After brief negotiations, he ended uppurchasing the space and gave it a makeover, adding a touch of theFayetteville old to the Manlius new. In May, after only three years ofbusiness in Fayetteville, he served up his own sequel with the openingof a second Walter’s Café.
Walter Babla: Owner of Walter's Cafe welcomes all to dine at the new Manlius location. Michael Davis Photo.
“This expansion was mostly determined bypeople in the Manlius area,” says Babla. “Our thing has always been toplease the customers at any cost, and a lot of regulars with childrendidn’t want to travel and some didn’t have the time to travel toFayetteville. So they kept asking us, and we did it for them.”
The Manlius menu carries over virtuallyeverything from the Fayetteville location, but Babla decided to includeseveral new courses. What made Walter’s Café stick out from the average“neighborhood diner” was their not-so-average American-Joe menu. Afterthe breakfast hours, 24 different sandwiches, wraps and oven-bakedpaninis become available, priced at $6.25 each.
The Turkey Cuban Panini, cushionedtogether with smoked turkey, prosciutto, sliced pickles, Swiss cheeseand Russian dressing, has gone over so well, Fidel might haveconsidered lifting the embargo just to get his hands on one. Anotherexotic and big fat treat is the Greek Island, rolled in a lemon herb wrap with grilled eggplant, tomato, Kalamata olives and red onions.
In addition to the house pastasuggestions on the menu, the “create-your-own pasta” option ($5.95)presents a three-step process. First, choose from a variety of noodlessuch as spriali and penne rigate. Next, select from one of their sevensauces, including alfredo romano and ala vodka. For the final step, addin whatever other idiosyncratic flavorings quell your hunger libido—andyes, for those that base their cultural knowhow from episodes of Seinfeld, cucumbers are allowed in Italian fare.
Ten specialty brick-oven thin-crustpizza pies are smoothed out and tossed in the air—before they go in theoven, natch—setting you back $4.95 to $6.95. Babla notes that Rustica,topped with chicken, roasted peppers, broccoli and mozzarella cheese,has been much in demand. The Margherita is a little more down-home,with a sprinkling of mozzarella and fresh basil on top of “mama-made”tomato sauce to keep it real “old country.”
If you march into Walter’s wearing aflag pin, some good ol’ American courses may intrigue. Their New Yorksteak ($16.95), topped with chipotle butter and served with ovenpotatoes and veggies, will bid a farewell to hunger with the emotion ofa 21-gun salute. Seven different grilled burgers, such as thechili-dipped El Paso burger and the barbecue sauce-meets-Jack cheeseTexas burger, are available with patty and buns at prices between $5.25and $6.95, or deluxe with fries for $6.75 and $8.45.
Babla also mentions that he could notresist making a run for the border. His mix of Southwestern fareincludes sizzling fajitas, beef or chicken chimichangas, enchiladas,burritos and quesadillas, spanning in price between $6.25 and $11.95.
Ten salads are available, as well asappetizers such as calamari, chicken fingers and Buffalo wings. Washdown the chow with one of four all-natural smoothies ($4.95), orcompliment it with several selections of cake, pie or brownie-basedtreats from the dessert menu.
“We wanted to offer more than just acookie-cutter menu and give people the chance to get good quality foodat reasonable prices,” continues Babla. “We have a lot of families andpeople with a wide variety of tastes that come in, and we want to makethem feel as comfortable and relaxing as possible. The more optionsthey have to choose from, the more they get the sense that this isabout them, not us.”
Walter’s Café and Bistro seats about 120with a variety of booths and tables able to accommodate large or smallgroups. Business hours are Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.,Sundays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Babla says they are in the process of gettingtheir liquor license, which could eventually mean a later closing hourof 2 a.m. on Saturdays. For more information, to order takeout orinquire about their catering options, call 692-4594.