DESPITE NOT being considered a major metropolitan area, the upper Ohio Valley does have a quality assortment of eating establishments to satisfy even the most discerning of palates.
In Wheeling, folks come from far and wide to sample the seafood at Coleman's Fish Market. A stop by during Lent is a great place to meet your fellow neighbor, because the wait for one of the fried whitefish delights will be a lengthy one.
Then you have DiCarlo's Famous Pizza, with locations scattered on both sides of the Ohio River. For a lifelong valley resident, a circular pizza just doesn't seem natural.
For most former residents, long since moved out of the area, a stop at these two establishments is near the top of the list during any return trip home.
But with so many great places to eat, it's hard to narrow down even a few for each category without leaving out some of the lesser known establishments where the food is equally as good.
This list is by no means definitive, but will provide a starting point from which to expand.
As the Ohio Valley grew, so did its population of Italian immigrants. That heritage is reflected strongly by the number of Italian-style eateries in the area, the majority of which are family owned establishments.
With four locations between Weirton, Benwood, Wheeling and St. Clairsville's, Undo's Family Restaurant's is perhaps the most well-known name in Italian dining locally. Since the first location opened in Benwood in 1953, the Sparachane family has been offering up quality Italian food to valley patrons.
In the early 40s, the Figaretti family of Wheeling began selling their now-famous pasta sauce. It was so well received, the family opened its own restaurant, which has been in operation since 1949.
While Figaretti's and Undo's are the top names in Italian dining in Wheeling, there are other viable options. Bella Via in Elm Grove, Greco's along Washington Ave. a national chain Olive Garden offer ample selections. There is also That's Italian Deli on Bethany Pike, with an assortment of pasta along with numerous sandwiches to meet any demand.
Across the river in Bellaire, Rigas' Restaurant and The Roosevelt can be found.
A trip north on Ohio 7 to Steubenville can find Naples Spaghetti House.
Like the fine dining counterparts, the ethnic makeup of the Ohio Valley has led to a number of quality pizza establishments.
The name everyone knows is DiCarlos. With numerous locations scattered throughout the Ohio Valley, it's not a matter of if, but which location suits your taste buds. Some swear by the Elm Grove DiCarlo's, others the downtown Wheeling or Glen Dale locations.
DiCarlo's isn't the only name in the square-pizza business.
Across the river in St. Clairsville, Halloran's Home Pizza has nearly as equal loyal following. And in Martins Ferry and most recently in Bellaire, Zontini's Pizza is developing a growing fan base.
Carlini's in Shadyside and Powhatan Point is also a top-notch choice.
With nine locations locally, DeFelice Brothers' Pizza has gained a reputation for taste both regionally and nationally for those who prefer a round pizza pie.
What DiCarlo's is to pizza locally, Drover's Inn in Wellsburg is to wings. There are many fine options for the wings in the Ohio Valley, but Drover's is usually the name at the top of that list.
The 19th Hole and Caddy Shack restaurants in Wheeling offer a quality alternative for those not wishing to make the jaunt out Washington Pike to Drover's. Other wing options in Wheeling include Ye Olde Alpha, Uncle Pete's and Quaker Steak & Lube.
The 'Lube' also offers a weekly all-you-can eat wing special.
Nearby, Buffalo Wild Wings' locations in St. Clairsville and Moundsville along with Ruttenbucks Grill in Dallas Pike offer a variety of wing flavors.
The Ohio Valley doesn't have near the variety of dedicated seafood eatery's as other styles of dining, but the name Coleman's Fish Market is well known in the tri-state area and beyond.
A Friday trip to Coleman's during Lent will afford customers the opportunity to get to know their neighbor as the line regularly stretches throughout the door and down the market corridor for most of the day.
National chains Hoss's Steak & Seahouse and Red Lobster also offer an assortment of seafood.
Many restaurants serve various cuts of steak and ribs, but a few hang their hats on providing mouth-watering servings of rib eye, porterhouse, strip and sirloin.
Locally-owned West Texas Roadhouse offers juicy steaks and mammoth-sized portions on its menu. It does quite well against paired against a few national chains which also are never without customers in the Longhorn and Outback Steakhouses.
Gasper's Fine Day Restaurant in St. Clairsville also has a loyal base of clientele.
For restaurant's specializes in ribs, Dee Jay's in Weirton and Bill's Famous Ribs in Yorkville are two places you can't go wrong.
The valley has a small but growing assortments of Mexican-style restaurants thanks to the recent editions of El Paso Mexican Grill at The Highlands near Wheeling and Tlaquepaque Mexican Grill and Restaurant in St. Clairsville.
They join the Acapulco in Moundsville and Puerto Vallarta in Steubenville for those seeking a bit more kick and flavor with their meals.
When people think Asian cuisine locally, the image of a buffet usually is conjured up. And while there are many buffet options like Super Buffet in Wheeling and King Buffet in St. Clairsville, there are just as many sit-down options.
Two of the newer selections are Fusion Japanese Steakhouse at The Highlands and Osaka Japanese Steakhouse at the Ohio Valley Mall.
Wheeling is also home to the Golden and Silver Chopsticks and Panda Chinese Kitchen. New Honk Kong can be found in Martins Ferry.
Sometime's you're not sure what you want to it. You just know you're hungry.
When that situation arises, there is no better drive than down W.Va. 2 to New Martinsville for a stop at Quinet's Court.
A buffet-style eatery with numerous homecooked options to choose from, it's a favorite stop for locals as well as many passing through.
Ponderosa Steakhouse in Glen Dale also offers a smorgasbord of eats. There is also the Country Pride's buffet at the Travel Centers of America in Dallas Pike.
The Islander Buffett at Wheeling Island Casino Racetrack and Hotel offers a multitude of options at their buffet, including a large variety for its Friday seafood buffet.
A somewhat lengthy drive to Cambridge or Washington, Pa. can have a patron feasting at a U.S.A. Steak Buffet location.
Bit of Everything
Some restaurants don't build there menus around a particular item. Some rather offer a variety of tasty treats whether in a family or bar & grill type setting.
And the valley is not without it's share of tasty greasy spoons.
One of the more well-known in this category is a Sunday morning, after-church fixture for those in Bridgeport and the surrounding area.
In fact, it's a morning fixture period.
Sonny Boy offers quality food after the midday sun rises but it's most famous for its quality breakfast food at reasonable prices.
Schlepp's in Morristown offers similar faire to satiate our palate with equal enthusiasm displayed from its regulars.
It seems each town locally has its version of this type of restaurant: small in size but rich in offerings and customers.
In Bellaire, Gulla's Lunch offers perhaps the most well-known hot dog in the tri-state area, a claim Louis' Famous Hot Dogs in Wheeling likely will dispute.
In Martins Ferry, the First Ward is a meeting place for locals to talk about the days' news while enjoying a fine meal.
In Shadyside, you will find the Central Grill and Matt's Tiger Pub on the 'Loop.' Cadiz boasts the Starlight Restaurant, including its popular steak night on Thursdays.
Woodsfield features Traditions, a restaurant always packed. Snagging a seat near kickoff on fall Friday nights is nigh near impossible. Dillonvale houses Marsilis Family Restaurant.
Chapz Bar & Grill in Belmont, Damon's in Steubenville and Abbey's Restaurant in Wheeling are popular choices. Wheeling is also home to Camelot in Elm Grove.
Speaking of popular restaurant's, no discussion of Ohio Valley eateries would be complete with mentioning Mehlman's Cafeteria in St. Clairsville.
There are numerous national chains, offering both sit-down style dining like Perkins, or fast food on the go.
Panera Bread at the Ohio Valley mall offers a selection of healthier options at near fast-food speed.