After more than a decade as a manager working for a regional restaurant chain, one Wheeling resident has chosen to break away from the corporate world and open his own eatery on Wheeling Island.
Ozzie Hyde, a native of New England who began working for the Sharon, Pa.-based Quaker Steak & Lube a decade ago, searched for more than a year for this opportunity in the Wheeling area. He was the general manager of The Lube at The Highlands for the past seven years, guiding the restaurant to the top of the company’s spreadsheets in categories such as revenue generation and profit margin.
“I can’t stress it enough that I miss managing at Quaker Steak & Lube to this day, but the time arrived when I had this opportunity, and I felt as if I needed to take it,” Hyde explained. “The way that businesses are run now is no longer person-to-person. These days it’s about 80 different emails during your work day, and I found myself missing the personal aspects of managing a restaurant.
“I was sad to leave the family that we had developed at The Lube at The Highlands, and I remain friends with them, and it’ll be that way forever, but this was a chance to make it personal again for me,” he said. “I like to visit with my customers to make sure their experiences are great instead of being stuck on a computer for hours on end.”
But now his office is his kitchen instead of a tiny room packed with those computers that enabled home-office personnel to continuously count every wing, every burger, and every beverage sold.
“The Lube at The Highlands is a very successful restaurant, and that’s because of the team that’s in place there, and I’m sure it will just get better and better,” Hyde said. “But now I get to do what I love to do the most, and that’s being in the kitchen making delicious food for people I know will appreciate it.”
Ozzie’s Bar and Grill, located at 135 Virginia St., is about the food. The building rests within a residential neighborhood and has housed Mac’s Holiday, Hurricane Herk’s, and most recently the Island Grille.
“I think right now everyone from the outside expects just a bar to be inside this building because that’s pretty much what’s been here for a lot of years, and I understand that a lot of folks are not used to coming in here to eat their lunches and dinners,” Hyde explained. “What I had in mind always included the bar aspects, but now we’ve combined that with a pretty wide variety of appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, salads and soups, and several dinners.
“People like to eat in the Valley. I know that firsthand,” he continued. “So now people can take advantage of a new restaurant that also has a very nice bar area.”
Hyde has created a menu that features many items you would expect a restaurant to offer within this region, but it also offers the chance to dine on dishes unique to the Upper Ohio Valley. There are the Philly Steak Hoagie, a variety of burgers, and the spicy Buffalo wings, sure, but also listed are the “Sticky Pork Chops,” the Shrimp Scampi, and the Sausage & Peppers ala Osvle.
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“The most requested items that we have that almost didn’t make it onto the menu are the items that have the gravy with it,” he explained. “And if people like your gravy, they will order it every single time they visit. I also think people have been very surprised that they can walk in here and get a bowl of chicken and dumpling soup, too.
“It’s my belief that if you are going to put those items on your menu, they have to be good. You can’t fool the people in this Valley, either,” Hyde continued. “I think our customers have been pretty surprised with the food during our first three weeks, and the fact that they keep coming back tells me we’re doing something right.”
While managing The Lube in Ohio County, Hyde learned the local economy and the people within it, and that is why he decided to offer these eats and drinks for affordable prices.
“I have a good understanding of food costs and how much it takes to make what I’ve included on our menu here. And trust me; I know when I’ve gone to some places and seen what they serve, I can tell what kind of profit margin they are going after,” he said. “The keys are pretty simple – buy good product and cook it very well. The mistake that a lot of people make is taking shortcuts.”
“I have found that if I take my time and use the techniques that I have learned during a lot of years in the restaurant business, making great food isn’t that difficult,” Hyde continued. “And trust me; people appreciate it. It’s pretty easy to tell if you see their initial reaction after they received their food.”
For those who wish to enjoy adult beverages while dining in, Ozzie’s does offer a full-service bar with all of the usual beverages available.
“The only thing we do not offer at the bar is draft beer, but I have not had a single customer ask for a draft beer,” Hyde said. “But we have everything else anyone would expect. Domestic and imported bottled beers, liquors, wine, and we also have the ability to make the frozen drinks, too.
“Nowadays, people are most interested in the bottled beers and the mixed drinks, but if someone wishes to pair a nice wine with their meal they can do that, too,” he added. “You can come in here and get a martini to go along with your Shrimp Scampi, or you can get a beer to go with your wings or your fries and gravy. My goal was to try to appeal to everyone, and it’s appeared so far that we’re accomplishing that goal.”