Step Into The Walrus Room
The Walrus Room’s modern, monochromatic take on the old-school supper club is the perfect addition to Geneva’s food and drink scene.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. For more details visit my disclosure page.
Want to go down the rabbit hole? Maybe that question doesn’t make sense now, but it will once you keep reading. Opening just a few months ago (July 10th was the big day for their soft opening), The Walrus Room has made quite the impression in the Tri-Cities area. Owners Marshall McCarty and Laura Bentley recently sat down with me to tell me all about their new Geneva restaurant, and it was full of great conversation, delicious sips, and savory eats.
In early 2017, Marshall began tossing around the idea of opening his own restaurant. Having 16 years of experience as a chef in the restaurant industry (with 12 in a management position), he was at a point in his career where he could continue to work for other people or he could take a leap and venture out on his own. It wasn’t until a few months later when he heard the former Chez Moi location was becoming available that he was certain it was the right time to do his own thing.
Lucky for Marshall, his wife Laura is a total team player. He may have caught her off guard by going home and randomly asking “want to open a restaurant?”, but she was all in after hearing the details of the location and the timing. Marshall started developing his business plan and took over the lease just a few months later.
Between March and July of this year, Marshall and Laura put in a ton of work. If you visited the location when it was Chez Moi, you’ll notice the complete transformation the interior has made. Now, dark blue-green walls, tin ceilings, and teal chairs fit in perfectly with walrus tusks, globe lights, and shelves filled with liquor. Marshall and Laura had originally played around with the thought of keeping it a breakfast spot, but as they discussed their ideas out loud, an evening feel seemed like a better fit. A trip to a Wisconsin supper club with Marshall’s dad solidified the details of their vision.
Marshall explained that he feels he does his best work when collaborating with other people, so it felt right to include friends, family, and team members when sorting out the specifics of the design and menu. He knew he wanted a darker, more intimate feel of the classic and nostalgic supper club, along with a single color throughout that details could pop off of. His stepdad is a master electrician and HATES seeing bulbs, so they went with a covered globe light in the dining area. Blumen Gardens worked on their moss features and planters, while other friends gave input on other interior features. Marshall also connected with local farms such as Heritage Prairie Farm to bring fresh, local produce to his menu. Laura says Marshall deserves the biggest chunk of credit for the development of the restaurant, but Marshall holds firm that it was a complete collaborative effort!
The name itself took forever to come up with! By June 2018 they STILL didn’t have a name, and they were down to the wire with deciding as paperwork for the State of Illinois demanded it ASAP. Their son’s name is Lincoln, and the location is located on Lincoln Highway, so they toyed around with names such as The Lincoln Café and The Lincoln Lounge. However, it wasn’t until one evening, while watching Alice in Wonderland with their son (more specifically, the scene with The Walrus and The Carpenter), that something struck Marshall. THE WALRUS ROOM! It was a unique, out-there name that couldn’t be taken too seriously, was a little weird (just like the story of Alice in Wonderland), yet upscale sounding.
To keep a subtle theme, they’ve included Alice in Wonderland quotes, named new menu versions as “chapters”, included movie quotes in the bathrooms, and named cocktails and dishes after parts of the tale. You may even see Mad Hatter celebrations and Unbirthday twists pop up!
Marshall’s goal for the menu was to create a selection where people almost COULDN’T decide – there would be more than one thing they would eat. It was also very important to Marshall and Laura to have a menu that people didn’t have to pick apart if they were vegetarian or gluten-free. There are several options for you if you fall into either of those categories!
Marshall explained that so far the pot pies have been very popular, along with the indulgent bucatini pasta with lobster and French onion soup. In terms of cocktails, Marshall makes sure the Brandy Alexander cocktail is up to par and Laura handles the quality control of the Sauvignon Blanc. The rest is under the creative expression of Bar Manager Matt Lodge, who does an amazing job of blending flavors in each drink!
Ryan accompanied me on my visit to The Walrus Room and joined me in trying several of their drinks and dishes. From the cocktail menu we sampled The Fancy (Azunia Anejo, Smoked Citrus, Angosura, Rhubarb, and Thyme), Duck + Dodo (Rye Whiskey, Fresh Apple Cider, Honey + Orange, and Sage), Smiling Jaws (Fords Gin, Tattersall Bitter Orange, Carpano Antica Vermouth, and Dehydrated Blood Orange), and Tiger Lily (Three Star Rum, Carrot Juice, Ginger, Cinnamon, Egg White, Fresh Nutmeg, and Raisins). Seriously, how do Matt and his team of bartenders create these combinations?! They were all delicious, but my favorites were The Fancy and Tiger Lily! They also have a great beer and wine selection available.
From the food menu, we indulged in the Chorizo Mussels (ah-mazing), Roasted Carrots (I loved the “dirt” that came under them!), Chicken Pot Pie (so classic and delicious), Rib Eye (perfectly tender), and fresh baked bread! During a previous visit, I’ve also tried their Truffle Parmesan Fries, Caesar Salad, and Scallops – all of which are worth ordering. Is your mouth totally watering yet?!
You can expect big things still to come from The Walrus Room, including completely private event options (perfect for showers, business events, and more), wine dinners, and New Year’s Eve seatings. They’ll be keeping it fun with Alice in Wonderland references, new “chapters”, and a classic, good time! I’m already looking forward to our next chance to visit. A big thanks to Marshall and Laura for having us, and be sure to check out The Walrus Room (and go down the rabbit hole) soon!
415 West State Street, Geneva, IL 60134