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willows inn and other itenerary questions

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Hi everyone! I am planning on coming to seattle for 3 nights in late January for my 30th birthday with my husband. I am a big foodie (love seafood and creative, fun delicious food) and love good beer, wine and cocktails too. I also love nature and would love to take in some of the more beautiful sights (although i expect i will find all the greenery everywhere in seattle beautiful). I would love to spend one day/night just walking/driving around seattle sampling great food, beer, cocktails, taking in some sights, and maybe listening to some live music in the evening. I would also like one night to be a special splurge dinner (i was thinking willows inn). So my questions are: Is willows inn worth the trip? If so what is a good route to take to get there?Is the drive pretty, are there interesting stops along the way (any breweries)?If you dont think willows inn is worth the trip, where would you suggest (canlis, herbfarm)? Also any great bars, breweries, restaurants you would suggest in seattle (i was thinking walrus and the carpenter, bastille (for drinks), mat at the market, spur gastropub, how to cook a wolf)? ill being coming from sb (flying out of lax) staying in la the night before so wont be driving to la and flying the same day. Was thinking of renting a car and doing willows inn first night then last two nights back in seattle. any comments or suggestions greatly appreciated, especially with regards to willows inn. Thank you!

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  1. Sorry to say but The Willows Inn is usually closed in January. You should call and check with them. If they are open, most of the reservations are held for people staying at the inn. I would strongly recommend that anyway. It's a long drive back to Seattle after eating there. If they happen to be open I'll be happy to add some brewery suggestions later.

    1. If I were you I'd actually postpone the trip to go to Willows Inn when the restaurant is open. It's worth it. You do need to stay the night up there. Don't be confused by the fact the hotel and their very casual restaurant is open--you need the main restaurant to be open. I think it starts up in March? The website will say.

      Also you're talking about nature/beautiful sights....January isn't the most condusive for that. It will be cold and rainy, the mountains/national parks will be buried in snow, the islands will be rainy and windy, and days will be very short.

      1. Yep it is closed. Thanks for the heads up. i didnt see it on the website but called and they confirmed its closed. So any other replacement dinners in mind (canlis, herbfarm, somewhere else)? I'm fond of tasting menus highlighting seasonal veggies,and fish done in creative and delicious ways (at least for the splurge dinner).,

        11 Replies
        1. re: Schenoweth

          If you're thinking the Herbfarm you may want to try to get reservations now. They sometimes book up months in advance.

          1. re: Schenoweth

            I think both Canlis and Herbfarm will set you back a pretty penny (theirs are the two priciest tasting menus in town), and you will surely be treated to a memorable evening at either place based on their exceptional servers and ambiance. But I wouldn't recommend the tasting menu at either spot.

            Herbfarm isn't a tough rez these days, and probably hasn't been since Jerry Traunfeld left. I did the seafood-themed dinner two years ago and sadly, it was sub-par.

            I've done the tasting menu at Canlis and thought half of it were standouts, half were so-so. I'd certainly return based on the ambiance alone, and next time I'd elect to order a la carte. I don't doubt that their seafood entrees and veggie dishes are stellar.

            1. re: gumption

              I don't think Canlis has an ala carte option anymore except in the bar. They now offer prix fixe 3 & 4 course dinners in addition to the tasting menu.

              1. re: FoodDee

                We were just there in September and even though it was prix fixe, it felt very a la carte. We each chose two appetizers and an entree as our three courses, skipped dessert. (They bring treats anyway.) One person can go that way, another can chose app-entree-dessert; they seemed flexible.

                That said, I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there. I'd go back for drinks and a bite in the bar.

                1. re: sweetpotater

                  Didn't know you could pick 2 apps and skip dessert - good to know though still not rushing back there.

                2. re: FoodDee

                  Per the Seattle Times, 10/24/13:

                  "Just as the restaurant will set the table the old way for a few regulars who prefer it, an á la carte menu exists for those who want to order that way. (Insider tip: A “secret menu” of favorites from the ’50s and ’60s is also available.)"

                  http://seattletimes.com/html/foodwine...

                  1. re: Gizmo56

                    Good to know.

              2. re: Schenoweth

                I wish I could think of a top-tier place that does seafood and veggies equally well, but nothing comes to mind.

                For seafood, I've had memorable fish dishes at Book Bindery, Nell's, Blueacre, and RockCreek. But none of those particularly stand out in my mind for veggies.

                For seasonal veggies, I don't think anyone in town does that better than Matt Dillon. During each visit to his restaurants, I've discovered a new vegetable, and he prepares them wonderfully.

                I'd recommend Sitka & Spruce/Bar Sajor or even Lark -- those places are all small-plates oriented -- and order much of the menu. They're guaranteed to have veggies covered, and there will surely be a seafood option or two.

                1. re: gumption

                  What vegetables are in season in January?

                  1. re: paulj

                    On another forum someone from seattle responded to a similar question, "the lacinato kale, the winter squashes, and the brussel sprouts are terrific at that time of year, and Seattle chefs make them taste glorious. Our farmers here on the Olympic Peninsula grow great vegetables year round".

                  2. re: gumption

                    I agree on the unremarkable veggies, gumption. I have always enjoyed Nell's, but great veggies aren't their strength.

                2. Lummi Flats and nearby Skagit Flats and Samish Flats are some of the premier raptor/snow geese/swan areas in Western Washington in the winter. So is Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, close to Olympia. In Seattle, try Discovery Park, Magnuson Park, Lincoln Park, and the waterfront. The Skagit County areas I mentioned above and Nisqually
                  WR make easy day trips from Seattle. I would suggest Altura in Seattle or Cafe Juanita in Kirkland (across Lake Washington from Seattle) as good special occasion places.

                  1. Thank you all for the wealth of information. I have now narrowed down the splurge dinner to the chefs tasting at staple and fancy, the corson building or sitka and spruce. Id prefer not a strictly italian place that is why i am not leaning towards cafe juanita or altura. Any comments on my top three choices? Having a hard time narrowing it down.

                    Also, thanks PAO for the suggestions on where to take in the natural beauty of seattle in january. I actually do not mind a bit of weather. Coming from santa barbara where the sun shines a great deal, the rain and/or snow will be a nice change. I actually love the rain (probably because we dont get enough of it here).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Schenoweth

                      Out of those three, I'd go with Sitka & Spruce. My only complaint is that they're housed in a warehouse/market type building which they share with other other food establishments. It's a small space with a high ceiling and it gets mighty noisy during prime time.

                      I can't remember which nights The Corson Building does the prix fixe tasting menu... I've heard that during those evenings, the food is served family style and that if you end up sitting at the communal table, the plates don't often stretch very far and sometimes you may miss out on a course altogether if you get the plate last. I've gone on the Friday evening (a la carte menu night) and ordered many things of the menu. That would be the way to go. The ambiance is also much cozier than at S&S.

                      I'm not the biggest fan of Ethan Stowell's restaurants and hope others will chime in. I've been to Staple & Fancy a couple of times for the Chef's Tasting and thought the food wasn't that memorable. Consider Anchovies & Olives (much better fish dishes) over S&F, although their veggie selection is often light.

                      1. re: Schenoweth

                        I think that Staple and Fancy's Fancy Menu is the best value in town.

                        Wide variety of food, all wonderful, lots of food, very helpful service (can make requests, get wines paired by bottle/glass/half glass), etc.

                        I've always enjoyed the Corson building's food, so that's a good option as well.

                        I have to recommend against S&S though. Not a pleasant place, terrible service, overwrought, overpriced food.

                      2. anyone been to art of the table? Considering them as the splurge dinner now.