Willa Brings Hyperseasonal Farm-to-Table Dining to Millerton's Main Street | Restaurants | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

Alanna Broesler and Jim Buhs had been working at 52 Main, a tapas bar in Millerton, for a combined total of 18 years when the thought occurred to them: would it be crazy to buy the business? Following a year’s worth of negotiating with the previous owner and soliciting advice from friends, the couple officially became owners in September and subsequently closed down for a whirlwind of renovations. On Halloween, they reopened the doors as Willa, a restaurant and bar committed to local farm-to-table sourcing and balancing elevated New American cuisine with a cozy neighborhood ambience.

“Willa appeals to a really broad demographic,” says Broesler. “You can come in all dirty after a hard day’s work for happy hour, or dress up and go out with the girls, or sit in the window and have an intimate date. It’s a comfortable atmosphere without being egotistical or pretentious.”

click to enlarge Willa Brings Hyperseasonal Farm-to-Table Dining to Millerton's Main Street
Colin Bazzano Photography

Willa runs on a small menu that refuses to sacrifice range for size, from winter squash croquettes and black emmer pappardelle to a smash burger and fries, all the while adhering to a micro-seasonal calendar. Chef Daniel Meissner plans to change the lineup every three months, with additional tweaks based on what surrounding farms have in stock from week to week.

The grilled tilefish––doused in white wine and butter sauce and sitting atop a salad of cranberry beans, diced rutabaga, celery leaves, and bronzed fennel––is exemplary. “One week we’re serving rutabaga for fish, then we buy it all from the farm and they don’t have any more, so we have to do something else, like get celery root,” Meissner explains. “We’re trying to create these relationships with our local ecosystem, our local farmers, small businesses that really struggle to make money every year and get by. We want to show support to them.”

click to enlarge Willa Brings Hyperseasonal Farm-to-Table Dining to Millerton's Main Street
Colin Bazzano Photography

When developing new dishes, Meissner draws on his personal experiences, the teachings of his mentors, and the input of his kitchen team, all bound by the constraints of what local farms have available. “We’re using techniques like pickling, fermenting, and local sourcing to create a language of our own,” he says.

Broesler, Buhs, and Meissner have each put in their hours in the Hudson Valley restaurant scene, which brought them together first as friends and now as business partners. Broesler hails from Highland Falls, where her father owns the bar Benny Havens, and grew up “sweeping sidewalks and scrubbing potatoes” before obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture and food systems.

click to enlarge Willa Brings Hyperseasonal Farm-to-Table Dining to Millerton's Main Street
Colin Bazzano Photography

Broesler met Buhs when she started working at 52 Main, and workplace chemistry eventually escalated into a relationship. Buhs had previously run a video store in Amenia, where a teenage Meissner would often pop in to rent DVDs. Meissner went into fine dining, attended culinary school, and had been working as a private chef in various Hudson Valley locations since the pandemic when Buhs approached him to be the chef at the new restaurant

“I always romanticized the idea of coming back and doing some sort of restaurant project in the area, but in the few years prior to this, that dream felt a little dead in the water,” says Meissner. “Maybe it’s not worth it, or only so if the right people come along. Jim and Alanna definitely feel like the right people, being locals and wanting to see the local economy thrive.” Broesler, in turn, calls finding Meissner “a godsend.” She had originally intended Willa’s offerings to consist of simple comfort food, “but Dan elevated us to the next level.”

click to enlarge Willa Brings Hyperseasonal Farm-to-Table Dining to Millerton's Main Street
Colin Bazzano Photography

Their vision for Willa also included a facelift—a five-week effort bolstered by members of the Millerton community, many of whom worked pro bono. Carpenter John Goudreault redid the bar shelving and crafted benches, and local artists helped repaint the walls from the previous orange to an emerald green. The new decor and color scheme were Broesler’s brainchild; she drew on her three years of experience as a florist to arrange hanging plants and assemble flower arrangements that change weekly.

“I think we’ve changed the space in a way that fits our voice,” Meissner says. Opening day “feels like a blur now,” but he considers it successful; both busy and “by far the smoothest opening I’ve been a part of.” In the ensuing weeks, he’s seen much of the same crowd that frequented 52 Main. “We didn’t do a ton of advertising,” Broesler recalls. “We just opened the doors. I think we have a leg up just from being in the community for so long.”

click to enlarge Willa Brings Hyperseasonal Farm-to-Table Dining to Millerton's Main Street
Colin Bazzano Photography

Perhaps an underrated source of marketing is Willa’s namesake: Broesler’s pet six-year-old potbelly pig, whose appearances around town Meissner deems the stuff of “local legend.” Willa (the restaurant) doesn’t serve any pork out of respect for Willa (the pig) and Broesler’s belief in porcine intelligence. But fear not––plenty of other culinary delights await.

Willa is at 52 Main Street in Millerton, NY. Its doors are open 4pm-9pm Tuesday-Thursday, and 4pm-10pm Friday-Saturday.

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