Shambala Bakery and Bistro

By Catherine Torres

If someone offered you a slice of non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan bread, what would you expect it to taste like? You might guess flavorless cardboard. If you’re eating bread from Shambala Bakery and Bistro in Mount Vernon, you’d be absolutely wrong. Customers new to Shambala will often exclaim “This is actually good!” They were expecting cardboard, but what Shambala puts out is soft, delicious bread.

Chef and owner Nancy Chase explained why “health bread” gets a bad reputation. It’s a tough product to make texture and flavor-wise, especially in comparison to traditional bread. “We’re making bread out of batter,” Chase says. Dough’s consistency is what translates to bread’s soft, chewy texture. Ancient grain batter, what Shambala uses, needs to be exact and manipulated with other ingredients to achieve that bread-like quality.

Many big corporations include ingredients like rice, nuts, legumes, and starch in their health bread. It’s not the most flavorful combination, so many add excess sugar and salt, making it unhealthy. You won’t find excess sugar and salt in Shambala’s bread. In fact, you won’t find rice, nuts, legumes, or too much starch in their “hand-crafted gourmet bread product that happens to be gluten-free.” Chase sources only minimally processed non-wheat ancient grains that are fresh milled in eastern Washington. She uses five blends that include grains like millet, teff, quinoa, oats, and ax. Shambala breads taste better and are low-glycemic while being high in protein and fiber. She adds their non-wheat ancient grain bread is “just an efficient food.”

Chase didn’t grow up thinking she’d be in the bread business. As a little girl, she enjoyed cooking. All that experimenting in the kitchen came into play when she married Nick, who has food allergies that he passed down to their son and daughter. Restaurant menus only recently became accommodating to guests with food allergies, so Chase had to take matters into her own hands. “I’ve been trying to figure it out for my family for 30 years.”

Figure it out she did. She opened the Shambala Bakery and Bistro in 2015 after completely renovating the downtown Mount Vernon retail space to add kitchens. When you enter the sunlit bistro, you instantly feel cozy. Mismatched seating somehow works together and invites guests to take a minute and relax. There’s a glass counter displaying freshly baked goods: onyx-colored Deep Chocolate Muffins, bite-sized Sunflower Thumbprints, and rustically shaped bagels sit among the offerings. Of course, you’ll find fresh-baked Shambala ancient grain bread stacked next to a small dish of samples for the yet-to-be-converts.

Crack open the menu to find all-day breakfast, an array of sandwiches, salads, pizza, and lighter fare like quiche and soup. Shambala takes advantage of what’s in season with three daily specials, a soup, and quiche of the day. The bistro’s menu is primarily vegan with egg, cheese, and seafood choices. It’s a gluten-free, soy-free, and peanut-free facility, where everything is made from scratch and food allergies are taken very seriously. Chase’s farm, an organic, perennial, no-till permaculture farm on Camano Island supplies produce to the bistro.

Word is that everything on the menu is good. That’s quite a statement, but “we won’t serve it unless it’s delicious,” Chase promises. They’ve succeeded on the challenge so far. Shambala’s pizzas are made with an incredible whole grain, thin crust. You can order a pizza off the menu, or take a pre-baked crust home to top it yourself. Shambala fans also rave about the Shamburger, a house-made veggie burger on a Sunshine bun with all the fixings. If you’re particularly hungry try the Holy Hashables (Batman)! It’s one pound of fresh, seasonal vegetables, like broccoli and red peppers, stir-fried with herbed potatoes and topped with a vegan nacho sauce. The bites are tender, flavorful, with a slight kick of heat.

Drinks include locally brewed beer, wine, smoothies, fresh juice, and coffee made with their own Shambala Barista Roast, a fair-trade, fresh-milled, minimally processed small-batch roast by Fofcee on Camano Island. Chase recently added a happy hour menu, which includes tapas, children’s dishes, and a few specialty cocktails.

In Tibetan Buddhism, Shambala means “a kingdom defined by purity and emblematic of both visionary and spiritual intent.” We don’t know how much Shambala Bakery and Bistro can be described as a kingdom, but they certainly put out a delicious plate of food!

614 S. 1st Ave., Mount Vernon

360.588.6600 |

"Chef and owner Nancy Chase explained why “health bread” gets a bad reputation. It’s a tough product to make texture and flavor-wise, especially in comparison to traditional bread. "