BELLINGHAM - The Loft at Latitude 48.5 has injected new life into the Squalicum Harbor space that The Bay Café occupied for years.
Many restaurants provide a lunch menu that is a scaled-back version of the dinner bill of fare. Not so at The Loft, where there is one menu for lunch and dinner. But that menu offers choices that range from burgers and sandwiches for $10 to $12, all the way to halibut Oscar at $35. It's clear that the management doesn't want to neglect the more cost-conscious clientele, while also offering splurge meals perhaps aimed at the yachtsfolk who keep their pleasure craft moored nearby.
I sold my own leaky 26-foot "yacht" some years ago, partly because I lay awake nights worrying that the next time I came down to the harbor I would see nothing but the tip of its antenna poking up out of the water. But I still enjoy a splurge meal now and then. We decided to try the halibut, as well as the $21 crab ravioli.
Before that happened, we sampled the steamer clams, $14. As some of you may have noticed, if I am eating anywhere with steamer clams on the menu, I order them. Two reasons: Clams are a good barometer of a kitchen's commitment to freshness and precision, and I like them a lot.
These clams came with the typical white wine-and-garlic preparation, which suits me fine. They tasted fresh from the bucket but were cooked a bit too long: Many of the clams had fallen out of their shells, leaving us hunting and gathering them from the broth beneath.
The halibut Oscar is admittedly pricey, as halibut always is nowadays. But the portion was ample, the fish was perfectly cooked, and it came topped with a generous scoop of buttery Dungeness crab meat. An asparagus spray and asiago mashed potatoes completed the treat. Well-executed side flourishes like these help distinguish between first-rate and second-rate restaurants.
The crab ravioli featured an equally generous plateful of oversized pasta pillows with plenty of sweet crab meat within. The plate itself made a strong first impression, with zigzag flourishes of orange tomato-basil and green cilantro sauces.
The underlying white sauce was subtle and pleasant, but a bit watery.
If meals like these are not part of your current financial planning, you probably won't feel cheated if you go with burgers and sandwiches. The ones that passed our table were flamboyantly large and seemed to please their purchasers.
This space takes full advantage of the marina view, with Bellingham Bay and Lummi Island beyond. There is a row of window tables, while the tables away from the windows are elevated to give their occupants a lovely eyeful of scenery as well.
THE LOFT AT LATITUDE 48.5
Address: 1801 Roeder Ave., behind Port of Bellingham offices at Squalicum Harbor.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Main course price range: $10-$35.
Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or firstname.lastname@example.org .