The Depot, which shut down this past August, was largely regarded as a den of sin by many Western students. Surrounded by all sorts of rumors, it was not somewhere you would ever consider taking a date; unless, of course, you wanted to send them the unflattering message “I think you're cheap.”
Located at 1327 North State Street, The Copper Hog, Bellingham's first ever gastro-pub, has entirely reformed the mangy remains The Depot left behind into a place focused on quality food and spirits. In fact, you may encounter the opposite problem after bringing a date here, as they might get the idea that you think too highly of them. From the vaulted ceilings with gold trim, the deep red walls and recessed lighting to the fresh tulips on every table and the large ferns standing in the corners, this pub looks reminiscent of Britain's imperialist days with prices to match.
As we walked in last Tuesday evening we saw the pub's namesake sitting in front of the hostess table—a huge copper hog bank, with the proceeds being donated to provide micro-loans to women in Kenya. The pub had both a large bar and restaurant section for those underage. Since we had a large party we opted for the more spacious tables of the restaurant section.
We soon found out that The Copper Hog believes in the European tradition of combining alcohol with food as we were handed multiple menus, not only for the standard beer, wine and cocktails, but also pub fare, appetizers and dinner.
Robin, our hip-looking waitress, told us that the gastro-pub will be open daily from 11:30 a.m. serving lunch until 3 p.m., dinner until 11 p.m. and small plates until 1 a.m.—much later than almost any gastronomically-inclined restaurant in Bellingham.
Browsing the dinner menu, one can find many higher end dishes often focusing on red meat and potatoes, but also ranging to seafood and salads. The downside being the high end price tag which is probably much more than the typical college student is used to. The upper end of the dinner menu is the bison steak at $27, the lower end still being more than $10. The bar shows the results of this as the clientele seem older—or at least better dressed and freshly shaven—than at The Beaver and The Rogue Hero just up the street.
There are more checkbook friendly options such as the pub fare, which ranges from $9 for Bison and Stout (stew with mashed potatoes) or $8 for a Bison Pasty (a pastry filled with bison, and veggies). Robin said they exclusively use bison over beef because it is so much healthier. They get their grain and grass fed bison from a local organic farm in Ferndale.
We ordered a few appetizers including the Ahi Poke ($7) and the shoestring fries, which are only $3 for a large plate. One of my friends looked up surprised.
“Is that Coheed and Cambria playing in the background?” He asked.
“Yeah, I think it is, and I heard Eric Clapton just a minute ago,” replied his girlfriend.
The music provided a strange contrast to the drink selection which is varied with bottled beer from all over the world with seaweed ale, Irish cider and pomegranate ale. The drafts are mainly from Belgium and the West Coast, and they range anywhere from the $8 Belgium Delirium Tremens, a high alcohol content beer, to $4.50 for Irish stout. Cocktails all run at $8 and the wine selection is large and includes many imports. There is a lower brow option of Miller Highlife, although it might prove intimidating to order, considering the setting, especially if someone special is sitting across from you.
We ordered the Morimoto Soba Ale for $6. This is a limited edition beer made specifically for the iron chef Masaharu Morimoto, and Robin said that they are running out. It was a lighter beer which I liked and finished my pint, which is quite a feat for someone who only drinks PBR due to monetary constraints.
I received my Ahi Poke and it resembled a modernist painting, square white plate, stripe of green wasabi painted down the middle with pink ginger garnish on the side. The sashimi tuna, balanced on tortilla chips, formed a little pagoda tower and when I bit into one it crumbled spilling tuna onto my lap. This is not date food, I note, trying to will myself to remember in case I do bring someone special.
We leave each paying bills around $12 to $15, which is worth it if you can afford for the atmosphere, spacious setting, late night quality food, and great selection of spirits (but not the music). However it will be interesting to see if the older crowd really will come out for The Copper Hog, or if the college crowd will be able to stretch its wallet enough to foot this new pub's bill.