When Willi B's opened last summer next door to Guido's, too many benches, tables and barstools made the tiny space feel claustrophobic and the Western saloon--with full bar--and sandwich shop seemed an odd addition to coffee-shop/pizza-joint corner. But those feelings faded with the first smile, the first bill and the first bite.
For me, Willi B's is all about the lunch combo: a sandwich, a side and a beverage. Other places in town serve a sandwich, sure. Some of them use higher-quality ingredients. But few have found that magic place between quantity, cost, consistency and comfort.
Since the day Willi B's threw open its metaphorical swinging saloon doors, six bucks lassos a meal big enough to make me feel I'm getting my money's worth: a sandwich, a side and a drink (and a mini corn muffin or two). Each day of the week, the menu features a regular list of hot and cold sandwiches including huge, overflowing wraps. Chicken with crunchy cashews and tart craisins; tangy barbecued pulled chicken with a heap of shredded cheddar; tuna salad with hard boiled egg; and my favorite, the Italian club, a heart-stopping combination of pepperoni, salami, provolone, lettuce and tomato on a hoagie ($5.75). The homemade sides are just as simple: pasta salad, potato salad, bunkhouse beans--in a semi-sweet sauce with chunks of ham--or raw vegetables dressed with Italian dressing. It's such cozy food that when Sarah puts my to-go order in a brown paper bag, I half expect her to write my name on the side like we used to do in grade school. Wrangle me the Italian sub with a side of bunkhouse beans and a Diet Coke on the cheap, and I am one happy camper.
Willi B's recently made itself even more like a favorite hometown watering hole, by adding new sides and hot lunch specials: chicken tortilla casserole, shepherd's pie and stuffed green pepper to name a few.
Craving something hot on a recent blustery day, I ignored the Italian club and walked back to work with a heavy bag holding the stuffed pepper special, sided with blue cheese green beans au gratin ($6.50). I opened my to-go container to a green pepper overflowing with a mixture of rice, onions, tomato sauce, sausage and hamburger and a side of green beans and bacon in a white sauce with chunks of a grainy crust across the top. The beans had the texture and tinny taste exclusive to canned veggies and while the sausage offered a seasoned bite, the mixture as a whole could have used a little more.
I won't turn down a taste of something new at Willi B's, but for me, it's all about the sandwich. 30 Rock's Liz Lemon sees the foodstuff as the great equalizer: "I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich," she says. If she could see me with my Willi B's Italian sub combo, she'd know she was right.
--Amy Atkins bows to the Earl of Sandwich.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Willi B's.