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Review: Port Fairhaven Fish & Chips

Sampling the full seafood spectrum

Port Fairhaven Fish & Chip's atmosphere is relaxed and casual
Port Fairhaven Fish & Chip's atmosphere is relaxed and casual (Photo by Becky Mandelbaum)
By Becky Mandelbaum CDN Contributor

A few months ago, I went on a whale-watching trip with my family through San Juan Cruises. We didn’t see whales, but we saw sea lions, herons and bald eagles. This was my third outing with the touring company and I’ve loved every one. So I was excited when, at the end of the tour, they offered us a coupon to Port Fairhaven Fish & Chips, the tour operator’s new fish and chips restaurant at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal. 

Though I was tempted to visit the restaurant after the cruise — you disembark around 5 p.m., just in time for a beer and an early dinner — I didn’t make it back until a few weeks later. During this time, I’d heard from multiple people that the fish and chips were incredible. The new business had also just landed the coveted “Best Fish & Chips” award in Bellingham Alive magazine’s annual Best of the Northwest competition, beating out repeat-winner Nicki’s Bella Marina

All that to say, my expectations were high as my boyfriend and I walked down to the Cruise Terminal around 6 p.m. on a Sunday. For those who’ve never been in the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, a meal at Port Fairhaven Fish & Chips is a great reason to visit. There are informative maps and brochures, a gift store and large windows facing the waterfront. The view, indoors or outdoors, is a huge boon for the restaurant.

The restaurant’s atmosphere is relaxed and casual. You order at a walk-up counter behind which you can see the staff preparing the food. Indoors, you can take your pick of tables arranged near the floor-to-ceiling windows. Though the evening was somewhat chilly, we chose to sit at a picnic table outside, where a curious seagull kept us company throughout our meal. Once another couple left, we had the entire outdoor area to ourselves. 

photo  For those who’ve never been in the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, a meal at Port Fairhaven Fish & Chips is a great reason to visit. There are informative maps and brochures, a gift store and large windows facing the waterfront. The view, indoors or outdoors, is a huge boon. (Photo by Becky Mandelbaum)  

The menu looks like it’s from the early 1980s, in a kind of campy way I like. On it are your usual fried seafood standbys: cod and halibut baskets where you can choose one, two or three pieces of fish dipped in local beer batter, as well as baskets of shrimp, calamari, clam strips and chicken strips. The menu also includes clam chowder, a couple options for kids, and a beverage list featuring local draft beers, canned beers, hard cider, wine and everyone’s new favorite: White Claw.

To sample the full seafood spectrum, we ordered the Captain’s Platter ($25.95), which comes with a piece of Alaskan cod, a piece of Pacific halibut, clam strips, shrimp, corkscrew calamari and fries. We also ordered a Salmon Caesar Salad ($15.95) featuring wild-caught Pacific salmon.

The Captain’s Platter was a mixed bag. The fried cod and halibut were mediocre, mostly because parts of the breading were slightly burnt. It was difficult to tell whether the fish or the breading had a good flavor because everything was so overcooked. The shrimp swizzles, however, were excellent. The breading was light, sweet and fluffy. The same goes for the calamari. 

Sauce lovers will be pleased to find that the Captain’s Platter, and all baskets, come with a tasty serving of tartar sauce. Malt vinegar and ketchup are available at a condiment stand inside. 

The baskets also come with a side of fries, which are thin, crispy and perfectly serviceable, but ultimately nothing special, at least not on the night we visited. You also get a side of coleslaw, which is on the sweeter, creamier side. I prefer a creamier coleslaw to a more vinegary one, so I loved Port Fairhaven’s take. (My only complaint is you only get a small cup of it.) 


photo  To sample the full seafood spectrum, order the Captain’s Platter, which comes with a piece of Alaskan cod, a piece of Pacific halibut, clam strips, shrimp, corkscrew calamari and fries. (Photo by Becky Mandelbaum)  

Unfortunately, the salmon salad was just OK. The salmon was dry and undercooked, and didn’t have much flavor. The skimpy amount of Caesar dressing didn’t add much either; most of the salad’s oomph came from the lemon I squeezed on top of it. With such a high price tag, I wouldn’t order it again. 

Overall, I think some of the hype around this fish and chips joint has been overinflated, but it does have an unbeatable view and the staff were extremely friendly. This won’t be my first choice the next time I’m craving fish and chips — I would probably head to The Black Cat up the hill — but I would go back and try again, maybe on a sunny day when I want to eat lunch while watching the cruise ships come and go. 

Port Fairhaven Fish & Chips is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Ave. Info: fairhavenfish.com

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