by Alex Smith
Think back to a time when you really, truly enjoyed a meal. What were some things that stood out? Maybe a standard ingredient was made from scratch rather than store-bought. Maybe there was a personal connection – ingredients grown by friends or from farms you’ve visited.
More likely than not, it was about who you were with. Catching up with friends and family can often make the hours melt away and make us forget that we’re even waiting for food until, suddenly, it’s time to eat. Kristen and Norman Six have spent the past ten years intentionally creating this experience in a restaurant setting with Lovitt, and the results are phenomenal.
Lovitt, the unlikely child of a city dweller and a rural homesteader, began in Kristen’s hometown of Chicago before moving back near Norman’s stomping ground in Colville, WA. In every iteration, Lovitt has been a restaurant that refuses to fit the typical mold. They cook with heavy cast iron skillets because they create the perfect sear. They make almost everything in house, from the crackers topped with herbed cheese and morel mushrooms, to the ketchup and mustard used to garnish your grass-fed beef burger. Local sourcing is paramount, and they preserve the harvest. That means canning in the summer, and buying whole animals to butcher throughout the year.
The unique nature of the restaurant can push some outside of their comfort zone though. Their ketchup doesn’t have the glossy sheen of commercial brands. Norman thinks this is because he doesn’t use corn oil, and recalls a livid customer. “I never thought anyone could get so upset about ketchup,” he recounts with a grin. The owners take this in stride though, and even see it as a positive. “If nobody is upset, then it means we’re not truly pleasing anyone either,” says Kristen. She sees it as a sign that what they’re doing is important.
The food can also take time to prepare since everything is made to order and from scratch. “If you’re looking for a place where you can come in, order, get your food, eat it, and pay on your 30-minute lunch break, this might not be the best choice,” says Kristen. “Hopefully you like the people you came with,” she continues. “I feel like we could all take more time to connect and talk with our friends and family.”
Another unique quality of the restaurant is what you can order. When an ingredient is no longer available, they change the menu. If they are out of one cut of meat from the cow that’s currently being used, a new cut appears in its place, prepared in a different manner. Vegetarian and gluten free options aren’t always listed on the menu, but Norman will prepare something amazing on the spot. Rest assured, he has all the ingredients needed to make something truly special. “We want people to trust the chef,” Kristen says. “Your favorite dish might not be available now, but whatever you order, you know it’s going to be great.”
And it is. The pasta primavera is rich and flavorful, and the garnish of crispy kale is a welcome surprise. The lamb falls apart and the salmon is juicy and tender inside of the sweet glazed exterior. Handmade dessert selections include chewy chocolate caramels and decadent ice cream. It’s the perfect cap on a fantastic meal.
You might be wondering what brought this rare culinary treat to Bellingham. The answer is family. The additions of Norma Jeanne, 8, and Paige, 2, made it taxing to run a two-person kitchen. Committed to the far Northwest corner of the U.S., the owners explored several options before settling on Bellingham. They cite the combination of natural beauty, the relaxed nature, and the surprising amount of art for a city of its size as important aspects.
There were other factors as well. With two children, the couple needed to hire staff so that they could spend time together as a family and take time off on occasion. They’re also impressed with the school system. “The people here have good intentions, and that shows in what the city is funding,” Kristen explains. “We want to grow old here.”
The feeling should be mutual. In Bellingham, Lovitt has found a community that is ready for them and the food revolution they represent. The space also has a decidedly Bellingham feel to it. Windows allow light to pour into the former Fairhaven Pub and illuminate exposed wood décor with artwork filling the walls. A children’s play area allows families to visit. Around another corner there hides a more intimate space for a romantic date. The bar is attractive and its resident bartender can shake up an impressive cocktail or pull a pint of local beer or a glass of wine from their rotating selection.
Going to Lovitt is an experience. If you walk in the doors with good company (or at least a good book), an open mind, and time to take it all in, you’ll be blown away. The food, the atmosphere, and the service are all phenomenal. And you don’t need to be a connoisseur to appreciate it. There’s no air of pretention, just exquisite food made from the very best ingredients. Leave your expectations at the door, and don’t bother picking them up as you leave, because you’ll have found a reality that’s far exceeded them.
Visit Lovitt Restaurant
1114 Harris Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225