With its tall, lush evergreen forests, deep blue lakes, and towering, majestic mountains, I’ve always been eager to explore the Pacific Northwest’s beauty. But it’s not just the picturesque landscapes that have intrigued me about this part of the world. The region’s tech-centric, ethnically diverse cities are rapidly becoming known as foodie havens.
Modern and sophisticated, Bellevue is a place of plush homes, contemporary galleries, abundant green parks, rejuvenating spas—and, excitingly, absolutely ingenious food. With a wide array of outstanding Bellevue restaurants (including a James Beard Award winner) to choose from, this is the place to be for adventurous eaters and connoisseurs alike.
the perfect start
Arriving in Bellevue one Saturday morning with my partner, Kosta, I made our first stop an iconic one, grabbing coffee at Third Culture Coffee off Avenue Northeast, in the heart of Old Bellevue.
With coffee culture pronounced in this part of the world, we were glad to find an alternative to the hipster cliché. Walking in, we noted how different and welcoming it felt, with its vast, well-lit expanse, huge windows, high ceilings, children’s play area, and a menagerie of eclectic furniture.
While sitting on a Keralan wood and copper swing, I perused the international menu and, faced with difficult decisions (Ethiopian Guji or Guatemalan Aragon?), decided to order three small artisan coffees between us. Mmm.
elevated culinary experiences in Bellevue
Back on Main Street, we called Kosta’s brother in Seattle to rave excitedly about our discovery. He was even more impressed to learn about our next offbeat adventure: cooking at Whisk, a husband-and-wife-run culinary school. This cool independent kitchenware retailer teaches how to make everything from croissants and desserts to Italian food and tamales. Keen for something sweet after our coffees, Kosta and I decided to take a macaron-making class.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., our knowledgeable pastry chef taught us how to make insatiable, naturally gluten-free almond macarons with velvety buttercream (delicious for cakes, too). We learned how to whip up a stable meringue, fold macaron batter, and use a piping bag. Salivating over our treats, which we decided to save for later, we left Whisk happy and hungry for a belated lunch.
Time for Lunch
Wandering up Main Street, I spotted Fern Thai, a new restaurant I’d read about online. From its extensive and interesting menu (think: Thai food with a twist), we shared a delicious deep-fried turmeric-and-lemongrass-rubbed snapper fillet dish, as well as a lovely, rich lamb shank stew in a Massaman curry sauce.
The young couple next to us overheard our very vocal appreciation of the food, and after proudly telling us that they were loyal local Fern Thai fans, they suggested a nearby chocolate store for dessert.
A Sampling of Old Bellevue
We decided to take a short walk first, though and traversed Old Bellevue to soak in the city. Walking down the old-fashioned, lamppost-lined streets, we took in the district’s meticulously maintained bygone-era brick buildings from the 1940s and were struck by how seamlessly the contemporary boutiques and novel restaurants filling the storefronts integrate with their historic surroundings.
We popped into Glassybaby. A friend in Vancouver had told me about this social enterprise and luxury glassware store founded by three-time cancer survivor Lee Rhodes. Hoping to find something special for my new condo, I excitedly explored the stunning displays. I also learned from the shopkeeper that Glassybaby has donated more $10 million to more than 900 nonprofits serving people, animals, and the planet. Inspired by the impact, and mesmerized by the handblown glass, I left with glittering votive candle holders for both me and a couple of friends, and an inspiring story to share.
Old Bellevue is wonderfully walkable, and so the recommended sweets shop, Fran’s Chocolates, was only half a block away. Once inside, we read in a brochure how Fran Bigelow, an esteemed artist credited with sparking the artisan chocolate renaissance in the United States, started this collection of shops in the Pacific Northwest. With its European heritage, this delicious blend of Old World artistry with New World ingenuity seemed like an excellent gift for my mother back home, so I bought their award-winning Gray & Smoked Salt Caramels, before nibbling on some delicate Pressed Figs in Dark Chocolate.
Meandering around Old Bellevue for another hour, we passed a Fall Wine Walk event (and learned from a wine producer that there are always events happening here, including a foodie event we’d just missed and a stunning annual Christmas parade), before heading over for a happy-hour drink at Monsoon Bellevue.
Dinner and Drinks
As we made ourselves comfortable in the dark and elegant interior, I scanned the menu for snacks and was excited to see another contemporary take on Vietnamese food fused with Pacific Northwest flair. Two delicious craft cocktails and a dozen oysters later, we were itching to stay on for dinner. But, given the breadth of Bellevue’s foodie offerings, we knew that we should keep exploring.
Asking our waiter for alternative dining recommendations, we went to a Taiwanese dumpling-and-noodle restaurant, ranked as one of the top 10 gourmet restaurant chains in the world by the New York Times, Din Tai Fung. We’d never tried Taiwanese before, but after eating our way through some of the best dumplings and noodles we’d ever tried, found ourselves firm converts. I was particularly happy to learn about vegan meatless Monday options, and an abundance of fresh veggie dishes, showcasing the restaurant’s eco-conscious and modern approach.
As we paid for our meal, our hostess teasingly suggested some post-dinner liquid “dessert” at the new one-stop-shop, state-of-the-art entertainment center, Forum Social House. Charged by avant-garde cocktails, we swung the evening away on themed miniature golf courses (I even got to sit on a unicorn; my Instagram feed was on fire!), before wrapping our night up in style at the Rockwell Sound Lounge—the venue’s dance club.
With a long, peaceful slumber after our lively night behind us, we reflected over breakfast at how refreshingly exciting our day had been. Though comfortably luxurious throughout, nothing about Bellevue felt predictable. The city’s delightfully contemporary take on stylish living meant we kept hopping from surprise to surprise.