Walter Foods, Williamsburg
“A lot of people want to see change but a lot of people get mad when they do. So we have four or five dishes on the menu, which have always been there.”
This article is presented in partnership with Connoisseur as part of our flavour tour of Brooklyn. You can watch our episode on Williamsburg here, and read about one of its iconic establishments—Walter Foods—below.
Williamsburg is a neighbourhood where a store's sole offering is hot sauce from Japan, or Californian pressed juice, or artisan chocolates, or kale salads, or tiny hats for tiny dogs. So much newness means older neighbourhood joints are harder to come by, which makes Walter Foods a diamond in the gentrified rough.
Located on a quieter part of Grand Street, the bistro has served locals for the past eight years, which is ancient in Billyburg time. "It's kinda like Cheers," says co-owner Danny Minch. "The idea is this is a place you can come on a first date, you can get engaged here, meet friends, bring your parents, sit at the bar by yourself…A lot of people want to see change but a lot of people get mad when they do. So we have four or five dishes on the menu, which have always been there: the French dip sandwich, the fried chicken, the grilled steak, and our hamburger."
Minch's wait staff are old hospo hands: they mix an expert drink on the dark wood bar, dim the antique lights to a flattering glow, and make sure the volume's just right. They hang your jacket on a coat rack. It's the little things that count.
The vibe is a warm American bistro that feels a little bit French. Or maybe that's the French dip sandwich talking. The soft filet mignon and horseradish cream in crusty bread comes with a beef jus ("beef juice, not jus!" Minch clarifies) and it's worth its own story.
Walter's magic is the way it weaves high and low. On the menu, there's buffalo lollipop wings and a chilled half lobster; no-nonsense Berkshire pork chop with jalapeno grits, a summer bean salad doused in a red curry vinaigrette. Pigs 'n a blanket, blackened catfish, devilled eggs, grilled Atlantic salmon. It's comfort food with class.
It's a similar vibe behind the bar. Old knockouts—whiskey, bourbon, tequila—can be enjoyed solo or as fancy combos that stretch from the smoky Spirit Animal (thai chilli-infused pisco, mezcal, orgeat syrup, don's mix) to the High Tide (aged rum, sherry, don's spices, passion fruit).
In passing, Minch tells us about the heirloom tomatoes in the panzanella salad; they're brought in by a former chef who started working on a farm upstate. This info would be menu crack in nearby restaurants. At Walter's, it just is.
Presented by Connoisseur
Photographer: Pep Kim