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Note: Since the writing of this post, we have visited the Willows Inn several times. For our thoughts on the first couple of meals there, click here.

We haven’t eaten at the Willows Inn yet, but suffice it to say our interaction with the place so far has been … challenging.

S has been looking for a great restaurant in and around the Vancouver area since we started our food adventures in 2010.  After returning from our September Europe 2012 trip, we read about a place called The Willows Inn on Lummi Island just outside Bellingham (about two hours from Vancouver) and were keen to try this place out. On their website their reservation policy is as follows:

If you want to reserve dinner only, please call no sooner than 2 weeks before your desired date.

Okay. We can do this. Two weeks. No problem.


Boy were we ever wrong. A four-hour(ish) long tasting menu combined with having to work Monday to Friday and being from Vancouver has constrained our ability to eat here to a Saturday or a Sunday of a long weekend. Getting a reservation on those days has been more difficult and more confusing than our past experiences at getting other highly coveted restaurant reservations such as Noma, The Fat Duck and The French Laundry (just to name a few). It doesn’t help that, as most of these places do, they only have one seating for the day. What is most challenging about trying to get a reservation here is, in spite of their two week rule, I’ve quickly learned that their reservation rule is not only meant to be bent but broken.

September 19…
I called the reservation line after work. Saturday, October 6, was already full and I was told to call back on Sunday, September 23, to make a reservation for October 7 (Thanksgiving long weekend in Canada).

September 23…
9AM. I called and was automatically directed to the main desk because no one was answering the reservation line. I was then redirected to the reservation line and was redirected to the answering machine. I left a message and never received a call back. So I called them back after realizing I would not be called back and talked to someone who took down my reservation. I was the first on the waiting list for Sunday, October 7. They apologized for not returning my message earlier but if they received my message earlier would I have been on the wait list? I guess I’ll never know.

September 26…
5PM. Willows Inn appears on my caller ID. They have a cancellation already? I thought wrong. They were calling to offer me a table for Sunday, October 13, but we couldn’t go because everyone in our party had work the next day back in Vancouver.  Also, I thought we were only allowed to make reservations two weeks in advance? The lady on the phone then begins to tell me there may be room in the bar on October 7 and will call me back after talking to the Reservation Manager about it. I never got a call back.

September 29…
9AM. I called again to be put down for a reservation on Saturday, October 13. We were placed on the waiting list again. I also asked if they could check on my potential booking for October 7. The lady tells me there is a note beside my reservation saying the Reservation Manager should call me. She said she’ll talk to her and get her to call me. A couple of hours later the Reservation Manager called and asked if I wanted to be on the wait list for October 13. Umh…No because I’m already on it. Ugh, seriously!?!?!

October 7…
9AM. I called for a reservation again. No answer. Called again. No Answer. Called again. Someone finally answered but it was the groundskeeper. He said he couldn’t take my reservation and only answered because no one was at the desk. I left a message with him along with my phone number. I eventually got a call back that day. They  apologized as everyone was helping with a wedding at the Inn. I asked if I could be put down for a reservation on Saturday, October 20. We were on the waiting list again. She was nice enough to also put me down on the wait list for October 27 and November 3. How nice of her! But really…what happened to their two week rule? So much for that…

November 3…
4:30PM. I received a call from the Willows Inn letting me know they have room for me in two hours. Vancouver is barely two hours away from the Willows Inn on a good day. We would not have made it. So I had to say no.

November 8…
I checked their website and it changed. They added online reservations via OpenTable and it allows for more than two weeks advance reservations for Thursday and Sunday

Today…
The journey to try to get a reservation at The Willows Inn continues. One day it will happen. It definitely will not happen this year, but hopefully next year it will. When it does, we hope it is worth the effort, but I am extremely doubtful.

Thanks for reading,
C & S