If you want to learn more about a region, start by sampling the local cuisine.  

This statement is often made in reference to foreign countries, but it also holds true close to home. With our unbeatable access to farm-fresh produce, seafood, and meat, the North Puget Sound area is a haven for diners and chefs alike.  

In honor of our annual restaurant issue, we’ve put together a guide to some of the region’s best fine dining establishments. Their offerings may be diverse, but local ingredients and seasonality are common themes across the board. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just hoping to sample something new, we encourage you to pay each one a visit. Bon appetit!


Photo Courtesy of Anthony’s 

25 Bellwether Way, Bellingham, 360.647.5588, anthonys.com

1207 Q Ave., Anacortes, 360.588.0333, anthonys.com 

The Anthony’s family of restaurants is well-known for great food and unbeatable ambiance– and their Bellingham or Anacortes locations are perfect examples of this. Imagine it now: Serene waters, a glowing sunset, good company, and the freshest catch of the day.  

THE ATMOSPHERE:  Diners frequently come here to celebrate special moments such as anniversaries, birthdays, and homecomings. According to marketing director Kirsten Elliott, “Our atmosphere brings together the best of the Northwest– from the views, to the seafood, to the service– but is never stuffy.” 

THE MENU: Anthony’s embraced the “hook-to-fork” philosophy before it was trendy. To ensure that their seafood is of the highest quality, Anthony’s created their own seafood company in 1984. They continue to source the best of the best throughout the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Hawaii. 

Photo Courtesy of Anthony’s 

MEET THE CHEF: Pat Donahue has been integral to the Anthony’s family of restaurants since 1980 and was promoted to executive chef in 2008. He is a three-time winner of the Alaska Airlines Copper Chef Cook-Off as well as champion of the 2011 Kirkland Uncorked Grill Off. 

WHAT TO ORDER: Fan favorites tend to be fresh and seasonal catches such as Alaskan Salmon or Halibut (prices vary). However, Anthony’s Award-Winning Clam Chowder ($8) is a year-round staple. 


Photo by Devan Ballard

1211 11th St., Bellingham, 360.676.1011, dirtydanharris.com 

After nearly half a century in business, the steakhouse is (almost) as legendary as Dirty Dan Harris himself. This Fairhaven favorite is named after the town’s founder, and it’s famous for serving up mouth-watering steaks, prime rib, and plenty more. 

THE ATMOSPHERE: Owner Paul Han describes the restaurant’s ambiance as “upscale, yet cordially friendly.” The interior was originally designed to resemble a ship and features accents of wood, brick, and brass. With the exception of its bar area, Dirty Dan is welcoming to families; after all, many customers have been dining here since they were children themselves.  

Photo by Devan Ballard

THE MENU: The food here is inspired by French and American cuisines. Premium cuts of meat are the stars of the show, but Dirty Dan’s menu also features first-rate seafood, appetizers, salads, and more.  

MEET THE CHEF: Wes Reed has been the head chef for five years, and he brings more than two decades of experience to the position.  

WHAT TO ORDER: One bite of the Prime Rib Dinner or Steak Dinner (prices vary) and you’ll understand why Dirty Dan is one of Bellingham’s most respected restaurants. The St. Louis Smoked Pork Spare Ribs ($37) are also unforgettable, due in part to the addition of a house-made bourbon berry barbecue sauce. 

Photo by Devan Ballard


Photo by Sarah Hardy Photography

804 10th St., Bellingham, 360.392.5510, keenansatthepier.com  

Keenan’s at the Pier became an integral part of The Chrysalis Inn & Spa in 2013 when owner Mike Keenan opened it under the umbrella of the hotel, quickly establishing Keenan’s as one of the handful of restaurants in Bellingham with breathtaking waterfront views.  

THE ATMOSPHERE: A perfect combination of “casual” and “fine dining,” Keenan’s at the Pier is a great spot for those looking to celebrate a major life event, out-of-towners looking for a luxury getaway experience, or Bellinghamsters looking to unwind with a cocktail during happy hour. Diners can enjoy views of Bellingham Bay, with heated outdoor seating available year-round.  

Photo by Sarah Hardy Photography

THE MENU: Head Chef Ashley Kovacevich and Sous Chef Carver McLellan teamed up to create a menu dedicated to the local bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Some local businesses featured include Hedlin Farms, Grace Harbor Farms, Pangea Ferments, Cascadia Mushrooms, and Acme Farms.  

MEET THE CHEF: Head chef and Bellingham local Ashley Kovacevich has a diverse culinary history, having worked at restaurants from the San Juan Islands to the Hawaiian Islands. As the first and youngest female head chef, Kovacevich strives to utilize produce from local farms in her dishes.  

WHAT TO ORDER: For a truly decadent and tasty experience, try the Truffle Parmesan Gnocchi ($23), the Sea Scallops ($36), or the Black Cod ($38). End your meal with the Spiced Poach Apple ($10) and wash it all down with the Lioness of Brittany  ($14) or Grace O’Malley ($12).  


Photo by Le Howl Photography

2530 N. Shore Rd., Bellingham, 360.733.1126, theforkatagatebay.com 

Originally a country grocery store and filling station called Grammy’s Grocery, this uber-local gem became The Fork at Agate Bay in 2010. Owners David and Nora Kas transformed the space into a cozy upscale eatery that’s close to home, yet just far enough off the beaten track to feel like a destination. 

THE ATMOSPHERE: As evidenced by the 1962 George Pocock Olympic rowing scull that hangs from the ceiling, The Fork’s decor is best described as boathouse chic. The restaurant also serves as a community hub for the Agate Bay neighborhood. 

THE MENU: David notes that fine dining in America is primarily French or Italian-inspired. The Fork takes another approach by focusing on an entirely different culinary tradition– upscale Southern cuisine. The result is a menu that’s both comforting and refined. 

Photo by Le Howl Photography

MEET THE CHEF: Head Chef Nora has more than 30 years of culinary experience. After completing culinary school in Atlanta, she worked in Savannah, Georgia before migrating to the West Coast.  

WHAT TO ORDER: David’s recommendations include the Low Country Bouillabaisse ($38) featuring Dungeness crab, white shrimp, potato, corn, plus mussels and clams from Taylor Shellfish. In addition, the Cajun White Shrimp and Three-Cheese Grits ($14) and Slow-Cooked Pork Ribs ($36) are not to be missed.  

Photo by Le Howl Photography


Photo by Dean Davidson

2026 Main St., Ferndale, 360.306.8998, leaderblock.com 

Between the authentic Italian fare, show-stopping wines, and stellar service, what’s not to love about Leader Block? In 2018, Robert Pinkley teamed up with Sommelier Amberleigh Brownson (now director of operations) and Brett Wiltse to transform this once-humble wine bar into one of the area’s most respected dining destinations. Their endeavor succeeded with flying colors, and Leader Block has been a Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards winner for three years running. 

THE ATMOSPHERE: Leader Block’s building was originally constructed in 1909, and the restaurant’s decor embraces this history. Prohibition-era accents, candles, fresh flowers, and artwork– including copper pieces crafted by Wiltse himself– come together to create a romantic, Mediterranean-inspired ambiance. 

Photo by Dean Davidson

THE MENU: Brownson describes the cuisine as “fresh, local, seasonal, authentic Italian cuisine with a Pacific Northwest flair.” Ingredients are sourced from a variety of local businesses such as Cascadia Mushrooms, Ferndale Farmstead, Edaleen Dairy, Barlean’s Fishery, and many others. In contrast, Leader Block’s formidable wine list includes selections from around the world. 

MEET THE CHEF: Prior to arriving at Leader Block, Executive Chef Doug Elliott was the chef for Keenan’s at the Pier. 

WHAT TO ORDER: The most popular dishes are the Capasante ($35), jumbo scallops served with mushroom risotto and fresh vegetables, and the Fettuccine al Frutti di Mare ($28), which consists of seafood fettuccine with clams, prawns, calamari, and Grana Padano cheese. 

Photo by Dean Davidson


Photo by Dean Davidson

Sommelier Amberleigh Brownson of Leader Block Wine Co. 

Becoming a sommelier Given that both her grandfathers were winemakers, Amberleigh Brownson’s interest in wine came about at a young age. As a sommelier, she knows that a well-chosen bottle can make celebratory occasions even more joyful.  

“You can travel in a glass, basically,” Brownson says. “And it can just heighten all the experiences.” 

Favorite wines

On a global scale, Brownson is a fan of Italian wines, but she also appreciates the bottles that are produced here in Washington state. 

“I’m quite partial to Washington [as a wine region] just because we live here,” she says. “I know a lot of winemakers and judges and we have beautiful terroir.” 

Brownson notes that her current favorite Washington wine is the Nina Lee Syrah by Spring Valley Vineyard in Walla Walla. 

Pairing wine and food

There is plenty of conventional wisdom when it comes to pairing wine with food: Red wine with meat, white wine with fish and chicken, et cetera. However, Brownson says that rosé tends to be underutilized at the dinner table. 

“I think that [rosé] is under-appreciated, and I think it’s going to become more widely accepted,” Brownson says. “It’s not just your pink zinfandel that a lot of people think of as sweet and cloying. Rosé can be very varied and very food-friendly.” 

On Whatcom wine

Whatcom County may be known for its beer, but Brownson says the area’s wine scene is also up-and-coming– and she’s excited to be a part of it. GLM Wine Co. and Vartanyan Estates are two of her local favorite wineries. 

“[GLM Wine Co.] is actually going to be releasing in 2022 a fifth vintage of a wine named after me,” she continues. “It’s going to be a syrah, and I just actually barrel tasted it yesterday with them. It’s going to be epic.” 


Photo courtesy of Max Dale’s Steak & Chop House

2030 Riverside Dr., Mount Vernon, 360.424.7171, mdbighouse.com 

First opened in 1951, this local institution boasts both a mouth-watering menu and a noteworthy origin story. Owner Danny Pickering says that Max Dale’s has taken many forms over the years, and notable incarnations include a drive-through burger joint as well as an upscale Rossellini-style eatery. After a fire destroyed the original business in 1977, a new restaurant rose from its ashes and eventually became the Max Dale’s we know today.  

THE ATMOSPHERE: “Our atmosphere is built on the concept of hunkering down and enjoying a relaxing and fulfilling meal,” Pickering says. The dining room features high-backed private booths plus table seating for larger groups, whereas the lounge sports couches and armchairs for a comfortable, lodge-esque ambiance. 

THE MENU: Max Dale’s menu is second to none when it comes to meat, namely steak and prime rib. Their menu is built with the season in mind and showcases the abundant resources available in the Skagit area. 

Photo courtesy of Max Dale’s Steak & Chop House

MEET THE CHEF: After working in Bellingham for roughly a decade, Executive Chef David Peterson has now been with Max Dale’s for more than seven years. Pickering describes him as an adventurous spirit with a commitment to staying fresh (in terms of both ingredients and creativity). 

WHAT TO ORDER: You’d be remiss not to at least sample the Prime Rib ($38 for a 12-ounce cut and $45 for a 16-ounce cut)– it’s been a house specialty for more than 40 years. For pescetarians, Pickering recommends the Wild Sockeye Salmon served with a roasted tomato béarnaise sauce ($33). 


Photo Courtesy of Nell Thorn

116 S. 1st St., La Conner, 360.466.4261, nellthorn.com 

Whether you’re in La Conner for a romantic getaway, a day trip, or just a quick break from the city, a waterfront dinner at Nell Thorn will transform any evening into an occasion to remember. Owners Ted Furst, Albie Bjornberg, and James Donahue continue a tradition of crafting fine food and drinks from ingredients that are sourced as locally as possible. 

THE ATMOSPHERE: The restaurant’s coziness and charm embodies the Scandinavian concept of hygge, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a cozy quality that makes a person feel content and comfortable.” According to Bjornberg, diners can expect warm lighting, candles, wooden decor, channel views, and stellar sunsets when the weather cooperates. 

THE MENU: Nell Thorn’s offerings are inspired by the endless bounty of the Skagit Valley and Salish Sea. Classic dishes are reimagined using European techniques and highly seasonal ingredients, and as a result, the menu changes depending on the time of year. 

Photo Courtesy of Nell Thorn

MEET THE CHEF: Nell Thorn’s kitchen is helmed by Chef James Donahue. Originally from Hawaii, his culinary credentials include executive chef for Wolfgang’s Steakhouse Honolulu, executive chef for Il Lupino Trattoria Honolulu, chef de cuisine for Le Grand Bistro Americain Kirkland, and chef de cuisine for Watercolor Resort in Santa Rosa Beach. 

WHAT TO ORDER: We love the seafood at Nell Thorn, so plates such as Wild Salmon Nicoise ($26) and Spaghetti Del Mar ($29), which features a house-made spaghetti, are standouts. Pair your meal with signature cocktails such as a Hot Ginger Apple Toddy ($12) or Darker and Stormier ($13). 


Chef James Donahue of Nell Thorn Waterfront Bistro & Bar 

Early years

Chef James Donahue says he learned to cook to make up for his own father’s lack of culinary skills, but he didn’t get serious about the profession until later on. While working in the kitchen of the Watercolor Resort in Florida, he had a revelation: Work didn’t feel like work anymore.  

“Every single time I thought about doing something else– maybe I could make a little bit more money if I did this, or if I went to school and did this– I just knew that I wouldn’t be happy in that kind of environment,” he says.  

The origins of Nell Thorn

Donahue met co-owners Albie Bjornberg and Ted Furst while working at a restaurant in Kirkland. After cooking together for nearly five years, they became very familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses– and all three wanted to make more than traditional French food. At Nell Thorn, Donahue says he stopped cooking the “corporate way” and now focuses on creativity, seasonality, and collaboration. 

Sourcing ingredients

Above all, Nell Thorn aims to support farmers who are growing ingredients within a short radius of the restaurant. Farmers often come directly to the restaurant to sell what they grow; if Donahue is interested, the ingredients go through a “trial phase” to test their consistency and durability. 

Cooking with customers in mind 

Donahue says that one of the best parts of working at Nell Thorn is their devoted client base– most of whom understand the quality of Donahue’s food, and thus have high expectations. 

“[Clients] challenge you in their own way, because they all have some expectation of what they would like to see on the menu,” Donahue says. “And you’ve got to say, ‘Okay, this is what I want to do,’ and you meet somewhere in the middle.” 


Photo Courtesy of the Oyster Bar

2578 Chuckanut Dr., Bow, 360.766.6185, theoysterbar.net 

Staff here know an old slogan by heart: “The oysters that we serve today slept last night in Samish Bay.” The Oyster Bar has been a Chuckanut Drive mainstay since the 1920s, when it was founded as a humble roadside shack that sold oysters to eager travelers. That shack first evolved into Rockpoint Oyster Restaurant, then became the Oyster Bar in 1946. Today it is owned by husband-and-wife team Guy and Linda Colbert.  

THE ATMOSPHERE: Thanks to the Oyster Bar’s breathtaking location, diners are treated to sweeping views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. Inside the restaurant, however, the atmosphere is intimate and cozy– think oil candles, roses, and even a roaring fireplace. 

Photo Courtesy of the Oyster Bar

THE MENU: When it comes to oysters, everything is sourced locally or from neighboring B.C. Produce and other seafood are also local when possible, and the overall menu is influenced by the four seasons. The Oyster Bar also boasts a wine list worth celebrating; in fact, it’s won a Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator for 35 years (and counting). 

MEET THE CHEF: Justin Gordon is the executive chef, and he has worked at the Oyster Bar for 20 years.  

WHAT TO ORDER: Oysters, of course! In addition, the Colberts cite the Fresh Alaskan Halibut ($39), Prime Top Sirloin Steak ($39), and their wild game specials as popular picks. 

Photo Courtesy of the Oyster Bar


Photo Courtesy of 13Moons

12885 Casino Dr., Anacortes, 360.588.3525 swinomishcasinoandlodge.com 

Like many Coast Salish tribes, the Swinomish people recognize 13 lunar phases in a calendar year. Each phase represents a change in seasons and provides vital information about tidal conditions, hunting, harvesting, and more.  

Located within Swinomish Casino, 13moons Restaurant was established with the intention of sharing Swinomish values and traditions with the public. According to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Council, “Our food is inseparable from our natural resources, our seasonal cycles, our way of life, and us as a people.” 

THE ATMOSPHERE: Overall, the ambiance can best be described as “Pacific Northwestern elegance.” The restaurant’s interior features an exhibition kitchen, panoramic views, and a show-stopping visual representation of the lunar calendar in the lounge area. In addition, the abundance of Native art helps to further immerse guests in Swinomish culture.  

Photo Courtesy of 13Moons

THE MENU: 13moons is known for its rotating seasonal menus based on the 13 lunar phases, and each menu is structured around local meat, seafood, and produce. The menu items themselves are contemporary and elegant– but never unapproachable. In addition to the focus on local bounty, the head chef is personally inspired by classic Midwestern supper clubs.  

MEET THE CHEF: Head Chef AJ Boulanger joined 13moons in 2016, bringing more than 25 years of culinary experience with him. Boulanger works closely with Chef de Cuisine Dan Van Norman to ensure that every item on the menu is seasonal, fresh, and local. As an avid fisher, Van Norman has extensive knowledge of our area’s seafood as well as indigenous ingredients. 

WHAT TO ORDER: Popular standbys include the Filet Mignon (prices vary). It can be ordered with a variety of enhancements including aged buttermilk blue cheese, marsala mushroom sauce, green peppercorn demi, and even Steak Oscar (Dungeness crab and bearnaise sauce). The Pan-Seared Halibut (prices vary) is another must-try menu item when available.


Photo Courtesy of the Steak House at Silver Reef

4876 Haxton Way, Ferndale, 360.384.7070, silverreefcasino.com/dine 

The Steak House at Silver Reef has grown immensely since its opening in 2004. It serves up delectable foods and memorable wines to casino guests and more, even expanding to add a large wine room and additional seating.  

THE ATMOSPHERE: While the restaurant has grown, The Steak House still maintains a very intimate, elegant atmosphere. With its extremely close proximity to the casino, guests can go directly from slots to steaks in just a few steps.  

Photo Courtesy of the Steak House at Silver Reef

THE MENU: Unsurprisingly, the Steak House menu features quite a bit of steak. However, it’s not just any steak — all of the meat is dry-aged USDA prime grade beef that is cooked on a 1,800-degree broiler. This coupled with locally-sourced seafood, freshly made pasta, tableside service, and world-class wine make for a fine dining experience like no other.  

WHAT TO ORDER: To make the most of your dining experience, start off with the Seafood Tower Appetizer ($65) or the Caesar Salad for Two ($18). Popular main dish options range from weekly pasta specials to specialty steaks and seafood dishes.  

Photo Courtesy of the Steak House at Silver Reef


Photo by Tony Mueantonthian 

110 1st St., Ste. A, La Conner, 360.399.1166, thesaltedgrape.com

This bistro relocated from Bothell to La Conner during the pandemic, and despite being the new kid in town, Salted Grape has quickly become a fan favorite. It’s recognized for its innovative menu, top-tier ingredients, and killer wine list thanks to the work of Sommelier Leslie Grover.  

THE ATMOSPHERE: The bistro’s interior is warm and homey, making it the perfect pick for Sunday brunches and date nights alike. If the weather permits, customers can also choose to dine al fresco on a charming patio. 

THE MENU: The menu itself isn’t long, but any foodie can tell you that this is a good sign: Each and every item is intentional and expertly prepared. Diners can expect seasonally inspired dishes, unexpected flavors, and a wine list worth writing home about. 

MEET THE CHEF: In addition to two decades of culinary experience, Chef Nathan Salter brings a background in art and sculpture to the position. Every dish is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. 

WHAT TO ORDER: Begin your meal with an order of Seared Feta ($14), which comes served with sesame seeds, local honey, and local jam. For dinner, the pasta menu is not to be missed. We love the Osso Buco Ravioli ($24), which comes filled with veal osso buco and a house-made ricotta.  


Chef Nathan Salter of Salted Grape Bistro 


Dishes at Salted Grape Bistro are known for their unique presentations. This is partly because, in addition to his culinary training in Seattle, Chef Nathan Salter studied art and sculpture at Washington State University.  

Salter was able to put both skill sets to use while working as a caterer at high-end hotels, and his creations from this position include expansive banquet displays and even fruit and vegetable carvings. Now, he draws on these same sensibilities while working at Salted Grape. 

“I think [art school] is where a lot of that comes from– learning how things flow and how the eye looks at things,” Salter says. “The rest is just trial and error and practice.” 

The trick to eye-catching presentation

When it comes to wow-worthy presentations, Salter says it’s important to pay attention to detail and form. 

“What are the shapes you’re using?” Salter says. “Is it triangular, circular, wavy, and where does the eye draw to when you’re presenting your plate?” 

Beyond this, Salter recommends keeping things simple. Swirls of sauce, dustings, garnishes, accents– all of these things can help a dish stand out, but when used together, the presentation can become overwhelming. 

Standout dish

While every dish at Salted Grape is visually appealing, Salter says that his slower-paced catering projects provide more space for experimentation. 

For example, Salter cites a dish that he created while catering an event for a French winemaker. It consisted of a dumpling filled with traditional lettuce soup, placed in a consomme, and garnished with vegetables.  When diners cut the dumpling, the green soup would swirl into the consomme for a dynamic and eye-catching presentation. 

“It was like you had three different dishes all mixed into one,” Salter says. “It took some time to think through and process and try– and retry– and to get it right. But ultimately, that was a really good dish.” 


Photo by Damian Vines

1 Bellwether Way, Bellingham, 360.392.3100, hotelbellwether.com/restaurant 

Frequent guests of Hotel Bellwether have undoubtedly sampled this eatery’s cuisine. This local waterfront restaurant has been a staple of Bellingham for more than 20 years, growing from the “Harborside Bistro” to the “Lighthouse Bar & Grill” we know and love today.  

THE ATMOSPHERE: With cozy fireplaces, cushy seating, live music, and panoramic views of the bay and Mount Baker, the atmosphere at the Lighthouse is nothing short of intimate. Whether you’re there for a special occasion or simply to dine by a picturesque sunset, the Lighthouse Bar & Grill has you covered.  

Photo by Damian Vines

THE MENU: Their Northwest-inspired menu is cultivated by the executive chef and sous chef, featuring quality local ingredients, an award-winning wine list, and signature hand-crafted cocktails. 

MEET THE CHEFS: Hotel Bellwether is home to many talented chefs, including Executive Chef Gary Martin who worked alongside Wolfgang Puck, Sous Chef Travis Beaulieu who brings both local and Italian flavors to every dish, and Pastry Chef Susan Metheven who is known for making “the best” lemon-rosemary cookies.  

WHAT TO ORDER: Start your day off right with the famous Lighthouse Benedict ($15). Grab the Alaskan Crab Melt ($17) for lunch, then finish with the Northwest Bouillabaisse ($39) for dinner. Stop by for happy hour and sample the popular Ginger Apple Cider ($12) made from Bellewood Acres’ apple cider.  

Photo by Damian Vines


Photo Courtesy of Lombardi’s

21 Bellwether Way, Ste. 112, Bellingham, 360.714.8412, lombardisitalian.com  

The original Lombardi’s was founded in Seattle in 1987, but its Northern Italian flavors and superb service have been beloved by Bellinghamsters since the local chain opened its Squalicum Harbor location in 2019.  

THE ATMOSPHERE: While the restaurant has a longstanding history, the atmosphere is quite contemporary, with floor-to-ceiling windows that create an airy, open feeling. Plus, diners can enjoy sweeping views of the marina and Bellingham Bay.  

Photo Courtesy of Lombardi’s

THE MENU: Lombardi’s menu is a perfect balance between the Pacific Northwest and authentic Italian. Ingredients are either imported from Italy or locally sourced from Washington-based businesses. This includes the wine list, which is primarily sourced from local wineries.  

MEET THE CHEF: Executive Chef Andy Hilliard is an Oregonian whose culinary talents have led him to restaurants all over the West Coast – from Bend to San Francisco and Seattle. Since taking up the position in 2016, Hilliard strives to give classic Italian dishes a PNW twist.  

WHAT TO ORDER: Some standout items on the menu include the Chicken Marsala ($23), Sicilian Lamb Meatballs ($24), and Mushroom Ravioli ($23). You can also find five rotating seasonal menus and specialty cocktails personally crafted by Lombardi’s staff and inspired by Italian flavors.  

Photo Courtesy of Lombardi’s