The Black Cat, or Le Chat Noir, depending on how French you’re feeling, has long been a cozy spot for a drink in Bellingham. Since 1987, it’s inhabited a primo spot in the heart of the Fairhaven historic district, on the third floor of the beautiful Sycamore Building. Climb a few flights of stairs and you’re rewarded with a bright, airy place to settle in for a drink and a snack, or a more substantial meal.
The Black Cat wasn’t always so bright and airy. New owners recently gave it a substantial renovation and a much more open feel. Out went the window coverings and plants, and in came a fresh paint job and beautifully restored wood floors. The new back bar and bright red walls give it a much more contemporary look, while the exposed brick reminds you that you’re still in Fairhaven. You could say Le Chat Noir went from shabby to chic, without losing its French accent.
Plenty of fixtures from the old days remain, including the famous mural and of course, several homages to the restaurant’s namesake.
My companion and I stopped by on a Saturday afternoon, when the sun was streaming through the windows and the view went all the way to the bay. We settled at a table that looked over Harris Avenue, and examined the drink menu. Drink specials change with the seasons, and this time of year, they’re featuring:
- Original Mai Tai – Banks 5 Island White Rum, Cointreau, orgeat syrup, lime
- Foxhole Martini – Plymouth Tin, Lillet Blanc, grapefruit bitters, orange flower water
- Cucumber El Gato Mojito – Fresh mint, simple syrup, Granny Strong’s cucumber vodka, soda, lime
- Two Dollar Pistol – Serrano tequila, cilantro, mango, lime
- Cat Scratch Lemonade – Muddled basil, Granny Strong’s jalapeno vodka, lemonade, soda
I chose the Cat Scratch Lemonade, which was refreshing on a warm spring afternoon. He got a Kulshan Brewing Bastard Kat IPA—no surprise there. Other local craft beer selections on tap included Wander Brewing’s WA Uncommon California Common, Chuckanut Brewery Pilsner and Boundary Bay Scotch. Port Townsend IPA, Great White Belgian, Bouy Helles Lager, Mac & Jack, Elysian IPA and Anacortes Red rounded out the list. They also offered a dry hop cider from Tieton Cider Works on tap.
For my next round, I went with a glass of Barnard Griffin Rose, chosen from a wine list that also featured Chateau Ste. Michelle Syrah, red blends from Ryan Patrick and For a Song, a Spanish Garnacha, an Argentine Malbec, and a California Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. White wines include a California Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, Washington Riesling and Chardonnay, and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. All are available by the glass for $5.00 to $9.00, and by the bottle for $18.00 to $34.00.
Happy hour is Monday through Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and again from 9:00 p.m. to closing, as well as all day Sunday. During happy hour, well drinks and glasses of wine are $1.00 off, bottles of wine are 20% off, and draft pints are $4.00, plus food specials range from a petite Caesar salad for $3.00 to the petite fondue for $9.00. I was a little bummed that we didn’t get happy hour pricing on a Saturday afternoon. (You can call me cheap, but I prefer “thrifty.”)
I ordered the fondue, which was very different from what I was used to from the “old” Black Cat, and my guy ordered his go-to bar food—french fries. They were really good.
I know from dozens of visits over the years that sunsets are gorgeous from the Black Cat, and at night, the lights of Fairhaven make the view out the window perfectly charming. A nighttime visit to the Cat is ideal for date night.
Return to The Black Cat, and you’ll see that the new owners kept the stained glass, the Impressionist-looking paintings and the Can Can dancers, and gave us all a much cleaner, brighter place to enjoy a drink and a nibble, and practice our French.
The Black Cat, 200 Harris Ave Ste 310, Bellingham, WA 98225
Hours: 3:00 p.m. to close, 7 days a week