It's not the type of place that any self-respecting restaurant critic or foodie would even consider putting on their radar. But when a sports bar like Williams Landing in Liberty Village comes around it's hard to keep that nose up in the air for long.
Never has any eatery with so many wide screen TVs paid such attention to detail - a rarity even in the finest of dining establishments. What bar and grill have you been to lately where busboys rush to your table at the first sign of a spill like
paramedics, a fresh moist towel at the ready.
WL bills itself as a bar, grill and hub. And hub it is. From its nicely appointed second-storey patio, one can see the affect it's had on the popular Brazen Head across the street.
WL is open, airy and modern without being too precious in its design direction; the perfect place to chill and chat thanks to McMillan Design, known for such other successful haunts as Reds, Far Niente, Jack Astor's, Alice Fazooli's et al. Even the water closets are sleek enough to dine in.
But ambiance is not the only thing WL has in its talent arsenal. Exec chef Marco D'Angelo (formerly e11even) and sous Beman Chan have created what at first glance looks like your typical world-influenced pub grub. But menu selections morph into such unexpected fare in part due to the quality of the ingredients (Willowgrove Farm and Beretta Organic Farms), but more so due to stellar execution.
Korean beef shortribs ($12), with a side of creamy Napa slaw, are a bit on the tough side, but tasty beyond belief thanks to a sweet hoisin citrus marinade. But three ribs for $12 for an inexpensive cut is a bit steep. And then charging an extra $6 for an additional rib is nervy. But, hey, they're worth every penny, ya cheapskate.
They call them Mongolian pork tacos ($12) and not sure why. But who cares what they call them. This trio, mixed with the magic of that citrus hoisin and an Asian slaw, is so good you'll forgo the fast food equivalent forever. Our wonderful server/model tells us that all their meats are hormone and antibiotic free. If so, it's kinda hard to imagine chicken wings ($12) this freakishly big and meaty are steroid free. McSorley's wings they ain't, but value like this is hard to come by.
And they even get pizza right, whole wheat to boot. With so many whole crusts that you must gnaw on to swallow, the charcuterie ($15) thin crust is as crisp and light as any white flour dough would be. Caramelized balsamic onions and dates impart a wonderful sweetness, a perfect complement to the melange of meats that include prosciutto, house-smoked bacon and summer salami.
Even though pasta is not made in house, this kitchen opts for fresh, not dried for a perfectly toothsome seafood pappardelle ($21) tossed in a completely original jalapeno-arugula pesto. But a seafood slip due to overcooking makes some nicely sized shrimp and teensy weensy scallops too chewy. As for the crab, not much to say since it's AWOL. But how did they get an 8 oz. AAA flatiron steak frites ($22) to be as creamy and tender as a piece of Kobe? Pre-slicing before serving is always a mistake, as it invariably arrives cooler and minus the juices. Even tepid, it works, as do chilly house-cut frites, perfectly salted, that hold their crispiness.
Finesse like this is so unexpected from a sports bar. So I almost fall off my chair when a lemon tart ($9) arrives that, believe it or not, rivals the pucker power of the Rahier classic. And against a pecan crumb crust, whipped bourbon vanilla cream, candied lemon and macerated seasonal berries, the finale to this repast is a standout-- like most of the dishes on the menu.
The experience here reminds me of a time long ago when Milestones opened. I was dragged there kicking and screaming, embarrassed to be seen by my peers. Yet I left very impressed. Sad to say, a decade later, Milestone's has sorely lost its way. But William's Landing is a far superior experience, one that I will not soon forget. The owners of Joy Bistro and South of Temperance, and the entire team could do little more to improve on what they've created, namely something phenomenal. Now if only all the waiters had the same smile as our server.