Everything about Bellevue Bistro made me feel like we had come to the wrong place. From the chalkboard menu to the Star Wars figurines hidden like Easter eggs throughout the tiny sandwich shop, BB looks like, well, a bistro. Yet somehow the dinner menu offered a hit parade of prime entries—mussels, Chilean sea bass caponata, smoked duck cassoulet—all at a quarter of the price one would expect to pay. Intrigued, we took a seat. “Can we see a wine list?” I asked. “We have wine coolers,” our waitress said hopefully. Undaunted, we placed an order. Our hearts sank, however, when moments later a shirtless, sunburned 10-year-old wandered in and asked if $5 was enough for a ham sandwich, chips, and two Cokes. What emerged from the kitchen was a delicious surprise. The fresh, delicately seared sea bass came atop a bed of capers, anchovies, green and black olives, basil, eggplant, and sunflower seeds. The duck cassoulet featured big juicy cubes of tender charcoal-grilled duck with leeks, potatoes, and simple northern beans, all of which retained the smoky flavor of the grill. Chef Kurt Stehlin, 38, has been the head chef (and only chef) at BB for almost two years. He admits he could make more money elsewhere, but stays because he enjoys working with his best friend, Jeff Meiners, who owns the place. “We’re trying to create our own niche,” he says, “upscale dining at a coffee shop.” The Bistro gives him complete freedom to experiment. Stehlin’s dinner menu—new each month—shines. Best of all may be the exceedingly fair prices. As it turns out, $5 is more than enough for lunch. The kid got change.
313 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue
Breakfast Sat & Sun, lunch seven days, dinner Wed–Sat
Originally published in the August 2009 issue.