EAT owner Eric Truglas pointed to the little chalkboard to which the bill was clipped. “L’ardoise,” he said. “The bill is called ‘l’ardoise’ in France, because the order and the check were written on little chalkboards or slates. Truglas greets his customers with a friendly handshake and a wide smile, the satisfied smile of someone who knows he’s onto something big. His enthusiasm is infectious.

“Twenty-seven days. We worked in here day and night for twenty-seven days to make this space.” And now, it appears effortless. As if EAT had just emerged magically on the corner of Chestnut and Cornwall. As if the whole thing had been built overnight. Soon, it will feel as if EAT had always been there.

With bright windows and friendly service, EAT isn’t just a favorite imperative, it is also the initials of Eric A. Truglas, initials that have graced his chef’s jacket for years. Having sharpened his knife in Paris and Versailles, Eric moved to the U.S., managing and owning restaurants and serving up perfectly prepared food. He reopened Pierside Kitchen for the Semiahmoo Resort and oversaw the resort’s dining overhaul, including menu upgrades, product sourcing, and a kitchen garden. His partner at EAT, Amberliegh Brownson ran the dining room at Pierside. Also on Team EAT is the charming and talented Dominique Faury, culinary director and chef de cuisine. Faury has worked in New York, Chicago, Palo Alto, Puerto Rico, and Geneva.

On opening night, the fully staffed restaurant bustled as local foodies gathered around to get a first taste of the menu’s offerings. The bar, stocked with craft cocktails, local spirits, local wines, and, of course, local craft beers, was buzzing. Truglas made the rounds, shaking hands and greeting friends. There was a sense of excitement and triumph as he and his team worked hard in the kitchen creating duck confit, seared salmon on a bed of ratatouille, and other classic French favorites.

The ambiance is casual enough for fleece, but elegant enough for an intimate dinner for two. The walls are painted in buttered yam, slate, and gold, giving the restaurant a distinctly modern sensibility. The orca mural from the Shrimp Shack remains as an homage to the space’s past. Strains of contemporary French music waft through the air, including a French version of “My Way.” Truglas belts out along with the song, bringing smiles to everyone around him.

And then there’s the food. EAT’s suppliers are mostly local — Cloud Mountain Farms, BelleWood Acres, Bellingham Pasta Company — and that local freshness informs their dishes. The menu is an homage to both France and to Bellingham. Combining fresh local ingredients and French cuisine creates an experience that is the best of both worlds. The cod en croute is crisp-tender and beautifully plated. The market salad and green salad are architectural and artful, and nothing short of delicious. The desserts are as rich and delicious as they are beautiful.

Whether you’re stepping in for a happy hour drink at the lovely bar, or settling in for a multi-course meal, EAT is an exciting new choice in the Bellingham food scene. French journalist Rouff Marcel once wrote, “Light, refined, learned and noble, harmonious and orderly, clear and logical, the cooking of France is, in some strange manner, intimately linked to the genius of her greatest people.” We’ll drink to that.

" EAT’s suppliers are mostly local — Cloud Mountain Farms, BelleWood Acres, Bellingham Pasta Company — and that local freshness informs their dishes."