Slightly off the beaten path but well worth the drive, Walker’s Grille is a new, eco-friendly restaurant that recently opened in Alexandria. The restaurant is part of a new, environmentally conscious building concept—it is located in a Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) building and its mission is to meet, maintain, and perpetuate sustainable practices and implement green design and green restaurant strategies.
All that eco-friendliness and green modeling and the food’s good, too.
On a recent rainy Sunday afternoon—and despite being located in an office park—the dining room was packed. My three dining companions and I were seated in the bright and spacious dining room. We were immediately overwhelmed by the choices in front of us—not because there were too many items on the menu (a la Cheesecake Factory) but because there were so many options that sounded so good.
We each ordered an appetizer. And, okay, we may have gotten one extra. We started with the frites, the crab and shrimp dip (with a crusty French baguette), mussels, filet sliders, and the fried prosciutto wrapped mozzarella.
If I had to pick one item on the menu that I liked more than any other, it would be the mussels. Not generally a seafood person, this is a bit surprising. The wild Maine mussels were served in a broth of caramelized fennel (which I also hate!), shallots, grape tomatoes, bacon, and Sambucca cream. I really could’ve poured it into a glass and sipped away. The portion size was ample for sharing—we even had some left over. The bread that accompanied the mussels was perfectly toasted and ready to sop up the broth.
The shrimp and crab dip was chock full of both fruits of the sea and had a great creamy base—which, even to me, didn’t need even a grain of salt. The bread was warm and crusty.
If you don’t like cheese of the moldy variety, the filet sliders may not be for you. While the thin layer of Oregonzola horseradish butter that was spread upon the medium cooked piece of filet (and under the caramelized purple onions) was not overpowering, it definitely gave the three pint sized burgers an extra kick.
What I was most excited to try were the fried “prosciutto” wrapped smoked mozzarella. The “prosciutto” is in quotes because it is, in fact, a thin slice of Virginia Surryano ham…but you could’ve fooled all of us. Definitely tasted prosciutto-y. So, get this: take a thick round of mozzarella. Put a piece of basil on it. Wrap it with the ham. Pop it into the deep fryer. Put it on a long platter on top of a balsamic reduction and top it with cherry tomatoes. It’s as rich as it sounds. And who doesn’t love some fried cheese? And pork? Some of my fellow diners had a good time trying to redevise the dish—deconstructing it, serving it as a slider. The components of the dish make it ripe for interpretation.
I’d say the frites were my least favorite, but only because they had some stiff competition. They are handcut and were cooked so that they were not too soft, not too crisp. The lemon thyme dipping sauce was a fan favorite. There was also a peppercorn sauce of some sort and a sweet chutney (with a hint of cumin).
By the time our appetizer plates had been removed, we were full. But onward we went.
We had two burgers at our table—the ‘Shroom and the L’oeuf. Both were made from Meyer Natural Angus beef and cooked to specification. The ‘Shroom came completely smothered in Gruyere, caramelized onions and, of course, the Cremini mushrooms. The L’oeuf (or egg, for those of you who aren’t Francophiles) was a diner lover’s dream (or someone who’s hungover): a perfectly cooked fried egg that released its yolk upon touch lay atop the burger patty and was accompanied by muenster cheese (a non-classic choice), caramelized onions, bacon, and a truffle aioli. All kinds of different flavors, all good on their own and all working perfectly together. The only downside to this selection was its mess factor—the fork and knife come in handy.
The Chicken Francaise was better the next day than it was the first. This tells you two things: that there was so much I couldn’t finish it in one sitting and that I, someone who doesn’t like leftovers, liked it so much that I did, in fact, eat it two days in a row. The chicken scaloppini lived up to its proper definition: small, thinly sliced pieces of meat dredged in flour, sautéed, and served in a sauce. Except it wasn’t a small piece of chicken. The sauce was a lemony one, the acidity of which mixed well into the house made linguini served alongside it and worked with the spinach, artichokes, and sundried tomatoes that came atop it. The bitterness of the tomatoes, the bland (in a good way) of the wilted spinach and the tart of the artichoke and lemon sauce all melded together in such a nice, comforting way.
The last entrée we had was the buttermilk chicken. A huge breast that was fried, as the diner said, “perfectly.” Moist chicken, crispy crust…made you just want to take a bite onto your fork and dip it into the truffled mac and cheese that came with it. Except that each element was so good on its own you didn’t really want to mix them but, rather, savor each on their own. Sometimes—more often than not—the flavor of truffle can be too much but, in the case of this side, you only tasted it at the very end, allowing you to really enjoy the fancy cheeses and al dente pasta before the surprise of the truffle hits you. This entrée also came with peas, carrots, and cipollini onions, but you know how I feel about veggies.
Think we should be full now? Beyond the ability to put another bite in our mouths? You are mistaken.
We had dessert. What’s another couple hundred calories at this point? And how can you not when you know they’re all made fresh daily? We shared the carrot cake, a chocolate mousse cake, and a pineapple upside down cake. If forced to rate them, I would, in that order, best to less best. The carrot cake was moist and tall and had just the right amount of cream cheese frosting (with a hint of vanilla—I love icing with a hint of something special added into it). The chocolate mousse cake was exceptional because it was a biter dark chocolate mousse and not the boring milk chocolate variety (and, part of that deliciousness came from Nutella); the bottom of the cake was a hazelnut cookie crust—another pleasant surprise. The cake sat on top of a generous pool of pomegranate coulis, the tartness of which worked well with the bitterness of the dark chocolate. The pineapple upside down cake was more crunchy waffle than it was cake—in fact, it was kind of a turnover and not upside down. Regardless, it was tasty but didn’t compare to the other two.
I went 27.5 hours before I ate again.