[US: Lummi Island] The Willows Inn - Best Restaurant in America
Rating: ❤❤❤❤❤ (5/5)
We just came back from a trip to the west coast in the US and one of the best experiences we had on this trip was staying overnight and having dinner at The Willows Inn - a charming restaurant on Lummi Island which has been ranked #1 on Opinionated About Dining (North America) for the past 3 years! Getting to the restaurant is a trip in itself - it’s a 2 hour drive from Seattle and a short ferry ride over to the small island where Willows is located. The head chef Blaine Wetzel is ex-Noma and a young rising star with 2 James Beard awards under his belt. The cuisine is both seasonal and local - fished, foraged, and farmed daily; most of the ingredients used are grown or foraged on the island.
There’s only one seating for dinner which starts promptly at 6pm. What’s impressive about the dishes at Willows is the use of seemingly ordinary ingredients found around the island such as seaweed and oysters strewn on the beach in front of the restaurant and how they were able to transform them into incredible bites without the need to use luxurious or rare ingredients to impress. It's definitely one of the best meals we've had in the US and the wine pairing was fantastic as well.
Getting to Lummi Island on the Whatcom Chief Ferry was pretty easy - there's a ferry every 20 minutes or so and you pay for the round trip fare on the way there. After landing on Lummi Island, it's only a 15 minutes drive to The Willows Inn.
And finally we made it! After parking our car, we were ready to check into our room and settle in before our dinner.
While we were checking in, we were told to enjoy the plethora of complimentary drinks and snacks in the lobby which we happily complied with.
There are different options for accommodations at Willows and we chose to stay onsite in a room conveniently located above the living room with a queen bed and ocean views (it's also the least expensive option).
The room was quaint and clean with modern Nordic decor; while on the small side, it was quite acceptable for a one night stay.
Complimentary tea and coffee were offered in the room.
We had our own shower and bathroom.
After checking out our room, we decided to explore the rest of the grounds and came upon the onsite smokehouse, hot tub and bicycles that we can borrow to explore the island.
Before dinner, we were encouraged to hang out in the living room and patio of the restaurant so we decided to do just that with some cocktails first.
While we were still in the living room, we were served two snacks and a cider to start with:
Toasted Kale Chips with black truffle and crumbled rye bread with NV Eaglemount 'Log Cabin' Hard Cider
Pink Singing Scallops with cured roe
After our impressive snacks, we were ready to start our dinner so we made our way to the dining room which looked super quaint - just like the rest of the inn.
Aside from the food, we also came away very impressed with the wine pairing which featured a number of wineries in Oregon we had never even heard of before the meal, and we loved them so much that we ended up hunting down the wines when we went to Portland afterwards.
2015 Teutonic Wine Co. 'Recorded in Doubly' Muscat, Wasson Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon
In the dining room, we officially started our meal with a series of dishes served on an ice bed:
Spring Rhubard with blackcurrant
"Lummi Island Ceviche" with lightly cured rockfish in a broth made from fermented poblano peppers
Native Oysters marinated in a broth of watercress
2014 Analemma, Blanc de Noirs, Atavus Vineyard, Columbia Gorge, Washington
Next up were a series of amazing seafood prepared at the smokehouse onsite:
Smoked and Caramelized Mussels
Seared Razor Clam Skirt - it was interesting that they only chose to serve the skirt instead of the whole clam and we were told that it's because the skirt is the most tender part
Savory Doughnut with smoked black cod
Grilled Geoduck with sauce made from liver and toasted bread
The Smoked Sockeye Salmon was easily one of my favorites of the meal. It had been smoked all day and glazed with honey so it was super flavorful with a tinge of sweetness. We were told to use our fingers as the flesh teared away easily.
2017 Smockshop Band, 'Spring Ephemeral' Rose, Columbia Valley, Oregon
Our meal then continued with a series of vegetables carpaccio:
Grilled Marinated Beet marinated in gin from San Juan Island and served with yogurt and local hazelnuts
Winter Leek Gratin cooked to tender and served with tart scallion sauce
Overwintered Parsnip where the parsnip stayed underground past winter until it became sweeter and more tender, and served with a sauce of caramelized razor clams
2015 Big Table Farm, 'Honey Bee' Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
The Herb Tostada was quite a special dish as it signaled the coming of spring with fried mustard leaves, sauce made from oysters, and herbs from around the garden and farm. We were told that this dish would change throughout the year depending on the types of herbs and flowers in the different seasons.
Sourdough Bread from heirloom wheat and garlic jam
Blue Clams and Green Garlic
2017 Brickhouse, Gamay Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon
The ingredient for our main - a halibut - was brought out for us to see before the final dish arrived.
Grilled Halibut with bay flowers - admittedly this was probably the weakest dish of the meal as the flavors were perhaps too subtle compared to the other dishes we've had so far. The texture of the fish was perfect though but just lacking in flavor.
2015 Brooks, 'Tethys' Late Harvest Riesling, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Finally we concluded our meal with a series of desserts made from flowering fruit trees found on the island:
And also a nice little snack before we were invited to tour the kitchen and chat with the chefs who were all super friendly and passionate about their job.
The Willows Inn
2579 W Shore Dr, Lummi Island, WA 98262, USA
Tel: +1 306 758 2620
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