In The News

Walnut Room receives Editor’s Choice from 5280 Magazine
 

ww
 

(Click Image For Original Article)
 

Dough. Sauce. Cheese. Toppings. Making great pizza may not sound tough, but it’s a tightrope walk: The grease must add flavor without becoming drippy; the sauce can’t be too sweet or too spicy; and the crust needs to be crispy without tipping toward dry and crumbly. The Walnut Room excels at all of these elements. And our RiNo location’s newly expanded kitchen—double the size with two new pizza ovens—means we can enjoy our heaping-with-toppings Mile High pie with some welcome elbow room. 3131 Walnut St., 303-295-1868.


Jonah Munson, exec chef of the Walnut Room, on yard sales and mixers
 

Original Article from Lori Midson for Westword Magazine
 

Jonah Munson
 

This is part one of my interview with Jonah Munson, exec chef of the Walnut Room. Part two of our conversation will run tomorrow.

“I started cooking when I was really young, and we had family dinners nearly every night — that’s what you do when there are six kids in the family,” says Jonah Munson, who adds that being the youngest of six siblings didn’t get him any preferential treatment, either. “We all ate, we all cooked, and we definitely all cleaned. It was understood that everyone did their part.”

But despite hanging out in the family kitchen while growing up in Georgia, Munson had no desire to be a professional chef. “I messed around in the kitchen, but I was never a foodie,” he admits, noting that he went to college with aspirations of becoming an airline mechanic.

A cake changed the career path for Munson, today the executive chef at the Walnut Room. “I was going to school in Florida and was completely broke, but I remember wanting a cake and deciding that it was probably more cost-effective to buy the ingredients and make it from scratch than to buy the box and everything else that you had to buy along with it,” he says, pointing out that he made the frosting from scratch, too. “From what I remember, it was way better than a box cake, and good enough that I figured I’d make baking my hobby.”

After nearly a decade in the construction business, Munson turned that pastime into a gig, taking a job at a bake shop and “learning how to make and stretch taffy, bake fudge and make pralines and bear claws,” he says.

He did some traveling, too, including a six-week camping trip across America that included a stop in Colorado, a state he “absolutely loved” — and would eventually call home. But first he’d open his own restaurant in Forsyth, Georgia, a small hamlet that was a restaurant wasteland, Munson recalls. “My wife and I had been talking about opening a restaurant, and I was still doing a lot of baking on the side, and there was nowhere to eat in this town, so we opened a brick-oven bistro and bakery,” says Munson, who still owns that restaurant in partnership with other family members.

And opening the bistro solidified his zeal for restaurant life. “I knew this was the course that I wanted to take,” says Munson. “I loved cooking and the instant gratification of making something with my hands and seeing how it made people happy. I knew that I’d be in this business for a long time to come.”

He and his wife moved to Denver in 2012, where Munson landed at Marczyk Fine Foods as a baker. Soon after, he became the bakery manager, and it was there, while breaking bread with owners Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane, that Munson says he had an epiphany. “I’d always used what I considered to be great products in my restaurant, but in Georgia, there’s not a big local, organic push, and at Marcyzk, they’re all about local and organic, and if there was a hard way to do something, Pete and Barb would do it the hard way — they’d never take the easy way out. And that resonated with me,” he acknowledges.

With a wife and a handful of kids at home, Munson eventually needed to earn more bread as well as make it, so he began looking for a second job, which he found at the Walnut Room, as the head chef. It was a full-time gig — and one that he couldn’t pass up. “When I went inside, it was like walking into my restaurant in Georgia; it just felt good, and while there’s always something going on — I call it As the Walnut Turns — there’s so much gratification,” says Munson, who in the following interview reveals which restaurants he thinks are underrated and why yard sales are the best place to pick up cookbooks and mixers that stand the test of time.

Describe your approach to cooking: It’s traditional comfort food cooked in a healthier way, with a focus on local products.

What are your ingredient obsessions? I love baking with cream cheese, and I always use high-quality cheeses for pizza — goat cheese, fresh, whole-milk mozzarella, feta cheese and blue cheese. They all make wonderful additions to any pizza.

What are your kitchen-gadget obsessions? I’ve been baking since college, and the thing that I’m still most obsessed with — even now — are great mixers. I’ve purchased them from all over the place, but I’ve found some of the greatest mixers at yard sales. Some of the older mixers, like Oster, Sunbeam and KitchenAid, were built to mix…and last.

Favorite local ingredients and purveyors: Before coming to the Walnut Room, I was the bakery manager at Marczyk Fine Foods, and I was so impressed with their dedication to supporting local farmers and local products that I’ve continued that same tradition here at the Walnut Room. We recently added housemade guacamole, fire-roasted salsa and tortilla wraps to our menu, and we bring tortilla chips, our spinach-basil pesto and flour tortillas in from Raquelitas, a local Denver company that’s only a block from our downtown restaurant. We’re also using sausage from Polidori, another great local company.

One ingredient you won’t touch: I love just about everything, but I’ve disliked pickles ever since I was a kid, and I still won’t touch them.

One ingredient you can’t live without: Great flour. It boggles my mind that you can make so many wonderful creations with flour and just a few simple ingredients.

Food trend you’d like to see in 2013: I’d like to see everyone focus less on specific food restrictions that are created by trendy diets. I know that some people are legitimately allergic — or sensitive — to certain ingredients, but I’ve found that all things in moderation is a more nutritionally viable approach to healthy living and a healthy mind.

Food trend you’d like to see disappear in 2013: Chain-driven mediocrity and trendy diet fads.

Favorite pizza on your menu right now: My favorite pizza is our traditional red sauce with fresh spinach, fresh garlic, roasted red peppers and ricotta cheese. It’s a twist on a pizza Florentine that we make at my restaurant back in Georgia.

What dish would you love to put on your menu, regardless of how well it would sell? My mother’s chicken and dumplings. I’m kind of missing some good Southern soul cooking.

Is there a special request you really dislike or refuse to accommodate: Not really. If a customer makes a special request and we can do it, then we’ll make sure it happens. Our job is to give them a great experience, no matter what they want.

Weirdest customer request: When I worked in Georgia, there was a woman who’d come in every week and order two square pizzas, except we only did hand-tossed round pizzas — and then ask us to cut the slices into squares. And recently, a guy asked for a chicken Parmesan pizza.

Weirdest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth: My sister-in-law is from Korea, so I’ve eaten a lot of meals at her house, and I have no idea what some of the things were, or even how to pronounce them. Some were absolutely divine and some were absolutely weird.

What’s your idea of an unparalleled dining experience? Sitting down with my wife and four daughters with good food and a lot of laughter.

Most underrated Denver restaurant: My family and I love eating out together, and we always search for independent restaurants near where we live in the suburbs, so we don’t make it to a lot of downtown Denver restaurants. But one of our favorites in Denver is Highland Tap & Burger. We’ve also found a couple of great places close to where we live, including Jack’s, an out-of-the-way, fun little place in Arvada with amazing sliders and a fun atmosphere. Another noteworthy place that opened up earlier this year, literally right outside our back yard, is the Aspen Lodge Bar & Grill. It’s pretty much run by the owner himself, Mesut, who serves your drinks, takes your order and cooks your food — it’s fabulous and always fresh — and yet he still finds time to touch tables and have a great conversation with you.

Who’s the most underrated chef in Denver? That’s hard to answer, but I’d say that any chef who works his trade with quality and customer satisfaction in mind is probably underrated.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? That even at six feet, five inches tall, I don’t watch basketball and I don’t know what the weather is like up here. I’d rather bake and paint my daughter’s fingernails than go to a sports arena. I am a family man first; everything else is second.

What’s next for Denver’s culinary scene? I’m still fairly new to the area, but I think the direction that we’re heading is positive, especially since we’re getting more and more independent, local and healthier restaurants. That makes me happy.

What do you enjoy most about your craft? Working with my hands with simple, wholesome ingredients to create something delicious that people will enjoy and want to come back for.

Describe the biggest challenges facing today’s chefs: I think sourcing great local and organic ingredients at prices that are feasible for your restaurant is difficult.

What recent innovation has most influenced the restaurant industry in a significant way? The farm-to-table trend and the movement toward better, local and organic ingredients.

Favorite culinary-related gift you’ve been given: I’ve had an orange Betty Crocker circa 1977 cookbook for many years that’s been used so often that the cover fell off and the pages fell out, so last year for Christmas, my wife and my kids gave me a near-mint-condition copy that they found on eBay. It was priceless.

Favorite culinary-related item to give as a gift: A great cookbook — I love the Bread Bible — and a great mixer, like a KitchenAid, especially if you want to give a splurge gift.

What’s your own fantasy splurge? A trip to Italy to see some great masters at work in their pizza kitchens.

What was the last cookbook you bought, and what recipes are you cooking from it? I have more than a hundred cookbooks at the house, but I can’t remember the last one that I bought, although I think it was a church cookbook from the 1950s. I love going to yard sales on the weekends just to pick up cookbooks — everything from the great masters to the spiral-bound cookbooks produced by churches and schools with all their personal recipes. I use a lot of different cookbooks to pull recipes from, and I usually pick the things I like from those recipes to use as building blocks for new recipes.

Best recipe tip for a home cook: Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts; look at different variations of the same recipe and then take the things you like from each and make the recipe your own.

What skills and attributes do you look for when hiring kitchen staff? Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from my wife, who’s a Montessori teacher, and together we’re raising our children with the core concepts of respecting yourself and others, the value of hard work, independence, self-sufficiency and personal responsibility. I find it frustrating that these traits aren’t well represented in today’s society. It’s what I look for in my crew members, and it’s what I look for in myself.

What advice would you give to a young chef? You’re no better than your kitchen staff, so train them right and have the same high expectations of yourself as you do for your staff.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? I get most irritated by an employee who thinks he or she doesn’t have to put his hands in the dishwater just like everyone else. I do it. You do it.

Your best trait: I’m easygoing, calm, quality-minded and respect other people, and I’m a strong believer in self-learning. I taught myself to bake in college and have expanded that skill for many years. I’ve learned everything from working on airplanes and running chemical pilot plants to building decks and baking wedding cakes and some of the best pizza you’ve put in your mouth. Trying to be the best you can at what you love is my philosophy on life — and one of my better traits.

Your worst trait: My wife says I’ve never learned to clean as I go, but in my defense, you’ve got to make a mess to make something wonderful.

If you could cook in another chef’s kitchen, whose would it be? My mother’s kitchen. Being the youngest of six, we had a lot of meals together — some really good home cooking. And even though my mother and father are on their own now that all the kids are out of the house, when we go over for meals, we still get the home cooking, except now they’ve taken our favorites and put a healthy spin on them. During my last visit back to Georgia, which was actually a few weeks ago, we had a big dinner at my mom’s house, and she broke out the lasagna, but instead of her traditional meat-and-cheese version, she made a wonderful lasagna with rice noodles and fresh vegetables from my brother’s garden; it was absolutely delicious.

What would you cook for your mom if she came to your restaurant? A simple, fresh Caprese salad and one of her favorite pizzas with olive oil and garlic sauce, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, spinach, red onions, sliced tomatoes and a little Gouda cheese on top.

Biggest mistake a chef can make on the line: Thinking that you don’t have to do everything your crew has to do, from working the line to washing the dishes and mopping the floors. Always lead by example.

If you had the opportunity to open your own restaurant with no budget constraints, what kind of restaurant would you open? Since moving to Colorado, we’ve really missed good Southern cooking and soul food.I’d love to open a restaurant where people could eat some awesome soul food and have a great time sitting down together for a family meal. It would be a healthier concept but still retain the comfort food that we know and love.

Favorite chef’s counter: If I could be at my mother’s kitchen and learn all the aspects of cooking she’s accumulated over the years, I’d be there. I learned a lot from growing up in a house with three brothers and two sisters, everything from sharing all the chores to learning how to cook for large groups of people. What chef’s counter, you ask? It would be my mother’s.

Biggest moment of euphoria in the kitchen: At the end of a fourteen-hour day, when the dishes are done, the floors are mopped and you know you’ve brought smiles to a lot of people.

When guests want to thank you for a meal that really wows them, what do you wish they’d send to the kitchen? At my restaurant back in Georgia, we have a display kitchen, where guests can watch us tossing dough in the air and then build their own pizzas and cook them in our brick oven. The best rewards are the waves and words of thanks that we get from the enthusiastic adults and kids standing at the glass window with their eyes fixated on the whole pizza process. A patron stopping on their way out to give us a compliment and a promise to pass on the word about some great food — that makes us happy, too. Social media is the new word of mouth, so if you love an independent restaurant, review it online and help others find the good stuff hidden in the masses.

Craziest night in the kitchen: Every Friday night at the Walnut Room is crazy.

Greatest accomplishment as a chef: I’ve never considered myself a chef, although I’ve had an interesting career path. I’m a certified airframe and power-plant mechanic for airplanes; I’ve worked for a chemical-treated-wood company; I’ve done construction; and I’ve done environmental sampling and training work. The main theme for me has always been hard work and a dedication to quality, and I’m glad my journey has brought me to the Walnut Room. My motto is that it’s not always the destination but the journey that makes life enjoyable.

What’s always lurking in your refrigerator? Local fresh milk, (thanks, Longmont Dairy), butter and eggs. We love breakfast at my house.

Last meal before you die: A hot meatloaf sandwich with ketchup on white bread and a side of my mother’s homemade macaroni and cheese.

If you hadn’t become a chef, what would you be doing right now? There’s no telling, but whatever it is, I’d do it well.

What’s in the pipeline? We’ve already added some great new items, and I think our next step is going to be weekly-specials pizzas and sandwiches with the best local ingredients we can find. We have a few ideas in the hopper already; you’ll just have to come in and see what we think of next.


Happenin’ Hoods: Exploring RiNo
 

Original article from 303 Magazine, July 26, 2013
By Crystal Anderson

303 Magazine
 

Looking for a delicious and fun place to eat for dinner? Travel down the road and you’ll find The Walnut Room.

Established eight years ago, as a small music venue and pizzeria by owner John Burr, this restaurant-meets-concert venue has quickly evolved to something more. Now, The Walnut Room is an intimate setting for some of the hottest names in music and a full service restaurant serving a creative and flavorful menu.

“I want customers to think it’s [The Walnut Room] a really unique place, where you can get quality food and have a great experience,” said Leslie Odell, Director of Operations at The Walnut Room.

For an affordable, yet tasty lunch, check out the lunch special. This $7.50 deal gives you your choice of a personal pizza, tailored to your tastes, or half sandwich, a side and a drink.

For dinner, try one of 11 specialty Chicago-style thin crust pizzas or create one of your own with a multitude of fresh, local ingredients to chose from. For drinks, pair your pizza with one of the local selections, such as a glass of Infinite Monkey wine or a cocktail made with liqueur from Mile High Spirits.

After enjoying a pizza, you might want to end the night with a concert. Luckily, you can mosey over to the intimate music lounge and see the concert of the night. Artists from Jewel to local favorite, the Flobots, have visited the venue to play low-key performances for a small, but normally packed house.

Spending a day exploring RiNo and these businesses, in my opinion, was a great experience. This neighborhood truly has a lot to offer and is constantly bringing in new businesses. So if you’re bored or looking for a new hangout, check out RiNo and these happening businesses.


The Walnut Room Introduces New Menu Items
 

Denver, CO- The Walnut Room is expanding its popular menu of salads, made-to-order sandwiches and Chicago-style, thin-crust pizza. The new additions include three appetizers, a series of wraps, an array of new pizza toppings and one new dessert.

Diners at The Walnut Room’s River North and South Broadway location can now start their meals with homemade guacamole, salsa, or spinach artichoke dip, served with locally-made Raquelitas tortilla chips. The pizzeria’s sandwich offerings have been expanded with the addition of wraps filled with buffalo chicken and chicken salad. The Western Slope (a combination of turkey, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, provolone and ranch dressing) is also now available in wrap form. Pizza lovers who enjoy building their own pies, have more toppings to choose from, with fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, and fire-roasted tomatoes, now a permanent part of the diverse line-up.

Of course no meal would be complete without dessert and The Walnut Room is offering a bit more for those with a sweet tooth with the addition of the traditional Italian mainstay, tiramisu.

“These new items really round out our offerings and help us satisfy customer requests for alternative sandwich and topping options,” said The Walnut Room’s Executive Chef Jonah Munson.

With summer in full swing, the patios at both The Walnut Room’s River North and South Broadway locations are open and provide the perfect backdrops for sampling a slice or a enjoying a cocktail. The Walnut Room’s Happy Hour also provides an opportunity to try the new items as well as the pizzeria’s bar offerings, with half-priced appetizers, draft beer, and house wines available from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

About the Walnut Room
Launched in 2005, The Walnut Room arose out of owner John Burr’s vision to combine his expanded rehearsal studio business, Soundstructure Studios, with a place where local musicians could relax after a rehearsal session and enjoy Chicago style thin-crust pizza, sandwiches, and beverages. That concept evolved into a full-service restaurant/bar and live-music venue, the Walnut Room in Denver’s River North (RiNo) neighborhood, where bands can hone their performance skills and music fans can enjoy some of the area’s best talent. The Walnut Room has hosted a range of fledgling local bands as well established national acts, including Chris Isaak, Jewel, the Flobots, Churchill and The Fray. In 2009, Burr opened a second Walnut Room on South Broadway and Ellsworth Avenue in southeast Denver. Both Walnut Room locations offer lunch, happy hour, dinner, a late-night menu, takeout and delivery, and catering options. Check websites for current lineups and upcoming events.

Walnut Street
3131 Walnut Street
Denver, Colorado 80205
303 295 1868
Hours: Thursday–Saturday 11 am–2 am
Delivery hours: Sunday–Thursday 11 am–11 pm; Friday–Saturday 11 am–2 am
Website: Walnut Street Website

Broadway
2 Broadway
Denver, Colorado 80203
303 736 6750
Hours: Thursday–Saturday 11 am–2 am
Delivery hours: Sunday–Thursday 11 am–11 pm; Friday–Saturday 11 am–2 am
Website: Walnut Room Broadway Website


The Walnut Room Appoints New Executive Chef
 

Jonah Munson
Denver, CO, April 17, 2013 – The Walnut Room, a Denver-based pizzeria and local music venue, has appointed Jonah Munson Executive Chef. Munson will handle menu creation and will oversee the kitchens at The Walnut Room in Denver’s River North neighborhood and the South Broadway location.  His appointment marks the first time The Walnut Room has employed an executive chef.

Munson is a restaurant industry veteran, who most recently served as Marczyk’s Fine Foods bakery manager. Before joining the Marczyk’s, he served as owner and head chef for eight years at Jonah’s on Johnston, a brick oven bistro and bakery in Forsyth, GA. Like The Walnut Room, Jonah’s mixes music and thin-crust pizza, offering homemade, Neapolitan-style varieties and a music series showcasing local performers.

“With his experience and culinary expertise, Jonah is a perfect fit for The Walnut Room,” said Leslie Odell, Director of Operations of The Walnut Room. “He really understands our business and will allow us to expand our menu to include exciting new offerings.”

An Atlanta native, Munson has been baking since college and finds inspiration in satisfying his customers.


The Walnut Room Begins Regular Delivery Service
 

Handmade Chicago Style pizza, made to order sandwiches highlight menu
 

WR Delivery
 

Denver – April 16, 2013 – Fans of The Walnut Room, famous for world-class music, pizza and beer, can now have a bit of the Walnut delivered right to their door. While bands such as Chris Isaak or the Flobots won’t be making any appearances in local living rooms, The Walnut Room has started daily deliveries of their Chicago style pizza and made to order gourmet sandwiches.

Ordering a delivery is as simple as going to The Walnut Room Website, and choosing delivery items from the full menu by calling 303.736.6750.

“Up to now, we made daytime deliveries only on an as demands basis,” says Walnut Room Director Of Operations Leslie Odell. “Now we offer delivery to anyone who wants to enjoy our amazing pizza and sandwiches in the comfort of their own homes.”

One of the most popular items for delivery is expected to be the thin crust Chicago style pizza which is cut into squares instead of wedge slices.
• Hours of delivery are from 11am to 11pm, Sun – Thu and until 1:00 Am on Fri and Sat
• The areas of deliver are: from East to West – between University
and Kalamath and from North to South – between Colfax and Louisiana.
• Customers can order delivery by calling 303.736.6750

About the Walnut Room
Launched in 2005, The Walnut Room arose out of owner John Burr’s vision to combine his expanded rehearsal studio business, Soundstructure Studios, with a place where local musicians could relax after a rehearsal session and enjoy Chicago style thin-crust pizza, sandwiches, and beverages. That concept evolved into a full-service restaurant/bar and live-music venue, the Walnut Room in Denver’s River North (RiNo) neighborhood, where bands can hone their performance skills and music fans can enjoy some of the area’s best talent. The Walnut Room has hosted a range of fledgling local bands as well established national acts, including Chris Isaak, Jewel, the Flobots, Churchill and The Fray. In 2009, Burr opened a second Walnut Room on South Broadway and Ellsworth Avenue in southeast Denver. Both Walnut Room locations offer lunch, happy hour, dinner, a late-night menu, takeout and delivery, and catering options. Check websites for current lineups and upcoming events.

Walnut Street
3131 Walnut Street
Denver, Colorado 80205
303 295 1868
Hours: Thursday–Saturday 11 am–2 am
Delivery hours: Sunday–Thursday 11 am–11 pm; Friday–Saturday 11 am–2 am
Website: Walnut Street Website

Broadway
2 Broadway
Denver, Colorado 80203
303 736 6750
Hours: Thursday–Saturday 11 am–2 am
Delivery hours: Sunday–Thursday 11 am–11 pm; Friday–Saturday 11 am–2 am
Website: Walnut Room Broadway Website


Walnut Room rolls out new gluten-free menu and beverage options
 

DENVER, February 28, 2013 —The Walnut Room’s two locations have expanded their gluten-free offerings to provide more options for customers avoiding gluten. In addition to offering individual, gluten-free pizzas (made from Udi’s Gluten Free Pizza crust), the pizzerias have added gluten-free bread for its wide array of sandwiches and a flourless torte.
The Walnut Room restaurants have also expanded their gluten-free beverages to include the Strongbow Cider at the Broadway location (2 N. Broadway) and Magners at the Walnut Street eatery (3131 Walnut St.)

Gluten intolerance is on the rise in the United States, affecting an estimated 6 percent of Americans. However, it’s estimated that as much as 15 percent to 25 percent of the population is choosing to go gluten-free. Gluten is present in breads, pastries, pastas, pies, and dozens of other wheat-based foods. Even some gluten-free foods such as French fries may be contaminated with gluten if they are fried in oil in which breaded foods have been prepared.
Given the pervasiveness of gluten, it can be difficult for people with gluten sensitivity to find familiar comfort food such as pizza, sandwiches and desserts on restaurant menus.

“We are proud to offer our gluten-sensitive customers more choices to make their dining experience more varied,” said Leslie Odell, Director of Operations. “We’ve worked hard to find high-quality, gluten-free products that will enable diners to enjoy a much wider range of our menu offerings. Our gluten-free sandwich and pizza

The Walnut Room is Denver’s premiere American-Pizzeria, serving up great food, affordable drinks, and today’s best live music. Be sure to visit us at both Walnut Room locations.

Walnut St.

3131 Walnut Street
Denver, Colorado 80205
(303) 295-1868 ph

HappyHourJan2017
EarlyBird