Rising to the surface
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston's first "Restaurant Week," Jan. 27 through Feb. 1, couldn't come at a better time for the eight Charleston restaurants featured during the event. All have lost a great deal of revenue -- and their employees have lost wages and tips -- during the water contamination emergency. The restaurateurs and their staffs are hoping the community will support the effort and visit several of the establishments during the week.
All of the featured restaurants indicated that they are serving and cooking with bottled water, a practice each will continue until their confidence -- and the public's -- in the safety of tap water is restored.
Restaurant Week is an opportunity to sample some of the great culinary talent Charleston has to offer at an affordable price while helping the service community get back on its feet.
The restaurants featured are considered to be among the area's finest: Bluegrass Kitchen, Bridge Road Bistro, Ichiban, Noah's Eclectic Bistro, Paterno's at the Park, Soho's Capitol Market, South Hills Market and Café, and Vandalia Grille.
Each establishment will offer a special three-course dinner: a starter, an entrée and a dessert, all for $30. The prices do not include drinks, taxes and gratuity. However, tea and water will be offered at no additional charge. The regular menu will still be offered at regular menu prices.
Paterno's at the Park
Niki Paterno Curten of Paterno's at the Park said she thinks Restaurant Week will allow their restaurant to shed some misperceptions people may have about Paterno's and other finer restaurants in town.
"Our dress code is 'come as you are.' Our food is upscale and delicious and handcrafted, but we are not a stuffy restaurant at all. It's a great opportunity to get people in the door to try something new for a price they could only eat at a chain restaurant for. We chose our most popular items, our signature dishes, to showcase."
Paterno's at the Park, 601 Morris St., is owned and operated by several members of the Paterno family: Andy Paterno, Mary Jo Paterno, Tony Paterno and Niki Paterno Curten. The chef is Michael Aiello. The menu for the gourmet Italian restaurant is available online at www.paternosatthepark.com and on Facebook. For reservations call 304-205-5482.
Bridge Road Bistro
Another featured restaurant is Bridge Road Bistro, at 915 Bridge Road. It is known for its American farm-to-table cuisine, but also for featuring local jazz musicians. The proprietor is Sherri Wong and the executive chef is John Wright. The Bridge Road Bistro menu can be seen online at www.thebridgeroadbistro.com and on Facebook.
"I see it as a huge opportunity for people to come out and have the cuisine they don't normally have and to avoid the sticker price they may perceive our restaurant to have," said general manager Sandy Call.
"I think when they come here, they will see how affordable our menu is and how casual it is. ... You don't need to be intimidated by these restaurants. We're looking forward to seeing new faces," she added.
To make reservations, call 304-720-3500.
South Hills Market and Café
Richard Arbaugh, owner and chef of South Hills Market and Café, echoed Call's thoughts about the affordability of his menu, something that is often misperceived by people who haven't been to the café.
Restaurant Week is "a good way for us to get guests that might not travel outside their usual places. We have something for everyone. I tried to use some of the recipes that people already love with some new items. I wanted to give people options," he said.
South Hills Market and Café, 1010 Bridge Road, is known as a "new American cuisine" restaurant because of its focus on local, seasonal, high-quality ingredients. Its menu is online at www.southhillsmarket.com and Facebook.
For reservations, call 304-345-2585.
Soho's Capitol Market
Sharon Sohovich, owner of Soho's Capitol Market, at 800 Smith St., sees Restaurant Week as a bright spot during a very trying time for area residents.
"It's going to be a great thing for everybody. It's a good opportunity for people to go out and try new menu items and places they might not normally try," Sohovich said.
"It's good for the businesses too because there's been a lot of lost revenue for so many businesses of all types," she added.
Soho's Capitol Market is known for its gourmet Italian cuisine.
In choosing the menu for the event, "We were trying to come up with customer favorites and keep it affordable. The items we chose are our most popular items," said chef Amie Dodson.
The restaurant has a Facebook page and its menu is available at www.sohoswv.com. To make reservations, call 304-720-7646.
Bluegrass Kitchen is also focusing on one of their customer favorites.
"The menu item we are featuring is one of our most-popular menu items: pan-seared whole trout with organic stone-ground grits, stewed kale and bourbon mustard sauce," said co-owner Keeley Steele.
"It's not going away after Restaurant Week. So, customers can come back anytime and be assured that they will be able to order it," Steele said.
Steele said she was excited about Charleston's first Restaurant Week because, "This is our livelihood. This is my and my husband John's career choice. We have three restaurants on the East End. So, we are very supportive of anyone who wants to bring attention to what we do. It seems like a great reward for customers and a good way for people to get out and try something new."
Bluegrass Kitchen, at 1600 Washington St. E., is known for its eclectic comfort food with a modern edge. The restaurant's décor features art by local artists and serves as a gallery for their works.
The restaurant has a Facebook page and its menu is posted at www.bluegrasswv.com. To make reservations, call 304-346-2871.
Ichiban Pan-Asian Cuisine
"I can't thank Buzz Food Services and Dickinson Gould enough for putting this event together," said Laura Miller, co-owner of Ichiban Pan-Asian Cuisine along with her husband, Scott.
"We were closed five business nights and over a weekend, so our businesses and employees were really hurt by the water contamination," she added.
Miller said she has been touched by the generosity of customers as businesses try to get back on their feet. As a special thank you, she is doing a pairing list of wine for the food options during the week, and is offering a price reduction as a value for her customers.
Ichiban, at 103 Capitol St., is "not just a sushi bar," Miller said. "With our menu choices for the event, we wanted to make people aware that we are a full pan-Asian restaurant. We are known for our steaks, seafood, sushi and spirits."
The restaurant posts its menu at www.meetmeoncapitol.com and also has a Facebook page. To make reservations, call 304-720-7874.
Chef Mike Summerlin owns Vandalia Grille, at 212 Hale St., a restaurant known for its "small plates, big flavor" menu, which includes a multitude of interesting salads, sandwiches and grilled pizzas.
"Our menu is a smorgasbord. We have everything from filet mignon to sandwiches. We try to be creative and offer people a lot of choices," Summerlin said, adding that the restaurant week prices couldn't be beat.
"If you go through the McDonald's drive-through, it's going to be eight bucks. For $30 during Restaurant Week you get much more, much better food. Plus, people will see that we are reasonably priced all the time," he said.
The menu is available at www.vandaliagrille.com. Vandalia Grille also has a Facebook page. To make reservations, call 304-343-4110.
Noah's Eclectic Bistro
Noah's Eclectic Bistro, at 110 McFarland St., is a small, 11-table restaurant that is big on flavor.
Owner and chef Noah Miller has a menu that changes every week and features fresh, seasonal ingredients, with a menu that is "an eclectic mix of dishes. Using the freshest, local and seasonal ingredients, every dish is layered with flavors, colors, textures and aromas that will simply make your taste buds tingle," according to Noah's website, www.noahseclectic.com. They also have a Facebook page. To make reservations, call 304-343-6558.
Reservations are suggested for all restaurants participating in Restaurant Week; in other cities that have sponsored restaurant weeks, tables go quickly.
Diners should contact each restaurant directly. They also ask that if you are running late or have to cancel your reservation, do so with as much notice as possible so they can hold your reservation or have an opportunity to rebook the table.
On a normal night, a restaurant will hold a table for 10 to 15 minutes past reservation time. During Restaurant Week, with a long wait list, they might not be able to do that, especially if they don't know you're on your way.
Reach Judy E. Hamilton at email@example.com or 304-348-1230.