Dash and Dine

Beat it, then eat it

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The night before an emergency declaration signed by Governor Jay Inslee went into effect temporarily shutting down bars and restaurants in Washington state and capping public gatherings at 50 people or less, my boyfriend and I made one last happy-hour stop at the Jalapenos restaurant on Holly Street in downtown Bellingham.

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the wisest decision, but in an effort to keep the coronavirus at bay, we made sure to socially distance ourselves from other patrons, washed our hands after entering the restaurant and before departing it and, for good measure, applied a round of hand sanitizer when we got back to the car.

While sipping on Big Mama margaritas and splitting an order of carne asada—savory steak char-grilled with onions and bell peppers, served with rice, beans, guacamole and tortillas—we discussed how surreal it was that the following day would see the closure of so many of the gathering places that make our city and county unique.

There were far less staff and customers than usual that sunny Monday afternoon, so our waiter was able to take a few minutes to talk about the looming shutdown and assure us that although Jalapenos’ three locales would not be continuing business as usual for the time being, those who had a hankering for fajita quesadillas, chile verde burritos, chicken chimichangas, shrimp fajitas and far beyond would still be able to order their favorite dishes for takeout or delivery from the downtown eatery.

What he said that also stuck with me was that in an effort to make the transition easier for employees who’d be seeing reduced hours or unemployment on the horizon, management was putting together food care packages for them. He expressed hope they’d soon return to business as usual, but acknowledged our county—and country—was facing an unprecedented challenge.

In the days since, I’ve looked for ways to continue to support independent, food-focused businesses as much as my checkbook will allow. I’ve picked up a loaf of honey whole wheat at the low-contact drive-thru at Great Harvest Bread Co., ordered burgers and milkshakes online and then picked them up in the parking lot at Boomers’ Drive-In, and took advantage of a takeout fried chicken dinner special at Marlin’s Cafe in Nelson’s Market.

Since Nelson’s is a five-minute walk from our house in the York neighborhood, I have a feeling we’ll be utilizing their services even more in coming days—especially if the governor issues a shelter-in-place edict.

That night, in addition to picking up the poultry party for two—four pieces of fried chicken, Jo Jos, and two orders of coleslaw for $13.50—we also went home with a $6 growler of amber ale from Stemma Brewing, and a freshly baked bacon butterscotch chocolate-chip cookie the size of my head for a mere $2. Since that night, Nelson’s—whose tagline is “the stationary float in the parade of life”—has announced they’ve temporarily closed up shop, but will be back as soon as possible to provide emergency wine and beer, snacks, condiments (and condoms!), and more to citizens of the York neighborhood.

For those concerned about carryout, the CDC, FDA, and USDA have said they are not aware of any reports that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. Food businesses should be following sanitation policies and health department recommendations to keep symptomatic individuals at home, but they say takeout and drive-thru food is a good risk management choice because it helps maintain social distancing and reduces the number of touch points. Many delivery programs have also instituted no-touch, no-interaction options, which further reduce risk. They also suggest hand-washing and/or using hand sanitizer following the handling of food packaging. (Find more details at

Last week, Cascadia Weekly published a list compiled with help from Bellingham Harold that included eateries, breweries and other establishments that were offering curbside pickup for takeout or home delivery—including Avenue Bread’s James Street locale, Aslan Brewery, Coconut Kenny’s, Old World Deli, Greene’s Corner, Electric Beet Juice Co., Elizabeth Station, Arlis’s Restaurant, Kebab Casual, Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse, Caffe Adagio, Homeskillet, Latitude Kitchen and Bar, La Fiamma, the Local Public House, Pizza Time, the Filling Station, Simmering Tava, and more (check ahead to make sure what’s open, as eateries are changing their policies on a regular basis). This week, our Business Briefs on page 18 will offer a list of who’s feeding people in Skagit County.

In addition to still being able to shop at both Community Food Co-ops, the Skagit Valley Food Co-op, and a plethora of grocery stores, other options to support area food suppliers exist, including signing up for community supported agriculture (CSA) shares (more info can be found at; purchasing meat directly from suppliers such as Mama’s Garden LLC, Osprey Hill Farm, Alluvial Farms, Bittersweet Family Farm, Mesman Farm, and North Cascade Meat Producers Cooperative and Farm Stand; and, as the weather warms, securing vegetable seeds and starts from local nurseries.

Since nobody’s certain how long the measures that are currently in place will last, planting gardens now will ensure not only that you have a ready source of nutrients at hand in coming months, but will also serve to get you out of your head for a while.

I’ve already discovered that an afternoon of weeding garden beds and preparing them for planting is sure to lower my stress level and give me hope for the future.

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