Just as Lake Washington Boulevard turns into Main Street in Bellevue, past all the glittering homes lining Meydenbauer Bay, there is a small ornate sign on the corner of 100th Avenue Northeast and Main Street that simply says “Old Bellevue.” The buildings that line the street are mostly one or two stories max — a mix of jewelry shops, restaurants and high-end boutiques.
Old Bellevue’s got a small-town feel to it, quaint to the point my husband said something like, “Uh, where are we?” Granted, we don’t make it out to Bellevue that often — and when we do, it seems like much of it is spent along the glittering high rise-laden Bellevue Way Northeast (which is already adorned with holiday decorations). Please forgive me when I say I’ve never really explored this part of Bellevue.
But after spending a few days eating my way through Main Street, I can confidently say I’ll be a stranger no more. What I did find was a street with two distinct sides. The south side is all about the classics. There’s the beloved Monsoon, as well as the white tablecloth anchor of it all, Bis on Main, a Bellevue mainstay since 1998. There’s also the newly opened Browne Family Vineyards tasting room — but with its impressive salmon mural, mahogany trimmings and deep leather booths, it seems as if it’s been there for years.
The north side of the street is on trend — there’s the neon sign-filled Matcha Magic, moody Rouge cocktail bar and Fern Thai, which bumps TikTok’s trendiest songs throughout the bright, window-filled dining room.
Here are the highlights from my time in Old Bellevue.
Bis on Main
5 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 10213 Main St., Bellevue; 425-455-2033, bisonmain.com
After spending 20 years at Woodinville’s swanky Barking Frog, chef Bobby Moore took over ownership from Joe Vilardi earlier this fall. He’s also replaced nearby B-Bar with Bar Moore. However, there haven’t been too many changes made to the Bis on Main formula — yet. As Moore told my colleague Tan Vinh, there are a few new dishes (mostly concentrated on the dinner menu), with more to trickle in after the new year.
Moore was a welcome fixture in the dining room during my visit — things were quite hopping for a Tuesday lunch. The highlight of the menu was a Bis on Main classic — the lobster roll ($38), served with a side of delicate wafer-thin crisp gaufrette potato chips and a bright, vinegary green salad. The lobster meat was sweet and fresh, piled high into a buttery split top brioche roll. It’s a lot for a lunch price-wise, but the cost is comparable to other lobster/crab rolls in the Seattle area.
Browne Family Vineyards
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 10245 Main St., Bellevue; 206-887-9463, brownefamilyvineyards.com
This clubby space opened at the end of October — the Browne Family’s first location on the Eastside. In addition to tasting room-only pours, there is a full selection of Browne Family whiskeys for sampling and a handful of classic cocktails available. The wine flights are a shockingly good deal — four 3-ounce pours (a little over two glasses) for $25-$30, depending on which flight you choose. Wines by the glass run $10-$25 each.
The Bellevue flight features four rotating wines picked by the staff; the day I visited, it was a mix of two whites and two reds designed to really showcase the depth of what Browne Family does — a bubbly rose, the 2016 Ex Libris Chardonnay, the Forest Project Red Mountain Cabernet and the Proprietor’s Red Blend, all delightful. The food offerings are cheese and charcuterie plates ($24), truffle popcorn, olives and nuts ($15 for all three) — simple, yet classically good accompaniments for snacking while chatting and sipping wine.
8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; 10246 Main St., Suite A, Bellevue; 425-453-1029, itsmatchamagic.com
Located across the street from Browne Family Vineyards, it’s hard to miss this pink building. The interior is filled with mint green chairs, a vibrant pink and green leaf wallpaper, and a multitude of hot pink neon signs reading “I love you so matcha” and “find your daily magic.” It’s very cute. There are açaí bowls and a full menu of ceremonial matcha, lattes, tonics and potions. If you’re unfamiliar with the grassy green tea powder, it can be overwhelming.
I’m not a huge matcha drinker — I find it a little too earthy — so I asked for something hot and not too sweet, the barista’s choice. She recommended the Matcha Horchata latte ($6/12 ounces) calling it a “warm cinnamon hug.” Indeed it was! Perfect for a cold day and not too grassy.
11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, 4 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 10134 Main St, Bellevue; 425-326-1624, fernthaionmain.com
The large menu at this chic restaurant (filled with bold wallpaper, hanging plants, brass and glass chandeliers, and that bumping soundtrack) covers both classic and lesser known Thai dishes. My dining partner and I opted for a mix of classic — fresh tofu rolls ($10.95) stuffed with vermicelli, slices of mango, cucumber and tofu; and Moo Ping, ($13.95) spicy, fatty grilled pork skewers — and lesser known to us — Gai Tod Hat Yai ($22.95), a crispy fried half chicken; and Pla Tod Khamin ($29.95), a fried whole snapper.
The Moo Ping skewers, served with a spicy lime sauce, hit on all the flavor points — charcoal kissed, juicy, spicy and a good hit of acid from the lime sauce. Similarly, the Gai Tod Hat Yai was terrific — the half chicken fried whole and then cut into large hunks, showered with crispy fried onions. This chicken was wonderful tucked into a piece of roti with a piece of crunchy cucumber, and smothered in panang curry sauce — all of which come served alongside the dish.