When it comes to staving off the PNW winter blues, good food is a great antidote– especially when it’s enjoyed somewhere warm, welcoming, and intimate. Imagine it now: The weather outside is frightful, but you’re snuggled up with your sweetie and sharing a delicious meal by the light of a roaring fire. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
If the season begins to take its toll, we recommend looking to our local restaurants to keep spirits merry. The North Sound has plenty of cozy dining options to try this holiday season, but here are a few of our top picks to get you started.
Evolve Chocolate + Cafe, photo by Lindsey Major
Our restaurant round-up begins with a Bellingham classic: The Black Cat, which is a cold weather favorite for several reasons– and chief among them is the fondue. (I mean, what could possibly be cozier than fondue?!) This local favorite also makes the perfect base for observing Fairhaven’s holiday lights thanks to its third-floor location and large windows. For equally impressive views plus boozy hot chocolate, head to the mezzanine level at Village Books and settle in for a meal at Evolve Chocolate + Cafe.
From Evolve Chocolate + Cafe, photo by Lindsey Major
On the subject of cafes, Cafe Blue is as cute as it gets, and you’re not going to want to leave Fairhaven without trying some of their fresh-baked pastries. Alternatively, in Bellingham, Ashuri Baklava Cafe serves up traditional Turkish coffee and treats. Its richly-decorated interior is sure to transport you straight to Istanbul.
Just down the road from Ashuri, Redlight Kitchen & Bar has unbeatable ambiance and some of Downtown Bellingham’s best tabletop fireplaces. To escape the bustle of a busy weekend night, try to snag a seat in the intimate, semi-private room opposite the bar. Additionally, if it’s drinks you’re after, the aptly-named Cabin Tavern features standard bar fare and beverages strong enough to warm up even the coldest of winter evenings.
From Cafe Blue, photo by Kyle Hooper
Even in the summer, pizza and a pint at North Fork Brewery are musts on the way to Mount Baker– but this eatery’s rustic atmosphere is especially inviting after a long day of hitting the powder. If you prefer to stick closer to town (and are willing to forgo the pizza for beer alone), the new North Fork taproom in Bellingham is equally as cozy.
We’d also be remiss not to mention Carnal, which boasts a wood-burning fireplace in the dining room and a heated pergola in the outdoor garden. Another favorite outdoor option is the patio at B-Town Kitchen and Raw Bar, which is a great date night pick thanks to built-in heaters, comfy seating, and several fire pits to huddle around. Speaking of fire pits, the Lighthouse Bar & Grill at Hotel Bellwether upgraded theirs during the pandemic, and the ambiance pairs excellently with a hot seasonal drink and views of the Bellingham Bay.
From Ashuri Baklava Cafe, by Tony Mueantonthian
If it’s views you’re after, Hotel Bellwether isn’t your only option– head south to Skagit via Chuckanut Drive for an evening at The Oyster Bar on Chuckanut. It features intimate dining rooms, a roaring fireplace, and sweeping panoramic vistas of the bay. Also on Chuckanut Drive is Cob + Cork, which serves classed-up comfort food in a homey-yet-refined atmosphere.
Keep heading south to La Conner for Nell Thorn, which also offers waterfront views, fine dining, and a fireplace of its own. Nell Thorn’s chef is known to cook with the seasons, so diners can expect a meal that’s tailor-made for blustery winter days. Oyster & Thistle is another great pick for upscale eats plus a warm, welcoming ambiance that’s sure to raise your spirits.
Oyster & Thistle, photo by Catherine Torres
For a more casual bite, the homestyle baked goods at any of the three Calico Cupboard locations are sure to nourish both the body and the soul (but we particularly love the intimate feel of their Anacortes location). Indulge Bakery in Mount Vernon also has baked goods, plus piping hot coffee and espresso to cheer you up on chilly mornings.
A’Town Bistro is a rustic, farm-to-table eatery in historic Anacortes– and yes, their dining room absolutely features a fireplace. Also in Anacortes is 5th Street Bistro at The Majestic Inn and Spa, and their outdoor rooftop lounge is equipped with fire pits and even blankets when the weather permits.
From Oyster & Thistle, photo by Catherine Torres
San Juan Islands
While some might consider them a summertime destination, those in the know can tell you that the San Juan Islands are equally magical during the holiday season. If you find yourself in Friday Harbor this winter, your first stop should be breakfast or lunch at the ever-welcoming Cynthia’s Bistro. Dining here feels a bit like stopping by a friend’s house for lunch, mostly thanks to the warmth of Cynthia and her staff.
Duck Soup Restaurant, photo by Cocoa Laney
Also on San Juan Island is Duck Soup Restaurant, which has garnered a (well-earned) reputation as a foodie destination. The food itself is upscale without ever feeling pretentious, and between the heated outdoor deck and roaring fireplace, the atmosphere is as homey as it gets.
For a similar vibe, head to Orcas Island and try The Mansion Restaurant at Rosario Inn and Spa. It’s located on the veranda of the historic Moran Mansion, and– as with Duck Soup– their menus are known to change with the seasons. Also on Orcas Island is The Inn at Ship Bay; this hidden gem features a romantic restaurant worth sampling, whether or not you’re lodging at the inn itself.