What’s better than good food, good wine, good cocktails and good times? The answer is not much. And lucky for those near Bellingham, Washington — the Historic Fairhaven District has two new spots adding to the burgeoning array of food and beverage locales in the hood.

Gainsbarre and Swim Club, from local restaurateurs Laura Swift and Tom Grayling, each offer a distinct environment and provide a niche previously unseen in the Bellingham culiary market. And better yet, the restaurants are conveniently located right next door to each other.

A natural wine bar and bottle shop specializing in European wines, Gainsbarre works directly with select importers and purveyors to hand-select the wines that make the menu, most hailing from France, Germany, Spain and Italy, plus Willamette Valley. In addition to the fermented stuff, the bar also has an array of delectable small plates, like a tasty spread in a charcuterie board or the paté tartine equipped with chicken liver mousse, radish and pickled vegetable.

Swim Club, billed as a “wet bar,” is more focused on creative house drinks that are stirred and shaken, featuring three cocktail menus around three different themes, all designed by veteran barman Cody Beck. From the Poolside menu, a Clover Club mixes raspberry and citrus with an egg white and gin, while the High Dive list puts a modern twist on the classic Grasshopper and the Deep End menu narrows in on spirit-forward cocktails.

Chef Alex Nusloch runs the kitchen for both concepts, but the menus for each differ. Swim Club features a few bigger entree-style items and shared plates like rock fish fritters, wings and ceviche, as opposed to the sandwiches and small plates offered at Gainsbarre. 

In addition to the food and cocktails, Swim Club boasts a friendlier, all-drink happy hour. At the end of every session, the team will ring a bell behind the bar to signify its end and as a quick-fire solution, they will quickly create a unique $4 Magic Minute cocktail on the spot. After the cocktail is created all guests have one minute to order it at this flash sale. After the cocktails have been made, the whole room shares a cheers.

Together but distinctively different, the interior of each bar has its own feel which allows both to function as individual entities. Gainsbarre transports guests to a Parisian bistro — small, yet roomy and comfortable, but not overbearing, with white walls accenting the sleek space that provide a home to the many plants lining the inside. Swim Club channels the tropics, or maybe the Mediterranean, with jungle decor and world music consistently emanating from the speakers — it’s fun, loose and just the right place to meet a new friend and share conversation over a cocktail.

Though sharing ownership, the concepts and characteristics behind Gainsbarre and Swim Club are markedly their own. That adds to the beauty of what the restauranteuring duo of Grayling and Swift do — they put the time and care to define each spot, allowing the bars to flourish because of what makes them unique.