Casual Fine Dining RestaurantFood ★★★★☆Ambiance ★★★★☆Service ★★★★☆Creativity ★★★★★Value ★★★★☆
$50-75 meal for 2 plus drinks
Willow's Bistro is located very close to Old Salem in the Historic area of Brookstone and Liberty streets in Downtown Winston-Salem. It is located in what appears to be a historic factory with attractive old wood floors and large old wooden beams. The artwork on the walls is very modern and bright comical and/or paintings of childhood comics and TV shows. The artwork provides an interesting contrast to the historic building. Some younger people may think the paintings of historic TV shows.... The restaurant has a fairly large covered porch with umbrellas for outdoor dining. The interior is comfortable with a reasonable sound level. The Kitchen is open design with a bar that overlooks the kitchen activities for those who like the show.
Willow's Bistro opened in late 2009 and it is polished in its appearance and in its food. Willow's Bistro is a farm to fork contemporary restaurant with very creative dishes that use local farms and produce companies to supply them with freshest of local ingredients that are organic and sustainable. Willows has plenty of parking in a lot in front of the restaurant. Willows is in a very convenient area of downtown as it is right off of 40 and it is in a less congested area.
The Service at Willow's is very good. The only small mistake was not replacing a knife that was taken with the appetizer plates when the main dish was served. The bar was a little slow this evening and the server was very attentive to this fact. For a Casual Fine Dining establishment, Willow's service is extremely good.
The Food at Willow's Bistro is fantastic. The menu is very creative and there are plenty of dishes on the menu that interested me. I had a hard time deciding so, I guess I have to come back. Choices: Scallops with pork belly ravioli, Ribs with mango-wasabi bbq, Crawfish, and grits, or the nights special pasta with soft shelled crab. There were plenty more dishes that really sounded good.
Tonight we started with Bacon wrapped scallops with a tomato saladette. This had shaved parmesan, eggplant, tomatoes and a very tasty and slightly sweet sauce on top. This was a great dish with a fantastic blend of flavors.
Next, I had Willow's Bistro Pasta and Crab Cake Special.
Soft shelled crabs are the same as a hard-shelled blue crabs. In order for crabs to grow, they must shed their shells (molting) and the crab absorbs water which causes it to swell (about 33% larger) as a new much larger shell grows . The crab is very vulnerable at this stage and hides from predators. The shell hardens over the next 2-4 days. It is almost impossible to catch a soft shelled crab as they are hidden from view and do not feed. Crabbers must be able to identify a crab that is about to molt and store these in water as they wait for the molt to happen by looking for color changes in the shell. They then can store the crab out of the water in cold temperatures to prolong the soft shelled crab.
This was a fried corn meal dust soft shelled crab over a bed of linguine with pulled pork, black cherry tomatos, red onion, and a caper beurre blanc sauce. The pasta was incredible. The beurre blanc sauce was a creamy white wine sauce. Combine this with the pulled pork, onions and tomato and you had a real wow. The crab was less than perfect. Unfortunately, tonight's crab was one of those fisher crabs. The best soft shell crab I have ever had come from an old seafood restaurant in Maryland right on the DC line called Crisfield's. It was a little dump of a restaurant that looked more like a restroom than a restaurant. They had plenty of US Presidents who have eaten there with their pictures on the wall to prove it. Crisfield's soft shelled crabs were fried to the point of being crispy and the legs were more like french fries. The crab at Willow's was lacking this crispness.
Having lived in Maryland for most of my life, I have had quite a few crabs, both soft and hard shell. The best soft shell crab I have ever had come from an old seafood restaurant in Maryland right on the DC line called Crisfield's. It was a little dump of a restaurant that looked more like a restroom than a restaurant. They had plenty of US Presidents who have eaten there with their pictures on the wall to prove it. Crisfield's soft shelled crabs were fried to the point of being crispy and the legs were more like french fries. The crab at Willow's was lacking this crispness.
The pasta at Willow's was so good it made up for what the soft shelled crab lacked.
We also had Willow's Bistro's Crawfish and Grits
This was a nice twist on the North Carolina dish of shrimp and grits. Tasty crawfish, andouille sausage, tasso ham, and roasted tomato in a creamy sauce over very creamy and smooth grits. The crawfish and grits wonderful and flavorful dish. Perfect in flavor and texture.
Willow's Bistro is a fine example of a great restaurant with creative dishes that are outstanding. We will be coming back for more.