"}
Food

Big Rock Cafe

Another roadside attraction

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Once upon a time, when my husband and I lived in an old farmhouse on College Way in Mount Vernon, we frequently drove by the Big Rock Café and Grocery at the intersection of College Way and Highway 9, but it was not an attractive business and it simply never occurred to us to stop there.

Some years (and owners) later, it has transformed into a remarkably appealing destination diner and music venue, with the added bonus of a convenience store and gas station attached. We finally got around to trying it this month.

The café now sits right on the Highway 9 roundabout, and it’s not immediately obvious how to get into the parking areas from the road. The trick is to go through the roundabout onto 9 and take one of the entrances from either the north or south, at which point you can access the free-for-all parking around the building and gas station.

Given that the temperature on our first visit was well below freezing, we opted to sit inside (although there were a few smokers using the outdoor area). Like any good roadside café, the décor includes plenty of mounted animal heads, including the requisite jackalope. At the moment, they also have a regular Christmas tree plus an upside-down, ceiling-mounted one, and several signs of the “eat here, get gas” and “you look like I need a beer” variety.

The bar offers a good local beer list with a few revolving taps, cheap wine and a surprisingly good selection of spirits and house cocktails. There’s a nice appetizer list, including fresh or fried oysters, nachos, local clams, and a hummus plate, but I most regret that I have not yet tried their Mac Daddy Poppers ($9.99): bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with mac and cheese. I’ll get to them eventually, but so far we’ve stuck to the pub menu, and haven’t had a dud yet.

Fish and chips ($11.99) came in a generous portion, with both tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. The fish is battered, not breaded, and while the coating was fairly thick and not particularly crisp, it was very tasty. Chips were available as either “home fries” or “crispy fries.” We had the latter, which were lightly battered and highly addictive.

One of us tried the falafel burger ($10.99) and liked it a lot, although the sandwich refused to hold together and had to be eaten with knife and fork. I went for the Bleu Burger ($11.99), which was topped with fine crispy bacon and had melted blue cheese dripping down all over everything, which is exactly the way it should be. The burger buns were nicely toasted and toppings were plentiful.

In addition to fries, we tried the Carolina-style (no mayo) coleslaw. It seemed a little bland—maybe not quite enough vinegar in the dressing? The potato salad, however, was far from dry. In fact, it was like a bowl of mustardy mayonnaise dressing with potato pieces suspended in it. I liked it.

Breakfast, which we tried out a week later, was not quite as successful in some ways: the coffee was disappointingly thin, and biscuits and gravy ($7.99), while plentiful, were served on the lukewarm side and needed extra salt. But the Big Rock is a great place to hang out on a Sunday morning with a Seahawks game on the TV, and the chance to sit and eat corned beef hash ($10.99) with buttery Breadfarm toast and a North Sound Brewery ESB is nothing to sneeze at.

The winning plate at our table was the Lil’ Rock breakfast ($6.99), a perfectly cooked egg with thin bacon and very crispy hash browns, perfectly portioned for a less massive appetite. My friend was also quite happy with her “Manmosa,” a generous pour of orange juice and bubbly in the ubiquitous mason jar mug, which she considered was a great deal for $5.50.

On future visits I plan to try the burrito (although not the one with sausage gravy that promises to change your life [expectancy]) and the breakfast sandwich. I think I will also skip the “Morning Wood” (“only one thing better in the morning”) served on a glazed doughnut ($8.99 each).

Despite all the signs and notices telling customers to keep complaints to themselves, service has been really stellar on all of my visits—prompt, friendly and correct. What more do you need for a perfect roadside hangout?

Ticket Cascadia
More Food...
Eat Local Month
A gold medal standard

If eating local were an Olympic sport, Whatcom County would likely be in the running for a gold medal.

In fact, every September we enter an intense training period known as Eat Local Month. Competitors join Sustainable Connections to celebrate the bounty that comes from the area’s…

more »
Firehall Cafe
Of appetites and art

Lynden is bustling these days, and there are no shortage of great places for a light lunch. One often-overlooked eatery on the city’s Front Street is the Firehall Cafe, located in the Jansen Art Center.

The bright, open-plan, 30-seat restaurant opened in 2012 with the debut of the center,…

more »
Small Potatoes
The spuds of summer

Potatoes are often considered a fall crop, to be hoarded in the root cellar through the winter, roasted with other roots and perhaps a sprig of rosemary and served alongside other hearty fare. But summer? Now is the time for spinach and lettuce, for peas, herbs, summer squash and all the…

more »
Events
Today
5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Barbecues and Beach Parties

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

Final Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Doubles

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Sedro Car Show

9:00am|United General Fitness Center

Wondermud

10:00am|Bellingham BMX

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Discover Birch Bay Days

10:00am|Birch Bay Drive

Island Market

10:00am|Islander Grocery

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Improv for Kids

10:30am|Improv Playworks

Fidalgo Bay Day

11:00am|Fidalgo Bay Resort

A Swinging Weekend

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Holly Street History Tour

1:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

This Old House

2:00pm|Point Roberts Community Center

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Drinking for Dogs

4:00pm|Green Frog Acoustic Tavern

Downtown Throwdown

4:00pm|Public Market

Scary Monster & the Super Creeps

5:00pm|Heart of Anacortes

Toys for Tots Benefit Concert

5:00pm|Eagle Haven Winery

Moonlight in Margaritaville

5:30pm|Maple Hall

An Evening with Ann Morris

7:30pm| Lummi Island Library

Circus on the Water

8:00pm|Lookout Arts Quarry and Boundary Bay Brewery

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Discover Birch Bay Days

10:00am|Birch Bay Drive

A Swinging Weekend

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Chuckanut Classic

6:30am|Boundary Bay Brewery

Veterans Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Post 1585

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Run to Fight Blindness

9:00am|Cascadia Eye

Marsh Mucking

10:00am|Tennant Lake Interpretive Center

Anacortes Open Streets

11:00am|Commercial Avenue

International Concert Series Finale

2:00pm|Peace Arch Provincial Park

Cirque Literary Journal Reading

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Chuckanut Writers Info Session

4:00pm|Village Books,

Sunday Night Fusion

7:00pm|Presence Studio

Northwood Steak and Crab Andrew Subin
Monday
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

We Grow Market

3:00pm|Northwest Youth Services

Music Enrichment Project Meet and Greet

4:00pm|Piper Music

Open Mic

7:00pm|Village Books

Get Out More Tour

7:30pm|Backcountry Essentials

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

see our complete calendar »

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Andrew Subin Northwood Steak and Crab Swinomish 2016 Artifacts Wine Bar Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 5 Point Film Festival Village Books