When you’re new to town, finding out where people love to eat is at the top of the priority list. At least, it was for me. I suppose I can’t truly call myself new to Bellingham—having grown-up here after leaving my early childhood California roots behind—but after living in Seattle for nearly 15 years (and, sadly, also being 15 years older now), things had changed and most of my own favourite dining spots had gone by the wayside.
However, to my surprise, as I started to grill local foodies about the restaurants I needed to try, as a quasi-newbie to town, I kept getting the same answer, over and over again.
“You mean that little store at the end of the lake that can’t seem to stay open?” I’d reply when they told me where it was located.
And each one of them would nod their head, and tell me to trust them. It was open. And it was good.
Lucky for me, the Fork at Agate Bay was in my own neighbourhood, so I snuck out with my best childhood girlfriend— who had roamed the Northshore of Lake Whatcom with me for as long as we could both remember, but had since made Lake Tahoe her home—to see for our own not-so-local- anymore eyes that there was actually a thriving, and apparently delicious, business out at Agate Bay.
Sure enough, as we rounded the corner, just as Northshore Road splits off into Y Road and Agate Bay Lane, the Fork emerged, looking inviting and cozy on that frigid evening. We could tell, even by the way the cars were parked in the gravel parking lot that filled up the corner, that it would be filled with regulars and neighbours.
Once inside, our eyes lit up with delight. To say that we were giddy wouldn’t be an overstatement. There was a candlelit, intimate bar on the left, with plenty of tables for lingering, and plenty of good wine for lingering over. To the right, the restaurant side was a mirror image, with a bar that ran the length of the space, tables covered in crisp white linens, and adorned with tiny sprigs of wildflowers in discreet vases. Every seat was filled—with families grooming their own budding little foodies, couples whispering over appetizers, and friends taking their time to laugh and catch up between courses.
The memories of greasy, long awaited breakfasts and boarded-up windows from the restaurants that filled this space in the past were long forgotten as soon as we peeked at the menu. The Garlic Truffle Fries ($7, served with pecorino cheese, truffle salt, and white truffle oil) were hard not to inhale and we both did our best to be ladylike about the way we took as many shoestring fries in one bite as possible until we reached the bottom of the bowl. And, to balance our temporary gluttony, the salads— hers topped with local trout, and mine the Fork and Knife Caesar ($10)—were both insanely fresh and satisfying, easily becoming our unintended main course.
Beyond the food itself, the pace of the meal had ease. We were left alone to visit and enjoy ourselves, without feeling abandoned by our server—a balance that so many restaurants fail miserably at achieving. We didn’t want to rush and we didn’t feel the need to, which was appreciated.
When you visit, take advantage of the featured fish of the day, which is highlighted on their well-rounded menu, featuring as much locally sourced and organic products as they can manage. The Fork at Agate Bay also serves a noteworthy brunch and lunch that are well worth the pretty drive, all year round, out the windy road of Lake Whatcom’s North Shore to enjoy.
There’s a reason why locals will point you off the beaten restaurant path in Bellingham to get you there for a meal and a reason why most of the seats are filled with diners who live nearby. Although you can’t see the lake from inside The Fork, the essence of Lake Whatcom and the surrounding community is in every bite, every menu item and every plate that comes out of the kitchen.
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