Walker's Pie Shop closing 9/30
- Robert Lauriston Aug 14, 2008 11:56 AM
Not surprising, the food was retro and the median age of the customers seemed to be going up in pace with the calendar. I don't know why the guy is paying $28 for flour instead of changing suppliers.
Walker's Restaurant & Pie Shop
1491 Solano Ave, Albany, CA
Even if he could get flour at a lower price, I don't think it would have solved the demographic situation or the retro food. Curious to see what goes in that space.
I'd feel worse if the food was any good. This is a tired restaurant serving comfort food. It's the kind of place that would make your parents happy but your tastebuds wouldn't be. Decent pie but not groundbreaking.
Now to kick the restaurant when it's already down or anything...
That's such a Berkeley Daily Planet article, with all the editorializing about how the big bad modern world is crushing the old-fashioned mom-and-pop store.
The owners seem like decent folk, but if a restaurant serves mediocre food (as it did when I had dinner there in 2006) I won't cut it any slack because of what it "represents".
You know ... the pie wasn't exactly my thing when I tried it once,though I don't remember why ... but if you read that article, this is really a caring owner that worries about the future of his employees since that is where he started and wanted to provide the best for what his customers wanted..
On the positive, stuff was made from scratch ... no Sysco trucks pulling up and catering to the tastes of the masses.
I think there was a lot more going against this place than mentioned in the article.
First, he tried desparately to appeal to his shrinking customer base ... who will probably migrate over to The Cape Cod.
Second, with people more conscious about health, pie isn't at the top of the list. The next generations who were going to ignore calories were most like to treck up to La Farine.
Third, eating out became a competative sport ... more so with food forums like Yelp and Chowhound. Yes, I know this wasn't Chowhound's intent, but it is the reality ... a little better than Yelp, but what is new and hot is still the driving force.
Fourth, Chez Panisse changed the food scene. Artisan became important. Food tastes just changed. This is a place that would have benefitted greatly by a consultant. However, it wasn't that slick type of place. I've been eating a lot in Martinez lately which time passed by. If Walker's had been located there, it would still be in business.
"I've been eating a lot in Martinez lately which time passed by. If Walker's had been located there, it would still be in business."
That brings up an interesting point. There seem to be a few other enclaves in the East Bay and even SF about which you can say the same thing, that they have a lot of business that seem to be in a 50s/60s/70s time warp. El Cerrito. Parts of Rockridge. Alameda. West Portal in SF.
Just because the majority of Bay Area diners gravitate towards chains and the new and trendy, doesn't mean the minority of diners who don't (which doesn't necessarily only include "the elderly"), can't keep these old-school places in business...as long as there aren't more of these kinds of places than there are diners who want to patronize them. I would expect these diners to be especially loyal, considering they're trying to hang on to something that's disappearing in this day and age. I just wonder if it's a case of supply exceeding demand.
re: Agent 510
Part of the deal with Walker's is the price relative to quality.
The old school places that survive, despite bucking trends, are almost always reasonably priced (while maintaining quality) and not $17 for a pot roast diner. Tennessee Grill in the Sunset is a good example...you can get a roast beef diner with a full bowl of soup, bread, coffee or tea and dessert for under $10 bucks (less if skip the soup/coffee/dessert). It's not the best ever but it's generally good and at these prices, people not in the core demographic will patronize it. At $16 bucks, you start to look elsewhere, at least I do.
re: Robert Lauriston
No idea of their pedigree, but Rockridge Cafe, Claremont Cafe,
that donut shop up on Ashby off College (technically the Elmwood, I
guess), Ben and Nicks, the Hut, that other bar near the Hut, and that
irishesque bar downhill and across from the Hut (latter three all
bars but the Hut at least occasionally has hot dogs).
Rockridge has lost a ton of nostalgia in the maybe 10 years I've
known about it: that frenchesque place in the house, that italianesque
place across from the frenchesque place, edible complex, red tractor,
re: Chuckles the Clone
Ye Old Hut and McNally's are genuine old-school, both opened in 1933.
Some of those places are faux-retro. Ben & Nick's opened in 1999, it's a spinoff / clone of Cato's which opened in 1996. Red Tractor opened in 1996 (and was conceived as a prototype for a chain). Rockridge Cafe opened in 1973, so at this point I guess it's 70s vintage faux-retro. I think Claremont Diner dates from the post-American Graffiti / Happy Days-inspired diner fad, but I'm not sure.
The "original" owners sold the restaurant several years ago to someone who was going to maintain the original concept. Walker's was never very good (and that's being generous) but it was, indeed, "comfort food" and was reasonably priced at the time. And the clientele even then was mostly little old ladies in their 50s, 60s and 70s. It's now overpriced, the food is no better than before and the customers are even older. I regret the passing, in theory, of old, well known institutions, but it's time for Walker's to quickly fade into the sunset. RIP.
It looks as though they've already stopped serving dinner. Now it's just breakfast and lunch. I had the most bland omelet and home fries ever at Walker's about 15 years ago. I doubt it's changed. However, there's a sign in the window for a lunch special of a burger, fries and milkshake for 9.95. The shake might be good.
The egg guy at the Berkeley farmers market (tuesday and saturday, don't know about
thursday) has really terrific sweet potato pies and pecan pies.
The pumpkin pie from Crixa is nonstop happiness.