Restaurant review by Matt Crowley/The AS Review
To some the idea of a breakfast diner may seem outdated, the type of fare relevant only to truckers and those older than 60. In Bellingham, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Little Cheerful, Diamond Jim’s Grill, Old Town Café, The Copper Hog, Avenue Bread, the list goes on and on. The only hard part of getting breakfast here in town is deciding where to go.
The Little Cheerful
The Little Cheerful is one of the lucky tenants of Railroad Avenue, an especially small corner property whose big red sign is one of the first things one sees when driving downtown on Holly Street. Most people are curious, and the curiosity doesn’t end when you enter the door. The walls are adorned with art, ranging from paintings and statues to cutouts and trinkets. The small tables and chairs sit low to the ground and provide little room for customers and servers to maneuver around, a sign of the actual size of the place, as well as its popularity. On any given weekend, it’s packed, and unless the weather permits outside seating, you should expect a short wait for a table. It’s important to remember they don’t take plastic so a trip to the ATM beforehand may be necessary.
Any misgivings one might have to this point, however, are quickly squashed. The menu has plenty of options to choose from, from pancakes, whose varieties include staples such as chocolate chip and blueberry and also more unique ones, such as French fry, to omelets and eggs benedict. The wait for food is not long, especially when you consider how packed the place usually is, and there is always someone around to refresh your coffee.
While there isn’t necessarily a best item on the menu, the establishment prides itself on its crab cake eggs benedict, for obvious reasons: it’s delicious. Accompanied by either hash browns or fresh fruit (as most of the meals are), after you eat this, you won’t want to think about food the rest of the day.
Diamond Jim’s Grill
Located just off Broadway on Meridian Street, Diamond Jim’s Grill boasts the most classic dining experience of the three reviewed here. Previously located at the intersection of Ohio and State streets, the diner recently relocated and has been enjoying the benefits and challenges of a new location.
The interior of the diner is decidedly simple, not exactly the type of curiosity-fueled décor of The Little Cheerful. It’s clear Jim Green and the rest of his staff would rather let the food speak for itself, and a jam-packed menu of options provides plenty of argument. Whereas The Little Cheerful relied on their hash brown accompaniment, Diamond Jim’s boasts “American Fried Potatoes,” better known as home fries.
Only these aren’t just any home fries, and they’re not afraid to pile them on to whatever meal you decide to get. Out of all three diners I went to, Diamond Jim’s easily has the biggest portions, no small feat when you consider the more-than-filling portions offered at The Little Cheerful. Their eggs benedict is practically a sandwich, and the omelets and scrambles are so big that you have to wonder what size pans they use in their kitchen and whether they had to get them specially made.
Old Town Café
Old Town Café, located, predictably, in the old town section of Bellingham off of West Holly Street, is a penny-pincher’s dream. You’re not going to find a dollar menu here, but what you will get is a medley of reasonably-priced options.
The general aura and décor of the place is arguably the most pleasing of the three establishments, finding a nice balance between the quaintness of Diamond Jim’s and the curiosity of The Little Cheerful. Small tables litter the floor with comfortably-sized booths and local art adorns the walls. On any given weekday, the wait for a table is practically nonexistent.
Old Town Café prides itself on some uncommon side dishes and ingredients, from a black bean substitution for home fries to tofu-packed omelets and scrambles. Instead of simply offering these in a hope to pique the curiosity of the public, Old Town does so because, to be frank, their food is really good. The freshness of their ingredients rivals that of The Little Cheerful, and while the portions may not be fit for Diamond Jim’s, they’re more than enough for even the hungriest patron, and you can’t beat the price.
Like I said at the start, there are plenty more breakfast joints for you to choose from around town, so it’s hard to crown any one of them the best. Just decide what suits you best.