MIX it up
Fast food with a conscience
Where: 215 W. Holly St. and 2925 Newmarket St., Suite 107
WHEN: 11am-7pm Mon.-Sat. (downtown); 11am-8pm daily (Barkley Village)
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Helen Neville is the first to admit she’s a little crazy. The tenacious 48-year-old is at the helm of MIX, new Bellingham-based restaurants with locations on Holly Street and in Barkley Village.
Serving build-your-own salads with protein topping options, as well as soups and “MIXwiches” (salads in a flatbread wrap), Neville’s Holly Street location opened last October and the much-anticipated Barkley Village venue served its first customers on January 9. This month, Neville starts building out her third restaurant. “I don’t sleep much,” she admits.
The as-yet-unnamed eatery will be located on Railroad Avenue, a few steps from Mallard Ice Cream, and will focus primarily on shwarma and Mediterranean flavors. She plans to open it before the summer and will then direct her attention to location number four on State Street—not far from the shuttered doors of what was previously NY Pizza.
Neville is so full of ideas, she can hardly sit still. She was supposed to be taking a break after a long, successful career in Seattle’s grocery industry when the idea for MIX presented itself. “I couldn’t find anywhere in Bellingham I wanted to eat,” she says. “I felt like there needed to be more options for healthy eating in the city—specifically, a restaurant that placed a premium on good food, affordability and time efficiency.”
After researching how to combine those three things, she called on vendors she knew and loved from the grocery business, among them Seattle-based Dreamland (makers of falafel and flatbread). Then she got to work creating a bright, fun place where locally sourced vegetables and fruit take the spotlight.
Behind the glass, diners will find silver pails filled with fresh greens and containers with all the toppings and accoutrements that make salads exceptional. Protein topping options include tofu, chicken, steak, bacon or falafel.
I tried the Warm Winter Bowl, a seasonal dish with kale and quinoa topped with apple, fried squash, beets, feta, chopped pistachios and chicken. It’s the kind of food that fills you up without filling you out, and the salads are available in $6 or $11 serving sizes. There are eight salads on the menu at any time and all contain healthy fare that leaves diners feeling light and pleasantly sated.
The MIX menus include hot broth bowls for the same price as its soups and the three selections—tomato, chicken verde pozole and boat noodle beef—are available daily. A kids’ menu uses the same ingredients, but in a slightly more youth-friendly format. Choose from the bento bowl, rice bowl, kiddie “pho,” quesadilla, nachos or fruit and nuts.
When the owner of Dreamland, Walid Joudi, visited Neville at the Holly Street location, he pitched the idea for partnership on a restaurant serving shwarma. Within seconds, she was hooked.
“People are interested in Mediterranean cuisine because it’s good for you, and it has different flavor profiles,” she says. “This is where the future is going and I feel like I’d really regret this if I didn’t do it now. Dreamland is an amazing vendor in terms of its recipes, product quality and delicious flavor profiles, and this is an great opportunity for me as a small business owner to partner with Walid.”
The shwarma restaurant will include tabbouleh, hummus and salad sides. Days after I interviewed her, Neville had a plane ticket to London, where she was planning to research restaurants preparing amazing Mediterranean cuisine and return to Bellingham infused with new ideas.
Her philosophy on food is that diners shouldn’t have to compromise on quality just because they want it fast. “We’re bringing something new to this community, and we’re fully invested in it,” she says.
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