Antarctica, got hitched in New Zealand, and traveled the globe together before settling down in the PNW—HomeSkillet has become a wonderful, weird Bellingham breakfast beacon. It draws patrons to its neon-hued Sunnyland hub with colossal, affordable portions of food worth dying for (I’m looking at you, HomeSkillet Poutine and cinnamon roll French toast), endearing quirkiness (I’m looking away from you, bathroom full of creepy clowns) and honest-to-goodness warmth. As the diner is diminutive, expect a wait at peak times and on the weekends. But, trust us, it’s worth it.
Where: 521 Kentucky St.
Best Greek Food:
Cafe AkroteriSouvlaki. Mousaka. Gyros. Dolmathes. Spanakopita. Falafel. If those are all words that make your mouth water, odds are good you’ve either been to Greece—or to Cafe Akroteri, where all those Mediterranean classics can be found without having to leave the heart of downtown Bellingham. Personally, I have a soft spot for the sampler platter because why limit yourself to one delicious Greek specialty when you can try them all?
Where: 1219 Cornwall Ave.
Where: See Stanger’s work during most downtown Art Walks at the Pickford Dream Space Studios, 1318 Bay St.
Max Dale's Steak & Chop HouseLike stepping back to an glorious era of thick steaks and sizzling chops served with a helping of potatoes and gravy, assisted with an icy cocktail and the sounds of laughter and honky-tonk. A guilty pleasure without the guilt. Check out their happy hour in the Martini Lounge from 3-6pm daily.
Where: 2030 Riverside Drive, Mount Vernon
Michael WoodWhen it comes to taking pictures, finding the right subject matter is everything. It's one reason Mount Vernon-based photographer Michael Wood appreciates the natural beauty of the county he's called home for the past four years. "There are so many reasons to love living in, and being a photographer in, the Northwest, and Skagit County in particular," Wood says. "I can go from the beach to the Cascades in less than an hour. Combine that with the history and architecture of the local towns and cities, and the great people that live in them, and there's never a shortage of subjects for my photos."
Taco LoboDemocracy is cool. And the Bill of Rights is pretty sweet. But to be perfectly honest, the thing I probably enjoy most about living in the United States is getting to eat Mexican food. Tamales, tortillas, tacos--I seek them out wherever in this great country of ours I roam. Fortunately, here in Bellingham we are graced with an ever-expanding plethora of outstanding Mexican restaurants, of which Taco Lobo ranks right at the top. Although I happen to be a registered enthusiast of their pollo verde, that never seems to stop me from delving across party lines into carne asada territory every now and again. And I never, ever forget to exercise my right to vote at their self-serve salsa bar.
Where: 117 W. Magnolia St.
Smith & Vallee GalleryClass is no longer in session at Edison's Smith & Vallee Gallery, but in visits to the former schoolhouse—a high-ceilinged, wide-open space with gleaming, century-old wood floors and heaps of natural light—I usually can't help but learn a little something about art, ideas and beauty. Woodworkers Wes Smith and Andrew Vallee have created a haven for local and regional artists to show and sell their work, and their multiple wins in this category prove that, along the way, they've been educated, too. >What: View Skagit Valley painter Dedrick Ward's paintings through April 27.
Where: 5742 Gilkey Ave.
Mount BakeryEven those who don't consider themselves to be mountain climbers can easily summit the peaks of Mount Bakery. Start at the base camp in downtown Bellingham with fall favorites like apple galettes and pumpkin scones, and continue on your “climb” with award-winning fruit pies and more baked goods at the Fairhaven locale. On the trail, you can sample delicacies such as caramelized lemon tarts, poached pear frangipane, Belgian chocolate truffle cakes and shortbread cookies. You'll be burning calories along the way, so take a deep breath and enjoy the journey.
Where: 308 W. Champion St./1217 Harris Ave.
Best Music Store:
Everyday MusicSince “music store” is a fairly nonspecific descriptor, winners in this category could come from a number of retail sectors. But, as in years past, Everyday Music managed to cut through any confusion and emerge with the votes required to be crowned the best. And why not? They’re pretty much open during any/all waking hours, have an expansive and eclectic collection of music and a staff willing and able to help you find you new favorite band.
Where: 115 E. Magnolia St.
Five GuysIn a world where not all burgers are created equal, Five Guys is creating unequaled burgers. Always made from fresh-ground beef (one of the chain's claims to fame is that none of their locations have freezers, which means their meat is never frozen), their burgers are as juicy as they are tasty. But what sets Five Guys apart from all those other burger barns is the incredible variety of free toppings they'll augment your burger with. With more than 250,000 possible combinations to choose from, ranging from grilled mushrooms to steak sauce, you could eat a lifetime's worth of meals there without having the same burger twice.
Where: 1870 Marketplace Dr., Burlington
Pure Bliss DessertsI have a problem and its name is the Pure Bliss lemon bar. Judging from your votes, you have similar problems that begin and end at Pure Bliss’ little slice of dessert heaven on Cornwall Avenue. Although the lemon bar is my current love, I’ve also flirted with their coconut cake, shortbread cookies, Chocolate Bliss cake and many other items on their menu of sweet treats. And I haven’t even mentioned their seasonal offerings. Pumpkin cheesecake, I’m coming for you.
Where: 1424 Cornwall Ave.
Boulevard ParkA few months ago, I moved into a place that effectively makes Boulevard Park my front yard—and what a nice front yard it is. With my bird’s eye view, it’s easy to see what makes this Bellingham’s most popular park. A wide expanse of waterfront access, swaths of grass from which to enjoy it and a stunning overwater boardwalk are just a few of the things that make Boulevard so enjoyable for families and late-night skinny dippers alike. 470 Bayview Dr.
Taylor ShellfishHeck, we didn't specify what kind of farm! Just south of the Oyster Creek hairpin on scenic Chuckanut Drive, you'll descend to Taylor's nets open along Samish Bay. Oysters, clams, mussels and crab, you name it, the Taylor family has been tending shellfish here for more than a century. Fresh and plentiful shellfish are tended by a knowledgable and helpful staff.
Where: 2182 Chuckanut Drive, Bow
Best Music Festival:
Bellingham Festival of MusicStep aside, Subdued Stringband Jamboree. Move over, Summer Meltdown. The Bellingham Festival of Music, which has been bringing together accomplished musicians from the world over for more than 20 years, gets some richly deserved recognition from this year’s Best of Bellingham voters. Taking place over several weeks during the summer, and cobbling together an orchestra of world-renowned classical musicians, the Bellingham Festival of Music is a prestigious feather in the cap of this city’s much-lauded music scene.
RE SourcesSome organizations are born great, others achieve greatness in the way they approach their mission. RE Sources is a little of both. When the coal export issue came to town and the community expressed concern, few organizations were ready to tackle it. This organization did, through the formation of a clean energy program in addition to their ongoing work in sustainability, recycling and Baykeeper projects. They helped spearhead the Blue-Green alliance, and they got political—empowering people in the most fundamental way by encouraging them to vote. RE Sources sponsors the annual Environmental Heroes Award. Here’s our way of naming them true heroes.
Where: 2309 Meridian St.
Best Bartender & Waitperson:
Dennis Schafer, Lorraine Fast, Oyster Bar at Bayou on Bay
Where: 1300 Bay St.
Best Place to Take Kids, Best Kids Spot:
Perch and PlayI don’t have kids, but every kid I know loves Perch and Play for the amazing amount of fun events, the toys and the massive play structure. Every parent I know loves the being able to wear their kids out with supervised play. (Pretty sure the access to wine and beer helps too.) This cross-generational appeal looks to be working for this local business, and we expect them to be the number one spot for kids and parents alike for years to come.1707 N. State St.www.perchandplay.com
Sakura Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi BarLook, cucumber and avocado wrapped in rice is not sushi! Sushi is tuna, salmon, albacore, eel, creatures of the sea in delightful combinations. Sakura understands this, offering a full menu of nagiri and sashimi creative combinations. Sakura specializes in hibachi tabletop barbecue, which means you are entertained by skillful chefs who prepare your meal in front of you as you dine.
Where: 1830 South, Burlington
Info: (360) 588-4281
Coconut Kenny’sForever a favorite in Sunnyland, Coconut Kenny’s was slathering savory barbecue sauce on their original Islander pizzas, long, long before that was a thing. I thought that was downright island happy when I first crept past the tiki torches many years ago. More like island paradise. A great place to watch the Seahawks, whether cheering over cold beers or groaning over warm comfort food. Mahalo!
Where: 2220 James St.
Info: http://www.coconutkennys.com, 647-9273
Village PizzaI'm not sure why the meat-laden pie at Village Pizza is called the "Village Idiot," but I like the way it sounds just as much as the way it tastes. Visitors to the Anacortes-based pizzeria can also travel to the tropics from Fidalgo Island via the "Mandarin Island"—where Canadian bacon is joined by pineapple, green peppers and mandarin oranges—or keep it simple with the palate-approved pepperoni pizza. A friendly staff and speedy delivery service help make Village Pizza a favorite—and that's good news any way you slice it.
Where: 807 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Info: (360) 293-7847
Best Jewelry Store:
Warren JewelersWhen it comes to jewels and gems, precious metals for that particular person, or lovely adornments to award yourself, time and time again Warren Jewelers is your go-to. And we get it, Skagit. They've been around since 1973, and are the official jeweler of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which is a pretty huge deal.
Where: 1126 Burlington Blvd., Burlington
Best Place to See Live Music:
Wild BuffaloThe Wild Buffalo’s reign of supremacy in this category remains intact this year, but they were given a real run for their money by the Shakedown, and the Green Frog made a strong showing as well. But at the end of the day, the Wild Buffalo prevailed, and given the sheer number of sold-out shows that happen on the regular at the expansive music venue, they are certainly more than deserving of their many Best of Bellingham accolades.
Where: 208 W. Holly St.
Mount BakeryGenerally speaking, I go to Mount Bakery for their killer breakfasts. But I inevitably emerge with some of their made-from-scratch, Belgian-style baked goods. I am particularly fond of the cream puffs. And the chocolate truffle cake. And the orange hazelnut twists. And the cinnamon roll. And the chocolate croissants. And everything else, really.
Where: 308 W. Champion St.
Make.Shift Art SpaceWe are lucky in that Bellingham is home to many art galleries and many of them were well-represented by your votes in this category. However, once again, you deemed Make.Shift the best in town. With minimal resources at hand, the nonprofit multipurpose space on Flora Street operates with an ethos that favors inspiration, innovation and ingenuity above all else, and the proof of that hangs on their walls, month after month.
Where: 306 Flora St.
Best Movie Theater:
Pickford Film CenterSure, this category is a bit of a gimme, as the Pickford’s only real competition in town is Regal Cinemas—and I don’t think anyone is touting the fabulousness of the movie-going experience there. But the Pickford’s utter, complete dominance in this category is also tribute to how much the now not-so-tiny but considerably mighty nonprofit movie theater has accomplished with a small staff and minimal resources, but incredible vision that is matched by incredible community support. The Pickford is truly the theater that Bellingham built, and its uninterrupted run of Best of Bellingham awards is a sign you take that pride of ownership seriously.
Where: 1318 Bay St./1416 Cornwall Ave.
Best Toy Store:
Fairhaven Toy GardenThe best indicator of an awesome toy store? The whole place is filled with people lost in their own little worlds—kids flying brightly colored wooden planes over castles of blocks, their parents trying on goofy hats, a man lost in wonder. Fairhaven Toy Garden specializes in toys of a classic quality, simple and durable, into which and out of which creative childhood can flow.
Where: 1147 11th St.
Best Clothing Store:
LabelsWhat can we say about Labels that hasn’t already been said before? A lot! Owner Sage Bishop has taken a vision and made it a reality, times two. While Labels traditionally started with women’s clothing, they now offer so much more than that—think shoes, jewelry, accessories, handbags and, yes, even furniture. Bellingham’s favorite little consignment store has grown up to be a powerhouse, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.
Where: 2332 James St.; 3927 Northwest Ave.
Best Local Scandal:
Kasey AndersonWhen he lived in Bellingham, Kasey Anderson was mostly seen as a mild-mannered alt-country musician. It was only after he departed our fair burg that things took a turn for the scandalous. To recap: Anderson bilked a group of more than 30 investors out of half a million dollars (give or take) by telling them he was making an album to benefit the West Memphis Three—an album that was to have included tracks by Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, and more. Along the way, he impersonated everyone from Springsteen’s manager to one of the wives of the WM3, earning the attention of the FBI, a lawsuit against him and an indictment and conviction on wire fraud charges. He’ll be singing the jailhouse blues at his sentencing next month.
Yoga NorthwestYoga Northwest offers courses throughout the day in a variety of experiences for both beginners and masters through one of the most diverse styles of classical yoga. Caring, expert instructors will strengthen your posture, ease your tension and deepen your flexibility and core body strength. Let them, literally, improve your life. They’re sure to put the pick-me-up in your downward-facing dog. Namaste!
Where: 1440 10th St.
Info: http://www.yoganorthwest.com, 647-0712
Stephanie BurgesOn her 50th birthday, Stephanie Burgess was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not long afterward, she signed a contract that enabled her to vastly expand her art world; it also gave the artist a creative endeavor to focus on as she fought to reclaim her health. Now, four years later, she's feeling great, and the painted peace poles she first started selling at the Bellingham Farmers Market can be found throughout the United States (and beyond). But Burgess wants readers to know she couldn't have done it without you. “My art and message is about peace, respect for the planet, and honoring relationships, family and our community,” she says. “Where do you think I learned that from? Bellingham!”
Best Place to Take Your Kids:
Perch and PlayA little owl told me the best place to take my unborn child is here. Apparently, children's eyes bulge out of their heads at the colorful and playful sights and parents, overwhelmed by responsibility, are able to temporarily detach their loving munchkins to roam free. In turn, they can work and grab a glass of wine. I'm going to be a parent soon. May Perch and Play embrace my child like Bellingham has embraced this amazing business.
Where: 1707 N. State St.
Best Place to Meet Women:
Daphnes FairhavenHe glides from behind the marbled bar and crosses the checked tile floor to our cozy corner. He slips to each of us a fashionable cocktail—all sweet, no bitters this time. Seems this place has been here a century, and seems it’s been that long since we last met. She studies me across the table, a smile playing at the corners of her lips, her story, once caged, delighted to be set free.
Where: 1200 10th St. #102
On Rice Thai CuisineWhen you’ve got a hankering for quality Thai food—and, judging by your votes in this category, year after year, many of you do on a regular basis—On Rice is your go-to for everything from Pad Thai to Swimming Rama to Drunken Noodles. And, with three locales to choose from, you’ll always be close enough to satisfy that craving.
Where: Samish Way, Rimland Drive, and Harris Avenue