Never underestimate the impact of a french fry. The success of a meal can hinge on the unassuming chunk of fried potato. A great burger suddenly becomes merely good when accompanied by greasy, limp fries, while a so-so sandwich is elevated when the side is crispy, fresh and hot.
In the case of Willowcreek Grill, which has christened its version of deep-fried tubers "twigs," the fries throw already good food way over the good-enough-to-keep-me-coming-back bar into the magical realm of I Forgot My Main Entree Because The Fries Were So Good.
It's a wondrous land, where not only are fries fresh, hot, slightly crispy and delicious, but where traditional Russets commingle with their sweet potato cousins in harmony.
OK, so I didn't actually forget my main course during a recent lunch visit to the Eagle eatery, but it was the fries that ended up in a to-go box when I could neither bear to part with them, nor eat any more.
It was a conclusion shared by my favorite dining companion as her hand repeatedly wandered over to my plate while we sat in the dining area featuring clean lines without the attitude of contemporary design. By our late lunch, the place was relatively quiet, and the mix of earth colors throughout the restaurant set the tone for a relaxing meal. Still, our order of salmon and twigs ($10.99) and a half-sandwich, half-salad combo ($7.99) showed up in record time.
The beer-battered hunks of salmon were flaky, yet far meatier than any cod or miscellaneous white fish would have been. The salmon--three large pieces--was more richly flavored as well and would stand out from any fish-and-chips offering. The salmon doesn't handle the malt vinegar I usually drown my fish in, but forced to use the fish as more than just scaffolding for vinegar, I realized I actually enjoyed tasting the salmon.
The dish was paired with cabbage slaw, which was an outstanding example of a vinegar-based coleslaw. Buried deep in the light sauce, a drop of pepper oil provided just a hint of afterburn.
Then there were the fries. The sweet potato fry is one of those things that always sounds good in theory, but usually turns out mushy and overdone. These were crisp on the outside and soft inside, while retaining an earthy, sweet flavor.
I was so busy scarfing them down that I barely noticed as my dining companion commented that the caraway sauerkraut on her Reuben sandwich was some of the best she's ever had (a big compliment coming from a Midwestern German girl), and the creamy garlic dressing on the salad was both garlicky and mellow, sidestepping the biting acidity that often comes with similar dressings.
Of course, I have to paraphrase her assessment since my hands were far too busy shoving fries in my mouth to actually take notes.
Deanna Darr thinks a little vinegar builds character.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Willowcreek Grill.