I always consider it a good sign when I walk into a bar at happy hour and it’s full of happy, chatty people. That was the case on a recent Thursday at Skylark’s Hidden Café in Bellingham’s historic Fairhaven district. It was barely 5:00 p.m. when I arrived with my favorite research support professional (RSP), and there were no empty seats at the bar. No worries—we chose a table in the front window, where we could watch the world go by.
Skylark’s has a Victorian parlour/saloon kind of feel, with high ceilings, a gigantic, ornate back bar, gilt-framed mirrors, old-timey photos and warm wood paneling with brass accents. There’s even a fireplace with overstuffed chairs to warm you up on a chilly evening.
Our bartender and server, John, filled us in on both drink and food specials. Happy hour is from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Sunday to Thursday, and again from 10:00 p.m. until closing time. You can enjoy Skylark’s house cocktails for $1.00 off, house wine for $4.00 per glass and pints of local craft beer or well drinks for just three bucks! The Happy Hour food menu was pretty extensive, ranging from flatbreads and oyster shooters to nachos and chicken wings.
We started with drinks. House cocktail selections included a Bloody Mary, Katie’s Killer Mimosa (made with peach schnapps, orange vodka, pineapple and orange juices, and champagne) an Irish Mule (whiskey and ginger beer with lime) or an Old Fashioned. My RSP ordered a Bloody Mary, but I went off the special menu and opted for a French 75. His was $4.50 on Happy Hour and mine was $6.50—still a bargain. Both arrived quickly and tasted great. It was fun to watch John drop the lemon peel into the glass.
The next order of business was to decide on food. Skylark’s offers plenty of choices, with pretty darn good prices, too. We decided on Brazilian Cheese Puffs, One Piece Fish and Chips and a Bar Burger. The burger received an A+ grade and the fries were perfect. “It’s the biggest little burger around,” said my companion. I replied that at a quarter of a pound, it’s not all that little. As for the cheese puffs, I’m told owner Don White worked on the recipe until they were as close as possible to the authentic Brazilian snack. And they’re gluten-free, too. I thought they were delicious, especially when dipped into the green chile sauce (into which we also dipped our fries and fish). It was ridiculously good.
John also recommended the clam chowder, which was a repeat award winner at the Dirty Dan Harris Festival’s Chuckanut Chowder Cook-Off (though I understand the event features a Chili Cook-Off this year). Given the chowder’s blue-ribbon reputation, we decided we needed to try a cup. It did not disappoint. I don’t eat a lot of clam chowder, but when I do, I want it to taste exactly like Skylark’s chowder.
For the sake of research, we also tasted the house wine and draft beer. Our Happy Hour $4.00 wine choices were Coastal Vines Merlot and Chardonnay. I opted for the red, and it was quite fine. Beers on tap included Boundary Bay Brewery IPA, Kulshan Brewery Co. Red Cap Ale and Wander Brewing Belling-hammer, and my RSP decided he couldn’t go wrong with the IPA.
All in all, our Skylark’s Hidden Café Happy Hour experience was top-notch. The drinks, food and service were all great, and the prices were super reasonable. Our total for four drinks, three appetizers and a cup of clam chowder was under $35.00 before tax and tip. $35.00! That made it extra easy to enjoy an evening out in Bellingham’s beautiful Historic Fairhaven District.
Skylark’s Hidden Café, 1308 11th St, Bellingham WA 98225 360-715-3642
8:00 a.m. – midnight every day