The Stuggy’s empire continues to grow with the opening of Willow along the same Fells Point block that already houses the hot-dog shop and Rye, a cocktail bar—all owned by Ryan Perlberg, in partnership with his dad, Stuart Perlberg, at Stuggy’s and with Richard Rosen at Rye and Willow. The newest location joins the other places in the 800 block of South Broadway in a space once occupied by Sam’s Kid. The redo is mellow with earth tones and pale greens dominating the palette. A red-tiled bar is a colorful counterpoint. Willow is more of a lounge than a restaurant with comfy couches and expansive coffee tables on the lower level and upstairs. You’ll feel like you’re visiting someone’s swanky living room. And while there is a focus on specialty drinks and house-infused spirits, the south-of-the-border food is worth exploring, too.
We nabbed two backless stools at the bar for our culinary trip, which began immediately with complimentary house-made chips and chunky salsa.
We also ordered a spicy crab guacamole that was fresh and bright and topped with a generous amount of crab. It came with crunchy chips, too, and is easily shared.
The menu features casual Tex-Mex fare—is there any other kind?—adopting a mix-and-match approach. Start with a basic preparation: quesadilla, nacho, or taco salad. Then, choose your filling, from Korean barbecue to smoked lamb.
We settled on quesadillas (there were two), stuffed with slow-roasted chicken mole and accompanied by house-made guacamole and thick black beans.
Another option is tacos. You can order from one to four. Two suited us fine. This time, we chose the pulled-pork adobo for the filling. We also opted for the piquant, flavorful curtido, a vinegary cabbage slaw, as a side dish.
The chicken mole and pork adobo in both dishes were delicious. But they needed more heat, temperature-wise, not spice-wise. They were as lukewarm as forgotten bath water.
For dessert, we really enjoyed the churros—dense doughnut-like nuggets coated liberally with cinnamon. The silky chocolate-dipping sauce was a bonus. A banana gelato spiked with bourbon sauce and plump blackberries was also a satisfying finish.
We’d definitely go back. We’re suspecting the temperature gaffe was an unfortunate oversight. Willow provides a nice respite from the rest of raucous Fells Point.