RAYS OF SUNSET cast a glow on outer stone walls, ratcheting up the already romantic character of Willow + Blaine. Inside the French bistro and wine bar, white marble tabletops, vases of antique tinted glass, and claw-foot iron table bases capture the spirit of the nearly century-old Las Cruces building and transport diners to a bygone era.
Thanks to the handiwork of husband-and-wife duo Tyrell Thacker and Arianna Parsons, with a few family and friends, an aging two-story residence in the heart of the Mesquite Historic District has been magically transformed into a chic garden-to-table eatery.
Parsons grew up in Missouri and graduated from college in New Jersey, where she opened her first café. Motivated by a sense of wanderlust, she moved to Missouri, then Los Angeles, then Missouri again before settling in Las Cruces in 2011. In a serendipitous first meeting at her 33rd birthday party, Parsons and Thacker hit it off. Nine months later, they were engaged and partners in a business. Together, they built Beck’s Roasting House & Creamery into a wildly popular coffee shop.
In 2019, the couple wanted to expand and became interested in the historic building next door. Stones in the bistro’s walls are believed to have come from a now-closed mine in the nearby Robledo Mountains. The original structure, likely built in the 1930s, is one of only a few in the city crafted from the quarry. “We were inspired by the space and knew we could make something special out of it,” says Parsons, whose brother Sam moved from Austin, Texas, to shape the culinary vision of Willow + Blaine.
It wasn’t easy. Throughout the pandemic, they worked with a historic preservationist to marry the old portions of the building and a modern expansion. Then, in spring 2021, vandals broke in and destroyed the coffee shop. A groundswell of community support got them back up and running in three days. “People came with brooms and dustpans, ready to work,” Parsons says.
Opened in September, Willow + Blaine puts a Southern touch on traditional French fare. The Hunter’s Chicken, for example, recalls a time when European hunters would cook their game in the field with foraged herbs. Two sizable pieces of bone-in chicken get pan-seared and topped with a sauce of mushrooms, garlic, spices, and bits of jalapeño, which offer a zesty Southwestern twist.
The bistro bar greets patrons at the entranceway offering Prohibition- and pre-Prohibition-era recipes. “It takes about eight minutes to make a cocktail,” Parsons says.
A similar passion translates throughout the dining experience, turning a once-dying property into a lively bistro. “What’s impressive to see is the number of people who have been involved with it,” Parsons says. “I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
The chill of winter lingers outside. But inside Willow + Blaine, a cozy blaze flickers in the fireplace beside the table. Holiday decor boosts the festive spirit.
The bistro and bar’s wine menu presents an array of choices, but what is the perfect drink for the moment? Co-owner and wine cellar manager Arianna Parsons suggests Domaine de la Janasse’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes. A blend of French Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault grape varietals, the semi-dry red resonates with hints of plum, fig, “a little bit of that earthy minerality on the back end, and a little bit of licorice,” she says.
Paired with a cheese tray and selection of smoked meats, it’s sure to add to the holiday cheer. “I think it will make anybody festive,” Parsons says.
118 N. Mesquite St. Las Cruces, NM 88001; 575-405-9444