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The Willows Inn Is One of America’s Best Restaurants

Eater critic Bill Addison unveils his 38 top picks from 2016

A stack of buckwheat crepes for breakfast at The Willows Inn.
Buckwheat crepes at The Willows Inn.
Bill Addison/Eater

For the third year in a row, Eater’s indefatigable restaurant critic, Bill Addison, has cross-referenced his travel notes, dining receipts, and napkin scribbles from the past 12 months and compiled his unparalleled list of America’s 38 best restaurants, all of which have been open at least 18 months. “In a complicated time for our country, this body of restaurants represents a definition of the United States that I cherish: multicultural, ambitious, welcoming,” Addison writes in his intro. “These are places for us all to savor.”

Fourteen hall-of-famers have now been on all three editions of the guide; sadly, two-time Seattle honoree The Whale Wins, from 2016’s Empire Builder of the Year Renee Erickson, slipped and fell off the list this year. “In many cases restaurants rotate off the list not at all because their excellence has lessened, but just because there are many contenders, and 38 is a small number when covering the whole country,” Addison tells Eater Seattle. “That said, my meal this summer at The Whale Wins was not as inspiring as in previous years.” Erickson and her fans can take heart, however, in the fact that Addison is “obsessed” with her steakhouse, Bateau, which is one of the nation’s best new restaurants.

Perhaps Seattleites can also take heart that Addison didn’t further blow up the spot of another of his favorite local eateries. He already said this spring that every restaurant in America should have an Il Corvo; now he reveals that if he had one more slot for his list, he’d include chef Mike Easton’s impeccable pasta place. “It’s one of the country’s great examples of an affordable, consistently excellent neighborhood restaurant that truly serves its community,” Addison says. “Every visitor to Seattle I send to Il Corvo loves it, too. Maybe it’ll make the 38 next year....”

With the departure of The Whale Wins, Seattle-proper has no representation on this year’s list, but wend your way up the coast toward Canada to find a new Washington-state addition: Lummi Island fine-dining knockout The Willows Inn, where a worthy four-hour dinner was complemented by an astounding breakfast the following morning. “I was mightily impressed that chef and co-owner Blaine Wetzel keeps striving to be better, and to make the experience of travel to the inn and restaurant more fully realized,” Addison explains. “And in a year when breakfast started being taken seriously like never before in restaurants of all kinds, the morning meal at Willows Inn — tall stack of buckwheat crepes, summer fruits that tasted literally like they were plucked from paradise, smiling servers with large French presses of excellent coffee — was easily the best morning meal of my year.” Perhaps a weekend getaway should be on your Christmas list.

Il Corvo

217 James St, Seattle, WA 98104 (206) 538-0999 Visit Website

The Willows Inn

2579 West Shore Drive, Lummi Island,, WA 98262 (360) 758-2620


1040 East Union Street, , WA 98122 (206) 900-8699 Visit Website

The Whale Wins

3506 Stone Way North, , WA 98103 (206) 632-9425 Visit Website