Restaurants & Bars

Walker's Pie Shop, Albany

Alexandra | Oct 20, 200303:00 PM     8

Despite the plethora of great restaurants, cheap and expensive, in the North Berkeley/Albany area, Saturday night we found ourselves at a loss. Home-cooked comfort food sounded good, so, hoping for meatloaf or roast turkey, we decided on Walker's Pie Shop. We'd been there several years ago and hadn't really liked it, but we thought there must be a good reason it's still in business. In fact, we're still not sure what that reason is.

First disappointment - no meatloaf and no roast turkey on the menu. They have a Specials menu that they print up every month in calendar format just like the school lunch menu we used to get in elementary school. The special Saturday night was, unfortunately, oxtails. (What ever happens to the rest of the ox - does anyone know?) Roast turkey shows up once a week (Thursdays, maybe?). And our second choice, chicken pot pie, is available for taking home, but not to eat in. Curious.

Some of the dishes can be ordered either a la carte (around 9 bucks), served with vegetables and baked potato, or prix fixe (so to speak) for around $15, including soup, popovers, salad or jello ("gelatin" on the menu - mmm...appetizing), and a slice of pie.

Ali ordered the fish of the day, salmon (no dye, the menu proclaimed) with black bean salsa. Minestrone was the soup of the day - we're pretty sure it came from a can because it tasted a lot like pasta sauce from a jar. But it was hearty and warming and we ate it all. Salad was a standard lettuce salad (green leaf, mostly) with red cabbage and grated carrot - good and fresh.

The popovers that arrived with the first course were out of this world good! I might go back to Walker's just for the popovers. I was tempted to take one home in my purse, but decided they wouldn't be good later. They arrive fresh out of the oven (or out of the warmer - whatever) and they're puffy, golden, airy, yum. They don't even need the butter that's served with them.

Ali's salmon was fried and most likely farm-raised Atlantic, with a pretty fishy taste. The black bean salsa turned out to have other beans in it, too. I think the whole thing grew on him, but obviously not the kind of salmon dish we'd go back for again.

I don't know what I was thinking ordering red snapper. They offered a choice of grilled or poached, and I thought I'd be healthy, so I ordered poached. It arrived in a heap on the plate - all this white fish piled up (a huge portion!) with no sauce whatsoever. Tartar sauce on the side. It wasn't bad fish - it just had nothing going for it. Fried would probably have been best.

Carrots on the side didn't seem canned, but the Chronicle review from 2000 that I've linked below implies that all their veggies are canned. They were good, if plain, fare. Baked potato was a nice, small one, served with butter and a tiny pat of sour cream on the side if you want it.

Can I mention the popovers again?

We shared a piece of chocolate pecan pie for dessert. Ali was tempted by the apple, but I guessed that they used canned apples, which was confirmed by the Chronicle reviewer. I don't understand that - canned apples are obviously completely unacceptable. Why does anyone use them? Anyway, the chocolate pecan was good but not great. I think their cream pies look better. Chocolate cream went by us after we'd ordered ours and it looked thick and velvety and delicious! Our pie tasted of cocoa powder, though the pecans and the filling were good.

Water was refilled with astounding regularity - I guess that's better than never getting refilled.

Total bill came to around $40 with tip.

Link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

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