THE WILLOWS INN, LUMMI ISLAND
While the Washington State coastline has ruggedly beautiful allure in spades, Lummi Island, 100 miles north of Seattle and 30 miles south of Canada, has something else: The Willows Inn, hands down among America’s best restaurants helmed by one of the country’s brightest culinary talents.
Prior to moving here eight years ago and winning Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine and three James Beard awards, Head Chef Blaine Wetzel worked under René Redzepi at Noma. You can trace his New Nordic experience in the prix fixe 20-course tasting menu: Every ingredient has been sourced from the island and its waters to create a dining experience that tells the story of what’s happening here, today.
Pink singing scallops and black radish are followed by just-poached spot prawns crowned with their own roe; meat courses might include elk tartare with wild herbs and rye bread, and whole barbecued lamb with rosemary and anchovies. You’ll also get vegetables, adapted to this northern climate, from the restaurant’s one-acre farm. Even the bar at The Willows — the only one on the island — reflects the seasons, offering cocktails anchored by infusions that shift as flowers and herbs appear. Dinner at the 34-seat restaurant starts at 6pm and ends around 9pm, and is priced from US$243.
You don’t have to spend the night, but a stay at one of its seven paredback rooms on stand-alone farmland, beach or cliff homes, or suites affords you more hours to immerse in Lummi’s untamed wildness and a day fishing, crabbing or spotting the San Juan archipelago’s native orcas. If not, it’s a seven-minute ferry ride between Lummi Island and the mainland.