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A TASTE O F SA RCAS M

WILLA B’S BISTRO & EMPORIUM 215 W 3 R D S T, YA N K T O N , S D 5 70 78 // (6 0 5 ) 6 6 0 - 210 6 // W I L L A B S YA N K T O N .C O M BY DENISE DEPAOLO

“It's not always possible to sit down and eat at home in this day and age of fast-paced living, but if you are going to eat out, do so as a family and support all the great local places in your areas. I'll still eat at the same diner I did as a kid with my parents.” — Michael Symon Located in the heart of downtown Yankton, Willa B’s Bistro and Emporium is exactly the kind of place a visitor to this picturesque river town would hope to wander into. Think a feminine version of Luke’s on Gilmore Girls. It’s an eatery with a distinct “local” vibe, cozy and crafty, but not contrived. When we approached the counter on a Thursday afternoon, the woman behind the counter in a chef coat greeted us with a smile, and asked what we’d like as though we’d been there a hundred times. When my friend and I mentioned that it was our first time at Willa B’s, she handed us a menu to peruse. Although it was populated with lunchtime basics, like paninis and salads, it took us a few minutes to narrow down our choices, as each item came with the promise of a homemade, gourmet twist. Since we weren’t starving, it was nice to see that the sandwiches came in half portions. We took that as an opportunity to order soup as well. After placing our order at the counter, we sat down with our glass bottle Cokes and took in the space around us. In addition to serving as a restaurant, Willa B’s is also a gallery space selling original art, greeting cards, jewelry, scarves, and other artisan products. On our table was a laminated list of “fun facts” about Yankton, greater South Dakota and food. All in all, it made the short wait for our lunch fly by. After about 10 minutes, the chef (who appeared to be running a one-woman show), dropped off our food. Looking back at us was the Spores & Beef panini, Smoked Chicken sandwich, bowls of cabbage stew and creamy tomato soup, and sides of Waldorf salad and potato and ham salad. “Spores & Beef” is a cheeky name for what is basically a steak, mushroom, and onion sandwich. Unless there is something wrong with one of the ingredients, it’s a hard combination to get wrong. In this case, it was savory perfection. Accompanied by melted Muenster and provolone cheeses, mayo, and a bit of sauteed garlic, the aforementioned ingredients mingled deliciously between pieces of crunchy grilled French bread. The Smoked Chicken is actually a chicken salad sandwich on a 40 // APRIL 2016

homemade croissant. Although incredibly simple, this chicken salad is what I personally look for - savory and light, with flavorful chicken. Too often, chicken salad is over-dressed and overly-sweet, with chicken serving as a texture, rather than a flavor component. Served with just a little lettuce as accompaniment, this really hit the spot. And did I mention the croissant was both flaky and moist? This is one of those sandwiches that proves something doesn’t have to be complicated to be extraordinary.

AND DID I MENTION THE CROISSANT WAS BOTH FLAKY AND MOIST? THIS IS ONE OF THOSE SANDWICHES THAT PROVES SOMETHING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE COMPLICATED TO BE EXTRAORDINARY. On to the soups. First, I tried the creamy tomato, as tomato soup is my favorite of all soups. This was a good one. It was thick, hearty, and creamy without being heavy. Normally, I’m a fan of a few saltines in my tomato soup, but this time, the thought didn’t even cross my mind. Texturally and seasoning-wise, it lacked for nothing. Next, I tried the cabbage stew. I have nothing against cabbage, but it’s not a veggie I cook with often, so I had no idea what to expect from this one. What sat steaming in the bowl was an earthy, deeplyflavored orange concoction. The broth bore the telltale tang of cabbage, but there were also satisfying notes of garlic and onion, and the almost imperceptibly rich mouthfeel lent by the addition of root vegetables. Fittingly, finely sliced bits of cabbage served as the main textural component, with pieces of potato and bits of carrot keeping things interesting. Finally, the salads. These each exceeded expectations as well. The potato salad was super light - especially as it was dressed in mayonnaise. I think the addition of tomato and ham helped to break it up, as did the tang of vinegar. The Waldorf salad had great texture,

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