Far-flung feasts: Dining that's worth the drive
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, Spring 2005

Bellingham is full of fabulous fare, but even its outskirts offer outstanding food.

Whether you’re heading out to hike near the Nooksack River, ambling down spectacular Chuckanut Drive or bound for the border, here are a few restaurants in our area that make for delicious destination dining.

Graham’s Restaurant
Spring means it’s time to dust off the hiking boots. After a jaunt up Church Mountain or to Yellow Aster Butte, stop at historic Graham’s Restaurant in Glacier.

Re-launched three years ago under new ownership, this eclectic eatery (first opened in 1975) still sports much of its original décor. You can spot photographs of famous Mount Baker area visitors such as Clark Gable, Loretta Young and Robert DeNiro.

Head chef and co-owner Chris Collins has revitalized the menu with options that range from burgers, St. Louis ribs and T-bone steak to fish tacos, a not-to-be-missed hemp salad and Thai fried rice. An equally varied breakfast menu is served on weekends.

North Fork Brewery
Some of the area’s most popular pizza can be found at the North Fork Brewery in Deming. The scenic drive along
Mount Baker Highway offers gorgeous vistas of the Cascade foothills before you reach a modest building housing a brewery, pizzeria, beer shrine and wedding chapel.

Come for the pizza, but linger over the beer, because both are exceptional.

North Fork’s crusts are concocted with specialty flour, olive oil and beer. The hand-tossed result is a thin but toothy delight. Choose a zesty marinara or olive oil and garlic base, then build a pie with toppings ranging from salami to ‘shrooms.

This well-loved brew house is also known for scrumptious salads like its smoked salmon and spinach version, tossed with basil-pesto feta vinaigrette. Grinders are another hit, and multitudes make the trip just for the ale steamer clams from Manila Bay.

Rhododendron Café
If you’re in the mood for a scenic Chuckanut excursion but want phenomenal food in a more laid-back setting, keep on driving until you reach the Skagit Valley and come upon the Rhododendron Café.

Known to its legions of fans as the Rhody Café, it serves a mix of fresh, flavorful dishes, including pan-fried oysters, Cajun pasta, chicken Parmesan and a variety of scrumptious sandwiches. Devotees swear by the café’s eclectic ethnic monthly specials which include offerings from Trinidad, Austria, Guatemala or Greece.

A longtime hot spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the Rhododendron Café celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.

Oyster Creek Inn
Marry a breathtaking drive with an equally stunning meal by heading to the Oyster Creek Inn on Chuckanut Drive’s winding coastal road.

Ideal for a special-occasion meal (or leisurely lunch), its carefully crafted entrées and lavish desserts are served in a setting of upscale charm that avoids being stiff.

Obviously the Oyster Creek Inn serves out-of-this-world fresh oysters, but scope out the wild Alaskan salmon, served in a lemon garlic caramel sauce with scallions and sweet butter. And don’t miss the duckling, rubbed with a fiery harrisa paste and oven roasted, then teamed with a sweet-and-sour apricot sauce. Definitely worth the drive.

Stacee Sledge is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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