I'm working a new beat for Sprudge, covering the “major Washington State progressive coffee bar openings not in Seattle” scene. It is my favorite beat. As a lifelong Pacific Northwestern and native Tacoman, I've long resigned myself to looking to Seattle—or occasionally Olympia—for big coffee news. And it makes sense: Seattle's place in American coffee culture is the stuff of legend, and I (mostly) loved my time living there as a coffee drinker. Our 2016 Sprudgie Award winning Best New Cafe is in Seattle, and that's not a fluke. (BTW that cafe, the La Marzocco Cafe at KEXP, is dialed in like whoa right now, and worth the trip alone.)
But as the Seattle I grew up with and lived in for a decade morphs into some sort of Gotham City/Paul Allentown/SimCity 2000 Arcology parody of itself, all the cool coffee stuff is happening outside its limits. This feels big and important to the 253 area code imprinted on my soul, and so I'm thrilled to be able to write stories like this one, about the wonderful work happening with Narrative Coffee‘s new cafe in Everett, or this one, about Olympia Coffee Roasting Company‘s coming flagship in Tacoma's lovely Proctor District. And today I'm thrilled to show off the new Camber Coffee cafe/restaurant/sweeping hospitality chill zone, located in the quaint little northern seaside heart of Bellingham, Washington.
Camber's Bellingham cafe occupies some 2000 square feet at 221 W Holly Street, on the corner of Holly and Bay, a few short blocks from the picturesque Bellingham Bay. The cafe is designed by Michelle Banks of Spiral Studios, with architectural work by Dan Welch of Bundle Design and construction by Chuckanut Builders. The project has attracted a unique collection of talent to Bellingham, drawn in equal parts from the worlds of coffee and fine dining, including Assistant Manager Natalie Stevens (formerly of Canlis and Vif), Head Barista Rose Shahbaghlian (formerly of Slate Coffee), and Retail Operations Manager Kevin Rosencrantz (formerly of Blackberry Market).
The space's extensive beer menu is overseen by barista Stephen Wiederspohn, and Camber's food program was consulted on by Kiel Kleeburg, a West Coast fine dining veteran who was part of the opening staff at Bay Area nouveau-kaiseki destination Single Thread. There's even a daily fresh flower program by Miranda Bowman of Wildrye Farm.
Not bad for a former comics shop in a sleepy northwest college town. After a weekend soft service Camber is now officially open, serving espresso from a three-group Synesso MVP espresso machine, filter coffee via a three cup Poursteady brewing deck, and a deep bench of teas (Natalie Stevens' passion) and tisanes sourced from Kilogram Tea of Chicago. There are beers by Holy Mountain, Urban Family, and Mollusk. There are milkshakes. There's a promising opening day wine menu that should push some boundaries in Bellingham. There's farmstead cheese, and sweet corn soup with dumplings, and a half chicken dinner set—unthinkable in an American coffee bar setting even a few years ago, but here we are.
So let's keep it going. More, I say! More big openings in Washington State that aren't in the city of Seattle. Who's going to open the adorable small town coffee bar with real deal espresso in Roslyn? Those arts weirdos in Tieton probably need a good new cafe, and so do the college kids in Ellensburg. Who wants to go in with me on a little slice of PNW modernist mid-century dreaminess on the shores of American Lake? Let's keep the trend going, from Bellingham to Walla Walla. I want this to keep becoming a thing, because it is a good thing, and so that I may work this beat forever.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Caleb Young (@keepitcinematic) and Camber Coffee.