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Culture Café, Organic Cultural and Gastronomic Diversity in the Heart of the City

Café culture in mid-twentieth century Europe allowed a public space for upper-class men and women to socialize in public. Sometimes couples would meet to flirt, romance, like now has almost always been in the air. Oftentimes intellectuals met to share ideas, exchange revolutionary political and social ideologies, or offer impressions of literary and musical movements. Café culture provided a milieu in which to relax with an inexpensive nosh and libation while visiting with friends and family, read the daily newspaper, or catch-up on correspondence.

Culture Café in early twenty-first century isn’t much different. The fashionable pose at the bar and intellectuals gather around tables to share ideas that while certainly less revolutionary are no-less important. Literary texts and art discussed, music may or may not be evolutionary, and the social construction has eliminated artificial barriers of social class and privilege. The inclusive bar and dining room welcome all who want to join the throng. Relax, be yourself and enjoy both libations and nosh, plentiful and affordable.

The full-service bar at Culture Café is the communal alter for all. Self-ordering refreshments is a thrifty way a business can reduce labor hours; especially with the much needed annual increases in the State’s minimum wage. Owner/restauranteur Chris McCoy plans to hire servers in mid to late May, so if self-ordering keeps you away, just give it a couple of months. The craft cocktails are made with love, the wine list includes Bellingham’s Dynasty Cellars wine, the assortment of beer assures there’s something new to try, and each menu item is artfully and thoughtfully prepared.

Chris had a social gathering place in mind that encourages cultural diversity in a relaxed, uninhibited social environment. The result is a popular eatery where grandparents bring their small grandchildren, college students dine with their parents, professionals gather for end-of-workday cocktails, and the community can leave worries at the door.

Many a foodie will agree the star of the show at any restaurant is the chef. Executive Chef Rafie Rodriquez joined Culture Café in 2017. Rafie said,” My goal here at Culture Cafe is to utilize our broad and quality selection of Northwest ingredients we have available and fuse those ingredients with flavors from various cultures around the world. Everything we produce here is from scratch. We utilize Kombucha in some way in every menu item. All of our pickled items are pickled using Kombucha and we have various cocktails to pair with our Kombucha inspired food items. My biggest focus here is providing full flavor profiles and hitting all the right notes for the palette to enjoy. We strive to serve nontraditional cafe items and really open a new range of menu items for the Bellingham population to enjoy”. “The proof is in the pudding”, as the idiom goes.

We started out with an assortment of appetizers and were pleased to discover that toasted Marble rye toast makes a perfect platform for a ripe avocado, fennel salt, garlic confit, Kombucha kale, blistered cherry tomato and romesco salad. Avocado toast is all the rage amongst the Millennium set, though in my day it was known as an open faced avocado sandwich. Beyond a doubt, Salmon lovers will wax poetic over the Salmon Crostini: A generous portion of smoked salmon on a fresh crostini garnished with pickled red onion, blistered cherry tomatoes and dressed with a luscious lemon-horseradish crème.

Have a Manhattan, light on the biters, with a Town Taco!: A white tortilla full of fresh cilantro, Kombucha slaw, avocado, pico de gallo, cotija, and choice of marinated salmon, seasoned chicken, pulled pork or yams!

The salads are enormous, and easily shared amongst three or four nibblers.

The Kombucha Beet Salad is a remarkable salad that is a meal in itself. Red & Yellow Beets, herbed goat cheese, pickled fennel, mixed greens, a cranberry emulsion, pickled apples and house made candied walnuts!

Not into beets? The Southwest Salad is absolutely outstanding! Romaine lettuce, Kombucha slaw, pico de gallo, corn tortilla chips, avocado, cilantro lime cream, romesco, and cotija cheese with a choice of chicken, salmon, pulled pork or tempeh (which is a fermented soybean product). Or you might elect to go in an entirely different gastronomic direction and choose the BLTA. A brilliant addition to the customary BLT sandwich family, Fresh baguette, Hempler’s bacon, lemon aioli, romaine lettuce, roma tomato, avocado slices, and herbed goat cheese. Seriously, once you go BLTA you’ll never go BLT again.

For those who’d rather have their meal wrapped, go for the Southwest Wrap. It is a mind-numbingly delicious combination of flavors and textures. After that first bite just tune everything else out and focus on the mélange of flavors flooding your senses, and moan quietly inside. Spinach tortilla, cilantro lime cream, romaine lettuce, Kombucha slaw, pico de gallo, avocado, hummus, cotija and choice of marinated salmon, seasoned chicken, pulled pork or tempeh. As for myself, I prefer the seasoned chicken and a refreshing glass of Dynasty Cellars Chardonnay.

Culture Café is in Bellingham’s historic Herald Building, at the ground level alley entrance. Many longtime Bellinghamsters will recognize the façade from the bygone era when the old Bellingham Herald loading dock occupied this space. The fashionable garage doors are thrown open and guests can enjoy the cool breezes and dramatic sunsets while they enjoy the multicultural diversity, cuisine, and libations that Culture Café offers.

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