There are lots of eateries that boast home-style food, but the fare at Leaf & Ladle at 1113 N. State Street in Bellingham is the real thing â€“ made with the TLC of a mom who knows exactly what sheâ€™s doing in the kitchen.
Linda Melim opened her restaurant three-and-a-half years ago as a go-to for wholesome soups, wraps, paninis and salads, the kinds of dishes she made for her kids before they left home. The 26-seat restaurant is a homey place where Melim and her team â€“ which includes daughters Taylor Melim and Morgan Gaunt â€“ greet customers by name and prepare meals while catching up on the lives of their regulars. â€śAt lunch time, everyone wants a seat at the bar,â€ť says Linda.
A soup-lover herself, Melim has made it her goal to have at least four rich, chunky, wholesome soups available so that whoever walks through her door â€“ be they vegan, vegetarian, gluten-intolerant or carnivorous â€“ will have their pick.
The day I visited, Southwest corn and chicken chowder was competing with wild mushroom and kale soup, hearty veggie and a curried squash soup. I tried three and found the selection an impossible choice as each one was a mouthful of deliciousness. It was more than evident Melim has culinary talent, but youâ€™d never know it to chat to the chef herself. â€śI use a miso broth for my vegan soups, but honestly, Iâ€™m a dump and pour chef,â€ť she declared. Other soup selections you might find on any given day include salmon chowder featuring Lummi Island sockeye, split pea with smoked pork, gazpacho and a cream-free tomato basil.
The wraps presented another quandary, with choices like the vegan BLTA (the veggie bacon is created from tamari-marinated, roasted tempeh) or the vegan chorizo. Eventually I settled for the BLTA, a top seller at Leaf & Ladle, and found the large wrap bursting with lightly dressed veggies easily enough to share. The veggie bacon had a mouth-pleasant crunch and texture and the wrap â€“ while dribbly and not a great pick for a first date â€“ was a very satisfying lunch.
Melim makes a vegetarian cheese with coconut milk and the dayâ€™s casserole was a vegan mac and cheese, available for eat in or to go. Leaf & Ladle also offers quart-size servings of soup to go, so if dinner rolls around and you need a quick fix before 8 p.m. weekdays, this is a great option. After 3 p.m. take-out orders can be made with Viking Delivery.
Three things you should not expect at Leaf & Ladle: wifi, coffee or dessert. The restaurantâ€™s beverage list includes wine, kombucha and a host of alternative sodas. Itâ€™s also worth noting that nothing on the menu â€“ which consists of two large paper scrolls extending ceiling to floor â€“ exceeds $10. Health food lovers be warned: servings are generous and laden with fresh leafy greens.
Leaf & Ladle is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Info: 360-319-9718.