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New 'Barrier-Breaking' Restaurant Willow Gears Up With August Dinners

"We want to break down the barriers between the chefs and the diners."

From left: Anthony Wilke, John Pickett, and Doug Weiler
From left: Anthony Wilke, John Pickett, and Doug Weiler
Facebook/Crossroads Collaborative

Crossroads Collaborative is a roughly nine-month-old pop-up from Doug Weiler (Glyph), John Pickett (Biwa, Ración) and Anthony Wilkie (Clyde Common, Ración). Although word of its high-minded seasonal meals has slowly started to trickle out around Portland, not much has been said of the partners grand plan. Willow is the name of the restaurant that Pickett and Weiler hope to open in one of Portland's neighborhoods in the coming year. Effective immediately, Wilkie will carry on the Crossroads Collaborative banner while Pickett and Weiler spin off their own series of dinners to tease Willow.

For six months now, the pair have been actively looking for the right place to house their vision. Ideally, Pickett says it'll be a 600-square-foot space on the ground floor of a mixed use building — just enough space to house a 12-seat neighborhood restaurant with a predominant kitchen counter. Therein, Pickett and Weiler will do all of the cooking, plating and serving themselves. That's right: no servers.

"We want to break down the barriers between the chefs and the diners," explains Pickett. "This is a restaurant model that's also a political statement about a responsible supply chain. Our main goals are to create the food we believe in and support local farmers."

To these ends, the menu aims to take familiar, comforting flavors in exciting new directions that can "become the new mainstream." Take the pictured heirloom carrot dish served at an April pop-up. Its slow-cooked with thyme, butter and garlic, seared like a steak and then served with a turnip custard, and more carrot that's used like shaved bonito.

When Willow opens, expect an a la carte happy hour atmosphere from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. with a menu of dishes priced between $2 and $20. There'll always be a sandwich on offer, but it won't be a gut bomb. "More like something on housemade bread, like four ounces of local salmon with some kind of a dill creme fraiche," explains Pickett.

At 7 p.m. the first dinner seating will begin, focused around a $50 tasting menu of six to seven courses. Affordable bottled beers from Oregon and locally sourced wines will also be on offer. "It's going to be low-key, off-the-street friendly," Pickett adds.

Why the name? Pickett loved using a Japanese knife called a Yanagi at Biwa. Yanagi translates directly to willow. "It's an interesting coincidence because when I was a kid there was a willow tree in our neighbor's yard and the branches and leaves used to always fall into our yard," said Pickett. "My parents would make us rake the leaves and pick up the twigs. It's where my work ethic came from and it's that work ethic that's allowed me to stick with being a chef for so many years."

With any luck, it'll all pay off when Willow opens later this year. In the meantime, you can attend the first Willow teaser dinner at Bluehour on August 16. Keep your eyes on the early website for future dinners and updates.