Restaurant News & Reviews

Ribs, smoked cheesy shells shine at Bare Bones BBQ in Bellingham

Pork ribs and sesame coleslaw from Bare Bones BBQ in Bellingham.
Pork ribs and sesame coleslaw from Bare Bones BBQ in Bellingham. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Name: Bare Bones BBQ.

Location: Shell gas station at 4240 Meridian St. in Bellingham, near Olive Garden. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, although hours vary depending on catering jobs. 360-318-6176. The small space has some indoor seating for Bare Bones diners.

Quick bite: Tucked inside this gas station is some really good eats thanks to Bare Bones owner Kelly Norton and his carnivorous endeavors, using his grandparents’ recipes, he said.

Three of us visited this nondescript spot for lunch to satisfy my craving for barbecue, which always makes me think of summer.

Two of us went with a half rack of pork ribs, which is seven ribs, for $18. We also picked sides of sesame coleslaw and smoked shells and cheese, each for $1.

The third diner ordered the Mother Clucker sandwich for $9, which included a side. She also picked the shells.

The portions were all generous, so half a rack of ribs made for plenty of leftovers. The ribs were St. Louis style, which we were told means they’re longer so there’s more for you to go all caveman on. The ribs, which were covered in a rub of brown sugar, paprika and secret ingredients, were smoked over applewood on low temperatures for a long time.

The ribs were smoky and fall-off-the-bone tender. They were delicious in their own right, but I wanted mine slathered with barbecue sauces made by Bare Bones. The Original was good, but my favorite was the tangy and just-enough to make-your-tongue-tingle version called Sweet Heat. I loved its vinegary bite tempered by the just-right amount of sweetness.

As for the sides, people who dislike mayonnaise coleslaw, as I do, will be happy to know that the Bare Bones version is made with a light and refreshing vinaigrette, sprinkled with sesame seeds, that offers a nice counter to the heavier flavors of the pork ribs.

But the highlight for me was the comfort food that was the smoked shells and cheese.

It’s made by combining pasta with a cheese sauce that goes into the Bare Bones smoker. The creamy and smoky flavors were surprisingly addictive, which I didn’t expect from something that was a pale lump of warm goo.

As for the Mother Clucker sandwich, which was served on a big and pillowy potato bun, my friend raved about its flavors.

Skinless and boneless chicken breast was marinated in a white barbecue sauce that Bare Bones employee Kally McNorton, who hails from Shunk, Penn., told us was her great-grammy’s recipe.

It was vinegary and piquant — bursting with such flavor so that my friend said it was better without barbecue sauce.

Got suggestions for tasty tidbits in Whatcom County or an eatery known for a particular dish? Send them to Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234,, @kierelyea