Spring is a good time to visit LaConner. The waters to reach the town are fairly protected whether arriving from the north or south. Plenty of moorage is available in the Port of Skagit’s LaConner Marina. The town is walkable and has a good selection of shops to browse and restaurants for lunch or dinner. And lets not forget, the area around LaConner explodes with the colors of daffodils and tulips during spring.
Nell Thorn restaurant, known for its excellent food, has always been one of the memorable destination restaurants in LaConner. They recently moved to a newly renovated location, right on Swinomish Channel. If you haven’t been to Nell Thorn in a while, now is a good time to visit again.
Nell Thorn Restaurant
The old Nell Thorn was two blocks from the water, in a cozy, multi-level space. The new restaurant is located on South First Street in a building that has been vacant for a while. Construction started several months ago and the community was buzzing, wondering how it might turn out.
The new Nell Thorn is spacious. The bar area has tables, with booths on the perimeter. A large table in the center can accommodate a group or be shared by several smaller groups.
The dining room was busy when I visited.
The dining room is elegant yet casual. An expansive deck, right on the channel, will be the place to be this summer.
Arrive Monday through Friday between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. for happy hour. The happy hour menu features reasonably priced small plates such as pan crisp oysters ($8), crispy or sautéed calamari, made fresh in the kitchen ($6), oyster shooters ($4). Try the filling Just a Burg(er) or a cheese platter with three different cheeses and fresh artisan bread to share, either for $8. Add a salad, or be decadent with an ice cream sundae for $4.95, and you have a full meal at happy hour prices.
Dinner is even more impressive. You can watch your budget by ordering one or more items from the appetizer menu such as hand made Dungeness crab cakes ($15) or butter poached winter prawns ($12). Or, duck confit for $10 and a delicious salmon salad for $15.95. The pasta dishes are rich and inventive. Next trip, I will try the clams toscano spaghetti made with fresh Lopez Island clams with bacon, chili, and fennel ($24). The San Juan halibut is fresh caught, pan roasted, and served with an oyster zucchini cream sauce, roasted hubbard squash, shaved French breakfast radish, and a radish top basil pesto ($30). To warm your soul try the lamb shank served with chickpeas, white beans, and shiitake mushrooms. Have you made your reservation yet?
The Ploughman Dinner
And then they offer the dessert menu. For many, the natural inclination is to pass. Take a look, splurge, and enjoy! You can order the Naturally Nell-Paleo, cheese cake which is creamy cashew “cheese” cake with maple syrup and walnuts. It is dairy-free and gluten-free. Under the heading of Naturally Nell – Traditional, there is a choice of Nell’s Panna Cotta with sweetened creme fraiche with three berry coulis. Or, Skagit Mud consisting of a rich hazelnut brownie with caramel, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Next under this heading is a salted caramel pecan tart. Lastly lemon angel island consisting of a lemon angel food cakelet enrobed in lemon custard- you get the idea. The desserts are rich and very good.
Berry Coulis for dessert
Being located in the Skagit Valley, Nell Thorn takes full advantage of the farm-to-table movement. Local ingredients, seafood, and meats are all prepared fresh in the kitchen. In this review we mention a number of items on the menu. The menu is printed and prepared each day, so expect changes as different ingredients become available throughout the seasons.
Reservations are highly recommended throughout the 2014 cruising season. When I visited on a Saturday afternoon in early spring, I waited for 45 minutes for a table in the bar with no reservation. And it was worth it. The current online restaurant reviews are critical and show some teething pains, but my experience was excellent.
116 S. First Street, LaConner