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Baja Eats: Wilko

Wilko’s inventive flavor combinations and consistently appealing dishes make this University Boulevard gem well worth repeat visits.

April 12, 2017

Baja Eats

Beloved by both Centennial Hall concert attendees and University of Arizona gourmets, Wilko‘s rustic-chic interior is home to well-crafted food served without fuss, by people who know their way around a charcuterie board. Owned by Peter and Bree Wilke, Wilko is the campus location of the couple’s growing food empire, with Time Market, and The B-Line all competing for their attention. Wilko’s kitchen manager Chef Nick Bamford credits the Wilkes with using their “incredible palates” to shape the menu, which features a proven list of customer favorites with just enough innovation to keep things fresh.

The mixed charcuterie board from Wilko is a bite-sized smorgasbord of flavors, textures, and kitchen innovations.

We kicked off our late afternoon meal with a charcuterie board, opting for the Mixed Board ($20) with a mouthwatering juxtaposition of textures and flavors, three cheeses, and two cured meats. I asked Bamford about what goes into choosing the various cheeses, meats, and accompanying foodstuffs that make up a charcuterie board; he says the cheeses are largely chosen by the Wilkes, with input from other restaurant staff, while the vegetables, compotes, and other items on the charcuterie boards are where his kitchen gets to have fun and try things out. The results were fantastic: everything on our platter was delicious, with a few items especially deserving of praise. There was a Bacon Beet Brittle, which resembled a bacon-filled praline and melted in our mouths. One of the cheeses, a Michigan blue cheese called Detroit Street Brick, was similar in consistency to brie and had a rich, delicious flavor. Finally, while the house-pickled vegetables were all outstanding, it was the fruit—specifically the melons, quick-pickled with Serrano chiles and served over a housemade pineapple poblano jam—that was jaw-droppingly delicious. Salty, spicy, and sweet all at once, we fought over every bite. It was perfection.

Our cocktails were no less impressive: the Daisy ($8) was a great choice for a light afternoon drink, combining the tang of grapefruit with salted curacao, and finishing things off with a smoky mezcal. It reminded me of a Pimm’s Cup, with south-of-the-border teeth. The Garnet Rita ($9) was a showstopper of a cocktail with a gorgeous fuchsia color thanks to the beet-infused Corazon tequila, and a tantalizing tajin-crusted rim. The beets, combined with cucumber and angostura bitters, gave the drink an earthy flavor reminiscent of kvass, with the tajin providing just the right amount of citrus and chile to give it an edge.

Crunchy, savory, cool and crisp, fluffy, filling … and it’s all packed into one sandwich.

For our entrees, we chose the Jerk Chicken sandwich ($12) and the Panna pizza ($13). The sandwich was stacked high with a mild sour cream slaw, a blackened, flavorful chicken breast, and crispy house-made sweet potato chips, all served on a fluffy brioche bun. This sandwich must be crushed before eating to have any hope of fitting your mouth around it, but the experience of so many different textures at once make it well worth the extra effort. The pizza, meanwhile, was significantly larger than the price point led us to believe, making this an entrée able to be shared by 2-3 people. A white sauce made from a reduction of sautéed onions, white wine, heavy cream, and garlic provides the creamy base for the mozzarella, parmigiano, garlic, rosemary, and basil that makes up the toppings, and the result is a decadent pizza with a golden brown crust that positively melts in your mouth.

The pizza may be large enough to share with friends, but I can’t promise you’ll want to.

We topped things off with a piece of delightfully tart Blackberry Rhubarb Pie ($8). If you love the pie at B-Line, you’ll love the pie at Wilko – because they both come from the same B-Line kitchen. With a flaky crust and tangy purple filling, the pie provided an irresistible end to our meal, accompanied by a mental note on my part to make sure to come back to Wilko soon. I already know what I’ll be eating: Chef Bamford recommends the Portobello pizza: “That stuff is out of this world.”

The incredible Rhubarb Blackberry Pie from Wilko’s sister restaurant B-Line made for the perfect ending to the meal.

943 E University Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85719
(520) 792-6684

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