Willa Jean is whatever you need it to be, at any given time of day. Fancy a restorative breakfast after a night of NOLA indulgence? Willa Jean has an impressive selection of sweet and savoury dishes, including a mighty Cajun Breakfast Burrito (stuffed with chicken and sausage jambalaya, scrambled eggs, charred tomatillo salsa and cotija cheese). Need a spot of lunch during your workday in the CBD or just while you’re out and about? Grab one of their Fried Catfish sandwiches, with bacon, lettuce and malt aioli. And come dinner you can sample anything and everything from Gulf Oyster Chowder and Wedge Salad to NOLA-style BBQ Shrimp. At Willa Jean, every meal and mood is catered for.
At once a bakery, cafe and fully-fledged restaurant, Willa Jean is often bustling, but the 80-seat space is rarely overcrowded. Unless, of course, you’re hoping to nab a table for brunch. But that’s hardly surprising. Here, the croissants are perfectly flaky (and sometimes stuffed generously with house-cured smoked salmon). The fried chicken is crispy. And the Fried Oyster Benedict (a masterful dish of homemade biscuit, P&J oysters, poached eggs, stewed okra and lashings of creamy hollandaise) is like nothing you’ve tried before.
But for all the wonders of the savoury dishes on the menu, there’s every reason to simply sample Willa Jean’s sweet treats when you visit. Thanks to Kelly Fields and Lisa White (both extraordinarily accomplished pastry chefs,), Willa Jean’s pastries, cakes, and cookies are sensational. Even a deceptively simple offering, like chocolate chip cookies, in their hands becomes something else entirely. Maybe it’s the fact that the cookies are served warm and lightly sprinkled with sea salt, with a glass of cold vanilla-spiked milk, or maybe it’s the addition of raw cookie dough on the side. Whatever the magic element is, you won’t forget the taste in a hurry.
Named after Fields’ grandmother, Willa Jean has a warm and welcoming feel, enhanced by Curtis Herring’s modern, yet sensitive design. There are cloud-like light fixtures suspended from the ceiling that warm the exposed brick and wooden accents with their glow. In fact, even if you don’t want to eat, Willa Jean is an atmospheric place to meet and mingle. Especially if you’ve got a cup of well-brewed Intelligentsia Coffee, or a craft cocktail or boozy slushie in hand.