Bellingham gets a lot of attention for its adventurous outdoor scene, abundant breweries, and expansive waterfront. But this small city also has a terrific collection of restaurants that flies under the radar of many visitors.
Whether you’re looking for a quick bite at a brewpub, fresh Northwest seafood, a hearty breakfast, or cuisine from around the world, Bellingham has it. I’ll highlight 12 of my favorite restaurants you should visit the next time you’re in town.
1. The Black Cat
The Black Cat is a Bellingham staple located in the heart of the historic Fairhaven district. It’s located on the third floor of the Sycamore Square building and offers outstanding views over the busy streets below and across Bellingham Bay.
There are tons of food options at The Black Cat. You can get everything from fish tacos to mac and cheese to a portobello burger, and the restaurant has a special menu for Sunday brunch. There’s a long tap list and an even longer list of cocktails available.
I especially recommend checking out The Black Cat during happy hour. It has one of the best happy hours in Bellingham and you can get some of my favorite items on the menu for half price.
Banter looks like a cozy coffee shop from the outside, but don’t let appearances fool you. It does serve coffee drinks, but this small eatery has earned a reputation as one of the best cocktail bars and restaurants in town.
You can order a selection of small plates to share or get a hearty bowl if you’re feeling hungry. The cocktail menu includes creative drinks like a beet and gin tonic, a strawberry and agave margarita, and a coffee-infused manhattan.
3. Aslan Brewing Company
Aslan is one of Bellingham’s best-known breweries and a pretty good spot for food as well. It’s often where I take friends who are visiting Bellingham for the first time since you can watch the city go by from the outdoor seating or through huge floor-to-ceiling windows.
The menu is a cut above your usual brewpub selection. There are classics like poutine and burgers, but also fresh-made bowls that you can customize with tofu, pork belly, chicken, and more. I really like Aslan’s spicy katsu sandwich as an alternative to a burger.
If you’re bringing a large group to Aslan, be sure to call ahead. The restaurant frequently fills up on summer weekends.
4. Rock and Rye Oyster House
Rock and Rye Oyster House is the place to go in Bellingham for straight-from-the-ocean seafood. It offers Judd Cove, Cairn, Massimo, and Samish Pearl oysters in the raw. The Massimo and Samish Pearl oysters are sourced from bayside farms less than 20 miles from Bellingham.
Main course options include halibut, mussels, ribeye, and more. All of the food is incredibly tasty and the servings are generous, which makes the above-average pricing feel worthwhile. Rock and Rye isn’t overly formal, but it is a little bit more upscale inside than a lot of other restaurants in downtown Bellingham.
5. D’Annas Cafe Italiano
D’Annas is Bellingham’s premier Italian restaurant, specializing in handmade pastas, raviolis, meatballs, and more. Everything is freshly made, and you have to get there early or else the most popular pasta types are likely to be sold out.
In addition to pasta, D’Annas offers a wide selection of classic Italian dishes. You can get eggplant parmesan, calamari, lasagna, chicken marsala, and more.
Take note, D’Annas is pricey. I think the quality of the food justifies the price—you can’t get handmade pasta at most Italian restaurants—but this restaurant is most popular for celebrating special occasions.
6. Dragon River
Dragon River is one of the best Chinese restaurants not just in Bellingham, but in all of northwest Washington. The dishes are a little different from what you’ll find at most Chinese restaurants—they more closely resemble authentic Chinese dishes than American dishes like General Tso’s, although Dragon River has that, too.
As a result, figuring out what to get your first time there can be confusing. I recommend the Yu Xiang eggplant and Shao Cai, Mu Er mushroom dishes to start, with the honey glazed pork and ma po tofu as close runners-up.
Overall, Dragon River’s prices are pretty reasonable and the portions are large.
7. Bar Cicotti
Bar Cicotti is a sister restaurant to Storia Cucina, another great Bellingham Italian restaurant. I prefer Bar Cicotti because of the intimate atmosphere inside and spacious patio seating available in the summer. It also has a terrific wine selection.
The food menu at Bar Cicotti offers some of the same excellent pasta dishes that are available at Storia Cucina, plus small plates like focaccia bread and stuffed mushrooms. You can also get flatbreads that are made with a 50-year-old sourdough starter. On Thursday nights, the restaurant even has handmade spaghetti.
8. Mount Bakery Cafe
The Mount Baker Cafe has two locations: one downtown and another in the Fairhaven district. You can stop in to grab a pastry and espresso or sit down to enjoy a full breakfast.
The cafe specializes in eggs benedict served several different ways. It also serves waffles, a wide selection of savory and sweet crepes, breakfast sandwiches, and more. Also be sure to grab a cookie or cinnamon roll to-go to fuel you through a full day of activities in Bellingham.
9. La Fiamma
La Fiamma is a wood-fired pizza restaurant that’s been serving up pies in downtown Bellingham for 25 years. You can pick from more than 20 topping combinations or create your own pizza. I’ve found that the thin-crust pizzas easily feed two to three hungry people.
If you’re just looking for a quick slice, La Fiamma has an outdoor order window it calls the Pye Hole. It’s open as late as 2am on weekends, making this one of the best spots in town for a late-night snack after the bars close.
10. Cafe Rumba
Cafe Rumba is an authentic Peruvian restaurant in downtown Bellingham. It serves up hearty sandwiches with house-roasted pork, chicken, yams, and chorizo. All of Cafe Rumba’s food is coated with Peruvian spices, giving it a really unique and slightly spicy flavor profile.
The service is quick and friendly, making this a great option if you want to grab lunch quickly in between activities downtown.
11. Birch Door Cafe
Birch Door Cafe is a classic diner in Bellingham’s Cordata neighborhood, near Whatcom Community College. Although it’s a little out of the way if you’re spending the day downtown, the massive plates at this restaurant make it worth the drive.
The menu is huge, too. You can get pancakes, omelets, French toast, corned beef hash—and that’s just for breakfast. Lunch starts at 11am and adds even more options. Prices aren’t crazy cheap, but you won’t break the bank on brunch here.
12. Soy House
Soy House is a delicious Vietnamese restaurant set just back from Bellingham’s waterfront. It’s the perfect spot for lunch or dinner if you’re busy exploring downtown.
You can choose from a wide selection of classic Vietnamese dishes, including stir fry, soups, pho, and more. I really like Soy House’s stir fried noodles.
Soy House also has a sister restaurant located next door that offers hot pot and a grill. It’s a great option if you have a larger group that wants something a little different from the usual fare.
Bellingham offers a great selection of restaurants for everything from local seafood to quick lunches to hand-crafted cocktails. Be sure to check out these 12 restaurants for a bite to eat the next time you’re in town.