Surprise date night in Bellingham, with love from New England.
August 2, 2011 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Looking to set up a surprise date night for a friend and her husband in the Bellingham, WA area. The problem? I'm not local to the area and don't know what's fun to do/see/eat or how to go about setting something like this up.

My longtime buddy and her husband have a newish baby and both have to work long hours at stressful jobs. I'd like to send them on a date night from afar as a little break from life. They have friends who could watch their kiddo so that's not an issue, but I can't set up a specific time or appointment for said date night because of their labile schedules and furthermore, I have no idea what restaurants are good in the area. They love to eat out at pretty much any kind of restaurant, are very easygoing people in general, and I could probably afford something in the realm of $50-100 at this time. I guess my question is twofold: (1) What's good for eats or fun activities in the Bellingham area, and (2) Are there places nice enough that if I called up to pay for a giftcard or tickets or whatever, they'd actually call up my friends to notify them of the gift and/or send the gift by mail to them.

Asking anon because my username is connected to some of my other online personas that she knows of. :)
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
First, you're awesome for doing this.

Second, Bellingham is totally fantastic, and has some excellent restaurants. Depending on your friends' tastes, I would suggest the following place, starting with the in-town options:

The Pepper Sisters: southwest cuisine, vegetarian friendly, nice but not formal.

Boundary Bay Brewpub: everyone goes here. Great beer, upscale pub grub. Can't go wrong here, although it might not feel "special," since this is a standard place to go.

Nimbus is probably the most traditional nice, date-night place. It's in a tower that overlooks the town, has local food, and feels like a formal date place. I heard a rumor it was closing, but from the website it still seems to be active.

The Black Cat in Fairhaven is also nice, and has a date-night feel.

If you want a super-special date night getaway that doesn't get them too far away, try the Willows Inn on nearby Lummi Island. They can drive 15 minutes and take a ferry, where the local b & b has an outstanding nightly menu and is an amazing place to watch the sunset. It's also a great place to bike around.

In a similar "near to Bellingham, special date night" vein, the Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive is just outside of town. Chuckanut is one of Washington's most beautiful drives, is 15 minutes from the heart of the city, and has great seafood with a tremendous view.

All of these should be able to hook you up with gift certificates.

If you're looking for non-restaurant date options, how about you rent them a kayak, or get them a gift certificate to the awesome local indy bookstore, Village Books?

If you MeMail me with some more specifics, I'd be happy to make further recommendations. Again, you're really nice for doing this, and I'm sure they'll love whatever decision you end up making.
posted by jeffmshaw at 9:15 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

If they don't actually live in Bellingham, be aware that there is construction on I-5 northbound, from Burlington all the way up to Bellingham, so allow plenty of extra travel time for planned activities. Delays at rush hour are insane, alternate routes (go up Chuckanut, it's pretty!) are strongly recommended.

jeffmshaw's suggestions are all great. I would add:

The Colophon Cafe. Fun place. Good food. Great coffee. Right in Fairhaven, so lots of other stuff to do nearby. The Fairhaven Village Green is literally right there, and there is often outdoor music or other fun stuff going on.

CreativiTea is fun, if they're into pottery painting, that sort of thing. Makes a fun date.

Casa Que Pasa isn't exactly fine dining, but damn is it ever good. Their potato burrito is to die for, and it has a really neat, funky atmosphere.

For pizza, I like La Fiamma for the food; Rudy's if I want to hang out with friends and get a little silly.

The weather here has been fantastic lately. Start in Fairhaven, and you can walk the South Bay Trail for miles, much of it right on the water. If they're into Geocaching (or want to try it!), the South Bay Trail is also good for this.

The Northwest Washington Fair runs from August 15-20. Lots of fun stuff. Demolition derby on the 15th!

The Mount Baker Theatre offers lots of entertainment, from musical acts to plays and so on.

The Whatcom Symphony's 2011-2012 season isn't up and running yet, not till October.

For restaurants, avoid Anthony's Home Port. Lousy.

And again, the Oyster Bar really is fantastic. The food and beer at Boundary Bay is great, but yeah... As jeffmshaw said, it's kind of the default go-to place for a lot of people, so it may not feel all that unique and special. (But so good.)
posted by xedrik at 10:06 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Setting them up with a meal at The Willows Inn is definitely the very best suggestion above. It is a very very good restaurant, I'd not be surprised to see it considered one of the nations best in a few years.

The ferry to Lummi is frequent and cheap. The whole experience is charming. It will fit the bill of special baby free date perfectly and it will be fondly remembered for years by your friends.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:40 PM on August 3, 2011

I third the suggestion on Willow's Inn. The food is tremdously fun and adventerous - and has a realy sense of occassion to it.

The press is all over the place - with the NYT times hitting the place twice in the last 6 months. Apparently - unless you have a room (which guarantees you a table) - Friday and Saturdays are not fully booked up till November.
posted by helmutdog at 4:19 PM on August 3, 2011

My partner is currently running historical walking tours of the seedy history of saloon-era downtown Bellingham on friday and saturday nights - I went on one, and it's really good fun, with a fairly small group, usually 10-18 people. It ends up with a cocktail at the Bayou On Bay Oyster Bar, too. Obviously I'm biased, here.

We went on half of our 2-day honeymoon in bham, and the view of the bay from Fino's is amazing - and the food/wine was delicious as well.

Xedrik's suggestions are great - I'd personally 2nd Creativitea for a fun date, of which you'll have a nice ( and useful! ) reminder - although it takes a few days for them to fire the glaze, so if they're only in town for a night and not staying nearby it might be a pain to pick up the pottery and get it home.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:44 PM on August 3, 2011

As for (2) Are there places nice enough that if I called up to pay for a giftcard or tickets or whatever, they'd actually call up my friends to notify them of the gift and/or send the gift by mail to them. -

yes, definitely. Almost any business in Bellingham is run by extra-super-nice people who will go out of their way to be helpful. It's a strange little town that way.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:46 PM on August 3, 2011

historical walking tours of the seedy history of saloon-era downtown Bellingham

The Sin & Gin Tour! Wish I could favorite this a million times.
posted by xedrik at 3:42 PM on August 4, 2011

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