This spring, Tampa natives Nate Siegel and Merrin Jenkins are set to open family-friendly neighborhood restaurant and bar Willa’s (1700 West Fig Street), along with 10-seat sister café and retail shop Willa’s Provisions (310 North Rome Avenue) in North Hyde Park. Named after Merrin’s great-, great-grandmother and 19th-century Tampa pioneer, William Lowry, Willa’s will offer American cuisine with French influences for dinner. Lunch and weekend brunch are to come. At the front of the building, Provisions will serve locally roasted King State Coffee, a menu of pick-up fare and retail including gourmet pantry items and homemade Willa’s staples.
“To us, a neighborhood restaurant is casual, serves classic food people want to eat all the time and has an attentive staff that remembers regulars,” says co-founder Nate Siegel. “With Willa’s, we’re thrilled to serve and support Tampa with a place we hope locals and visitors alike will want to come again and again.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Willa’s will implement safety measures including daily wellness checks for all employees, socially distanced tables, limited capacity seating, air filtration, surface disinfecting at least every hour, mandatory masks for all staff and guests unless seated and more. Both Willa’s and Willa’s Provisions will offer takeout.
Rooted in a deep sense of hospitality, Willa’s will be an easygoing gathering space serving a menu of comforting recipes and daily specials from Chef Zakari Davila, a Tampa native who trained at French Culinary Institute in NYC and Lyon, then worked with Tom Colicchio’s Crafted Hospitality, the TAO Group and La Pecora Bianca.
The restaurant’s signature dish will be its Rotisserie Chicken, an item that sets the tone for the simple, American dishes found throughout. An abundance of fresh veggie sides and salads will round out the menu. The kitchen staff will use the whole bird to make stock and bone broth from scratch for dishes like Chicken & Rice Soup, Schmaltz Potatoes and more. Other highlights from the menu will be a Rolled Omelette with chives, gruyere, sauteed mushrooms & greens and Kabocha Squash with toasted coconut, plus snacks like Bar Popcorn with house noochy seasoning and Cured Castelvetrano Olives with citrus, chili & fennel pollen. Kids can also choose familiar bites, sandwiches and desserts from a separate menu.
Available by the glass and bottle – including half-bottles and magnums – the wine list at Willa’s will be focused, well-priced and ever-changing, showcasing about 40 small producers of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. The bar team will serve a range of customizable cocktails depending on the guest’s spirit of choice, ready-to-order house drinks like the Spicy Kale Margarita, Martini Royale and Aperol Spritz, along with a list of additional alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on tap. The coldest in town, Willa’s beers will be poured in frosty chilled glasses, with favorite local crafts and imports on draught.
The more casual Willa’s Provisions will serve coffee, baked goods and breakfast tacos in the morning, and starting at lunch, guests can dine in or pick up soups, salads, sandwiches, soft serve ice-cream and Willa’s Rotisserie Chicken to go. Aperitifs and digestifs will be served in the evenings. Other all-day offerings at Provisions will include grab-and-go bottles of wine, pantry staples including the Willa’s team’s favorite selection of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, tea and coffee, housemade items in compostable packaging containers (Willa’s spice rub, Merrin’s almond milk, fresh juices, granola, cookies, nuts) and Willa's merchandise from sweatshirts to espresso cups.
Willa’s and Willa’s Provisions are housed in a 4,700-square-foot industrial building initially constructed around a century ago. Its urban setting is three blocks from South Tampa, bordering the heart of downtown Tampa and Tampa Heights, and a short walk from the University of Tampa and the growing Cypress Corridor.
Twice James Beard Foundation nominees, Austin’s FÖDA Studio leads interiors, identity and brand development. RDB Design serves as Architect of Record. The design team is carefully preserving the gritty qualities of the aging structure while introducing crisp, clean-lined and reductive new finishes to create precise contrast. The restaurant will feature time-tested elements from classic cafés and brasseries, but at its heart, will be fundamentally Floridian and meant to serve its neighborhood with comfort. The design team is focused on forms and materials native to a humid coastal setting, presented without kitsch. Willa’s will seat guests in the bar and dining area, and on its pet-friendly outside patio lined with an ivy wall, lush plantings and a bike rack.
Co-founder Nate Siegel brings an extensive hospitality background with nearly a decade of experience working at renowned Tampa and New York restaurants, including Mise en Place, Ruschmeyer’s, Tacombi and with the Keith McNally Restaurant Group, which includes Balthazar, Pastis, Minetta Tavern, Morandi and more. A fellow Tampa native, Co-founder Merrin Jenkins comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. She has worked for several non-profits including the Tampa Museum of Art and New York University, and most recently, she served as the Director of Development for the Akilah Institute, an award-winning women's college in Rwanda educating female leaders for a sustainable future. Both Nate and Merrin are realizing a long-held dream of opening a restaurant in their hometown.
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