Restaurante La Farala, Granada, 1/24/20

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interior

Restaurante La Farala is on the second story of a building that has a Flamenco club on the first floor.   They have been open one and a half years.  Music is in the background and the lighting has a yellow tint to it.  The polished bare wood tables are set with a gray or black stone placemats and a contrasting white or black napkin. Bench seats are along the walls for some of the closely set tables and others are free standing with just chairs.  Several large square columns divide the room and one wall had some heavily draped windows overlooking the street.  The floor is a nice wood plank and the ceiling had some recessed portions.  The show downstairs was over so there was no noise from there but seating is available when the shows are on and in that case there is another way to enter the restaurant.  The menu offers a la carte items and 3 tastings of different sizes.  Optional wine pairings are available.  We ordered the middle size menu and our own wine.  The waiter said the longer menu would take over 3 hours and you should be really hungry with it. Continue reading

Bar Los Diamantes, Granada, 1/24/20

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exterior

This Bar Los Diamantes was just as busy as the other we visited but had a different vibe.  The people were packed around the bar and at the shelves across from there.  Near the entrance were a couple high top tables and the people at the bar would just pass the drinks and food over to the guests that were further than the arm at the bar could reach.  It was a symphony of service from the bartenders who kept the small beer glasses floating in an ice water bath and pulled them from there to fill your beer from the tap.  They were filling and passing as fast as they could move.  It was lively and friendly and really fun.  Also the tapas were all really good.  This place like the other Diamantes, specializes in seafood and it was all remarkably fresh and perfectly cooked.   Continue reading

Bodegas Castañeda, Granada, 1/24/20

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exterior

Bodegas Castañeda is an old school tapa bar that serves mostly Manzanilla sherry or Spanish vermouth.  Upon arrival you immediately notice the large barrels stacked behind the bar that have taps to partake of their fortified wines.  We sampled from one of casks and it came served on ice.  The  long place is dominated by a matching wood bar set with stools.  There are a couple small tables next to the windows and lots of standing room at the bar and around the room.  The other end of the bar features a number of hanging hams.  It was a less frantic atmosphere with people drinking, eating and visiting with one another.   With our glass came a free tapa of Spanish rice and meat  mixed with vegetables.  It was topped with a slice of light but crusty bread.  The well cooked risotto style rice dish was nicely seasoned and studded with small bits of meat and well cooked vegetables melded into the mix.  It was a  fun stop. Continue reading

la Fábula, Granada, 1/23/20

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entrance

La Fábula was in the Hotel Villa Oniria and has had the same chef for 10 years.  The 10 large tables were widely spaced and draped with white clothes and set with napkins embroidered with the restaurant name.  There were lots of banquet seats opposite the well stuffed armless chairs.  Carpet and sound panels in the ceiling assured that conversations would be private and noise level would remain low, even with music in the background.  Cute decorations were on each table instead of the standard flower or candle.  Lighting was lowered but it was not dark.  Staff were super friendly, spoke great English and could easily talk about each dish.  The menu offered a la carte options as well as a tasting menu that had an optional addition of 4 more courses.  Wine pairings were available for both sizes of tasting.   We chose the smaller tasting and ordered our own wines.  The meal had good pacing and portion control. Continue reading

La Botillería Granada, Granada, 1/23/20

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building

La Botilleria was a larger place with a long counter, tables and tables outside.  They obviously serve lots of wine as there were corks everywhere – in tables, in old register – but they also served beer and mixed drinks.  It was a much more laid back atmosphere with out the bustle.  We only had one drink here and with it got a chicken on cous cous dish.  It was covered with a lovely curry sauce.  The chicken was not dry and the fish filled with flavor.  A good experience and nice atmosphere.  With the chicken they also brought a dish of olives.

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Bar Los Diamantes II, Granada, 1/23/20

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exterior

There are several locations of the Los Diamantes tapas bar, but they all specialize in seafood and have different atmospheres.  This one was a little larger and brightly lit. As with most of the tapa bars in Granada, the place serves you food with each round of drinks.  It had different age groups but most all were drinking beer.  They had the small glasses lined up on the counter filled with ice water.  When you order a beer they pour that ice water in another glass and run the beer into the chilled glass.  The beers come in 2 sizes but you’re best to order small ones because you get the same food whether you have a large or small pour.  This place didn’t have a lot of decorations it mostly was decorated with tons of people at the long counter.  There were a few high top tables in the large part of the room and people gathered about them.  Along the narrow hall to the bathroom were a few wall shelves and people were there too.  The crowd came and went constantly but the pace was always busy and fast. Continue reading

Taberna La Tana, Granada, 1/23/20

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exterior

Taberna La Tana is a small wine centered tapa bar.  It serves beer but is obviously about the wine when one wall is covered in bottles.  There were a few seats at the counter and some seats to go with little wall ledges. It was packed and seemed to draw an older crowd.  The staff were friendly and willing to talk about the wines by the glass that they served.  Besides the wine there were lots of things hanging on the walls.  A small service area was behind the bar and the kitchen was off to the side.  As with most tapa bars in Granada, they had a menu but people just wait to see what they get with each round of drinks. Continue reading

damasqueros Restaurante, Granada, Spain, 1/22/20

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exterior

Damasqueros has been open about 12 years and serves only a tasting menu.  They do offer wine pairings with 2 levels of choice.  We bought our own bottles of wine but I did see the pours for other tables and they looked fairly slight.  The 10 small tables in the room are draped with a shorter brown cloths over a longer ecru one with beige embossed napkins.  The light leather benches that are set along one wall are interesting in that they are individual for each table instead of being one long bench.  The wood walls go with the partial wood ceiling  and one wall that has wood cubes to store wine.  One wall is glass with a door to the street however that is not how you enter or exit.  The entrance brings you first into a long light bar.  A variety of music played in the background.  Pacing was good and portion control was on the generous side.  Service was friendly and helpful with fairly good English.   Continue reading

Taverna Santa Chiara, Naples, Italy, 12/21/19

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exterior

Taverna Santa Chiara is in small rooms on 2 floors. It is set off a pedestrian walkway.  We sat on the bottom floor which had about 5 bare wood tables set with paper placemats and napkins.  Music was in the background and the place had lots of decorations.  The kitchen was right off the dining room but separated by a glass partition.  The menu was translated on itself and a couple of nightly specials were presented by the server.  They sold a house wine that was available in various quantities.  Chef was in the kitchen and came out to talk with friends but did not visit with all guests.   Continue reading

Taverna dell’ Arte, Naples, Italy, 12/20/19

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outside

Taverna dell’ Arte was a small place that opened in 1990.  The small tables were closely positioned and covered in beige cloths on top of black ones and set with beige napkins.  Outside there was a porch area with lots of candles.  Inside the lighting was lowered and music was in the background.  There are several rooms divided by half walls and some full partitions.  There was lots of dark wood and various decorations were on top of things and hung on walls.   The windows were covered.  The staff was friendly and spoke fairly good English, as I heard several tables speaking English.   There was a large menu in both English and Italian and everything was a la carte.  There were a lot of drink options.  The chef came out and visited with some but not all of the tables.  Overall this place was okay, not great. Continue reading

Gran Caffe Gambrinus, Naples, Italy, 12/20/19

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exterior

Gran Caffe Gambrinus is a huge ornate place that is mostly a coffee and pastry restaurant.  They do serve heavier food but most people seemed to be enjoying a pastry, coffee and the surroundings.  The place has been around for 150 years and was restored in 1890 when they brought in many of the paintings and statues. It has been visited by many celebrities over the years, like Ernest Hemingway, Sigmund Freud, Angela Merkel, and Luciano Pavarotti.  They are ready for lots of tourists as the menu is in about 6 languages.  The tables are small but there were a lot of them and a good sized bakery at one entrance where you could come and get pastries to go.  We tried coffee and a Sfogliatella riccia which is a shell shaped Neapolitian classic pastry that has tons of layers of buttery pastry.  It was fabulous but looking around the place was just as good.  It is eye candy. Continue reading

Mangi & Bevi, Naples, Italy, 12/20/19

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art

Frattoria Mangi & Bevi is a small place of 2 rooms with the third room being the kitchen.  It is a bright place with no music in the background and the tables are covered with plastic.  It seemed to be mostly populated with local, regular patrons.  The floor is tile, the walls are brick and lots of old photos decorate the walls.  Not much English is spoken by the staff.   It serves good, home style comfort food.  The menu is passed out with a small card.  You write on the card what you want and turn it into the waiter.  He brings stuff out as it is ready.  Service was efficient, fairly fast and portions good sized but not huge.  Wine is available by liter or fraction of and served in pitchers with plastic cups or they have beer.   Continue reading

Essencia Restaurant, Naples, Italy, 12/19/19

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exterior

Essencia Restaurant just opened last May.  The building has a bar and kitchen downstairs and upstairs are a couple rooms for dining.  Window doors open to the outside and music is in the background.  The small tables are set with beige or white cloths on top of a contrasting floor length cloth.  Coordinated napkins and different colors of fabric on the chairs complete the stylish set up.  Bench seating was on one wall and the seats were pretty comfortable although the small tables are fairly close.  The walls are decorated with various pieces of art.  The menu offers a la carte selections and tastings of 4 or 5 courses.  I didn’t notice wine pairings being offered but the wine list was fairly reasonable.  Staff were very friendly, welcoming and spoke great English.  We chose the 5 course tasting.  Pacing and portion control were both wonderful. Continue reading

L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, Naples, Italy, 12/19/19

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exterior

L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele is made up of two rooms.  They serve beer, water or soft drinks, no wine and serve only Margherita or Marinara pizzas.   There is no menu. The entry room is slightly larger and houses the pizza oven, prep area and check out register.  The bare marble tables are large enough for multiple parties to be seated at.  Not sure they really liked having tourists in the place and I noticed they sat all the Asian people at one table, whether they were in the same party or not.  They let the folks in early as it was raining that day and when it was formal opening time one of the men came round to the tables and asked how many of each type you wanted and took drink orders.  Plastic cups, a pile of napkins and some flatware are then unceremoniously dumped on your table. Continue reading

Osteria “La Chitarra”, Naples, Italy, 12/18/19

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exterior

Osteria La Chitarra is a small place with about 9 tables.  Wood beams cross the ceiling and were topped with Christmas or non-seasonal decorative items.  Music was in the background and lighting was lowered.  The bare wood pedestal tables were set with placemats and large paper napkins.  The menu is all a la carte and wine is available in bottles and also by liter or portion thereof.  We bought a pitcher of the house wine and it was very drinkable.  Service was provided by the wife of the chef/owner and she was friendly and efficient.  The chef, Giuseppe Maiorano did come out and visit with a few friends but did not make the rounds of the room, perhaps he only spoke Italian.  This is a place of home cooking at its best. Continue reading

Pizzeria Da Attilio, Naples, Italy, 12/18 & 12/21/19

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exterior

Naples is the home of pizza and Da Attilio served the best pizza I’ve ever had.  It’s a medium sized place in a touristy area but packed with people speaking Italian.  The red cloth covered tables are topped with plastic and set with paper napkins.  A large pizza oven is at the entrance to the restaurant where there is room for a few people to wait for a seat.  The wait was not bad.  The counter keeps a list and calls outside when it is your turn.  Inside there are a couple rooms with fairly close tables and lots of decorations on the walls.  No music is in the background just the hum of people happily eating pizza with friends.  When you get to your table there is a large menu and sometimes a special pizza of the day.  After you finish there is a counter up front where you can pay.  They serve wine and beer but I didn’t see hard liquor.  The staff were very friendly but pretty much in a rush as they have lots of people to attend to.  It was so good that we came back for a second visit.  Chef Attilio is the third generation of ownership of this business, named for his grandfather who started the restaurant.  He started helping his mother at the age of 6. Continue reading

La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec, Paris, 12/7/19

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exterior

La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec opened on October 9.  You enter on the street level and there is a stunning bar counter and a few tables.  To go to dinner you head down the stairs to the totally stylish dining room.  Banquette seating is along both of the long walls in the rectangular room.  One end of the room is the open kitchen  and opposite that are a couple free standing tables.  The tables are marble topped  and appointed with lovely linen napkins.  The walls of the room have curved wood pieces and lighted opaque glass between them. It is truly striking but very difficult to describe, so look at the pictures below.  The tables are on the small side and fairly closely set but each had lovely flowers in an unusual vase on them.  Music is in the background and the room is softly lit.  There are a couple seats at the kitchen counter and carpet is on the floor, so noise was not an issue.  Chef Le Quellec was in the kitchen and did come out to the room to visit with all the guests.  They offer several tasting menus (3, 4 or 7 courses and a truffle menu) and a la carte selections.  Since we were there they have been awarded 2 Michelin stars. Continue reading

Le Vent d’Armor (update), Paris, 12/7/19

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building

We had dinner at Le Vent d’Armor just over a year ago and so this time went for lunch.  The food was as good as last time and this time we had the wife of the chef working the front room and she was super friendly too.  It is a lovely place and a good value.  Seriously, everything we ate was terrific, with great clean tastes – you need to put this place on your list to go to soon.  The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming.  The room is brighter in the daytime, obviously because the windows let in the sunshine but otherwise the physical layout had not changed.  The nicely spaced tables are set with white cloths and napkins and no music is in the background.  They do offer two lunch menus of 2 to 3 courses, however we wanted to eat off the a la carte menu, that is like what they have at dinner. Continue reading

Le Bon Georges (update), Paris, 12/6/19

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Frankie shared the restaurant information

It’s only been a year since we were at Le Bon Georges but this time we went for dinner and sat in a different room, but it was still the most fun place with absolutely fantastically friendly staff.  I can’t stress how welcoming and gracious the staff are.  Helpful, fun and efficient,  they really make you want to come back and eat again.  This visit we sat in the lower room, that doesn’t have the bar.  It has a higher ceiling, a tile floor but like the other room has windows to the street, small bare wood tables closely spaced and set with large paper napkins and a chalkboard menu to order from.  After a fancy vegetable heavy lunch we wanted simple meat and potatoes. They sell Polmard beef by the gram and this night they had strip steaks ranging from 700 to 1000 grams.  This special beef is aged, which is rare in France, with a cold air system.  We added some of their fabulous fries to go with it.   Continue reading

Arpège (update), Paris, 12/6/19

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building

It’s been 3 years since we visited Alain Passard’s Arpège and while the interior hasn’t changed the prices have continued to creep up and the surprise tasting lunch now contains no major meat course, that is to be ordered separately off the a la carte menu.  It’s still cheaper than dinner but it’s definitely more expensive.  They also have more expensive tastings and the a la carte menu if you so chose.  We took the surprise tasting and added the roast guinea fowl (lunch took about 4 hours).   I was surprised to find so many dishes that were similar to our past visits.  Another change was when we arrived they tried to seat us downstairs.  Mind you it’s a nice room downstairs and it is on the same level as the bathroom but it feels a little like you’ve been banished to the non-French room.  We asked to sit upstairs and they had to deliberate a bit which considering that no one was seated there seemed off-putting.  Chef Passard was in the house and worked the room and was most gracious when he visited with us, but I felt for those others who meekly took the table they were guided to.   Another change was that vegetables no longer adorn the tables as decorations and instead new plates add color to the table. Continue reading

Le Pré Catelan, Paris, 12/5/19

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building

Le Pré Catelan is in a rental conference building that dates back to 1935.  It was a casino in the days before it became a restaurant that now holds a 3 Michelin star rating.  The elegant room is set with large tables covered first with a floor length beige satin cloth and then covered with a white linen one.  Music is in the background, heavy drapes are beside the windows that look out on the lighted landscaped grounds.  The green carpet makes a nice contrast with the white marble parts of the wall.  Lots of sculpted plaster adorns the walls with lowered lighting in the room and an huge chandelier hangs in the center of the room over the small service table.  Candlelight is from the long stemmed candles on each table.  A couple of the tables near the windows are set with rounded couches opposite the chairs but otherwise the tables are appointed with comfortable arm chairs.  The room exudes class and only holds 10 tables, but the service is nicely friendly and welcoming, not stiff or too formal.  Perhaps they detected my preference?  The menu is a la carte with one tasting menu option. Both pacing and portion control were good. Continue reading

Restaurant Chez Allard, Paris, 12/5/19

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exterior

Chez Allard opened in 1932 and is a large place spread over several rooms. The tiny tables are closely placed and set with white clothes and napkins.  French music is in the background of this old style restaurant.  The lower half of the walls is dark wood and the top half is covered in fabric where there aren’t windows.  Red velvet bench seating lines the walls that serve that tables that have wooden chairs opposite.  Art is on the walls, the floor is tile and service is friendly and efficient.  They offered a special 3 course lunch menu or an a la carte menu.  The lunch menu is a good value at 34 euros but we wanted to try some of the items on their regular menu so chose to order a la carte.   Continue reading

Pierre Gagnaire (update), Paris 12/4/19

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exterior

It’s been 5 years since we ate at Pierre Gagnaire, a long standing Paris restaurant with 3 Michelin stars.  While Chef Gagnaire moved his talents to Paris in 1996, he now has many restaurants but this one in the Hôtel Balzac is his flagship, where it has been there 15 years.  It has a separate entrance from the hotel and a small bar area where you enter.  It is a medium sized place spread over several rooms.  The main dining room was redone by Carolyn Quatermaine who used pages of books to cover the walls with recipes some of which were handwritten by Pierre Gagnaire’s father who was a cook.  The well spaced large tables are draped with double long white clothes and set with fine linen napkins.  The lighting is lowered and there is no music in the background.  Along with the carpet, many wood surfaces and padded chairs the noise level is low and because of the spacing conversations remained private.  The menu offers a la carte options, a tasting menu and the night we were there a truffle tasting menu.   Wine pairings are available for the tasting menu.  We opted to start with a cocktail, order our own wine and have the tasting menu.  Service and pacing were excellent and portion control generous.  They did bring the truffles by to tempt you to add them to something or order that menu.   Continue reading

Maison, Paris, 12/4/19

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building

Maison opened in September run by Chef Sota Atsumi who rose to fame working at the Clown Bar.  The place is interesting in that the ground floor only has lounge furniture and the bathroom, all the dining is on the second story that is open to the area below.  Most of the diners sit at one long table in the middle of the room.  There are a couple tables next to the edge and 7 seats at the bar looking into the long open kitchen.  Chef Atsumi was in the kitchen cooking and looking over plates but never came out to visit with guests.  The restaurant serves only a tasting menu chosen by the chef and it changes regularly.  At lunch it was a 5 course tasting and there was a supplemental cheese course offered.   There is a large skylight above the area so in the daytime between that and the windows from below that open to the street, there is plenty of light.  I do wonder what the temperature variations might be, though.  The tables are bare wood set with a white cloth napkin and comfortable chairs and music is in the background.  The walls and floor are tile and the kitchen has a wood burning oven.   Continue reading

Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME., 11/30/19

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exterior

Eventide Oyster Co. is a large place and was super busy even in the late afternoon.  There were a couple rooms, one more with tables and the other with a large bar with stools, window counter seating and a couple tables.  There was art on the walls, lots of light (but also lots of windows to the street) and an area where the fresh oysters were on ice.  The counters along the bar and in the windows are made of concrete, the floor is wood, there is exposed ductwork and above is a tin ceiling.  The server came to get our drink order and we talked about what food to order but were advised to wait till you get your drinks and they were right.  Food service is very fast and so it is wise to make sure you have a drink when it arrives.  Service was additionally very friendly, efficient and helpful.  The food is really good in a casual setting.  They do offer a number of draft beers, few wines and a couple drinks. Continue reading

Hugo’s Restaurant, Portland, ME., 11/30/19

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exterior

Hugo’s opened in 1988 and had a major rennovation in 2012.  There are booths along a brick wall, a couple tables by the windows to the street and lots of seats at a curved counter that wraps around the open kitchen.  The lights are quite low (spots highlight each table and the bar) with lots of wood and dark leather upholstery make up the interior.  The tin ceiling, music in the background and decorations made of local organic material finish out the stylish and striking design of the interior.  In fact they strived to make all the interior from materials found in Maine.   The red bricks are from Moose Head Lake, the slate plates from Monson, and a huge painting at the end of the room is by local artist Eric Hopkins. They offer an a la carte menu and also a chef’s tasting of about 10 courses.  The tasting offers items not on the menu and the whole table must participate.  For the tasting they have wine pairings available.  We chose the tasting but ordered our own wine after a cocktail and they did give me a list of what we had after the meal. Continue reading

Geronimo, Santa Fe, 11/1/19

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building

Geronimo is a large place in an old building spread over several rooms.  The tables are fairly close and set with white cloths and napkins.  The lighting is lowered, music is in the background, candles are on the tables and in the old fireplaces, art and mirrors decorate the walls and bench seating is on some walls.  There is a room with a bar at the front of the place with a couple tables and bar seating, but it was quite crowded when we got there.  They offer an a la carte menu or a vegetarian tasting, that has optional wine pairings.   They also had some nightly specials.  Service was helpful, extremely friendly and well paced. Continue reading

Canlis, Seattle, 11/9/19

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entrance

Canlis is a large place on a hill overlooking Seattle.  The interior and view from the windows is spectacular.  The interior is filled with stone and wood with windows along many sides to enjoy the view.  The tables are on different levels so all can look out.  The well spaced good sized tables are covered with white clothes and matching napkins.  Lighting is lowered and live piano music is in the background.  The piano is in the bar which is the first part of the building and short barriers provide privacy as well as good sound dampening, but the lovely sounds surrounds all.  The menu is a fixed price for 4 course with a 20% service charge added to all bills.  Each of the 4 courses has 5 choices.  Service was excellent, attentive without being intrusive and the meal pacing was good – not too fast or too slow.  Portion control was also good. Continue reading

Matt’s in the Market (update), Seattle, 11/9/19

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signs

It’s been 2 years since we visited Matt’s in the Market across form Pike Place Market.  The nice sized bare wood tables are set with paper napkins and fairly well spaced considering that the place is not that large.  At lunch they did have a couple specials to supplement the a la carte menu as well as wine specials (but they couldn’t locate any of the bottles).  Music is in the background, 2 sides of the place are windows and an open kitchen is in one corner of the space.  They have been there 24 years and prior to they were in a smaller space.  The food is wonderful and the service friendly and efficient.

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sign on the stairs

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Willows Inn (update), Lummi Island, 11/8/19

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dining room

It’s been about 2 years since we visited Willows Inn and this time it was late fall as opposed to summer.  The physical place hasn’t changed but the fall means shorter days and disrupts the view from the dining room.  It also means you can’t have the starter courses outside on the porch and instead everyone piled into the area by a large fireplace with seating being very varied.   Some were on benches, some sat at the bar on stools and there were a couple of sets of chairs by small tables, which I preferred.  The lighting was much darker as the room only was lit by candles and the fire – and that also made it quite warm.  Otherwise the system is pretty much the same.  You start with a series of snacks and then move into seafood and then protein to dessert.  It seemed like a lighter menu this time.   The dining room had just 12 tables with a painted wood  ceiling, narrow planked wood floor, music in the background with a sliding door to the kitchen at one end of the room.  In an adjacent room was a larger table for 6. Continue reading