After driving by the WillowTree in Peabody several thousand times, we finally stopped in for dinner last week. I know many on this board have also wondered about this place, so I'll try to be thorough in posting my thoughts.
Walked in and it STUNK of stale cigarette smoke. This could be one of two things: a) they smoke after hours at the bar (my suspicion) or b) after 50 years of smoke in a place with carpet and raw unfinished wood walls, it just still stinks.
We arrived at about 7:30 on a Friday night. The restaurant was EMPTY. The bar was rather full, but there was only one other table seated in the place. Decor was eclectic but dated. Cloth napkins & tablecloths (also eclectic but dated.)
Appetizers run $3-$7 and entrees run $8-$16. Drinks $4 -$5 (including $4.50 for a LARGE vodka on the rocks, and moderatly priced huge martinis.) Value for quantity and quality was good, we were surprised at how reasonably priced it was.
I had onion soup to start which was quite tasty- YUM. I chose two appetizers as an entree - sauteed portabellas (very good) and crab stuffed artichoke hearts (quite tasty artichokes but a bit heavy on the breaded faux crab stuffing.) Others at the table had a baked haddock (OK) and a shrimp stir fry (also OK.) We had two bananas fosters for dessert - excellent, very yummy bananas but the vanilla ice cream was hard as a rock and seemed old.
Saving the best for last.... the service was TERRIBLE! The moment we walked in (about 7:30) the waitress came to our table and announced that she had to be "outta" there by 10:00 (my restaurant manager friend tells me he would have fired her on the spot for that.) She seemed annoyed at the "high end" services she was supposed to offer (a throwbackt to the hayday of this being a fine dining experience.) She was really, really, really, annoyed when we ordered the bananas foster that she had to flambee tableside. She wheeled the flambee cart out, bumping into walls & tables all the way before stopping about 15 feet from our table.... "you can see it from here, can't you?" she said. At that point, is it really called tableside? Why not just keep it in the kichen?!?!? We paid our check (knowing she had to be "outta" there by 10) and stayed finishing our dessert and drinks. She came over a few minutes later and asked if she could take our napkins! I guess that was something she had to do before leaving for the night!!?!?!?
So, for anyone wondering, I think this was once a higher end dining experience. It's become tired & showing its age. I would go back though, as the food was decent, prices were good & drinks were huge. Do not go expecting a fine dining experience & you won't be disappointed.