When I first stepped into the Willistead, I was astonished at the transformation that had taken place in only 3 weeks’ time. Chef and Owner Dave Dimoglou, a man of culinary background and Mediterranean decent, opened the doors to the Willistead on February 28 of this year. The restaurant and bar has a capacity of 110 and currently seats 60, allowing room for 48 patrons on the patio.
Located in Walkerville, the Willistead has transformed into a contemporary atmosphere, with drop ceilings, wooden accents and studded seating. One might call it very trendy yet slightly rustic. Ambience is enforced with a soundtrack cohesive with the hour; delivering romantic, bluesy jazz at dinner and slightly heavier, upbeat tracks later in the evening. Servers greet you with a smile and pour water from an old fashioned milk jar. They set the casual attire with pinstriped aprons, denim and colourful ties.
The menu is stamped with the date and has great focus on Mediterranean and French dishes crafted by Dimoglou’s kitchen lead by his brother, Ted. Local distribution is important to Dimoglou, who handpicked a list of seeds that would be planted on his own acre at Brandner Farms in Ruthven, ON. Creating new additions according to what’s fresh and available, the menu tends to change daily.
Although I hadn’t a large appetite when coming to visit the Willistead, I had ordered a couple sandwiches and a couple sides. Both sandwiches ($6) were slightly larger than a slider, and the sides ($5) were of roughly the same size, which made them ideal for sharing. Everything I had ordered along with everything that crossed my path had great aroma, texture and flavour-accomplished by simplicity, skill and freshness. Menu items range typically between $4-$32, with favourites being the pork croquettes, Cobb salad, braised beef and orzo along with Dimoglou’s personal favourite, the beet salad. Among the many creative dishes on the menu the most striking would be “Captain Beefheart’s Royal with Cheese”, which could be used as a metaphor for the Willistead itself- innovative and well rounded.
The Bar at the Willistead is en par with the standard the kitchen sets, with a Manhattan that’s made with TLC and visually tempting. The bar also offers a decent selection of bourbon and a variety of unique beers, featuring a few local selections on tap. The wine is no exception to the local trend, but Dimoglou assures me that they will be adding in new high end imports due to customer demand.
In closing, I’d like to say that I was delighted with my culinary adventure at the Willistead. The atmosphere is inviting, and the service staff is quite knowledgeable addressing any questions you may have. The food goes without saying and everything is unbelievably affordable. I will certainly be back to try the Nicoise salad and the beef strip loin, and let’s not forget the beet salad.
By: Nikki Antic