It was with a slight sense of trepidation that I drove to Walter’s, the Afghan-fusion restaurant with borderline-institution status in downtown Claremont. I had, stupidly, read a few patrons’ reviews posted on a local dining guide. Most promised mediocre food, poor service, high prices and a long wait. In short, people were saying that not only were the vittles lousy, but it took forever just to get them. Great, I thought, just what a middle-aged man with a king-hell hangover needs, terrible and pricy food.
I am not a man who believes everything he reads (some would even say I’m masochistic), and what I discovered upon visiting Walter’s was that said reviews were a bunch of hooey. I knew from the minute we walked in that this was not the restaurant I had been reading about. The wait was all of about five minutes; quite reasonable during the height of the Sunday buffet. The ambiance on the patio was very chill, with a well-manicured garden, circus-colored tent awnings and an ice-block shaped like a waterfall adding some pizzazz. The service was well above average, especially considering the size of the place—truly humongous—and the fact it was fairly packed the day we stopped in.
Walter’s is a little pricy. We went for the Sunday champagne buffet, which with mimosas and a dessert trip turned out to be a reasonable enough proposition for $25; however, burgers in the $10-$12 range is a smidge high. Even still, paying a little more for quality eats I can live with, and Walter’s delivers on this score.
The buffet, much like the restaurant, is pleasantly schizophrenic, with delicious Afghan-fusion entrées served alongside slightly less glamorous choices like the proverbial bacon, sausages, and scrambled eggs—all of which paled next to the lime-infused lentil salad. It is wise to forego the mashed potatoes and instead go for the crab and avocado salad because, as Goethe said, be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. The rosemary chicken and the delicately flaky salmon are also inviting, especially the latter, which sits under the lamp with the head still on. I looked at and tried these items because the menu at Walter’s is extensive. Even though I usually avoid buffets at all costs, this one saves the hassle of guesswork.
And besides, one of the features on Walter’s buffet are the Bolawnies—delicately fried bits of ground beef, onions and potatoes in a pastry shell that has been deep fried, all of it served up with a beautiful yogurt sauce. Just delicious. And there are simpler pleasures all over, too, like the hummus and the steamed broccoli, squash, and cauliflower. Amazing how steamed vegetables and a little garlic is sometimes all you need. With unlimited mimosas and a small (but tasty) dessert section the buffet at Walter’s is worth it. If nothing else, because this is one of the rare buffets where quality trumps quantity like you find in, say, Las Vegas.
In my final contemplation I wondered two things: A) how it is that bacon and eggs, hummus, champagne and lemony custard tarts go so well together and B) what in the hell had the yahoos on the Internet had been blathering about? If you can’t enjoy great food in a beautiful patio it may be a sign of incipient insanity—Walter’s was a fantastic spot for an enjoyable Sunday brunch.
Walter’s Restaurant 310 Yale Ave Claremont, (909) 624-2779; www.waltersrestaurant.biz. Open daily, Mon.–Thurs., 7AM-9PM; Fri., 7AM-10PM; Sat., 8AM-10PM; Sun. 8AM-9PM; Sunday Champagne Brunch, 10:30AM-2:30PM. AE, MC, V