Bellingham’s bar and restaurant scene seems to be growing at a dizzying rate with new and unique spaces opening one after another. If you are like me, the long list of new options might even be stressful to think about, igniting the eternal question of “Where should we go for dinner?” Tonight the answer is Saltine in the downtown arts district of Bellingham.
Co-owners and husband-wife team, chef Craig Serbousek and Valerie Markus, made their Bellingham restaurant debut with Saltine on May 15th in the space that was previously the Real McCoy cocktail bar. While the Real McCoy and Saltine may share an address, that nearly ends the similarities.
The once-dark, lounge-style space has been transformed with an off-white color scheme featuring hints of turquoise and gold. The bright and modern space is tied together with a subtle nautical theme. Guests can gaze at an enormous map of the San Juan Islands and surrounding region from their barstool and hang their coat on a gold-painted cleat hitch.
The short and sweet menu is described by owners as “new American comfort.” Dishes range from $8 to $24. Comfort classics are woven with nods to international flavors and technique. The Italian arancini comes with three fried risotto balls stuffed with plenty of mozzarella cheese and drenched in red sauce. The crunchy exterior is reminiscent of the Deep South’s hush puppies, but the risotto and mozzarella filling provides a more complex flavor and texture. For an entree, the grilled pork tenderloin is a delicious and filling meal for a steal of a price at just $16. The moist pork cuts like butter and is accompanied by crispy polenta, broccoli rabe and an au jus sauce. Be sure to scoop up every last bit of au jus with the crispy polenta.
Saltine also offers a long list of European and American wines along with eight craft cocktails, all under $10, and local beer on tap. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to close.
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