Lara Graves and Phillip Kendall co-own Avenue Eats in Wheeling, West Virginia, which features a menu full of Appalachian flavor. We talked with the duo and the team of chefs who run the kitchen at this unique culinary destination.
West Virginia is known for being “Wild and Wonderful.” How do you and your team incorporate this idea into your menu?
When we think of West Virginia and its ‘Wild and Wonderful’ motto, we think of nature and freshness. We create our menu items fresh everyday. This can be tasted in our fresh-ground, grass-fed burgers, and salads with fresh mixed greens and other fresh produce. Our team also loves to pick from the wild. Chad and Erich both find themselves picking wild mushrooms and ramps during the season. We pickle the ramps for our charcuterie board and incorporate locally grown produce when possible. Zach and Max both love their experiences cooking fresh from local farmers markets and enjoy the times we get to cook at events showcasing our love for local ingredients. Plus the local farm fresh eggs we use make everything amazing!
Are all the member of your team from West Virginia? If not, how has moving to West Virginia influenced your cooking style?
Three of the four chefs are from West Virginia, with Zach living just over the river in Ohio. Although all of our chefs have lived outside West Virginia, they made the decision to come back to the mountain state to settle down. Erich noted that he finds himself still drawn to the southern feel of cooking he had when living in Asheville, North Carolina. He brought his love for fried green tomatoes along with him when creating our BLFGT— bacon, lettuce, and fried green tomato sandwich.
The menu at Avenue Eats seems to feature fare with a number of different influences. Can you give us an example of how you’ve been able to put a West Virginia spin on an unexpected dish?
A great example of a menu item with a West Virginia spin would be our gourmet Sloppy Joe (pictured above). We all remember Manwich and this is definitely NOT your mom’s Manwich. Our spin (and probably what makes this so amazing) is the grass-fed beef, but most importantly: the WV moonshine—made just 45 minutes away from Wheeling—that we use in our sauce.