Image: André Mora

The Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive
2578 Chuckanut Dr, Bow, 360-766-6186; theoysterbar.net

It’s the ultimate old-school, special-occasion destination—a viewy (see above) white--tablecloth restaurant clinging to the timber-fringed edge of Chuckanut Drive—and the dinner you crave after the appetizer drive (cheesemakers, cafes, bakeries) through Bow and Edison. Since the Great Depression, the Oyster Bar has sold Samish Bay oysters from right outside the window, baked or fried or quivering in their shells; these days there are other varieties, too, with an optional side of mulled apple cider mignonette. It’s all very hushed and throwbacky in here—there are the crab cakes, there’s the steak and prawns—but that’s just another word for classic.

  

The Willows Inn 
2579 W Shore Dr, Lummi Island, 888-294-2620; willows-inn.com

If you think you’ve tasted Northwest seafood but you haven’t made a pilgrimage to the Willows—you haven’t tasted Northwest seafood. Wunderkind chef Blaine Wetzel smokes salmon caught off Lummi in the ancient sustainable reefnet style; he tops spot prawns dredged from the strait out the window with currant granita and beach greens; he delivers a pair of fiercely local Shigoku oysters in their deep cups on a bed of cold rocks and wild sorrel. And that’s just the parade of snacks preceding the multicourse, prix-fixe dinner—a feat of gastronomy, yes, but more profoundly a celebration of place.

 

Xinh’s Clam and Oyster House
221 W Railroad Ave, Shelton, 360-427-8709; xinhsrestaurant.com

Nobody comes to Xinh’s for the decor, which is just fine by small-town Shelton standards but nothing more. No, what made the Vietnam-born former mess-hall chef Xinh Dwelley catch the eye of Anthony Bourdain and Julia Child and Taylor Shellfish Farms—the last of which opened this restaurant for her—is her knack for dressing Northwest shellfish in Asian flavors: clams in black-bean hoisin sauce, breathing lemongrass; prawns with tamarind over jasmine rice; her famous mussels in Vietnamese curry. That and an uncanny speed at shucking oysters—she won the prestigious (and male-dominated) West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship five times.

 

Published: February 2013