I LOVE discovering a new restaurant with certain characteristics that keep me coming back on a regular basis. Those characteristics typically include: a nice, friendly ambiance; unique, well-prepared food; healthy options alongside more indulgent choices; some measure of organic and local ingredients; and, particularly in these tight economic times, reasonable prices.
Bellingham, Washington’s own Brandywine Kitchen simply nails it on all accounts! And while this post may seem to only be relevant for folks here in Bellingham, I actually think it speaks to a fairly universal business principle.
Now, I’m a total proponent of paying extra for organic, locally produced food. Consider it a tax I gladly pay to support a more sustainable future.
That said, it seems to me that most of the locavore restaurants that I have been to — eateries that feature locally-grown and organic food — have been of the high-end, fine dining variety. And while I like that experience from time to time, on special occasions, for instance, I simply can’t afford to eat like that regularly, and neither can most people.
Enter, Brandywine Kitchen! Their tagline: From Seed to Plate
Founded originally as a small, organic heirloom tomato farm, owners Azizi Tookas and Chris Sunde then started selling prepared foods at the Bellingham Farmers Market, and eventually opened up the restaurant last year.
The space is elegant without being stuffy, and the first economizing element you notice upon entering is that there’s no wait service. Customers simply walk up to the counter, order their food, receive a number, visit a smaller counter for napkins, water, or fountain drinks, and then select their own table. On the tail end of the dining experience, customers are asked to do their own busing.
The most expensive entrée on the menu is $10.95, and several entrées and most of their sandwiches are $8.95 to $9.95. And while this could make for a pricey lunch, it’s hard to find a good restaurant that serves dinner for less than $12.00, and locavore restaurants more typically run as high as $15.00 to $25.00, not including starters, beverages, and desserts.
So, this business principle that I was speaking of is the recognition that 99% is much, MUCH bigger than 1%, and therefore it makes more sense to cater to the 99%, with affordable prices and a relaxed, casual atmosphere.
The other notable thing about the Brandywine Kitchen menu is that it is supremely accessible. Instead of fancy, nouvelle cuisine, with tiny but gorgeous fusion concoctions, the Brandywine serves recognizable favorites, such as Mac & Cheese, Fish & Chips, and Chicken Pot Pie, all made with the best, healthiest ingredients available, mostly coming from a list of local farmers and other vendors, whose names are listed proudly on a chalkboard near the front counter.
I had the special, a bison meatball sub, and unlike most restaurants, the special was the same price as most of the other entrées. The sub was absolutely delicious!
Again, this is the kind of food that most people eat on a regular basis. It’s a brilliant, sustainable business formula, the place is packed with people raving about it, and I wish the owners continued success, for very selfish reasons, of course.