Recently, Walt’s Hitching Post received a Worth the Wait award from Cincinnati City Beat. This award is given to restaurants that are popular with the dining-out crowd of Greater Cincinnati. The award is based on several factors, but the key one is the quality and consistency of the offering.
So, the food is good. And the dining public knows it, hence it’s “worth the wait” to be seated at a table. But according to Donny Arnsperger, co-owner of Walt’s along with Bronson Tribbi, nobody needs wait to be seated, since the iconic smokehouse-style restaurant takes reservations and adroitly handles a sizable walk-in trade as well.
“At Walt’s we can seat a lot of people, and we have several event spaces we can fall back on when we need to,” he said.
Having dined at Walt’s Hitching Post many times, what I know is that there are several dining “rooms” that make for more intimate dining instead of one large dining area that seemingly can amplify the clang and chatter of an eatery. Having several segmented and contained dining areas as Walt’s does makes for a nicer experience for diners-out for sure. And having several of them means Walt’s can seat large, disparate or familiar crowds within its several rooms and event spaces.
As to the recent Worth the Wait award, Walt’s is described as “a kick-back, casual place where everybody knows your name.” Arnsperger will tell you that this is true, and in no small measure due to David “Sanchez” Wilson, the long-time general manager, who seems always to be there at the door greeting guests.
“He knows everybody and he’s the type of guy who makes everybody feel at home,” Arnsperger said.
As autumn takes hold, Arnsperger and Walt’s kitchen are tweaking the menu a bit. “We’re going to be changing up the salmon entrée here in a few weeks, and we have added two new steaks to the menu,” he said.
The steaks are the porterhouse (a bone-in cut) and the bone-in New York strip steaks.
Bone-in cuts of beef are a specialty of the house, as one may see by looking at the menu. A not-so-raging controversy exists between the bone-in and no-bone grillers of fine steaks, with bone-in advocates claiming the taste is better, more flavorful due to effects of bone marrow “seasoning” the steak.
While there is no scientific data to support this claim, according to Steak University (no kidding, there is such a place/organization), one inescapable fact is that bone-in beef grills differently than a steak with no bone. Bones heat up slower, and correspondingly cool down slower than beef. Meat by the bone is going to be cooler when a steak is grilled to rare or medium rare. That means there will be more juice and, presumably, more flavor in the meat next to the bone. Who among us has not heard the adage: “The closer the bone, the sweeter the meat.” While I am no expert in this area, I tend to agree. Seems to me that meat off the bone is especially tender and juicy—all good!
From steaks, Arnsperger switched to the Starting Gate, Walt’s section of appetizers, pointing at bourbon burnt ends. Burnt ends are one of those quirky food items that result more from historical accident than someone’s intriguing recipe idea. Jump in time back to cow-town Kansas City, but well after the herds and drovers coming up Main Street from punching cows across the Great Plains – perhaps the 1930s. Smoked meats were the rage back then, and smoked meats typically produce ends that burn a little because they are thinner, and hence, slightly over-cooked-burnt. When eateries would make sandwiches or plated specials from the smoked meats, they would cut off the ends exactly because they were burnt. These “bits” of meat are crunchy, heavily caramelized, intensely smoky and chewy. Long story short, those bits would be given out to hungry, waiting patrons. It was obvious that people loved the burnt ends, and it was not long before they became an item on KC menus.
Arnsperger stated that his guests have shown the same love and enthusiasm for Walt’s burnt ends, and especially because they are marinated in bourbon and maple syrup.
“The way we do them really gives the burnt ends a great flavor, and the response has been tremendous. It’s one of our hottest items now, and we make them from beef tenderloin, so it’s a great cut of meat to match the great flavor,” he said.
See you at Walt’s Hitching Post!
Walt’s Hitching Post
3300 Madison Pike
Fort Wright, Kentucky, 41017