Nell Thorn Waterfront Bistro

written by Lauren Kramer
photography by Nell Thorn Waterfront Bistro

The phrase “farm-to-table” is bandied about a lot in the restaurant industry, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an eatery that takes it more seriously than Nell Thorn in La Conner. This fine dining lunch and dinner restaurant sources all its grains and produce from the Skagit Valley and its proteins from Washington exclusively. “We have nothing in our freezer except the ice cream and sorbet we make ourselves,” said Albie Bjornberg, who co-owns Nell Thorn with chef James Donahue. “Most of what we utilize in-house comes from a 30-mile radius.”

Nell Thorn Waterfront Bistro

We sat down for dinner on a dark Sunday evening in January, stunned to find the parking lot full and the restaurant buzzing. We devoured the house-made sourdough, made—of course—with local grains. We enjoyed the Brussels sprouts appetizer ($14), sweetened with pancetta, butter and maple syrup. For entrées, we chose hanger steak with sauce bordelaise ($44) and tenderloin with black truffle demi ($58), meats from Double R Ranch that were served with chef’s vegetables. Both dishes were truly exceptional—melt-in-the-mouth tender, perfectly proportioned and served with sauces that made our meal unforgettable.

“Our menu is living and breathing, just like the Skagit Valley and everything we’re sourcing from it,” said Bjornberg, who prints the Nell Thorn menu daily based on ingredient availability. In the kitchen, Donahue uses French and Italian culinary techniques in dishes like boeuf bourguignon, bucatini arrabbiata (featuring house-made pasta), wild salmon niçoise and calamari marseilles. If farmers aren’t dropping off supplies, he’s often headed out to pick them up straight from the fields.


The restaurant operates daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., serving lunch and dinner weekdays and brunch and dinner on weekends. Reservations are recommended.

116 S. 1ST ST.

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