I was still on a quest to find a good German restaurant. The Schweinhaus in Bellingham had good sausages and sauerkraut, but was missing some components (like a roof.) After expanding my search area I came across Gretchen’s Delights in Lynden. Laura was busy with Furman work, so I decided to head out to see if this would fit the bill. TLDR; version – It didn’t.
I’m still learning about the area, and Lynden was one of those towns that I’d never had need of visiting. It’s north of Bellingham and off of I-5, so I wouldn’t have casually driven through it. Like Mount Vernon, Lynden is an agricultural town that sits on the banks of a major river, in this case, the Nooksack. Sometime during the course of the town’s history Dutch families settled in the area and the town went with a decidedly Dutch theme. There are fake windmills everywhere.
I headed out from the island despite the rain. In Bellingham I left I-5 and drove straight north on a local highway to Lynden. I passed lots of open fields and enormous barns. I reached the town and turned onto the main street, which led between two cemeteries. Perhaps an omen?
Gretchen’s Delights is in a small strip mall before reaching the downtown area. I drove past it once and had to turn around and come back.
There were lots of cars in the parking lot but apparently they were in one of the other businesses. I walked into Gretchen’s at what should have been the height of lunch service to find it completely empty. I would be the only patron the entire time I was there. Another omen.
I was greeted warmly by Leisa Scott, the owner, waiter, and chef. Leisa opened the restaurant just last year and named it for her mother. Leisa had been sitting behind the counter watching TV or something and waiting for customers when I came in. Once I was seated she started the music. Oh boy.
It was here that I leaned that German Country-Western Metal is a thing. The CD cued up was a group called Truck Stop. A Johnny Cash sound-alike belted tunes in German to the sound of twanging steel guitars. I opened Shazam on my phone to find out what the heck this was. “Hey! Mach Mal Pause” was the first song. I shall now inflict it upon you below:
This was followed up by “Mein Opa das bin ich,” translated as “I Am My Own Grandpa,” which I’d heard in English.
Given the rural American setting and the strange fusion of language and musical styles I felt like I was in an episode of The Man in the High Castle.
But, I was here for German food…
The menu was very basic. There were seven lunch options and six dinner options. The dinner plates are available all day. Usually I like to order similar dishes for comparison, but for some reason the three brat platter for $15 seemed a bit pricey. The other more traditional German dishes I might order were also under the dinner section. I decided to check out the less expensive lunch options.
I went with the first item on the menu, an open faced sandwich with lean smoked pork sauerkraut served on rye bread. This would be accompanied by a bowl of split pea soup. Normally I’d wash this down with Warsteiner or some other appropriate beer, but beer wasn’t an option here. I settled for water.
The menu proudly proclaimed…
Our meals are also to go. We use microwaveable containers.
I should have taken that as a warning rather than a feature. Apparently that’s how they store and prepare their meals for the restaurant, as well. I watched as Leisa walked to the refrigerator and withdrew plastic containers. I heard the distinct sound of a microwave in the back.
Soon enough the food arrived. The split pea soup was OK. It was unevenly heated as if it had been microwaved, but the flavors weren’t too bad.
The sandwich was the surprise, and I don’t mean that in a good way. The stale rye bread was slathered in mayonnaise. Normally I’m not a fan, but in this case the condiment helped with the tough bread. The “lean pork” was basically chipped ham mixed throughout the sauerkraut. The sauerkraut was the saving grace of the sandwich. Taken together, the various components were an unappealing mess.
I made it through it without ill effect, but I was really wishing I’d sprung for the bratwurst plate. And, in fairness to Leisa, this is just one meal, and might have been the worst (wurst?) one on her menu. Some of the other dinner options looked good on the menu and might be really good. First impressions count, though, and this one did not make a good first impression.
I headed back to the main drag of town. Downtown is anchored by the “Dutch Mall,” featuring a large windmill and Dutch styled buildings. The town itself has several antique stores and interesting shops. I went into a couple of these and browsed.
I passed some wonderful smelling Dutch restaurants. Obviously there were much better choices than what I had for lunch. I was tempted to say that the first one didn’t count and that I should have a second lunch of good food. I resisted…sort of. I came across a bakery that claimed to have been in business for over 100 years. I bought a small apple strudel to take home so that Laura and I could both enjoy it.
When I mentioned where I was going today Linda told me something of the conservative nature of the town. The Dutch Christian School is every bit as large as the public high school in town. Wikipedia states that at “one time, Lynden held the world record for most churches per square mile and per capita, although that is unsubstantiated.” Coming from a city where there is a church on just about every corner I find that hard to believe. However, Lynden did have blue laws until just recently. Linda had said that dancing was outlawed in the city until 2012. I couldn’t find any indication of that, but I did see that until 2012 there had been a law that said that alcohol couldn’t be sold where there was dancing.
While Lynden seems to have a concentration of Dutch culture, that influence is felt throughout the entire region. Many of the old farm barns have the Dutch roof style. Heck, even Mount Vernon has its Tulip Festival every year and growers like Rosegard have windmill motifs.
Regardless, it was a nice visit to the town. I’ll be back for another lunch, but it will be to one of the Dutch establishments.