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A new American and French-inspired restaurant concept, Willa’s, is now open in North Hyde Park just minutes from Downtown and South Tampa. The restaurant is built by Tampa natives, Nate Siegel and Merrin Jenkins, who named the restaurant after Merrin’s great-, great-grandmother and 19th-century Tampa pioneer, William Lowry. The Tampa Bay Times first reported Willa’s was coming to town in December of 2019, but plans were delayed due to COVID-19 according to an interview with Tampa Bay Business Journal.
“To us, a neighborhood restaurant is casual, serves classic food people want to eat all the time and has an attentive staff that remembers regulars,” says co-founder Nate Siegel.
“With Willa’s, we’re thrilled to serve and support Tampa with a place we hope locals and visitors alike will want to come again and again.”
Siegel has a decade of experience working at Tampa and New York restaurants, including Mise en Place, Ruschmeyer’s, Tacombi and with the Keith McNally Restaurant Group, which includes Balthazar, Pastis, Minetta Tavern, Morandi and more. Jenkins has worked for several non-profits, including the Tampa Museum of Art and New York University, and most recently, she served as the Director of Development for the Akilah Institute, an award-winning women’s college in Rwanda educating female leaders for a sustainable future.
Hours are currently 5PM to 10PM from Wednesday through Sunday with expanded service, lunch hours, and weekend brunch soon to come.
In observance of COVID-19, Willa’s is seating at 70% capacity and implementing safety measures, including wellness checks for all employees before each shift, socially-distanced tables, air filtration, surface disinfecting, and mandatory masks for all staff and guests unless seated and more. Both Willa’s and Willa’s Provisions plan to roll out takeout programs in the near future.
A 10-seat sister cafe and retail shop, Willa’s Provisions ,will open next month at the front of the building to serve coffee, a menu of pick-up fare and retail including gourmet pantry items and homemade Willa’s staples at 310 North Rome Avenue.The menu at Willa’s has been prepared by Chef Zakari Davila, a Tampa native who trained at French Culinary Institute in NYC and Lyon, then worked with Tom Colicchio’s Crafted Hospitality at the TAO Group and La Pecora Bianca.
Willa’s signature dish is Rotisserie Chicken, an item that the restaurant says “sets the tone for the simple, American dishes found throughout”. The kitchen makes use of the whole bird to make stock and bone broth from scratch for dishes like Chicken & Rice Soup, Schmaltz Potatoes, and more.
There is a large selection of fresh veggie sides and salads round out the menu, which is made up of roughly 70 percent vegan or vegetarian dishes. Other menu highlights from the restaurant include Miso Ōra King Salmon with seared haricot verts, lemon & dressed greens and Tahini Caesar Salad with little gems and kale with a mountain of grana padano and rustic croutons.
Desserts will be made by Pastry Chef Benjamin Copeland (formerly of The Gasparilla Inn & Club) and include Profiteroles with soft serve vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate and Carrot Cake with coconut, caramel nuts & whipped mascarpone.Kids menus are available upon request.
The wine menu features options by the glass and bottle with 50 bottles from small producers of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. There will be a focus on switching it up regularly. The cocktails are curated by Head Bartender Ronnie Wyche Jr. (formerly of Rooster & The Till, The Bricks and Mise en Place), the bar team makes in-house cold brewed tonic with lemongrass, lavender & a natural form of quinine and triple-filtered ginger beer brewed with fresh ginger, both served on tap.
A range of house drinks include the Parsley Pepper Margarita with fresh green juice, jalapeno & a lava salt rim, the Hotel National and the Strawberry Aperol Spritz, along with non-alcoholic beverages on tap. Beer fans can enjoy local crafts and imports on draught.
Willa’s Provisions, opening next month, will serve locally roasted King State Coffee, tea and adaptogens from HOUSE of WARIS Botanicals out of NYC, baked goods and breakfast tacos in the morning. Starting at lunch, guests can dine in or pick up soups, salads, sandwiches, soft-serve ice cream and Willa’s Rotisserie Chicken to-go, and aperitifs and digestifs will be served in the evenings.
Other offerings at Provisions will include Merrin and Nate’s curated selection of their favorite pantry staples, including olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, wine and more, plus items made in Willa’s kitchen like their signature rotisserie chicken spice rub, Chef Zak’s garlic confit, almond milk, fresh juices, granola, pastries and baked goods.
There will also be a rotating selection of Willa’s merchandise, from hats and sweatshirts to espresso cups. Twice James Beard Foundation nominees, Austin’s FÖDA Studio, leads interiors, identity and brand development. RDB Design serves as Architect of Record.
The design team carefully preserved the qualities of the aging structure while introducing new finishes to create a precise contrast. It included a focus on forms and materials native to a humid coastal setting, presented without kitsch. Willa’s seats guests in the bar and dining area, and on its pet-friendly outside patio. Free parking is available in the Willa’s parking lot, which can be accessed from West Fig Street. Find more information at willastampa.com or willasprovisions.com.
Photo Credit: Veronica Judd, Jett Butler