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“Best high-end restaurant in Midland area”

Shari At the Willard Hillton
Ranked #4 of 11 Restaurants in Auburn
Price range: $10 - $60
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Romantic
Dining options: Dinner, Accepts American Express, Accepts Discover, Accepts Mastercard, Accepts Visa, Free Off-Street Parking, Full Bar, Parking Available, Reservations, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Waitstaff
Description: Shari at the Willard Hillton is centrally located in Mid-Michigan, in one of Michigan's last known Ghost Towns. The "Willard Hillton", our building, was once known as the Beaver Hotel. It was built in the late 1800's, and housed not only the hotel, but the local jail, general store, and saloon. It was jokingly nicknamed "Willard Hillton" by townspeople 50 years ago, and has been known as such ever since. Today it is one of only three original buildings remaining in the town of Willard. Interestingly enough, the historic jail cell with its cave like walls and sand floor now houses our Wine at perfect cellaring conditions year round. Executive Chef and Owner Shari Rae Smith is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. She has transformed this Historic Saloon into a highly acclaimed Restaurant. With the ever ambitious yet creative spirit of the restaurant Shari and Executive Chef Stephen Litchey, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, create new menus every two to three weeks. As a result we are continually expanding our wine program. Our establishment carries in excess of 110 wines at any given time, ranging in price from $28.00 to $275.00. This allows everyone exceptional wine in every price category. In addition, Shari offers Wine dinners no less than four times a year. The wines we showcase at these dinners are wines we want to familiarize our clientele with. We select five to six wines that we would like to feature for the upcoming menu pairing the wine with Shari's cuisine resulting in an evening of exceptional wine, fine food, and an enjoyable dining experience for a very reasonable price.
Midland, Michigan
Level Contributor
31 reviews
22 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
“Best high-end restaurant in Midland area”
Reviewed April 8, 2013

I enjoy going the Shari's for special occasions. The food is (almost) always fantastic. My only complaint has been over-cooked meat, but this seems pretty standard for the tri-city area. The menu is a little more adventurous that other places in town, which is what I want when I am paying $35+ for an entree. I have had the lamb chops (great) and wild boar (ok). Their salads are really good (and change slightly with the seasons).

  • Visited December 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank BnG7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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59 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
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    6
    2
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Saginaw, Michigan
Level Contributor
10 reviews
9 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Very Disappointed”
Reviewed March 5, 2013

I took my mother here for her 70th birthday, having heard that it was good from my sister. My mom and I were both quite disappointed in our meal overall. If you want to know the details of our dinner, please continue reading. Otherwise, you can skip to the last paragraph for an overall summary.

We split the shrimp spring rolls for an appetizer. They were wrapped in some kind of rubbery white, semi-translucent material and were completely stuck together. I had to use my butter knife like a surgeon to separate them. They were mostly filled with cooked rice noodles, but had a little green onion, mint and cilantro in it along with one or two decent sized cold, boiled shrimp. There was a thick soy type of sauce with them. Neither of us liked these spring rolls at all. To me, the mint was an unwelcome flavor and although I love cilantro in most instances, it just did not taste good in this. The shrimp were bland and somewhat rubbery. These 4 half rolls were certainly not worth $13.

We each ordered a half salad. My mom got the Hearts of Palm salad (one of the specials that night) and said it was pretty good. I ordered a spinach based salad that was also good, but it was supposed to have pancetta on it and that was almost non-existent. Two small salads were $13 (for both) with nothing terribly special about either one.

My mom had the Coq Au Vin for her entrée. To be honest, neither of us have had this before, so we didn’t know what to expect. The chicken was split into what looked like a leg and partial thigh (both with bones) and a very small piece of breast meat. All pieces still had their skin on, which was completely flabby. She spent the first 10 minutes or so picking through the sauce, which contained mushroom and onions with a tiny bit of what seemed to be white rice mixed in, to pull out the bones, cartilage and skin before she could actually start eating. She found it very bland and when I tried one of the mushrooms, the sauce on it was pretty tasteless to me as well. There was supposed to be bacon in the sauce too, but you really could not taste it other than the faintest hint of smokiness in the background. A side of tiny roasted asparagus spears with shredded carrots on top was the side. All this for only $24!

I was interested in what they called a Kobe style beef dish (can’t remember the exact term in the menu), but when I asked about it, I was told they did not have it available that night. I’m guessing it wasn’t real Kobe beef, as that would be astronomically expensive and is not available in many places within the US, so it was probably Wagyu beef, which is America’s attempt at reproducing Kobe style beef from Japan. I ended up ordering a half rack of pecan-crusted lamb chops with white chocolate butter sauce. For almost $30, I received 3 small lamb chops, a side of smashed red potatoes, and the same exact asparagus and carrot veggie that my mom got with her meal. The lamb was cooked well, but was seriously under-seasoned. I wasn’t a huge fan of the white chocolate butter sauce, but I knew I was taking a risk ordering that. After cutting the meat away from the bone and removing the fat, there was not much left. The potatoes were decent, but could have used some garlic and maybe some salt and/or pepper. The tiny asparagus had very little flavor and I would have much preferred normal asparagus simply steamed over the kind that they served.

Finally, we decided to try dessert. My mom ordered some kind of peaches and ice cream dessert and said it was good. I ordered the crème brulee which was pretty good, but certainly not excellent. Both were $8, I believe.

Our waiter did a good job, but the service just took too long. I don’t often eat at “gourmet” restaurants, so perhaps it is customary to wait until the patrons are completely finished with their appetizer before telling the chef to start the salads… and then waiting until the salads are gone before having the chef begin making the entrées. We were there for almost 2 ½ hours, which is far too long, in my opinion.

Other reviewers have commented that the exterior of the building is underwhelming, which it certainly is, but then stated that they found the interior nice. Again, I was not impressed at all. It was very basic and lacked any real charm or ambiance.

All told, I spent $120 on dinner and tip, and we only had water to drink. Given the amount of food we received and the lackluster flavor of most of it, I think this place is seriously overpriced. I was fully ready to pay the advertised prices, but expected a much better meal for the money. I was sad that we drove an hour round trip for my mom’s special birthday dinner that turned out to be so unsatisfying. I think we both would have enjoyed going to almost any one of the routine chain restaurants in Saginaw more than we did eating at Shari’s. We will not be back.

  • Visited March 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank shaydul
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
20 reviews
17 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“You won't find better food or service”
Reviewed February 19, 2013 via mobile

I've been to a lot of great Restraunt's around the world and this place is absolutely Great. It's in the middle of nowhere and in a modest building, but the food is superb. The attention to detail is above par and the interesting mixtures of flavors in items like their spring rolls is very crisp and interesting We each had the filet and it was very good. If your ever in the Midland or Saginaw area you'll need to go up to Auburn and visit this gem. The wait staff is very conscious of each detail and very helpful in explaining the different items offered

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank iam1972
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bay City, Michigan
Level Contributor
16 reviews
13 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Who knew gourmet dining in the middle of nowhere?”
Reviewed February 18, 2013

If you thought it wasn't possible to experience fine dining in the middle of rural Mid-Michigan, think again! Shari's is excellent. She changes the menu on a regular basis. The prices are very reasonable considering the gourmet meal you will enjoy.

  • Visited November 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank Craig M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pensacola, Florida
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Shari on New Year's Eve”
Reviewed January 1, 2013

Having heard for years about the wonderful dining experience at Shari's I was very excited to be invited by family and friends to dine with them at Shari's on New Year's Eve. We were a party of 10 and the overall comment at the end of the evening is that Shari's is a wonderful place for a fine dining experience, but not so great on a holiday.

We had a reservation for 11 and our table was ready and waiting for us when we arrived. We were greeted at the door, our coats were taken and we were promptly seated.The menu offered more than enough variety so everyone was able to find something they wanted to try.

Our server started out very friendly and anxious to please. The service declined in direct proportion to the number of guests our server was helping. A first round of drinks came from the bar very slowly. While the entire order was taken at one time, two people in our party were served their drinks 5 to 10 minutes before the rest were served. Unfortunate as we were waiting to have a toast to start our evening.

Our server didn't seem to know much about the menu. Each time we asked a question, the response was, "I'm not sure, let me check". Even after checking, some of his answers left us confused.

We ordered a sampling (chef's choice) of appetizers. Some were good, others not so much. We may have been better off selecting a few from the menu on our own. Several people ordered the soup, lobster bisque. The server didn't check on us after serving the soup. He should have. Three people didn't get theirs, and I couldn't eat mine.

It took a very long time for our entrees to be served. The server never came to our table to update us on the progress of our meals. As we waited for the checks, a young woman came to our table. She said she had been sent to see if there was anything she could do for us, and to say thank you for our patience during the period of the evening when the kitchen was a little slow. A "little" slow! I never like to feel rushed when I am having dinner, but the length of time it took for this meal was excessive. In other settings I have been known to walk out without eating or paying when the service was this poor.

I bet that makes you think I won't go back. Not so. I would love to go again for a special dinner. Just not on a holiday.

  • Visited December 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank Carol D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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