New Bar with a Long History Opens in South Wheeling

As the new Silver Rail Bar and Grill opens in South Wheeling under the ownership of Steven Mitchell and Ezra Hamilton, it’s just the latest iteration of a neighborhood bar that has been serving the community since the 1940s.

I spoke with Michaeline Carp whose husband’s family owned the bar from the 1940s through the late 1980s in an effort to piece together what the Silver Rail meant to locals then and what it means to return to the original name. Carp originally saw that the bar was returning to “Silver Rail” on a Facebook post. She says her and her family were pleased to see the return of the name, and plans to travel from Columbus to patronize the new space once it’s fully opened.

The Original Silver Rail

In the 1940s Steve Blazina and his family opened a neighborhood bar called The Silver Rail at 224 29th Street. The name Silver Rail referred to the silver rail that ran along the bar.  

The origin of the Blazina family leads back to the Czech Republic, and while I can’t account for much of what happened from the 1940s – 1960s, Carp vividly remembers her brother-in-law and his wife taking over the bar in the 1960s. Alma and Steve Blazina ran the bar until they both died in 1987. 

For nearly 30 years, Alma and Steve lived across the street from the bar on 29th street with their three children and ran the business as a family. Carp recalls filling in while she was pregnant with her daughter when Steve and Alma needed extra hands at the bar. 

Original keys to the Silver Rail bar.

Since the current owners have planned a food menu for the new Silver Rail, I asked Carp if she remembers what the food was like back in the day. The original Silver Rail was known for its steamed hot dogs and Steve Blazina’s secret chili sauce. The old bar kept a handwritten list of regulars at the bar and would give folks on the list who frequented the joint all week a free drink. Carp remembers that her family was always willing to help out others in the neighborhood and the bar as an anchor in the community. 

A New Era For the Silver Rail

In recent years, Wheeling residents likely remember the bar as Rae’s 29th Street Bar and Grill. In 2021, Rae was ready to retire, and new owners Mitchell and Hamilton saw it as an opportunity to go into business and create a space that honors the past with a fresh look. 

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New owners Ezra Hamilton and Steven Mitchell want their establishment to be known for its fresh food and local entertainment.

Mitchell and Hamilton have known each other since the late 90s and had long talked of opening a business together. When the opportunity presented itself at 224 29th street this year the duo knew it was the right time. When I asked Mitchell about returning to the original name, he said people who grew up in Wheeling still referred to the space as the Silver Rail through it’s many iterations. If you were going to meet at Rae’s and someone didn’t know where it was you’d say “the old Silver Rail”. Clearly, the place was an institution and neighborhood hub.

The partnership and the business makes sense as Mitchell owns retail businesses in Wheeling and Hamilton has made a name for himself in the local music scene and spent time learning the ins and outs of running a kitchen after spending time in Charlottesville, VA. The duo plans to incorporate scratch cooking and live music as staples in the new Silver Rail Bar and Grill. Friend and collaborator Adam Luisa, chef at Roxby Development, helped the pair to fine tune their bar menu. From hand battered mozzarella sticks to flatbreads and whole chicken wings seasoned with a house made dry rub, there is something for everyone. 

  • Details from inside the Silver Rail Bar and Grill (photos by Daniel Finsley)

In keeping with the community feel of the original bar Mitchell and Hamilton have used local contractors, Crawford Construction to build out their new bar. They have added a gaming room and plan to incorporate plenty of live music and local talent into their line-up for events. Hamilton wants the Silver Rail to be a place where people can gather to see live original music and DJs in Wheeling and it’s about time.  

The Silver Rail Bar and Grill is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.; Saturday noon – 2 a.m.; and Sunday noon – 1 a.m. The best place to check for updates on the new Silver Rail is by visiting their Facebook page.

• Melissa Rebholz was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, to a Sicilian/German family. She grew up in a household revolving around food. In 2007, a summer of volunteering for GrowNYC (New York City’s Farmer’s Markets) led her down the path to culinary school at The Natural Gourmet Institute and 10 subsequent years of farming from Long Island to Sonoma to Tennessee. Working simultaneously in kitchens to support her farming habit, Melissa migrated back to the rustbelt in October of 2019 to help Grow Ohio Valley open the Public Market as the head chef. Her hobbies include foraging, baking, dinner parties and exploring her new home of Wheeling, West Virginia.