Right off the bat, I will tell you that I love Leaf & Ladle. Linda's soups, salads and sandwiches taste like home on a winter afternoon or a beautiful picnic by the lake in the summer. The soups are always hearty and full of rich flavor. The sandwiches are balanced with just the right balance of ingredients and grilled to a golden perfection. And the salads are always fresh, crisp and expertly dressed. The Leaf & Ladle is easily the best vegan and vegetarian restaurant in town. They also have many gluten-free options. And their Tuna Melts, Ham, Brie and Green Apple Paninis will satisfy any meat lover. But, for me, it is the Grilled Cubano Panini that is most extraordinary; it will save your soul.
Sitting at the comfortable bar in Leaf & Ladle, I watch Linda prepare all of the food with laughter and good conversation. Every customer that comes in the door seems to be a friend and a regular - even those who are coming for the first time. Linda and Morgan treat everyone like family. It always feels good to be here. A perfect lunchtime sanctuary in the middle of your busy day.
The menu is written weekly on brown butcher paper from pull-down rolls. They also are great about posting menu item changes and specials on Facebook: weekly soups, seasonal paninis. (You should like them on FB if you haven't already: https://www.facebook.com/LeafandLadle.) Note the many vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. They also have a Thursday Night Supper Club from 6 to 8. No reservations needed. The dinners feature one dinner type item in addition to the regular menu. Plus they have beer and wine!
I order the Grilled Cubano Panini with a side of fresh greens and Curry Squash soup. The Cubano is Linda's variation on the classic with a mouth-watering in-house smoked pork (I swear I could eat just a plate of this and be a happy man), ham, swiss, dill pickles and Dijon mayo on Avenue Bread focaccia. Then grilled on a press until all of the ingredients are married together in a savory ceremony of sweet delight. It is a thing of beauty. After the first bite, you forget where you are, you stop paying attention to what anyone is talking about, all your world becomes enraptured by this beautiful sandwich before you. I am not kidding. The Cubano at Leaf & Ladle will save your soul. If you are having one of those days where everything seems hopeless, go to Leaf & Ladle and get a Cubano. It will bring hope back to you - at least, to your mouth and stomach.
That being said, the perfect sandwich needs appropriate accompaniment. The Curry Squash soup is excellent, just enough curry, just enough squash. Goldilocks would have no problems with this soup. Linda is a artist at making soups. You will never go wrong ordering soup at Leaf & Ladle. Every soup is a unique little masterpiece of flavors unto itself. And, they now sell quarts of soup to go. While you are having lunch, pick up a quart to make a quick and delicious dinner.
Also the salad. Fresh, crisp and lightly dressed. I believe Leaf & Ladle makes one of the best Caesar's in town. Always a generous portion and dressed with their tangy but sweet homemade Caesar dressing. Again, no question, the best soup and salad combination you can find in Bellingham.
Beyond the counter is a quiet and charming dining room. A great place to enjoy a beautiful lunch or Thursday night dinner. The Leaf & Ladle is one of the best lunch-time eating experiences Bellingham has to offer. And, seriously, the Cubano! Your life is not complete until you have had one.
Leaf & Ladle
1113 N State St
Mon - Fri: 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Addendum: I have this theory that you can tell a lot about a restaurant by the beauty and cleanliness of their bathrooms. The Leaf & Ladle has one of the most refreshing and lovely bathrooms in town. Happy chalk comments from satisfied customers, beautiful flowers, a clean and happy baby-changing table. Everything super clean and fresh. All good signs.