What to Eat at the Walrus, Downtown's Newest Hotspot

Anthony Dominic
Lobster Rolls and Juan Pablo's Seeing Eye Dog cocktail

Take a late-night drive down East Main Street, and you'll see the crowd. It's not a mirage; it's the bustling Walrus patio. Save for reliable cocktail haunt Sidebar, East Main was long devoid of foot traffic until this music-centric pub from the folks behind The Tavern Olde Towne opened this spring.

The patio and retractable garage door give way to a long and narrow eatery, roughly divided into a dining room, a bar and a stage for live music. Patrons shoot pool, lounge in booths, mingle with drinks. If you aren't fazed by the 20-plus wall-mounted TVs,The Walrusis the kind of dusky bar where you can get cozy.

Visit on a Wednesday night to catch live reggae from four-piece band Bob Ros, or Thursday for bluesy pianist Matt Munhall. (You'll never find guitar rock here.) Grab a perch at the wraparound bar, and choose from a 30-deep list of mostly local and regional drafts, featuring harder-to-find brews such as Columbus Brewing Co.'s Bodhi and Actual Brewing Co.'s Ingenuity. A sharp staff of bartenders craft drinks inspired by the '50s and '60s, like the Tomi Collins ($6), made with Watershed gin and named after head chef Tomi Reichard, and a spiked root beer float served in a frosted mug ($7).

Food-wise, The Tavern's unfussy charm is missing here. On multiple visits, most snacks missed the mark. The Walrus Fries ($3) were undercooked. The Cauliflower Steak ($10) was stiff and dry. Sweet Potato Taco ($10) fillings doubled as entree sides. The Vegan Burger ($9) crumbled to pieces on the plate. One of my companions loved the Maine-style Lobster Rolls ($14), served in buttered buns with house-made lemon mayo. And another scarfed down the Short Rib Sliders ($11), pretzel buns stuffed with slow-cooked beef, basil pesto, havarti and bacon. Go for a drink, stay for the tunes and nosh with a little caution.