There are some restaurants that grab you by the heart and won’t let go. They offer that brilliant combination of consistently good comfort food, great service, a warm, ambient environment and a location that’s convenient and attractive. The Colophon Café nails every one of those.
We started coming back in 2003 on our first foray to Bellingham, with a new babe in an infant car seat and all the worries of first-time parenthood. By then the café had been open 18 years in Fairhaven’s Pythias building, a stately structure that dates back to 1891. But it was new to us and we immediately loved the menu for its embrace of soups, salads, sandwiches, quiches and other deliberately healthful foods.
Dave Killian, who owns the café with his wife Stacey, started out in the kitchen in 1990, when he was still a psychology student at Western Washington. “We have a lot of fun here,” he admitted as he looked fondly towards the weekday lunch crowd gathered in the restaurant. “We have a great staff, great customers and an excellent neighborhood.”
The café underwent some good changes in Spring 2014. Killian doubled the square footage downstairs and vacated the upstairs portion of the restaurant, where his ice cream parlor had previously been located. He added a fireplace with some comfy couches and expanded the number of bathrooms. As a result, the café is looking better than ever. Its doors open onto the Fairhaven Village Green and in summer the patio tables and chairs are in high demand.
My favorite dish on the menu is the Superfood Salad, which, like many dishes at the cafe, is offered in small or large sizes ($9.95 or $12.95). The innovative salad is a light, filling meal that’s diet-friendly yet incredibly delicious, with its assembly of quinoa, mixed greens, feta, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and carrot ribbons. The yummy carrot miso dressing suits it to a tee. Another pleasing meal, particularly on a cold, wet day, is the split pea soup ($7.50-$8.95), which is vegan and fat-free. It’s one of five soups, and the most popular of them all is the African peanut soup, a blend of ground peanuts, ginger root, tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper and turkey.
There’s a good selection of burgers, from bacon cheddar to Alaskan salmon, black bean, beef or chicken, all priced around $13.95. And the sandwiches come in hot and cold versions and include portabella mushroom, pesto chicken and pulled pork.
If you’re vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free, the Colophon Café menu will also please. And if you have a sweet tooth you’ll find the dessert menu irresistible. The pie case showcases Colophon’s signature dessert, the peanut butter pie, carrot cake and other decadent treats. There’s even a gluten-free version of that peanut butter pie…
Killian said he has plans to expand the selection of entrees and create a cocktail menu in future months. As it stands right now the menu is the same all day long, with a few additional items offered over the breakfast hour.
There’s so much more to a restaurant than the food, and somehow the Colophon Café has the recipe for success down pat. From its bustling tables, it’s easy to tell that diners are simply happy to be here. The food is consistently good, the service is always friendly and fast, the portions are generous and the prices are incredibly reasonable and fair. Moreover, instead of being forced into ordering a massive plate of food, diners get to choose their plate size according to their appetite for many of the menu items.
Interestingly, while the lower two levels of the Pythias building bustle with book lovers and restaurant patrons, the upper two, including the ballroom, are vacant. Killian said those spaces are not up to code and have lain dormant for at least a decade. Unless you count the ghosts, that is.
If you go: www.colophoncafe.com; (360) 647-0092
Open daily 10am-7pm Sunday, 9am-8pm Mon-Thurs and open ’til 9pm Friday and Saturday.