A bit of Britain has made its way to Birch Bay

Published on Wed, Oct 9, 2013 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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If you find yourself longing for a pint of Guinness and a bowl of hearty Irish stew, you won’t have very far to wander to get your fill. 

The Will’O Pub and Cafe has set up shop on Birch Bay Drive, taking over the space formerly occupied by CJ Wijns, and has brought with it an English pub-themed menu based on a box of heirloom family recipes carted over from the motherland. 

Harking back to traditional British  fare, the classic dishes they are serving up are sure to either make your mouth water or, at the very least, make you raise your eyebrow in curiosity when it comes to old-time staples like “bubble and squeak,” a vegetable dish that tends to make just those sounds as it cooks away in the oven. 

“This is the kind of food I grew up with and love. People come in all the time and say that our food’s weird and our beer’s 
weird and that’s what they like about the place,” said owner Andrew Weightman. “We’re something different, and that’s what we’ve set out to be.”

Weightman said it was his family recipes and a long history of family service in the restaurant industry that inspired the launch of the pub/cafe. “My grandmother Nellie Wilson started a pub in Liverpool in the ’40s and served meat pies,” Weightman said. “It was extremely popular. So much so that she eventually expanded her cafe into a restaurant and nightclub, where even the Beatles once played. We want our place to be reminiscent of those old social houses in England where a fellow could come in and get a pint and a pasty and still have a few [dollars] left in his pocket.”

Catering to just about everyone, the restaurant opens early with a full English breakfast menu, including bangers and mash, so that soccer aficionados can have a place to get their fix of UK matches that often air too early for other bars and pubs to accommodate. It then transitions from a cafe setup to a bar as the day progresses.

“We want it to be family friendly,” Weightman said, “so we’ve kind of separated the cafe and the pub side of things, and have set the bar back out of the way. This isn’t the kind of place where you just belly up to the bar and stare at the wall.”

But it just might be the kind of place where you come and admire the craftsmanship of the bar while you have a swig of one of the 30-plus varieties of imported English and Irish ale.

The bar itself, a solid oak and stained glass setup, traveled all the way from Essex by ship and took a month and a half to get here. “We searched all over to find something traditional,” Weightman said. “It was so heavy the driver couldn’t get it off the truck. We had to dismantle it and put it back together.”

Now tucked away in the corner of the pub, it’s an elegant focal point for the establishment and people seem to like the setup.

“We want people to feel at home here,” Weightman said. “It’s definitely not a party bar, but we do like to have fun.”

On Thursday nights, the Will’O will be hosting pub trivia. Last week’s trivia match was hosted by former Seattle Seahawk Norm Johnson and Weightman said that it’s not the last time a celebrity figure will be gracing their doorstep for the 7 p.m. event. 

“You never know who is going to show up at the Will’O,” he said, noting that Johnson would be back for the grand opening on Saturday, October 12, along with pipers and drummers from the Bellingham Pipe Band and a performance by The Whiskey Minstrels, a group that plays British Invasion-style rock and roll from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. 

There will be food and drink specials all day.

“We’re going to have a good time,” Weightman said. “This is a beautiful community and we’re excited to let people know we are here.”

The Will’O Pub is located at 7714 Birch Bay Drive and is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is currently serving a limited menu while waiting for county permits. 

For more information, call 360/778-2852 or visit facebook.com/thewillopub.