Mark your calendars: this Friday (6/19 @ 7:30 AM) is the grand re-opening of Bellingham’s treasured Horseshoe Café, located on E Holly in the heart of downtown. Originally opened in 1886 as a combination diner & pit stop for cigars, tobacco, tackle & hunting supplies, The ‘Shoe (as it’s known to locals) has been a staple within the community ever since.
When the sale finalized, keys changed hands & doors closed in April this year, new owners Adam, Barb & Kate Groen, Joe Russell, and Brian Waller (yes, it’s a family affair) knew they had a lot of work ahead of them. From replacing flooring that had definitely seen better days (no more icky brown), and bringing things like the fire suppression system which had been “grandfathered in” with the building up to code, to revamping the menu, logo, & website – the last 2 months have no doubt left them a little more than slightly sleep-deprived (they all also balance all this with full-time day jobs). Did I mention the indoor bike racks?
I was lucky enough to be invited for the soft family and friends opening this past week, and it was amazing to hear the familiar sounds of livelihood & excitement filling the space again. The ‘Shoe is more than just a diner downtown, it’s a place that while sacred in my own family (both my grandma & grandpa worked there – behind the bar, and on the grill, respectively), is a similar institution for countless others.
It’s pretty phenomenal in this Bellinghamster’s opinion, this facelift & breath of fresh air the team have managed to accomplish. They have brought an old favorite back to life as well as transitioning it from an afterhours, end of the night (AKA after last call) munchie joint into an inviting, family-friendly diner – that still serves some of the best breakfast in the area, at 2am!
While much has changed on the café side of things, life in The Ranch Room (the cocktail lounge, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting) is much as it’s always been – amazingly vintage murals & all. The only real changes made were behind the bar, making life easier for those slinging drinks, as well as bringing the tap lines up from the basement – meaning colder beer, with less head, for patrons.
As will happen when renovating any old building, the group found their share of interesting items, whether in the basement, the walls, or behind the stove (yuck) – but the one that sticks with them most is the intricately tiled ceiling with crown molding & western themed wallpaper that can be found above the restaurants’ drop ceiling, where the HVAC system is currently housed. Makes one wonder what was there before.
Alright, let’s talk food. The new menu is amazing, catering towards the number of downtown business, and employees in need of a great breakfast option on the go – The ‘Shoe is now offering egg sandwiches. Two over medium eggs, served on a toasted French hoagie roll from Seattle International Bread Co. along with your choice of cheese & meat (sausage, ham, bacon, or chicken-fried chicken – oh my).
If you’ve got time to sit down for breakfast they offer a true Horseshoe classic, biscuits & gravy, but with a new spin. Using half & half instead of flour, and breakfast sausage from Carne, another Bellingham rock star food joint, ladled over fresh-baked pan biscuits, served with bacon & hash browns. (It’s okay if you drool a little. I did, too.) I was also able to beg a sample from my neighbor of the French toast, made from thick slices of Great Harvest Bread’s cinnamon chip loaf, dipped in vanilla cinnamon batter & topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar – Yum.
As far as munchies go, I’m a chicken strip kinda girl – and anyone that’s going to offer fresh made, not frozen, strips, gets 5 stars in my book. With the new open-kitchen style, I was able to sit at the breakfast bar, and watch as Jake hand dipped & dredged the chicken before dropping it into the fryer.
And desserts. If you’ve learned anything about me from past reading, you know I’ve got a sweet tooth. Well, one of the new owners, Joe, has concocted a S’mores Dip – that while sweet as all get out, is absolutely fantastic, and while politely nibbling it with graham cracker utensils is great – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to pick up a spoon and dive right in!
The ‘Shoe has been & will always be known as the place in downtown Bellingham to relax, unwind, meet strangers, sober up, & get back to basics. Welcome back ‘Shoe, we’ve missed you!
Be sure to check out the newly revamped website (www.horseshoecafe.com) for a full menu, merch, and more – and of course, stop by. Doors open on Friday, June 19th, @ 7:30am. Regular hours will be Sunday – Thursday 7:30-2am, Friday & Saturday 7:30-4am.