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The Willa Way
March 27, 2024

Cooking up a Neighborhood Vibe at Willa in Millerton

By Cynthia Hochswender

Photos by Ryan Lavine

“Surprising” is not always a good word when used to describe a restaurant. But the new Willa on Main Street in Millerton has found a way, after a bit of experimentation, to be both surprising and delicious.

Owners Jim Buhs and Alanna Broesler, along with executive chef Daniel Meissner, tweaked the menu for several months before settling into serving seasonal food from farms throughout the Hudson Valley. Dishes such as sunchoke porridge and potato tortellini that sound quirky, are in the end, unexpectedly pleasing to the palate.

Buhs and Broesler were longtime staffers at 52 Main, the restaurant that preceded Willa in this space. As 52 Main’s owner, Eleanor Nurzia, began to dream of doing things other than being a chef and restaurateur, Buhs and Broesler began to dream of taking over the space and having a restaurant of their own. They invited Meissner to join them as chef. 

Buhs had known him for many years, from the days when Meissner was sous chef at Troutbeck and then culinary director of Stonewood Farm. 

Meissner and Broesler, who hadn’t known each other previously, share a passion for agriculture and sustainability that is evident in the Willa menu. 

The three of them work together like the ingredients of a perfect sauce, creating a vibe at the restaurant that is as chill as the indy music that floats over the speakers throughout the evening; bartender Nikki Stein adds to the laid-back atmosphere as she crafts cocktails at the bar. 

Meissner has cooked with many area chefs but did not go the culinary school route. Perhaps that’s why he feels free to try unexpected ingredients and innovative pairings. Some of them are exotic, potentially even intimidating.

But like the trio that heads up Willa, somehow it all works together. The squid ink pasta (handmade on the premises) is lightly sauced, deliciously al dente, and enhanced with shrimp, squid, and herbs. The focaccia is a meal in itself, with the density of good cornbread. It’s served with whipped feta, and a lovely, delicate cream sauce. 

The menu will continually change, depending on what’s available from farms and foragers around New England and the Hudson Valley. 

“Now that it’s spring, look for dishes that feature things like peas, asparagus, leafy greens, and wild edibles,” Meissner promises.

The menu for the happy hour yakitori skewers will also continue to change, depending on what foods are available, although it’s likely there will always be some kind of chicken and at least one vegetable.

The one menu perennial is the smashburger: Two slender patties from Kinderhook Farm are smashed together, and topped with a tender cap of shredded lettuce.

Don’t be intimidated by the unknown—especially with prices designed to entice diners to take a chance on foods they’ve never tried before.

“We want this to be a neighborhood restaurant, with something for everyone,” Meissner says. 

52 Main Street, Millerton,, 518-789-0252