More than 25 restaurants are participating in this year’s Wheeling Restaurant Week, with hopes of luring customers through their doors with new menu items, tasty specials or diners’ favorites.

Wait, what? We have 25 restaurants in Wheeling?

That’s the comment that Valerie Piko has been hearing when talking with prospective participants.

“A lot of people assume that Wheeling’s culinary choices are limited. But, really, Restaurant Week is a good reminder of all that’s out there,” said Piko, small business coordinator at Regional Economic Development Partnership (RED), who, along with Brook Stull, RED’s operations coordinator, is organizing the event.

Wheeling Restaurant Week, sponsored by RED with marketing support from the Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is set for March 16-21.

“One of the things I love about this is we are only featuring locally owned businesses. … It’s something that makes their chefs excited to try something new. And I’ve talked to a couple of restaurant owners who feel like if they were located in a larger city, they’d be able to be a little bit more adventurous with their cuisine,” Piko said.

“Sometimes customers here are viewed as a little more ‘meat and potatoes,’ but Restaurant Week gives them that opportunity to really do something different.”

AN INFUSION OF FRESH OFFERINGS

Several restaurants are new participants in this year’s Wheeling Restaurant Week — and not only are they new to the event, but they are new to Wheeling. P.T.’Z Lounge on Market Plaza, Rachel’s on 16th, the Public Market’s café and Otey’s Smokehouse in North Wheeling are offering up specials for the week.

Also new to the event this year is The Bridge Tavern and Grill, which is under new ownership. Looking forward to showing off new renovations is The Pointe at Wheeling Island Hotel-Racetrack-Casino. Ye Olde Alpha’s Charlie Schlegal, now with the West Sports Bar, will showcase some of the Alpha’s favorites. Tito’s Sloppy Doggs is also coming to the table.

Good Mansion Wines will feature a new salad each day, while Figaretti’s is bringing back a taste of nostalgia with its Chi-Chi’s Glove.

Almost every restaurant that participated in the inaugural event last year will return.

Hangover BBQ is happy to be back, according to Stephanie Litman, who along with her husband, Billy Litman, owns the restaurant.

“Restaurant Week provided our business an opportunity to not only feature favorite items, but also reach new customers that may not have known about us yet, which increased our sales. We love being involved with community programs especially when they are focused on local businesses involving food.  This year we are even opening up on Wednesday (we normally are closed Wednesdays) 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to encourage more people to check us out,” Litman said.

Get the half rack of ribs from Hangover BBQ.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE’S TASTES

“I saw the success that Small Business Saturday was having for small retail shops in our area, and many of them reported ‘best sales ever’ on Small Business Saturday, and then I also saw a lot of my friends from Wheeling going to Pittsburgh for their restaurant week and really making an event out of it, and having fun exploring all the menu options available and finding new restaurants to try out. So I thought, how can I help to support our local restaurants,” Piko said, explaining why she thought Restaurant Week was a good idea for Wheeling.

“It was something that was easy for them to participate in and get the local foodies excited,” she said.

“When you look up restaurant week in large cities, many times it’s the upscale restaurants you could never afford to go to on a Tuesday night, or maybe you’d go for an anniversary or birthday, but not after your kid’s basketball game. We have a great selection of restaurants here. We also wanted this to be an event that showcased all of them, so the restaurants are given a lot of freedom … they have the flexibility to come up with a special that’s unique for them and highlights their talents, and we’re able to do that with Oglebay’s Ihlenfeld Dining Room and The Point restaurant, but also have Coleman’s participating with their New England clam chowder.

“We have something at every price point — something for everyone to enjoy,” she noted.

“I think my largest goal is for people to discover new restaurants they’ve never visited before and hopefully they’ll keep returning to these restaurants.

“The taste of Wheeling is a huge part of the culture, and we also draw a lot of people from surrounding neighborhood to Wheeling to eat … but hopefully people will come to Wheeling, grab a bite to eat and stick around to explore a little more while they’re here,” Piko said.

Restaurant Week also brings out the “community aspect” of the city.

“When we eat in restaurants like this, not only are we tasting unique food to Wheeling, but we’re also supporting all those employees who work within that restaurant, and these are also the businesses that are sponsoring our kids’ soccer teams and really engaging in our community as small businesses,” Piko said.

Mafia Mac from Vagabond Kitchen

‘KNEADING’ NEW BUSINESSES

“I think events like this help to inspire new restaurants to get started … and help them to ‘feed off’ of each other. I think seeing the success of other restaurants and realizing that there’s a really active audience here that is looking for really good and unique food, hopefully, people will take the next step into starting their dream of owning a restaurant.

“Also, I think the more events like Restaurant Week and Small Business Saturday and Show of Hands all demonstrate there is support for small business and a network of people to assist with those businesses,” Piko said.

Four of the restaurants went through CO.Starters, Piko noted. CO.Starters is a nine-week course for entrepreneurs in any stage — from anyone who has a concept to someone who’s been in business for 20 years — that gives them the tools they need to start and retain a business successfully.

“I’m excited we’re in year two [of Restaurant Week], and I hope this is an event that just continues to grow year after year, not only with the number of restaurants that we have participating but also the number of people we have supporting these establishments.

“And as we see the number of restaurants participating in Restaurant Week grow, I hope that’s also a sign that our small business economy is healthy, and we have more locally owned restaurants opening in our area,” Piko said.

Try a lamb burger from the Public Market’s cafe.

ON THE MENU

Abbey’s

                  Shrimp scampi flatbread for $9.99

Bridge Tavern and Grill

Special menu item: shepherd’s pie with a side salad for $9.95

Coleman’s Fish Market

Buy-one/get-one bowl of award-winning New England clam chowder

Country Roads BBQ

Smoked wing special: a 3-pound half pan of wings for $18

Country Roads smoked wing special

Figaretti’s Restaurant

The return of the Chi-Chi Glove: four meatballs stuffed in an Italian bread bowl, smothered in cheese, peppers and onions, and finished with award-winning sauce. Back for restaurant week for only $9.

Glassworks Grill — Wilson Lodge, Oglebay

Two courses for $20 —  Offer 1: House salad or soup of the day, buttermilk-battered cod fillet sandwich with hush puppies, coleslaw, fries, tartar sauce; Offer 2: Fort Henry burger with gourmet mac & cheese, cookie skillet

Good Mansion Wines

Salad week: a new salad each and every day featuring their directly imported Italian foods, imported cheeses and other delights. Available during normal kitchen hours, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Greco’s Italian Restaurant                  

Small GrecoRoni roll, 8-inch (personal) three-topping pizza and an 8-inch dessert pizza of choice for $13.50

Hangover BBQ

Half rack special: a half rack of ribs with choice of one side for $10

Ihlenfeld Dining Room — Wilson Lodge, Oglebay

Three-course meal for $30: house salad or French onion soup; lacquered salmon, baby bok choy and pan-fried pierogies; seasonal cheesecake

Pickle’s wings

Later Alligator

Any two crepes for $25; special menu Item — croque madame sandwich; special drink item — green herbata martini

Otey’s SmokeHouse

Special menu item: BBQ bowl — cornbread and mashed potatoes topped with baked beans, smoked pulled pork, then topped with spicy or sweet coleslaw, drizzled in barbecue sauce, and topped with a cherry tomato to look like your favorite ice cream sundae, for $8

Pickles Eatery & Bar

60-cent wings all week

P.T.’Z Lounge

Featuring our soul food menu! Fried chicken with choice of two sides: mac ‘n’ cheese, greens/green beans, potato salad and baked beans; served with cornbread or a dinner roll, for $12

Public Market

Special menu items: grass-fed local lamb burger ($9.50) and cabbage soup with Irish soda bread ($6/bowl and $3/cup)

Rachel’s on 16th

Chicken Philly on a baguette with peppers, onions, mushrooms and provolone cheese, served with a side of waffle fries, hand-cut fries or tater tots

River City

Special entrée: grilled fillet: a 6-ounce, hand-cut fillet (cowboy rub optional) served with asparagus, a baked potato and maple vanilla demi-glaze, and a house or Caesar salad, for $15

River’s Edge

Featuring a 6-ounce fillet and 4-ounce lobster tail along with two sides for $29.95

Sarah’s on Main

Special item: spinach and feta afternoon bun, an ode to the Lebanon Bakery; and online pre-ordered assorted croissant box for $12

four croissants

Pre-order an assortment of croissants from Sarah’s on Main.

The Market Vines Wine Bar & Grille

Two dinner specials (after 4 p.m.): steak dinner — 8-ounce Angus fillet or 18-ounce bone-in ribeye with choice of two sides for $19.99; or Atlantic salmon dinner served with choice of two sides for $16.99

The Pointe Sea and Steak at Wheeling Island

Surf and turf special: a juicy 7-ounce sirloin, a succulent 6-ounce lobster tail, with a side of asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes for $27.99

The West Sports Bar

The West goes Greek! The West will be featuring Greek-style pork shanks; a blackened tomato sandwich with fresh spinach and roasted garlic mayonnaise; also, its seasonal cheesecake — bourbon pecan

Bourbon pecan cheesecake

Tito’s Sloppy Doggs

Patty melt: rye bread, swiss cheese, a fresh patty burger and caramelized onions, thousand island dressing is optional; served with waffle fries and a drink for $10

Undo’s Italian Restaurants

Choose an item for $25, includes a salad, bread and choice of dessert (cannoli, New York cheesecake or tiramisu)

• Honey-glazed salmon — served with a side of grilled asparagus with pasta aglio e oglio

• Black peppercorn grilled ribeye steak — pan-fried 10-ounce USDA choice ribeye steak topped with a black peppercorn cream sauce

• Spicy chicken and shrimp alfredo — penne pasta sautéed with jumbo shrimp and chicken tossed in a cayenne pepper romano sauce with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and green onions

• Stuffed mani pasta trio and meatball — pasta shells, one stuffed with ricotta/mozzarella blend, another stuffed with sausage and spinach, and a third stuffed with chicken and spinach

Vagabond Kitchen

Meet the Mafia Mac: ham and pepperoni cooked with our decadent macaroni and beer cheese. If you think there’s a better macaroni and cheese out there, fuggedaboutit! $14

Valley Cheese 

Grilled chicken Caesar wrap (choice of white, wheat, or spinach wrap) — grilled chicken with diced romaine lettuce, sliced cherry tomatoes, shredded parmesan, croutons and Caesar dressing. Paired with a side of Amish baked potato salad and fresh-squeezed lemonade, $10

Throwback spinach salad with hot bacon dressing — like Zein’s Restaurant had on their daily menu! Spinach salad is loaded with spinach, mushrooms, hard-boiled egg, red onion and real bacon bits topped with hot bacon dressing. Paired with a Mediterranean chicken roll — a small Italian roll topped with grilled chicken, Mediterranean cheddar cheese, roasted red peppers, tomato and mayonnaise. Served with fresh-squeezed lemonade, all for $10

Wheeling Brewing Company

Special menu item: See You Later! Gator Tacos: fried gator atop a bed of spring greens and topped with jalapeno chimichurri; three corn tacos for $11

• Having spent nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal now serves as Weelunk’s managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.

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