Take the Willow Road exit off Highway 101 in Nipomo, and you’ll drive right by one of the area’s newest eateries and markets. It’s appropriately named Willow, and it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Created within what was just an empty building shell, the self-described “Beer & Wine Bar — Deli — Market” opened in August 2013. The spacious layout delivers on all three of those promises, and there’s a separate banquet area — complete with a flat-screen television — for meetings and/or special events.
Much of the interior is devoted to the market, but roomy seating is available at the bar or several tables in the deli area. The most popular seats are on the expansive outdoor patio (which has umbrellas and heaters), especially during the live music or wine-tasting events that Willow now hosts almost every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Though it also carries a good assortment of basic provisions and fresh produce, Willow’s market shelves definitely cater to gourmet tastes.
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In addition to products such as Brian’s Sourdough Bread and McConnell’s Ice Cream, you’ll find upscale chips and crackers, salami and cheeses, and local olives and olive oils. Gift baskets are available, either pre-made or of your choosing, and can include beer and wine.
Willow’s beer and wine lists both number over 100, and anything at the market can be ordered in the restaurant.
Predominantly Central Coast wines and craft beers are featured, including 10 wines by the glass that change frequently, and eight rotating beer taps that might include labels such as Lagunitas, The Bruery and New Belgium. If you’d prefer other beverages, the staff can also fire up espressos and other specialty coffees.
If you’re enjoying that java anytime between 6 and 11 a.m., you can order from about a dozen various breakfast items.
Options include breakfast tacos and sandwiches, pastries and muffins, biscuits and gravy, plus six choices of omelets/scrambles. You might even happen upon morning specials such as chilaquiles or freshly baked cinnamon rolls, and you can get breakfast burritos or build-your-own deli sandwiches at any time of day.
Choices at lunch and dinner — which share the same menu from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. — are more expansive and run the full gamut from appetizers to salads, soups to sandwiches, pizzas to entrées. For starters, go for nibbles of wings, steak bites or seared ahi sashimi, or go all out with pulled pork tater tot poutine made with slow-roasted pork shoulder, Wisconsin cheese curds and housemade beer gravy.
Lighter appetites can enjoy a cup (or bowl) of chicken sausage gumbo, a beet salad with baby arugula and frisee, or even go just a bit over the top with a fried Brussels sprouts salad topped with pork belly and a fried egg. If you’re in the mood for pizza, there are six pies to pick from — including pepperoni, prosciutto and pineapple-topped Hawaiian.
Daily entrée specials might be anything from chicken tostadas to a French dip sandwich, but you can always count on favorites such as the Willow burger with smoked Gouda on a brioche roll, grilled or fried fish tacos with house-made pineapple salsa or tartar sauce, and a grilled wrap made with local veggies.
Heartier appetites can also tuck into a plate of shrimp scampi, a 12-ounce ribeye with chimichurri sauce, or a decadent serving of mac and cheese made with orecchiette pasta, braised short rib, sautéed wild mushrooms and Rogue River smoked blue cheese.
It would seem that Willow’s branching out into both casual and upscale has been a success, and that it’s put down some real roots in the neighborhood.