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Willow - Don't go!

Went to the Willow last night as part of a group, so no choice.
We arrive for 7, there are 10 of us.. we are the only ones in the restaurant.
The service was horrific. 3 of us got our meals at 7:45pm, 2 at 8:00pm, 2 at 8:05,
and the remaining 3 at 8:15...this is for basic items like taco salads, enchillladas, and
fajitias. In fact there were 3 taco salads and they all came out at different times. When we
enquired the waitress said there was only one person in the kitchen..... but quite a few waitstaff standing around the bar and someone -Owner? - that was in conversation with
someone the entire time and didn't look up to see what was going on.
I have never seen salsa like that..thin, watery soup looking - it was bad. Not a chunk of tomato or onion anywhere.
I had enchiladas... I have never seen them prepared this way... overcooked tough
steak was rolled in a tortilla and fried, .sour cream and "salsa: on the side....they were dry
and gross. Every enchilada I have had, has been baked with topping on top..not like this. The waitress could not handle our party and while pleasant I don't think understood english. We kept repeating basic things like asking for water or another drink. No one in the group
enjoyed their food and we left to indulge in a ice cream at Cafe Demetre because we
were starving.

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Cafe Demetre
660 Richmond St, London, ON N6A3G8, CA

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  1. Sorry to hear that. I used to be a regular for Sunday Brunch at the Willow back when I lived in the neighbourhood. The service was always a bit slow, bordering on indifferent at times, but the food was consistently good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: somewhere4

      Funny, I live in the area and that's one place I've never considered. I don't even know why that is. In fact, I've never even heard anyone mention it.

      1. re: millygirl

        It's been around for a long time. It was getting good WOM, Now magazine coverage, etc. back in the late 1980s, when Toronto's Mexican options were pretty much limited to Hernando's Hideway, Taco Bell outlets and the now-defunct Chi-Chis chain. That was when I first found out about it. Used to be branded as Tiajuna Donna's/The Willow

        I'm guessing that at some point it either came under new ownership, or the owner coasted on their rep and sacrificed quality for revenue generation (an all too common blight on the TO restaurant scene).

    2. "I have never seen salsa like that..thin, watery soup looking - it was bad. Not a chunk of tomato or onion anywhere. "

      I have. Its not uncommon. The visit sounds pretty horrendous, though.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Everythingtarian

        This place has always been hit or miss-mostly miss.

        1. re: Everythingtarian

          That's how salsa is served down south in San Diego, Tijuana, etc. It's not suppose to be thick, but watery if it's freshly made (no canned stuff). Now if it had no taste what-so-ever then that's bad. However those wait times for your food and the lack of quality is totally unacceptable for any restaurant.

          1. re: scarberian

            Exactly.

            Thin and watery? Maybe. Flavourless? Not acceptable.

        2. +1

          went earlier this year. (1) server overfilled my draft. proceeded to pour some excess beer out and wipe down the glass with a dishcloth. i decided to live with this and hoped that the cloth was clean. (2) i ordered chips and guacamole. chips were average corn chips. guacamole was a dish of green mayonnaise. no wait, i like mayonnaise, so that comment is an insult to mayonnaise. but it does describe the flavour, vaguely vinegar, and texture, whipped oil, and no avocado whatsoever. it was so bad i told the server i that i'd like the salsa, which was the other option listed with the chips. (3) the salsa was an insipid mess with the consistency of watered down canned pasta sauce. no wait, i like some canned pasta sauces, so that comment is an insult to sauce. it tasted like watery juice, and no cilantro or other seasoning whatsoever. (4) the bill came and i had been charged for the salsa as well as the guacamole. true, i asked for the salsa, and it wasn't offered as a free replacement for the guacamole. but here's the thing, the server had taken away my guacamole before bringing the salsa! if the salsa was not a courtesy replacement, and both were going on the bill, then why take back the guaconnaise, er, the mayomole? about the food: well, i've left this review. about the service: for the first time in years, i left no tip at a restaurant.

          1. Used to go to the Willow a couple of decades ago, and thought it was just ok back then. I haven't been back in years.

            1. It used to be passable, after a couple of bad food/service experiences, I refuse to return to the place.

              1. The Willow used to be a great spot - I'm thinking waaay back in the 80s of course. I used to go when I was a kid and they served something called Mexican Mice - stuffed jalapeno peppers that would set your mouth on fire. Those were the days.

                1. Once upon a time the Willow use to be a decent neighborhood joint. While far from authentico it was nevertheless better at the cali-mex style that was what most people thought mexican food was in those days.

                  It's been through several ownership changes since then, at least 4 maybe more.

                  It really started to slide during the non-smoking transition, you may recall that there was a period of a few years where if a place officially declared themselves to be a bar, they could keep a smoking section, but that also meant that under-19s weren't admitted. The Willow's owner of the day did this so they cut themselves off from the family clientele that had been the backbone of the business and courted the bar patrons, who frankly didn't much care about or even buy the food, they were there for the booze and to smoke. Once the ban came on 100% the remaining clientele upped sticks and moved to holes like Terri-Os. Of course the families never came back, why would they?

                  The most recent ownership change was probably less than a year ago.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bytepusher

                    I was there last winter. We had three different entrees, and the only good thing was the gummie worm served with my nephews cola.

                  2. Even in the 80's, when it was supposed to be good, I went a couple of times and was grossed out by the bad food and inept service. Sorry you got trapped into a group situation....... been throught that at Le Paradis - mass produced food, unprofessional service, and a very dirty and grubby room.

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                    Le Paradis
                    166 Bedford Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2K9, CA

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                      KitchenVoodoo, I couldn't agree more on Le Paradis. Went once and that was more than enough for me. Sat up against the wall, in the back room, and couldn't get outta there fast enough - the walls were filthy. That, and our waitress was miserable. For some reason though, many seem to love the place.

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                      Le Paradis
                      166 Bedford Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2K9, CA

                      1. re: millygirl

                        It's cheap and they don't know any better.