The new bar from former manager of nightclub Sisters Denise Cohen is officially open as of this week, after soft-opening not too long ago. Toasted Walnut is the name, and it’s a mixed bag of elements — part bar (but the sort of party-vibes bar where one might not just sit and chat quietly), part-restaurant (and although the menu is aiming more at bar food for the moment, it’s from a chef with some major credentials), and part LGBTQ-friendly hang spot (but by no means a gay or lesbian bar in the traditional sense).
“The city is from my point of view is a mixed bag and we’re offering quite a different variety,” explains Cohen.
Philadelphia chef and winner of Chopped Champions Diana Sabater is heading up the food site of that mixed bag, with what Cohen calls a more upscale, fresher and healthier take on bar food, avoiding a menu made up only of straight-out-of-the-fryer fare. Examples: empanadas and devilled eggs.
Cohen says she’s more focused on the nightlife side right now, but hopes to move towards a restaurant kind of operation later.
“I’ll eat a steak at a bar, so with it we will be getting into some dinner even though we’re more of a bar atmosphere with high bar top tables.”
Perhaps the most innovative of Cohen’s plans is to run a venue that is a space for LGBTQ women — while simultaneously being open to any customer.
“It’s lesbian owned, there has been no lesbian bar [in Philadelphia] since 2013 so I’m trying to put the L back in the LGBTQ community without shunning anyone else. Everybody is welcome, gay, straight, male female, people of color...” Cohen tells Eater.
Gay and lesbian bars have generally been in decline in recent years, so for Cohen it means being a space that everyone would want to visit is important.
“What we need for this country is to say that across the board we’re all comfortable going into any space and we can have a great time together.”
“A lot of people are saying ‘you’re nuts’ because bars across the country are closing up for women and women don’t go out and support them like gay men do.”
But Cohen has faith that Toasted Walnut will have appeal.
“I know the Philly community, I know there’s a wish for this and I know there’s going to be a support for this. And there’s so many gay men who love to come into an atmosphere where it’s not just gay men.”
Cohen says that the crowds so far have been diverse, and lived up to expectations — she hopes to boost them as time goes on with a beefed-up cocktail program and dinner menu, as well as brunch service.
“We want our community to know one of our taglines is ‘quality and equality’.”
- Toasted Walnut [Facebook]