Willa Jean

The Willa Jean logo, taken from the coffee menu.Willa Jean, in New Orleans’ Central Business District, is many things to many people. It was recommended to me as a brunch place, although I ended up going there for dinner, where there’s a choice of full table service, or, if you’re dining solo, a spot at the counter or window-bar, where you can order anything from snacks to full meals. It’s also a lunch spot and a bakery with a fantastic range of cakes. And some awesome pies, all baked in-house.

Oh, and then there’s the coffee, which I discovered on my first visit. Willa Jean uses Chicago’s very own Intelligentsia, with options on espresso and batch-brew, plus a pair of single-origin pour-overs through the V60. Good restaurants, even those with more of a café style such as Willa Jean, rarely have really good coffee, so I felt obliged to pop back two days later to try it out.

You can see what I found after the gallery.

  • On the corner of  O'Keefe Avenue and Girod Street in the Central Business District...
  • ... is this brick-built building with tables around the corner on Girod Street...
  • ... which is also where you'll find the door, proclaiming it to be none other than Willa Jean!
  • Although primarily a restaurant, there's a coffee counter straight ahead, which is all...
  • ... you need to know if you've just come for a takeaway coffee.
  • However, that would mean missing out, since there's an awful lot more to Willa Jean.
  • As well as the sets of four-person tables, there's a window-bar on the Girod Street side...
  • ... while around the corner on the O'Keefe Avenue side are even more tables...
  • ... of varying sizes, including this large communal table.
  • These run all the way to the exposed brick wall at the far end.
  • There's one more seating area: the counter, which doubles as a bar.
  • The view along the counter. No prizes for guessing where I ended up sitting!
  • Willa Jean has a wonderfully high ceiling and some excellent light fittings to occupy it...
  • More lights, this time in cages, hang above the counter.
  • Naturally, they caught my eye!
  • Last one, I promise!
  • Don't spend all your time looking up though. There's also an awesome tiled floor.
  • To business. If you have just come for coffee to go, this is all you need.
  • Well, that and the pour-over bar. How cool is that, by the way? A restaurant with a...
  • ... pour-over bar? The coffee is all the way from Chicago power house, Intelligentsia.
  • Willa Jean is also a bakery with an awesome selection of cakes.
  • This isn't even all of them.
  • And we've yet to mention the pies!
  • If you decide to stay for coffee (or a meal) then you'll get your own coffee/drinks menu.
  • I had a pour-over, with a choice of two single-origins, selecting the Colombian Tres Santos.
  • My coffee was served in a small bottle, cup on the side, just how I like it.
  • On my first visit, which was for dinner, I had the BBQ Shrimp Toast...
  • ... which I followed up with a slice of blackberry pie, plus a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • On my return, I went for the Willa Green cornbread which was more dessert-like than...
  • ... I had bargained for, so I followed that with the Roasted Beets salad!
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Willa Jean is on O’Keefe Avenue, one of the main north-south roads that runs towards the western edge of New Orleans’ Central Business District, although the entrance is actually around the corner on Girod Street, where you’ll also find four two-person tables on the pavement.

Willa Jean occupies a square corner spot on the ground floor of a modern, brick-built building, although inside the enclosed kitchen occupies the back right-hand quarter, leaving an L-shaped space for the counter/bar and the seating. The counter runs along the kitchen walls, starting at back and finishing at the right-hand wall, while the seating occupies the space between the counter and the floor-to-ceiling windows, particularly at the bottom of the L.

The door, meanwhile, is at the back on the left-hand side, with the coffee end of the operation at the top of the counter, directly opposite you as you enter. If all you are ordering is takeaway coffee, you need venture no further, but if you are looking for a seat, one of the wait staff in the station immediately to the right of the door will show you to a table. There’s a selection of two- and four-person tables, plus a long communal table in the bottom half of the L.

Alternatively, if you are on your own, there’s an 11-person window-bar with stools lining the bottom half of the windows facing Girod Street. Meanwhile the bottom half of the counter, which runs parallel to O’Keefe Avenue, also provides seating in the shape of twelve bar chairs, the broad counter-top providing plenty of room.

I originally came for dinner on Sunday evening, looking for something fairly light and informal, which is exactly what I got, seated at the counter. Since I was in New Orleans, I felt obliged to try the BBQ Shrimp Toast, which was excellent, the whole ensemble swimming in barbeque sauce. I followed this up with a slice of blackberry pie, served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which was everything a good pie should be: a healthy dose of filling with a lovely sweet pastry crust.

I would have loved to try the coffee, but was already over-caffeinated after a day spent exploring New Orleans’ coffee scene, so I settled on returning for afternoon coffee two days later. Willa Jean has a dedicated barista who pulls shots of Intelligentsia’s ubiquitous Black Cat espresso, along with decaf, while there’s a bespoke blend on batch brew. However, what really excited me (and prompted my return) was the choice of two single-origins on V60. I settled for the Tres Santos from Colombia (the alternative was a Peruvian) which was served a bottle, with a cup on the side. This had plenty of body to start with, but developed more subtly as it cooled, which is always a good sign.

I’d originally only come for coffee, but decided to stay for another light dinner, ordering the Willa Jean cornbread. This was an amazing rich cornbread, served warm with butter and an incredibly rich molasses syrup on the side. This was lovely, but frankly overkill given how rich and tasty the cornbread was on its own. It was also far more dessert-like than I’d anticipated, so I followed it with the excellent roasted beets salad to soak up the sugar rush!

611 O’KEEFE AVENUE • NEW ORLEANS • LA 70113 • USA
http://willajean.com +1 504-509-7334
Monday 07:00 – 21:00 Roaster Intelligentsia (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 21:00 Seating Tables, Window-bar, Counter; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 21:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 21:00 Service Table Service
Friday 07:00 – 21:00 Cards Yes
Saturday 07:00 – 21:00 Wifi No
Sunday 07:00 – 21:00 Power No
Chain No Visits 6th, 8th April 2019

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