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“Beach-side House & Tasting Dinner = The Perfect Get Away!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Willows Inn

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Willows Inn
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2579 West Shore Drive, Lummi Island, WA 98262   |  
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Ranked #1 of 1 Lummi Island B&B and Inns
Seattle, Washington
Top Contributor
54 reviews 54 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
“Beach-side House & Tasting Dinner = The Perfect Get Away!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 9, 2012

I do not think anything I could possibly say in this review could do this place justice! The only thing I would advise is, the experience we had from accommodations to Chef Blaine Wetzel's tasting dinner blew our socks off and is 10000% worth it if you are considering it. I would also say that we did this adventure as a group which was perfect but a romantic getaway for two might be another special reason to come here. The island of Lummi is quaint, delightful, small and just what you would expect from a charming San Juan island.

Let me give a few highlights...

Accommodations: With our group of 7, we booked the Beach House through Willows Inn. Um, yeah.. totally gorgeous. It was the perfect beach-side house overlooking the water, fit with spacious rooms, a cozy living room, a large dining area and kitchen and even a BBQ outside. I could have stayed here all summer! Regret: why the heck did we only book one night here? This would have made the perfect 2 night accommodation with some in beach house cooking our second night. Lesson learned.

Willows Inn Dinner: After friends informed us about Chef Blaine Wetzel, one of Food & Wine's Best New Chef's for 2012, we were very curious in trying the tasting dinner here. With 1 pescatarian (no dairy), 2 vegetarians and the rest who will eat anything exotic or not, Willows Inn kindly agreed to accommodate our dietary restrictions and so dinner was highly anticipated since booking. Now, without the menu in hand I really can't tell you what we actually ate between the 20 snacks and 5 mains but what I will say is that it was culinary creativity at its finest. Our food was adorned at times with edible flowers, each thing we ate well explained where your mouth was watering by the end of the lengthy descriptions, which always included the focus of harvesting all ingredients just that day.

Over the course of 5 hours we were served wonderful items in a private room and everyone (excluding myself) also opted for the selected wine pairings as well. It was the most amazing meal I had ever had. As great as it was, however, the only small complaint I had was at times the vegetarians were a little bit shafted. We had to laugh as during one serving, others had salmon, we had one piece of broccoli. It was damn good single piece of broccoli but maybe a few more pieces would have made us feel even a little bit better. Advice: Pace yourself with the wine, too. Due to the wonderful length of this entire experience you'll need your stamina to stick with it through the night.

Complimentary Breakfast: We got up early (for us) to indulge in the Willows Inn breakfast, a pre-selected plate full of yumminess. It was delicious alright - a herb and pepper frittata, cream potato square, delicious cranberry scone and yogurt topped with berries. It hit the spot from the food hangover (and for others, other hangover) we had from the night before.

So in a nutshell this was our amazing experience. Truly Amazing and such a wonderful little getaway!

This experience was by no means cheap by any stretch of the imagination, however, we were all extremely happy we did this. It was so well worth it and my expectations were very much exceeded! Definitely a culinary and beach adventure like I've never experienced and am so glad we got to do it!

I highly recommend!

Room Tip: The Beach House is on the beach! Go for it!
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  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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134 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (38)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Top Contributor
315 reviews 315 reviews
38 hotel reviews
Reviews in 92 cities Reviews in 92 cities
428 helpful votes 428 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 23, 2012

We returned because of the world class wonderful restaurant and world class chef. As good or better than last year in the restaurant.
Our original opinion of the mediocre Inn stands. So unprofessional an operation when people make it a destination for one of the best dining experiences in our State and Nation.
Where to begin with the sad bed and breakfast?
Well the breakfast was better than last year, but only a little better. Do you like cold fried potatoes with your eggs? I do not.
How about slow and inefficient servers? Do you think salt and pepper go with eggs? None was present on any table.
They won't serve breakfast until 8:30, but imagine the impatient guests being locked out until 8:45. Then after being seated waiting another 15 minues for juice and coffee. But I digress, it was a better breakfast than a year ago. The first day's omelet was excellent, if lukewarm.

Downstairs there is a casual restaurant serving lunch and dinner. Taproot Cafe was a good casual restaurant last year but we were disappointed at dinner and both lunches. They got rid of the menu and now have only some pre wrapped sandwiches and some good soup made upstairs in the restaurant. Service is slow and amateurish. We enjoyed a good dinner last year, but this time we had only one choice. Smoked salmon the only choice was excellent but it came with a few boiled fingerling potatoes, sans butter, sans sauce. No dessert. What a disappointment after having three good meals there last year.

So why didn't we just eat upstairs in the fine cuisine restaurant all the time? Well the first night when we had reservations for a month we were excused because they sold the whole evening to a bus load of group diners. Another reason is that the fine dining requires a fine pocketbook. The also do not serve lunch.

What about our room? We got upgraded because we got bumped from our original dinner reservation. So the room was better than last stay, except.....no turndown service either night, even though their brochure promised it. No view at all, except we could hear and see all the folks walking by our window. Deja vu all over again... Last year the toilet seat was broken and wobbly. They must have remembered to make that a feature in our "upgraded" room. A positive note: this room had a wonderful steam show that was reall luxurious.

As with last year no sign of owners, host or manager.

We love the restaurant and will keep returning as long as chef Blaine is there, now that he is part of the Inn's new ownership perhaps he will put his artistic talent into the hospitality of the place. Chef did visit our table several times and was charming.

Stayed June 2012, traveled as a couple
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Vancouver, Canada
Contributor
19 reviews 19 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 13, 2012

The New York Times was right - get on a plane and get here! Definitely one of the best, most memorable meals ever...a must-do if you're a foodie in any way! And Lummi Island is just gorgeous and so peaceful and relaxing - we really felt rejuvenated. We loved it so much, we have already booked a return visit in August with friends =)

We stayed in "High Tide" and were pleasantly surprised by the room - airy, high ceilings, very Malibu-beach house inspired with the white painted wood walls and ceiling. Yes, the room was a bit on the small side and the bathroom was tiny and dated, but the bed was comfortable and the view was breathtaking!

Of course, dinner is the main attraction and it was no less than phenomenal. They say it's a five-course prix fixe but really, it's more like 20-odd different plates and snacks...each one of them is beautiful and innovative and intriguing...and so delicious that you just have to close your eyes and savour each bite to the fullest. It's almost like you are discovering your taste buds for the first time! Each dish is brought to you by a different person, including Blaine the chef, so you get to interact with all the staff. And they are all super friendly and passionate and knowledgeable about the ingredients and preparation. We each had the wine pairings, which were excellent, but next time we'll order just one wine pairing and share it because they are such generous pours. This is also the first restaurant where they actually encourage you to come into the kitchen to watch them in action =) I particularly loved how everything in the restaurant was local: the dishes are from a local potter, the artwork on the walls from resident artists...right down to the salt on the tables!

Breakfast the next morning was just lovely, and the free Nettles Farm tour at 10 am was well worth it, so plan on staying and taking a later ferry. We are city people, so It was so interesting to see a real working farm and see all the different vegetables they were growing. The chickens and their blue eggs were a sight to behold!

We've told all our friends about this experience and are eagerly anticipating our meal in August...can't wait to see what Blaine has dreamt up!

  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Top Contributor
66 reviews 66 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 8, 2012

This is the most reliable way to get a table at the Willows Inn restaurant (see those reviews). We've stayed at the Inn twice now, this time much better. Cleaning was done earlier and room staff more attentive. We also rented the beach house with another couple which is recommended if only for the amenities and added space. We rented "Low Tide" last year and felt it was not worth the price.

The beach house dining area is right over the water and has a spectacular view. The kitchen is well equipped and well sized. That said, you're eating breakfast and dinner at the Inn so really, how much do you need a kitchen? The master bed is great the second bed is squeezed in under the eaves on the top floor. We couldn't get the DVD player to work properly and the outside stereo speakers disturbed our neighbours - controls were confusing. The deck joins with two other rooms so privacy is a bit of an issue, especially on a nice day.

All in all, the Inn is average, the dining experience unmatched and the views breathtaking - even on a cloudy day.

Room Tip: Travel with another couple and rent the beach house, if only for the space. Flip for the master or...
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  • Stayed May 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Vancouver, Canada
Senior Contributor
25 reviews 25 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 3, 2012

We stayed at the Farmhouse suite minutes away from the main inn. Cookies awaited us upon our arrival (yum!). This country style suite has over-height ceilings and there was a full gourmet kitchen complete with espresso maker and a working pizza oven. I don't know how many vacationers know how to operate a pizza oven but I was tempted to try! The bedroom had a very comfortable bed with none of the sagging in the middle that I hate. The bedroom and the bathroom both connected to a wrap-around porch. Breakfast was delicious and included in the price of our stay. The Farmhouse suite prices are seasonal and available on the website.

Now the restaurant - fantastic! The best I've had in a long while. Just to be thorough and to give you an idea of the culinary delights that await you I am now going to list every course and snack that we had at this three hour feast:

Snacks
baked sunflower roots
crispy crepe with steelhead roe
potato chip with black cod
radish with flax
pickled oyster with sorrel
king salmon sashimi
knotting onion
fanny bay scallop with arugula
kale toast with black truffle and rye
smoked sockeye salmon
salt baked spot prawns
venison tartare
bread with chicken pan drippings
halibut skin with clams
grilled oyster with tequila and sage
spotted owl candy
flax caramel bites

Main courses
asparagus with fresh cheese and spruce
local squid with kohlrabi and seaweed
king salmon with mustard greens and seeds
wild mushrooms with woodruff and salmonberries
lummi island wildflowers with lemon verbena

Sorry if I'm exhausting you with this description but it was a very detailed meal and I can't do it justice just by saying it was amazing. My favourite was the halibut skin which we found out was scraped, dried, and then deep fried. Even better, we had a mini-tour of the kitchen after the meal and also a tour of the farm the day after. The chef knows the origin of every food item on the plate. If you have allergies the restaurant will accommodate them - they even mentioned that they don't repeat snacks/courses for people that dine with them two nights in row.

The only way it could have been improved was if the chairs in the dining room were padded - we are skinny people and three hours is a long time to sit in a hard chair. :P

Finally price - I know you're hoping that this sort of thing would be affordable but it's not an every day meal, and it doesn't have an every day price. I paid about $150 for one meal (without wine pairings) + $15 for a glass of rose and $5 for a tea after the meal. It was worth it for the quality of ingredients, presentation and the care with which the staff invests in the food.

Thanks for the Willows Inn for the experience!

Room Tip: The farmhouse suite is about 15 mins (uphill) walk from the main inn. It probably is better for peop...
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  • Stayed June 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Senior Contributor
38 reviews 38 reviews
20 hotel reviews
Reviews in 23 cities Reviews in 23 cities
46 helpful votes 46 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 27, 2012

We didn't have the much recommended dinner, but we loved the place anyway, We were staying in the Farm House and had a very interesting tour of the nearby Nettles Farm - a must-do activity. It was quiet and very comfortable - a perfect rest from city nonsense. Breakfast at the Inn is stunning - and the chef can accommodate the gluten free diet; soup from the Tap Root cafe lives up to the rave reviews. But - if you go - triple check the ferry time for your departure, and don't count on anything being open when you expect it to be. Meals, accommodation - all very lovely - but what really matters is preserving the lands and heritage of Lummi Island. You'll get a sense of this from the Nettle's Farm - if it is still there when you go.

Room Tip: The Farm House was interesting and comfortable. Every room will have some unique quality.
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  • Stayed May 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Seattle
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 23, 2012

The dinner as many others have said is really quite amazing and on par with many of the well known (and excellent) New York fine dining establishments in a much more casual and relaxed atmosphere. Our dinner was really just incredible, all the flavors and textures worked well together and some of the courses were totally unexpected (Venison Heart Ceviche) were delicious and surprising. The wine pairing was a nice match and reasonably priced.

Our room was spartan but nice and I thought priced about right considering the quality of the breakfast you get the next morning.

Already planning a return visit this summer and can't wait to see how the menu has evolved now that more produce and seasonal fish/meat options are available.

  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Willows Inn

Address: 2579 West Shore Drive, Lummi Island, WA 98262
Phone Number:
Location: United States > Washington > San Juan Islands > Lummi Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 B&Bs / Inns in Lummi Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Number of rooms: 15
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Willows Inn on Lummi Island has become the Northwest's premiere destination for authentic farm to table dining. Come in and experience the culinary magic of our chef, Blaine Wetzel, and find out what eating from your landscape is all about. Savor wines from our extensive selection. Enjoy our elegantly comfortable accommodations. Drink in the views, watch whales, or relax with a cocktail by a blazing fire. Unplug, recharge and experience the Willows Inn--an authentic and affordable San Juan Islands adventure! Offering romantic beachside lodge rooms, cottage, and guest house accommodations and marine experiences. Organic food from Loganita Farm. A car ferry departs at least hourly for the five minute crossing to this scenic island retreat. Less than two hours from Seattle or Vancouver, BC. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Willows Hotel Lummi Island

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