Food News

Short Stop: The Walnut Room Didn't Crack During COVID

The Walnut Room dates from the days when this area was first dubbed RiNo.
The Walnut Room dates from the days when this area was first dubbed RiNo. Kristin Pazulski
Denver's dining scene is making a big comeback — and we're hungering to go out. With so many new ventures and old favorites to visit, the choices can be overwhelming. So we're serving up Short Stop, with recommendations for things that should definitely be on your culinary short list. This week, head to The Walnut Room, a RiNo oldie and goodie.

What: The Walnut Room

Where: 3131 Walnut Street

When: Open 11 a.m. to midnight. Sunday through Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy Hour: 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 2  to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more info: Visit thewalnutroom.com.

About the place: Before this area became the hip, restaurant-filled neighborhood it is today, the RiNo Art District contained only a handful of restaurants and music venues. The Walnut Room was one of them. Opened in 2005 by John Burr, it served pizza and bar fare, and regularly offered live music. In 2016, former general manager Leslie Munson and former executive chef Jonah Munson (they're married) took over ownership.

The Walnut Room remains a cozy neighborhood bar with wood paneling, a dramatic mirrored bar and three patios (one in the sun, one covered, and one a pup-friendly, umbrella-filled spot). The music is largely gone, though. When COVID hit, hosting live acts in such a small venue was not feasible, even as restrictions loosened. "It just didn't work," says Leslie.

So when a friend and beer rep suggested that the Munsons partner with him and invest in a virtual golf simulator, they signed on. Since January 2022, the Back 9 at the Walnut Room has hosted business gatherings, bachelor parties and other groups looking for a private space with a simulated golf game.

"I'd rather have people in the back room having fun than have it sit empty," Leslie says. "But we're trying to keep the music alive somewhat."

In fact, the Walnut Room hosted music on its patios throughout the summer, when a rotation of local bands played every Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening. While the music is done for this season, it will pick up again next summer, and Leslie says that she's thinking of extending the 2023 calendar into the fall.
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Appetizers including this cheesy bread are $2 off during the Walnut Room's daily happy hour.
Kristin Pazulski
What you're eating: While the Walnut Room is generally known for its Chicago-style thin-crust pizza, cut into individual squares, the kitchen has many other offerings. The dinner menu has a variety of specialty pizzas as well as sandwiches and wraps that range from the healthy (Garden of Eatin' or Veggie Wrap) to a hoagie stuffed with Italian meats (the Fat Bastard). Classic salads include a Caesar, a Greek and fairly standard combinations (tomatoes and mozzarella, goat cheese with candied bacon and walnuts). The appetizers are a mix of Italian and pub fare, with cheese bread, oven-baked chicken wings and pizza rolls, along with cauliflower wings and hummus for the health-conscious.

The Walnut Room also offers quarterly specials, which currently include a shredded beef quesadilla, a Cobb salad, a Hawaiian teriyaki chicken sandwich and a pot roast four-cheese pizza (prices range from $9.75 to $29.75). The quesadilla is the perfect solution if you're craving a burger but just aren't a big burger eater. There are weekday lunch specials, too, including a pizza slice and soda or PBR for $6. During happy hour, PBRs are just $2, while you'll get $1 off drafts and $2 off all appetizers, house wines and wells.
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The Walnut Room likes beer and people who like beer.
Kristin Pazulski
In addition to mules, martinis and other classics, more creative cocktails include Listen to your Elders, a gin, elderflower and champagne cocktail served in a metal martini-shaped cup. A house favorite is the Root Beer Barrel, with root beer schnapps dropped into a few ounces of PBR for $5. Since part-owner Jonah is an IPA buff, hoppy beer lovers can expect the ever-changing tap menu to include something they'll love.

Leslie has been working at the Walnut Room since 2009, following all the changes in RiNo over the years. There are more people visiting the area, but there's also more competition. And although Walnut Street was recently converted from a one-way to a two-way street, the Walnut Room is still a bit off the beaten path compared to busy Larimer Street. "Surprisingly, so many people don't know we're here," she says.

But they should!
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Kristin Pazulski has been a renaissance faire wench, a reporter, an espresso-shot slinger, an editor of a newspaper for the homeless and a grant writer. She's now a freelance writer covering Denver's restaurant scene.
Contact: Kristin Pazulski