Willow Bistro | Taste Test

Nobody wants to fall in love with a newly opened restaurant more than I do. After hearing that Willow Bistro on 30th Street in Canton had opened, I quickly headed online to get the scoop. Surprisingly, Willow’s only web presence was a Facebook page—make that two pages.

Nobody wants to fall in love with a newly opened restaurant more than I do. After hearing that Willow Bistro on 30th Street in Canton had opened, I quickly headed online to get the scoop. Surprisingly, Willow’s only web presence was a Facebook page—make that two pages. Neither one seemed to offer much useful information, such as a dinner menu, or even hours of operation. My two trusted social media outlets for dining reviews weren’t offering much help either; Urbanspoon’s less than 60 percent approval rating isn’t going to get customers in the door. And while I was pleased to see it has a Twitter account, it uses it more for cheering on local sports teams than enticing customers with menu features or food close-ups.

In addition to a limited web presence, the location could present a challenge. Its neighbor is one of the most successful Asian restaurants in the city, Jasmine Asian Bistro, (yes, also a bistro) where the food consistently is outstanding and beyond reproach. To say it might be tough for most folks to hit this plaza without getting distracted by Jasmine is an understatement.

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Inside, the space is intimate. After seating ourselves, we observed the dining room has a bit of an identity crisis. To one side, there is a long bar lined with pub stools and televisions blaring ESPN. On the other side of the aisle, there are candlelit tables under a fabric-draped canopy with swanky tufted booths that resemble wingback chairs. So, neighborhood sports pub or romantic fine dining? All I know is that my husband was mesmerized by the TVs (and who could blame him), which precludes Willow from making my date-night-approved shortlist. Even so, it could be a great spot for a casual night out with friends.

 

A simple libations menu contains throwback cocktails such as Moscow Mules and Manhattans. A half dozen draught beer selections include seasonal Great Lakes options, while the wine list offers a mix of moderately priced reds and whites (many at a reasonable $5 per glass).

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In the cuisine department, the dinner menu is peppered with traditional dishes: a collection of steaks, seafood, lemon chicken and prime rib (only served on Fridays and Saturdays) to name a few. For lunch, classics such as wraps, French dips and sandwiches are available.

We chose a couple of items from the starters menu—fried ravioli (recommended by our server) and garlic Parmesan wings. As breaded and fried pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese goes, the ravioli were incredibly satisfying. The wings, although unfortunately slightly overcooked, were saucy and flavorful. Willow’s signature stuffed mushrooms, filled with lump crab meat, onion and cheddar cheese, top the “to-try” list for our next visit.

The feature salmon of the evening was well prepared with a tasty teriyaki glaze, but served on a garnish-less plate—much like the appetizers. It was accompanied by a Mediterranean rice. While flavorful, the rice was heavily salted, and the portion on the large side.

There were some unique and memorable aspects to the experience, which overshadowed some of the shortcomings. For one, service was friendly, appropriately available and eager to please. For that matter, everyone we came across had a smile. Salad dressing, a homemade white French, was delicious, along with the fresh warm bread, which was airy on the inside with a nice, hearty crust. Homemade chocolate layer cake capped off the meal nicely. And you’ll love the monogrammed wine glasses and the whimsical box that holds your check—these details will likely be what most customers remember.

Willow Bistro on Urbanspoon

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass