Since its 2015 opening in the guarded back room of the Normandie Club, the Walker Inn’s thematic drink menus have become the stuff of booze-based legend. Fog swirled over the rims of glasses during a PCH-inspired omakase; a Wet Hot American Summer menu offered graham cracker-washed bourbon with a side of marshmallows; and during the holidays, Christmas villains always got their due with Grinch- and Bad Santa-derived cocktails. From Alice Walker to Wes Anderson-leaning nautical themes, these menus changed every six to eight weeks and drew locals and cross-country cocktail pilgrims alike, but in 2018, no one will be able to find them in the K-town speakeasy.
Starting this week, the Proprietors- and 213 Hospitality-fronted bar is changing up its concepts, its food options and even its accessibility. Gone are the themed menus, but at least the multi-drink tasting menus will remain. They’ll still be available at the bar by reservation (or for walk-ins, if there’s space in each six-spot seating), though they’ll adhere more to seasonality and less to films, people, places and characters. Clocking in at one hour and 15 minutes, and at $70 per guest, expect five or six cocktail courses, many accompanied by snacks that tie into the given roster’s specific drinks. Those not looking to imbibe an entire tasting series—which is available during 7 and 9pm seatings—can opt for à la carte cocktails off the menu at around $15 or $20 apiece, whether seated in the lounge or at the bar. In addition, there’s also a new petit tasting of three cocktails for $40.
“We had some really brilliant things come out of that [themed] format but we’re now at a point where every subject is harder and harder to pick,” Proprietors partner Devon Tarby told Time Out in a recent interview. “It isn’t as exciting and it kind of feels like we’re stretching to do something that isn’t as good as we know it can be. So we’re going to be transitioning into something that’s a little more timeless, where we can change elements from the menu when it makes sense seasonally. We’re still going to be doing the tasting menu at the bar, still going to be doing the same type of service in the lounge, but what we’re going to change is the strict structure of the one-subject menu.”
The most exciting addition of all could be the food menu, a godsend for anyone who’s spent an hour or three in the cocktail den and noticed there were no snacks to be found. Now Walker Inn revelers can pad their stomachs with spiced cashews ($6), French onion dip and chips ($8), warm baguettes with radish and butter ($12) and even a slice of Cassell’s pie ($10).
Another new highlight is a section devoted to Walker Wines—“Our ’funny wines,’” says Tarby—where the bar team takes a well-known style of wine and then flips its flavor profile to that of another style of wine by using new ingredients and science. They come served in wine bottles with labels and they look like wine and taste like wine, but you might find something like a white burgundy—a type of wine not aged in wood—turned it into a Sonoma chardonnay by method of a butterfat wash or aromatized liquids, added cognac for oak flavor, plus vanilla and pear liquors.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the bar will drop its speakeasy act entirely. Say goodbye to pressing the button and waiting by the Walker Inn’s red light until someone lets you in; during the weekend, the bar will prop open its door, joining it with the Normandie Club (though their menus will still remain separate). Regulars may come to love the new locker system, where purchased whole bottles can be stored for you, with a small fee applied when you drink from it.
“Over the last two years, using these subjects as jumping-off points, we’ve been able to develop our own style that fits the bill for everything we want the experience to offer,” Tarby says. “Now, we want to take a confident and maybe more selfish stance and say, ‘The theme is moot. The subject is drinking.’”
Take a peek at the Walker Inn’s new menu, below, then stop by and taste your way through it.
The Walked Inn is located at 3612 W 6th St, in the back room of the Normandie Club.