Willie Jane may be a restaurant with two names, but it's been many before. I miss its French predecessor Lilly's that was here for many years and was always good for a nice glass of Rosé and some charcuterie on the back patio. Then came WiSC which was supposed to be the folks from the Venice pop-up Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, but the main sheep from the original didn't join, so the powers that be decided it best to give it a new name to reflect the new people, and that name is Willie Jane. Restauranteur Brad Johnson has been steering the ship the whole time and has tapped his chef Govind Armstrong from Post & Beam to bring his Southern American cuisine to Venice. Johnson's 100 year old aunt is also the muse behind the restaurant's name.
The space is still the same with some comfortable seating up front overlooking Abbot Kinney, followed by a long bar behind and then the covered, outdoor patio which is still just as lovely with warm colors twinkling lights, but also still a bit too loud.
We jumped right into the Southern groove with some homemade biscuits that came one at a time until we had one too many, if there is such a thing. They were warm and crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside, which made for an easy pull apart Oreo scenario. The fresh burnt orange honey butter beside it begged to be dipped into, and it was all washed down with a refreshing vodka based Mississippi Tea, with a fresh rosemary sprig shooting out the top - a decent replacement for my porch sipping French Rosé.
There are the usual small plates, but they also have the other extreme of large plates that serve 3-4. We were only 2, so our dish options were cut in half, but we didn't suffer too much. First out was a creamy dungeness crab soup with a savory benne wafer floating life a raft atop the rich broth.
A beautiful medley of colors arrived next with bright beets stacked around a mound of burrata. A light vinaigrette was tossed on top of radish and shaved leeks for a delicate, but impactful plate.
Happily eating our crab and beet combination, my dining companion remarked how frustrated she had been lately with the speed at which plates now seem to arrive at the table. During her last meal, all the dishes had arrived before their wine was even open. As she said this, our 2 mains came to our petite table while we were still enjoying our starters. We laughed and did share what we were talking about with our waitress and she apologized profusely and blamed it on the restaurant being new and still working on timing. We stacked the plates and dug into the well cooked rainbow trout sitting on a bed of peanut and black eyed pea hummus with a brussels slaw top.
The trout was nice, but no match for the amazing flat iron steak that was bursting with flavor from the five (or was it 50) ingredient spice rub. The Renegade Pinot Noir complemented the flavors and added a touch of red fruit for a very nice pairing.
The waitress felt so bad about all the dishes arriving at once that she treated us to an ice cream cookie sandwich, as well as some matching dessert wine, which was a really nice touch. It was made even nicer by the flavor of the chewy oatmeal cookie that arrived and was stacked high with ice cream and caramel for a taste I will savor for many more names to come.