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“Delicious food with great service”

Willows Inn Restaurant
Certificate of Excellence
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Romantic, Local cuisine, Special Occasion Dining, View
Dining options: Dinner, Free Off-Street Parking, Free Wifi, Full Bar, Outdoor Seating, Parking Available, Reservations, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Street Parking, Waitstaff, Wheelchair Accessible, Wine and Beer
Description: One seating at 6:30pm each night features a preset tasting menu that is entirely fished, foraged, and farmed from or around Lummi Island.
Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
10 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“Delicious food with great service”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 27 November 2011

The restaurant takes a while to get to if one is not already staying at the Inn, but the journey is worth it! Each course had its own taste and the freshness jumped out of the plate. The waiters were attentive, and having the chef come out to speak with each table individually was a great touch!

  • Visited November 2011
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank arpanator
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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151 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
179 reviews
49 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 140 helpful votes
“world class cuisine in charming historic resort”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 23 November 2011

The magic of or February trip started with the short ferry ride from the mainland to Lummi Island. As the tiny 20-car open deck Whatcom Chief ferry turned into the wind, driving rain and white caps, waves broke over the bow spraying our car with brine. After a few minutes Lummi Island appeared out of the mist.

The historic Willows Inn is about 3-4 miles from the ferry terminal on the wooded northwest shore of the island with views out over Rosario Strait, the San Juans, and the Canadian Gulf Islands with the lights of Vancouver in the distance. The humble clapboard inn dates to around 1910. The complex includes a few other houses and cottages. The owner, Riley Starks, a reefnet fisherman, also owns the adjoining Nettles Farm property.

Accommodations in the inn are cozy and a touch rustic but very charming and comfortable. The main floor is dominated by a living room with large fireplace and also includes a small library/study that doubles as a chef's table and then of course there is the dining room.

It was really dinner we were after when we booked as the nation was abuzz with the arrival of Blaine Wetzel at the Willows Inn, who was a protege of the renowned Renee Retzpi at NOMA in Copenhagen. Some have called Retzpi, whose claim to fame is extremely locovorish new Scandinavian cuisine, the most exciting chef in the world. Blaine Wetzel with access to the incredible bounty of the NW including reefnet caught salmon and the produce of the adjoining Nettles Farm seemed like a sure recipe for success.

I will say this about dinner, without going into detail about the many courses (the cuisine has been the subject of reviews by many major food writers): it was one of the greatest meals I have had and I have eaten at a number of top restaurants around the US and in Europe. The meal lived up to our every expectation and Blaine Wetzel and his staff hand delivered courses to every diner so everyone there had an opportunity to meet him, ask questions, and exchange some pleasantries.

I can't wait to go back again during the Summer during the height of the growing season to see what Wetzel comes up with next. I also very much want to spend more time on Lummi Island, maybe do a little hiking or biking, walk on the rocky beaches or head into "town" to visit the shops and galleries/studios on the island or grab a pint of beer (although I should add that the Willows Inn has a very respectable small cafe, the Taproot Pub and Cafe which serves coffee, beer and fresh baked goods, quiche, soup, sandwiches and the like -- all locally sourced and organic with many ingredients like eggs and fruit coming from Nettles Farm).

In short Willows Inn offers exciting world class cuisine. The sleepy inn and its gracious hosts are catching up a bit to the national and international foodie clientele who are showing up in droves now and make no mistake the inn is not (and likely never will be) a 5* resort. The fact that it is small, a bit rustic, a bit quirky and green is part of its charm. I hope that the historic charming Willows stays just the way it is for years to come.

Visited February 2011
Helpful?
1 Thank klsalas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bellingham, Washington
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“The food is very imaginatively prepared, well served, delicious, and in a pleasant quiet rural environment.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 November 2011

The resident chef is excellent, and the food and ambience so fine that, while expensive especially on special guest chef nights, the combination of these factors and the scenic beauty of Lummi Island make for a delightful experience.

The Inn itself has a few bedrooms in the historic old main building, a spa out the side door, and several cabins for rent as well.

A small basement bar and summertime outdoor deck complete the offering.

Access is by small, car ferry from Gooseberry Point about 35 minutes north of Bellingham. Access is from I-5 at Slater Road Exit. County-pwned and operated, it runs frequently and the trip across to Lummi takes about 15 minutes. The Ferry's name is
"Whatcom Chief". The schedule is accessible from the Inn's website and is posted on the Internet as well

Reservations are imperative, in our experience.

  • Visited September 2011
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank efairhaven
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Seattle
Level Contributor
21 reviews
15 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Seafood in excelsis”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 November 2011

The Willows Inn offers a 5 course tasting menu that highlights local seafood and produce. But in fact this so-called "5 course menu" is amply supplemented with additional dishes. The night we were there were 8 different appetizers before the first course and 5 other dishes included from the kitchen. That's 18 courses in all. Each addition is a bite or two. The 5 courses are more ample. The restaurant follows Thomas Keller's "law of diminishing returns" - that the first bite or two is the most memorable and delicious. And the variety makes it even more difficult to pick favorites among the 18 dishes: house-smoked salmon, grilled Samish Bay oysters, wild mushrooms with fresh farm cheese or slow roasted duck breast. Everything was exceptional. The service was as outstanding as the food. You really felt as if you were the special guests of a talented and dedicated chef and his staff for the evening. We stayed at the Inn overnight. The rooms were comfortable and the service, again, welcoming and responsive. All in all, a great weekend.

  • Visited November 2011
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank WotanJr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
29 reviews
14 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Great, fun, delicious experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 November 2011

Decided to check out all the praise and we were not disappointed. You won't be disappointed. The food (ingredients and presentation) was creative, local, fresh, fun, and delicious. The wine pairing wonderfully selected. The chef and his crew were warmly welcoming. It was refreshing to see a young group (I'd be surprised if anyone was over 30 years old) working in unison to provide such a quality experience. Well worth the price of admission. I'm hopeful Chef Wetzel will remain on Lummi Island long enough for a return visit this spring.

  • Visited November 2011
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank FightingOwl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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