I can’t remember a more exciting time in Pittsburgh’s restaurant scene. It seems like there’s a new restaurant popping up every week creating a new buzz. And while I want to try each new restaurant as soon as possible, sometimes I have to put off trying the newest hot restaurant in order to go back to one of my favorites, one of Pittsburgh’s tried and true, Willow.
Tucked in a tree-filled lot along Camp Horne Road in the North Hills, Willow has offered some of the best dining in Pittsburgh for the past seven years. The 300-seat restaurant is divided into nine different dining rooms, offering an intimate and unique dining experience. Ambient lighting and warm earth tones create a casual yet elegant atmosphere inside. Two full bars and a stone fireplace and lounge area offer a relaxing yet upscale place to enjoy a cocktail while waiting for your table.
Willow offers contemporary American cuisine. There’s a large selection of small plates with the usual suspects such as crab cakes and sliders, but there are also a few unique offerings such as curry crusted escolar, watermelon and tomato salad, and seared ricotta dumplings with veal meatballs. Willow’s large plates include a wide variety of chicken, beef, fish and yes, crab cakes again. Pittsburghers love their crab cakes! Large plates range in price from $12 for a hamburger to $33 for filet mignon.
Amelie and I decided to stop for dinner at Willow on a recent Tuesday night. I’d never been there during the week and it was nice to be immediately seated. On weekend nights, I’ve had to wait twenty minutes or so for a table even when I had reservations. Willow has ample and scenic outdoor seating, and Amelie and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful evening and enjoy dinner outside.
I was in the mood for pasta that night and ordered the tenderloin alfredo ($22), spinach fettuccini in alfredo sauce with garlic seared filet medallions. I have to admit that the dish didn’t sound all that appetizing to me at the time, but I really wanted pasta so I ordered it. Amelie ordered sliders from the small plate side of the menu, three mini prime beef burgers with sharp cheddar cheese, crispy onions and au jus for dipping ($9). She also asked for an order of fries, and Willow’s fries come with a port wine-roasted garlic steak sauce ($4).
I was pleasantly surprised when my dish was put in front of me. I figured it would be good because I’ve never had anything bad at Willow, but it was REALLY good. The medallions were seared nicely, rare and tender inside. The four pieces of beef made for a surprisingly generous portion. I usually find alfredo sauce to be overly rich and was afraid the alfredo and beef combination would be too much for my taste buds, but the alfredo sauce was light and didn’t overpower the dish. The fettuccini alfredo complimented the richness of the beef nicely.
Amelie thoroughly enjoyed Willow’s take on a burger and fries. The sliders were juicy and the crispy onions offered texture and another layer of flavor. The au jus was savory and elevated the sliders to something beyond a hamburger. The zesty port wine steak sauce offered a bit of kick to the fries.
After seven years, Willow continues to offer an exceptional dining experience in a lovely setting in the North Hills. While new and trendy restaurants will come and go, Willow’s simple elegance and creative interpretations of American classics will never go out of style.
Find Willow on the web at willowpgh.com.Willow,