Hidden In Plain Sight – 8 Downtown Wheeling Gems You May Not Have Heard Of
Written by Chef Ambassador, Matt Welsch.
“You can’t get there from here.” “A country mile.” “As the crow flies.” Old adages like these cut their teeth on the ridges of West Virginia’s hills. And it’s true, it is a long and winding road to get you from here to there. Amidst all those twists and turns, it’s easy to miss some sights, sounds and tastes; and that, friends, would be a real shame.
Here in the Northern Panhandle, it’s far too easy to reduce our section of West Virginia to a sliver between our neighboring states. If you were traveling East along Interstate 70 you could quite possibly cross the Ohio River, drive over Wheeling Island, cross the Ohio River again and be through the Wheeling Tunnel before you even realized you weren’t in Ohio anymore!
And if that happened, you would miss some fantastic places to cool your jets and smack your gums. Allow me to take you on a tour of what you’d be missing.
The state line is actually in the Ohio River, so you start the I-70 Bridge in Ohio and quickly cross over into West Virginia and onto Wheeling Island. Crossing “The Island” and onto the Fort Henry Bridge, you are heartily rewarded with a beautiful view of Downtown Wheeling to the South. But don’t get too wrapped up in rubbernecking, Exit 1A is on the East shore of the River and you’ve got to grab it fast.
Bridge Tavern & Grill
As you curve down off of the hustle and bustle of interstate travel, you will cruise out onto the decidedly more relaxed Main Street of our small city. Heading a block South will take you to 10th Street and a corner with not only the iconic Suspension Bridge and Capitol Theatre, but on the left – or “hill-side” – of the street is a Wheeling institution, the Bridge Tavern & Grill.
Open for over 60 years now and owned by a local family, the Bridge offers a selection of delicious diner fare, as well as a well-stocked bar. It’s also not uncommon to find a couple of tables moved aside to make room for live music.
Stop by for deliciously well-crafted burgers, sandwiches and exquisite bar food. Get the fried bologna sandwich, please. Do it for me. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be good, and this grub will fill your belly and put a smile on your face.
Open for lunch, dinner, drinks and oftentimes tunes from Tuesday through Saturday. Also, you can stop by for Sunday Brunch.
Down Main Street a few blocks – almost to Big Wheeling Creek – at the corner of South and Main inside the historic Flat Iron Building is Table 304. A small mom-and-daughter shop with over-the-top cuteness, Table 304 has the most beautiful “grazing boards,” putting to shame any meat and cheese tray you’ve ever seen. To get a full board, you’ll need to call ahead, but individual servings, as well as some other tasty and healthy items, are offered daily.
“304” is our state’s main area code, and there is a lot of pride in those three little numbers, just like there is on the table here. Fruits, salads, sandwiches and more are offered as daily specials. And they’ve often got some delicious treats if you’re hankering to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Stop by for a delicious coffee drink, a light, healthy treat and a calm oasis amidst life’s chaos.
Open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday.
Sarah’s on Main
A stone’s throw from the Big Wheeling Creek is Sarah’s on Main. Sarah Lydick has put her amazing baking skills to work in this small, elegant and comfortable spot worth a stop any morning or lunch – from Wednesday through Saturday at least.
Sarah’s salty bread is something of a legend around here, and although it may be the backbone of the menu at Sarah’s on Main, it is not the only thing baking in her ovens. Whether it’s breakfast or lunch, there’s something to warm your heart and fill your belly that’s healthy and fresh.
Stop by for her amazing sweet potato hash or literally any of the baked goods made in-house. If the weather suits you, sit a spell and sip a cappuccino on the patio.
Open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Saturday.
Rachel’s on 16th
Swinging around onto Chapline (that’s pronounced chap-lin for the uninitiated) and heading north again, you’ll need to take a quick two-block detour to find Rachel’s.
Offering fantastic town favorites for both lunch and dinner, your biggest concern isn’t what to order, it’s where to sit. Loved by locals, both bar seats and tables are often full at peak times, but carry-out grub is always an option, so no one goes hungry.
Rachel will greet you with a smile, but she won’t put up with your sass, so mind your p’s and q’s and enjoy your steaming hot cup of joe. She and the whole crew work hard to serve guests in the restaurant, as well as the community at large in times of need.
Stop by for buttery french toast, their jaw-dropping breakfast burrito, or just a side of fried potatoes, they’re worth it. Or, you can grab one of the best Reubens I’ve ever had. Yeah, I said it.
Open for Breakfast and Lunch Monday through Saturday.
Elle & Jack’s
Heading back to our route now and North on Chapline, you’ll find Elle & Jack’s at the corner of 12th Street.
Though relatively new on the downtown eating scene, the proprietors and namesakes of the establishment have garnered a loyal following in the area renowned for their baking skills and burgers. Also operating Whisk Bakery and the Avenue Eats food truck, you can expect to find both here, as well as their Chef Conroy’s wonderfully seared meats and seafood.
Stop by for the scallops and mushroom risotto, burgers, fresh salads, delicious pasta and a selection of great wines from their full-service bar. If you’re looking for a classy interlude, you’ve found it.
Open for Lunch and Supper Tuesday through Saturday.
McLure House Bar & Grill
Just behind… or is it in front? This is why around here we refer to the “hill-side” and the “river-side” of things, so on the river-side of Elle & Jack’s, you’ll find the historic McLure House which hides within it an unexpected bar and grill. There is perhaps no diamond so shiny or in such a rough. While the hotel itself is another historic downtown fixture, the Bar & Grill offers a menu refreshingly new, unexpected and niche.
Chef Tiffany “Dagr” Danehart may be a Vagabond alum, but her menu at McLure House is dynamically and intimately her own. Her straightforward menu keeps it simple and that means fresh, and fresh, my friends, is good. Fresh is key.
Stop by for the tacos – guys, seriously. These doggone tacos are handmade by hands that know what they are doing. They also have great sliders and some tasty drinks to take the edge off. But for real, the tacos.
Open for dinner and drinks Wednesday through Saturday.
Tito’s Sloppy Doggs
After leaving the McLure and waving to us at the Vagabond Kitchen across the street, you’ll want to head north again, back towards the interstate, and stop on the hill-side of Market Plaza to visit the first of your last two great eateries on this exploratory tour.
Tito’s Sloppy Doggs is way more than just some of the best dogs in our state. We’re talking subs, wraps, burgers, grilled cheese, quesadillas, salads and a lot more to choose from. The size of the menu is as impressive as it is well-made. There are no sleepers taking up space and each swing is a knockout.
Stop by for the chicken sandwich, so crazy good. Then there are the dogs – top-notch. The wraps, the quesadillas, the freaking burgers. Ugh! So tough to decide. Look, I’m going to grab something to eat while I make my mind up about what to eat.
Open for Breakfast and Lunch Monday through Friday.
Before you head out of town, you have to stop two doors up and visit our “small town tavern with a taco problem.”
For the taco addict in all of us, Taqueria 304 has a hip, intimate atmosphere with a long bar at which you can indulge in a wonderful selection of beer: Mexican, craft and “weak” beers all have a place here. You can, and should, indulge.
However, the real draw is the simple paper menu and its selection of delicious taco and taco-centric creations. Do not go through this life without tasting their take on Birria or one of their mouth-watering sauces cranking the heat from Green to Red, Orange and XXX. They taste so good you don’t mind the neck sweat. Truly, a basket of tacos and frosty beverages here are the stuff of dreams.
Stop by for the Birria Quesatacos or WV Surf & Turf Tacos. The pork belly is really hard to beat, and the seasonings are on point across the entire menu.
Open for lunch, dinner, and drinks Monday through Saturday.
Now you’re just a block from jumping back onto Interstate 70 and continuing your trip, but after sampling some of the best Wheeling has to offer, you may not want to leave! Well, don’t be a stranger and come on back any time.
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This post was last updated on October 6, 2022