Behind Bars: Amanda Turner at the Walrus

Erica Thompson
Amanda Turner, general manager of Walrus Kitchen & Public House

“I Am the Walrus” is a Beatles song featured in the group’s 1967 TV film, Magical Mystery Tour. Given its cryptic lyrics, some influenced by Lewis Carroll's poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter," the song has also spurred great debate. It is not, however, the inspiration for the Walrus Kitchen & Public House in Downtown Columbus.

“They were sitting around naming animals and they just thought it fit,” general manager Amanda Turner said of the owners’ process.

Four years after opening, the Walrus has become a successful addition to owners Kevin Burns and Brad Hobbs’ growing portfolio of businesses, which includes Pecan Penny’s and Olde Towne Tavern. Walrus patrons can see bands like the Deeptones, the Flex Crew and MojoFlo almost every Friday and Saturday night.

“One of the newest bands is Nini Love JazzySide,” Turner said. “The lead singer has an awesome voice. She keeps the crowd going.”

Acts are booked for either the main stage or a secondary performance area with plenty of room for dancing. It’s also the site of intense ping-pong tournaments.

In addition to paintings by Paul Giovis, whose work can also be found at the Olde Oak, the bar is decorated with a massive map of Downtown Columbus in the 1800s. See if you can spot the present-day location of the Walrus (hint: look for the bar’s mustached mammal logo).

Music and atmosphere aside, regulars come for the food: standard bar fare with some surprises. A favorite is the short rib slider, topped with basil pesto, bacon and Havarti cheese on a pretzel bun. One of the most popular items on the cocktail menu is the Wally Smash, featuring Jameson, fresh ginger and blackberry preserves.

After relocating from Chardon, Ohio, to Columbus for college, Turner spent nearly a decade at Bar Louie Easton, where she met Burns and Hobbs. She alternated between the Walrus and Olde Towne Tavern before settling back Downtown.

“We have a good group of regulars, especially now with all the high-rises going up,” she said. “Every day I see more and more kids in the restaurant. It’s nice to see families come in.”

A Hilliard resident, Turner has her own kids now. When she’s not busy at home or at work, she likes to run or spend time in the park. “I love being outside, especially because I'm inside all day,” she said.

Once a frequent festival-goer — she attended Bonnaroo multiple times in its early years — Turner gets her music fix at the Walrus. And although she doesn’t bartend anymore, she still enjoys meeting new people, which is what has kept her in the industry for so long.

“We have a really good staff,” she said. “Everyone's really friendly. … From what I can see, most people enjoy themselves when they're here.”