Colophon Cafe

Written by on June 28, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

( – Fairhaven neighborhood of Bellingham, Washington

How I heard of this place: While I am not quite certain how I first heard of the Colophon, it has been a Bellingham staple on each of my visits to the city where I grew up. I am tempted to say that it was my sister, Mojgan, who first mentioned the Colophon and recommended the rest of my family try it – even if just for a scoop of ice cream. It has become a tradition, in visits with Jenna and Mojgan in Bellingham, to enjoy at least one meal at this cow-imbued spot.

Type of cuisine: The Legendary Colophon Cafe and Deli, located in the historic Fairhaven section of Bellingham, Washington, offers fine fare in a casual setting. The Colophon Cafe is famous for their freshly made soups and desserts, salads and sandwiches. We even have an old-fashioned ice cream counter and an espresso bar! We feature a daily menu of soup specials and post our Monthly Soup Calendar so you won’t miss your favorite! We have a rotating menu of over 35 different soups – everything from exotic African Peanut Soup to New England Clam Chowder. The Colophon Cafe also serves some of the best salads, sandwiches and quiches in town. We have many vegetarian and low-fat foods and can accommodate special dietary requests. Our desserts have been featured in almost every Northwest publication as well as Bon Appetit and Fodor’s Northwest. Our Peanut Butter Pie and Chocolate Chunk Cake are legends in the Northwest. When you visit The Colophon Cafe and Deli you’ll find out why everyone’s raving about these incredible treats!” Owners David Killian & Chris Brainard write, on their menu, “Let us treat you to a unique and memorable dining experience that has been a Fairhaven tradition for over twenty years. One thing that makes this restaurant special is that we strive to satisfy the needs and desires of each customer on an individual basis. Every meal is made to order, with the time and attention it takes to get things right. Our menu offers a wide variety of mouth-watering options, featuring many vegetarian and gluten free alternatives. In addition, we have compiled a comprehensive listing of our ingredients to help us accommodate dietary restrictions and food allergies...From our award-winning soups, quiches, and pot pies, to our decadent desserts, we aspire to bring you a healthful and delicious meal. All of our foods are preparing using wholesome, quality ingredients, and served with pride by our warm and friendly staff.

Ambiance: “We’re conveniently located in the hub of Fairhaven, great for those loving the old-town history and architecture of the 1890’s. The brick buildings and cobbled pathways add to the charm of one of Bellingham’s most famous neighborhoods.” The Colophon Cafe website says it best, so why recreate? “‘Mama Colophon’, the imaginary founder and logo of the Colophon Cafe came about in 1985, when the cafe opened. Serving only lattes, ice cream and bagels with cream cheese, all containing milk products, the proprietors decided a cow was a likely mascot.

After purchasing a cow silk-screen for the wall, the rest was history. Now, there are hundreds of cow items throughout the restaurant. Cows peer from every wall and post. Our Holstein menus greet visitors to the downstairs part of the cafe, while a large cow mural graces the brick wall in the upstairs deli over the ice cream counter. Mama Colophon has a lot to say, too, in the Colophon Cafe’s cookbooks. Her thought provoking quotes are liberally scattered through the books for amusement as well as education. Our ‘real’ owners are Chris Brainard and David Killian. Both David and Chris were employees first; they loved the Colophon Cafe so much, they bought the place! The building housing the Colophon Cafe in historic Fairhaven was built in 1891 and served as a meeting hall for several “Secret Societies” of Fairhaven, including the Knights of Pythias. An ancient ballroom still occupies the vacant upper stories In 1893, McIntosh Hardware made its home here. Other businesses located on the main floor throughout the century have been “Norman’s Clothing Store”, “Kulshan Variety Store”, and during the prohibition, a speakeasy operated here. The Colophon Cafe opened in 1985. The downstairs area of the Colophon was added where a hardware store had once stored merchandise. This basement area can still be identified by the oversized pillars (used to support the appliances displayed the floor above, and the antique, hand operated elevator which transported items to the next floor. It is said the elevator is still functional, although the city doesn’t take kindly to rope operated conveyances. The Colophon Cafe in historic Fairhaven is a cow lovers paradise! With a cow for a logo, pictures, ceramics and lights began to appear all over the restaurant from the day it opened. Customers kept trying to buy the decor, so we began stocking items for sale. Shelves in the upstairs Deli of the cafe display quality T-shirts by Vermont artist Woody Jackson along with his postcards, aprons and mugs. Ceramics, collectible salt and pepper shakers, plates, and many other items dot the shelves. Cow lights and aprons are also available for purchase to complement any decor. Cow mania is big! And cow lovers will find their heart’s desire at the Colophon Cafe.” The space still boasts its old school roots with rustic brick walls, old chairs and tables covered in white linen, topped with glass. The same oil-lights are at each table setting with tri-pod style specials menus, listing the flavors of Italian Sodas, specialty ciders and hot chocolate beverages or the all famous: Mug-a-Mocha-Moo. A chalkboard on the wrought iron bars, where the speakeasy elevator used to be, colorfully promotes Cafe specials of the day, while booths towards the back host stereotypical and hungry Bellinghamites. It’s truly the color of Fairhaven, complete with outdoor patio seating, overlooking the Fairhaven Green (where the Farmers Market and Outdoor Cinema call home).

What I ordered: On most every trip to the Colophon, since moving out of Bellingham in 2002, I order the same meal, and today was no different. It is that greasy, beautiful taste that I remember from high school, into college, which gets me salivating every time mention is made of the Colophon Cafe. The Bagel Melt, served on my choice of a plain bagel (also available are whole wheat, sesame seed, onion, garlic, everything, or cinnamon raisin) with cream cheese, and baked with ham and cheddar cheese. Wanting to always get more and try as much as possible, I select the half bagel melt with a small soup of choice ($11.25); this time, the African Peanut, an exotic blend of ground peanuts, ginger root, tomatoes, garlic and turkey, served together on a bread board.

Bagel Melt & African Peanut

Jenna wanted her staple, the Smoked Salmon Bagel ($10.50 whole, $7.25 half, $12.25 with small soup or salad), a traditional smoked salmon served chilled with cream cheese, red onions and capers on a Pumperknickel bagel. Without the bagel option, she had to go for her standby favorite: The Smoked Salmon Caesar Salad ($11.95 large, $9.95 small), the northwest traditional Caesar topped with wild Alaskan salmon smoked at locally owned VIS Seafoods, served with French baguette (between a choice of that or a honey grain roll).

Smoked Salmon Caesar

My sister could not pass up the lunch special: Bacon Cheddar Burger ($9.95) on a mild onion bun, served with rosemary potato wedges.

Bacon Cheddar Burger

For dessert, Jenna and I went with our staple: a slice of Peanut Butter Pie ($4.95), a cream cheese and peanut butter filling with a chocolate cookie crust, topped with semi-sweet chocolate and sprinkled with peanuts.

What I loved: I always love the greasy goodness of the bagel melts – even the turkey & Swiss cheese, which I may have to try on my next visit! The rosemary potato wedges that accompanied the burger were surprisingly delicious, soft inside and out, perfectly baked. Having made and sampled home-made versions of the peanut butter pie, this smaller slice did not satisfy like I remember they did, but was still peanut buttery, gooey deliciousness for our palates!

Why I loved it: The food is always good. The atmosphere relaxed and easy and the nostalgia hard to beat! The Colophon Cafe menu says it best: “We are truly proud of the deep connection that the Colophon Cafe as cultivated during our tenure in this extraordinary community. In appreciation for our customers and neighbors, we are dedicated to business practices that promote both a healthy environment and a vibrant local economy. We support many local charities, and purchase our ingredients and supplies from quality, locally owned businesses whenever possible. The colophon Cafe is an active member of Sustainable Connections, a participant in Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power program, a founding partner of Bellingham’s “Toward Zero Waste” initiative and a Whatcom Watershed Business Steward!”

Cost:Average to high ($6-$15 per lunch entree)

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