Place Settings
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, Summer 2005

Where magnificent views make for memorable meals

Whatcom County serves up an abundance of stunning views — any of which make a meal more magnificent.

Here are a few eateries where you can feast amid gorgeous backdrops: A shimmering sunset dipping languidly into Bellingham Bay, verdant silhouettes of the San Juan Islands, or majestic Mount Baker rising in the distance.

The Willows Inn
2579 West Shore Drive, Lummi Island
758-2620 or (888) 294-2620

Fine dining is delivered directly from the farm at The Willows Inn, where dedication to organic ingredients — fruit, vegetables, eggs, pasta and chickens from its adjacent Nettles Farm — means unsurpassed fresh Northwest fare.

Owned by Riley Starks and Judy Olsen since March 2001, this Lummi Island inn has been a traveler’s haven since 1910. Getting there itself is picturesque, with a 10-minute ferry ride across Hale Passage from Gooseberry Point.

Upon arrival, you’re greeted by dramatic water and island views, which can be enjoyed from the inn’s two dining rooms, deck or patio.

Chef Craig Miller prepares vibrant ingredients simply, letting them shine. Summer brings Sunday “Prawns on the Deck,” a celebration of spot prawns caught on-site and cooked alive. Reef net fishing for salmon begins in July.

119 North Commercial St., 14th floor

Nimbus, one of the city’s most popular and distinctive dining destinations since its inception two years ago, looms 14 floors above Bellingham with spectacular sightlines of downtown, the San Juans and Mount Baker.

Executive Chef Jim Kowalski builds sophisticated menus from the area’s freshest ingredients and shakes things up as seasonal availability dictates.

Past summer dishes have included seared halibut with lavender-honey butter and asiago-lemon polenta, summer squash and cheddar enchiladas with tomatillo lime sauce, and marinated lobster claw and prawn salad with avocado-mint dressing.

Harborside Bistro
One Bellwether Way

Upscale dining and an unbeatable view are found at Harborside Bistro in the Hotel Bellwether, where a large outdoor dining terrace is enveloped in breathtaking vistas through the breakers and onto Bellingham Bay. Best of all, gas heaters keep things comfy if the evening turns cool. 

Delectable dishes range from coconut lime seafood chowder to osso bucco Milanaise. Brunch is especially enchanting on a lazy summer Sunday.

For a more intimate experience, reserve Harborside Bistro’s private wine cellar. This lavish but cozy dining room, lined with bottles of the restaurant’s varied and sophisticated wines, features fine European furnishings and crystal.

Afterward you might head to nearby Zuanich Point Park for a summer-evening stroll alongside the docked yachts. 

The Cliff House
331 N. State St.

Perched on a precipice above Bellingham Bay, the Cliff House has been a Bellingham institution since 1970.

A golden glow fills the restaurant at sunset, but sitting outside on the wood deck affords even better views. It’s a justifiably popular spot in warm months.

The Cliff House is known for its whiskey crab bisque, a soup scrumptious enough to warrant a hot meal even on sultry evenings. But the menu also offers summer-friendly fare, such as raw oyster shooters, chilled prawns with cocktail sauce, and a variety of fresh fish entrées. Steak options also abound; indulge in both, with a combination seafood/steak platter.

Stephani’s Restaurant
7878 Birch Bay Drive, Birch Bay

Stephani’s Restaurant and Beach Café in Birch Bay dish up two different dining experiences, both replete with sensational scenery.

Choose the formal dining room or its adjoining deck, which faces the Birch Bay Golf Club and Mount Baker. Or go the relaxed route on the café’s larger deck, steps away from the beach and stunning water views.

Owners Eric and Stephani Smith have built marvelous menus for both casual and fine dining. Choices run the gamut from basic burgers and beer to crab and shrimp Louis or steak and lobster paired with an exquisite bottle of wine.

Whether you fancy upscale fare or casual eats, Whatcom County restaurants have the gustatory goods. Pair gorgeous views with top notch food and you’re rewarded with the total package: a splendid meal in a setting that merits equal billing.

Stacee Sledge is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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