Restaurant Reviews

Willie D's Aims To Bring Back The Welcoming Ice House

The Give 'em the Bird burger at Willie D's.
The Give 'em the Bird burger at Willie D's. Alex Gonzalez
Knox-Henderson’s newest bar and grill, Willie D’s, aims to offer a unique, vibrant space for all of its regulars — the college students, young professionals and East Dallas natives who maintain the eccentric spirit of the neighborhood.

The icehouse opened in September and has quickly become a neighborhood favorite for crafty cocktails, hearty sandwiches and oysters. While Knox-Henderson regulars have turned up here in droves, Willie D’s remains somewhat of a hidden gem for those who don’t visit the area often.
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Willie D's laid-back vibe helps it stand out from other bars in the neighborhood.
Kathy Tran
Despite the icehouse feel, it’s hard to nail down an exact vibe for Willie D’s. Though it aims to be an icehouse, it has some of the feel of a warm, comfortable cabin or hunting lodge; there's even a deer head on the wall. The walls, which hold portraits of Texas country and rock musicians, are painted soft blue. Much of the playlist is late ‘90s and early aughts hip-hop and R&B – as a mid-90s-born millennial, this writer isn’t complaining.

Upon entering Willie D’s, you’ll see guests from all walks of life – some in their business wear, some in t-shirts and jeans, and some in hoodies and sweats.

Owner Gary Stapleton, who named this spot for his father, wanted a place for everyone to feel at home, and not one with “bougie, overpriced” food.

On a November night, the CBD Mule is a smooth, sweet cocktail made with Tito’s vodka, ginger beer and Martha Stewart CBD drops ($13). Garnished with a mint, this mule has a minty aftertaste, which makes for a festive treat during the holidays.
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Blood orange sangria.
Alex Gonzalez
A lighter choice is the Blood Orange Sangria, a juicy, fruity beverage made with a Peter Vella Winemaker’s Blend, in-season fruit and blood orange syrup ($11). This drink has little to no alcohol taste, so it’s easy to want to drink more than one or two. Just be careful.
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Caesar Salad topped with Parmesan crisps.
Alex Gonzalez
If you’re like me, and love pretending Caesar salad is healthy, Willie D’s has a phenomenal one — a bed of romaine lettuce topped with Parmesan crisps and a housemade dressing. Large chunky croutons are made from burger buns. It's $12, but you’ve got to add grilled chicken for an extra $6.

As for mains, Willie D’s takes a different approach to bar food. Whether you order the tacos, served on handmade corn tortillas, or the burgers, which are hand-ground, you’ll feel satisfied with your meal and not bogged down with excessive grease and oils. But if you do want to load up before or after a debauched night on Knox-Henderson, Willie D’s does have a selection of signature Slutty Fries. More on those later.

We decided to go the burger route. Willie D’s offers a classic “Straight Shooter” burger ($17). Another interesting choice is the Spicy Back Home BBQ burger, with cheddar, bacon, jalapeños, caramelized onion and bourbon barbecue sauce ($17). We chose to keep things light, with the “Give Them The Bird” sandwich, with a turkey patty, feta, sundried tomatoes, capers, onion, and arugula ($17).

While this one is (probably) the healthiest of the sandwich selection, its composition is just as adventurous as that of the other burgers on the menu. Not to mention, it’s pretty damn tasty. The burgers come with a side of Willie D’s hand-cut fries, which are hot and crisp on the outside, and soft and pillowy on the inside. Or, you can order a smaller version of the Slutty Fries for an extra $6.
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Willie D's Slutty Fries
Kathy Tran
The Slutty Fries are Willie D’s version of loaded fries, and they come in four different varieties. The “Standard” version, which one would find in most diners and bars, comes topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, chives, pickled jalapeño and a drizzle of Willie D’s lime crema sauce ($11 for regular size/$16 for large).

Other variations of the Slutty Fries include the Pulling My Chain($11/$16) with pulled pork carnitas, red onion, bourbon barbecue, sauce, cheddar, cabbage slaw and pickles. The You Know The Spot ($11/$16) is made with elote, cotija, pepper jack, cheddar, cilantro, lime crema, chili powder dusting and crushed flaming hot cheetos.

Oysters are on our list to try next time. Admittedly, we’re having a hard time deciding between the Rockefeller oysters or the Crab Stuffed oysters. Both come 6 for $21/12 for $40.

Willie D’s is a breath of fresh air from the crowded bars of Knox-Henderson, but it also stands out – not just physically. In a small, white storefront resembling a house, it's a comfortable, home-like setting where guests can simply enjoy a festive spin on bar favorites. It’s safe to say this may soon become the place where everybody knows our name.

2929 N. Henderson Ave. (Knox-Henderson). Wednesday – Friday, 3 p.m. – midnight; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – midnight.
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Alex Gonzalez has been a contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2018. He is a Dallas native whose work has appeared in Local Profile, MTV News and the Austin American-Statesman. He has eclectic taste in music and enjoys writing about art, food and culture.
Contact: Alex Gonzalez

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