By Micky G.
I didn’t choose The Willistead for lunch with my friend and fellow Growlita Sylvia V., but I’m so very glad she suggested it. If not for her suggestion I probably wouldn’t have tried it anytime soon. I have a long list of local dining spots I want to visit, and this new addition to the Windsor dining scene would have been added to the bottom of my list.
But dear readers, let me assure you, The Willistead should be added to the TOP of any lists you are keeping.
The Willistead is located where Walkermole used to be, at 1840 Wyandotte Street East (on the corner of Wyandotte and Chilver), in the heart of the Old Walkerville shopping district.
The interior has been redone and is a serene mix of comfort and class. Soothing colours, comfortable benches (seating comfort is so often not considered by restaurateurs, or is purposely made uncomfortable to move folks along), and friendly, well-informed staff greeted us upon our arrival.
The menu is a simple sheet of date stamped loose leaf paper, and I just had to ask why. Our server informed me that the menu changes daily because they are focusing on locally sourced foods and designing the menu around whatever is available. Since I eat very little processed food, and support the buy local philosophy with my shopping dollars, I was thrilled to hear this.
Sylvia and I started with an appetizer – the Pork Croquettes ($6) – which I highly recommend. They are served with pickled mustard seeds, which were wonderful. The pork was tender, moist, and perfectly seasoned. The breading was perfectly done – crisp but not overcooked.
I chose a “Salata” ($7) – an Arugula salad (fennel, radish, micro greens, vincotto mustard vinaigrette) and Sylvia ordered Moules-frites ($12) (PEI mussels, white wine, garlic, shallots, parsley, crème fraîche). This was served with their hand cut fries, which were also perfectly done – crisp but not overcooked. We were both pleased with our orders. My salad was fresh, the dressing robust, and the portion generous for the price. The mussels were perfectly done and the sauce was divine – which is probably why Sylvia needed a spoon.
We then ordered coffees – a Latte and a Cappuccino – and lingered to chat in the comfortable atmosphere. It is worth noting, I think, that the coffees were café fresh and café quality.
We spoke to a couple of staff members (at one point the bartender came over to see if my friend was happy with her cocktail), and I really noticed that the staff are happy and proud of the restaurant and its locally sourced philosophy. One talked about her contribution to the décor, another about her stopping in during the renovations to see how things were progressing. Who doesn’t want to support a local business with happy, caring, invested staff members? Especially when the food is as good as the atmosphere.
The only downside I can see is that their menu is fairly small. Today’s menu offered:
♦ 7 appetizers $4 – $9 (referred to as “Snacky-Poos”)
♦ 6 salads $7 – $16 (referred to as “Salata”)
♦ 6 “Sandwiches” $6
♦ 3 “Meals in a bowl” $12 – $16 (of which the Mussels were one)
♦ 3 “Meat” options $12 – $16 (one dish each of trout, beef, chicken)
♦ 5 “Veg” side dish options $5 (one of which is their hand cut fries)
This limited menu could prove challenging for “picky” eaters or those folks who tend to order the same “safe” thing wherever they go. No chicken finger safety net here, I’m afraid.
But if you’re willing to try something unique – food that’s essentially been hand crafted, purchased from local farmers and local suppliers and put together with care and imagination, from a menu that never gets stale because it’s recreated on a daily basis – then please do yourself a favour and head to The Willistead. Linger and soak up the atmosphere. Chat with your server – they’re friendly and really care that you enjoy your dining experience. And then if you like it, please spread the word to everyone you know.
In my opinion, restaurateurs who think about more than just the almighty dollar – who have happy staff and supportive relationships with other businesses in our community – should be supported. In the end, “Buy Local” only works if we, the locals, make it work.
Today at The Willistead I had a dining experience where the food, the service, and the atmosphere were all incredibly well done. I encourage you to go there and try it for yourself – put The Willistead at the top of your list where it belongs.
Have YOU visited The Willistead?
Tell us about your experience!