While Lummi Island is famous for the highly regarded Willows Inn — included in The New York Times’ 10 restaurants worth a plane ride — a meal on this petite San Juan island doesn’t have to mean dipping into your 401(k).
Besides its acclaimed dining room, the inn owns and operates Taft’s bar; the off-site Beach Store Cafe; and Taproot Cafe, tucked beneath the eaves of its more famous cousin. (And yes, Willows Inn does have a monopoly on restaurants on Lummi, though it tries to stagger the hours of each so at least one is open for any meal.)
The downstairs, downscale Taproot Cafe offers the same “fished, foraged and farmed” mantra as Willows Inn upstairs, with the same award-winning chef Blaine Wetzel overseeing the menus of both. But, while Willows Inn remains an expensive, once-a-decade-if-you’re-lucky meal for most of us, Taproot Cafe doesn’t bend your budget for lunch or a light dinner.
The menu: A simple chalkboard menu of panini, quiche, soups and salad. Panini ($9) range from comforting grilled ham and cheddar to traditional tuna niçoise, served alongside Tim’s chips and bread-and-butter pickles. Quiches ($6) are hefty enough to be a meal alone, though a cup of tomato or cabbage soup ($3 cup, $6 bowl) would round out a meal for a hungry visitor. The cafe can prepare picnic baskets upon request — which the gourmet cheese plate ($15) might be just perfect for.
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What to write home about: The salmon salad panini is a seasonal favorite, so catch it while the salmon are plentiful in Lummi Island’s Legoe Bay. The house salad ($4), a generous pile of greens picked that morning from nearby Loganita farm, comes dressed with a crisp vinaigrette.
The setting: A farm-store cafe with board games and couches, cappuccinos and Washington beers, and local fare.
Summing up: An order of the salmon salad panini ($9), a cup of tomato soup ($3) and the house salad ($4) came to $16 before tax and tip, and fed two for a light lunch.