WHEELING - With his 35 years of culinary experience, chef James Burress believes he has the ingredients to keep things sizzling this summer at Heritage Port.
In a few weeks, the aroma of fried catfish, chili, fried green tomatoes and hand-breaded onion rings will fill the air as the man most know simply as "Chef James" plans to bring his unique flavor to the waterfront.
The Depot Bikery - the name is a combined homage to the Wheeling Heritage Trail and the nearby former site of the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot - is coming back with a re-opening set for 11 a.m. July 3, according to Wheeling-Ohio County Rails to Trails Manager R. "Scat" Scatterday.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Wheeling-Ohio County Rails to Trails Manager R. “Scat” Scatterday, left, and local chef James Burress discuss plans for a July 3 reopening of the Depot Bikery waterfront eatery at Wheeling’s Heritage Port.
With a view of the Ohio River and the historic Wheeling Suspension Bridge, Burress believes his concept for the Depot Bikery has the potential to deliver a true waterfront dining experience similar to what people would expect in a big city.
"It's going to be a nice flow. It all works together," Burress said of the current setup. "The only thing missing is the smell of the food."
Burress plans to serve hungry patrons from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, but also expects to be open during some evening events at Heritage Port, including Waterfront Wednesday concerts and Friday movie nights.
"Once people know we're here, it may get a little wild down here, and that's a good thing," he said.
Burress' formula will be to keep things simple while offering his patrons some variety. Diners will be able to enjoy a hearty meal of fried catfish or shrimp with onion rings or fried green tomatoes, or opt for lighter fare such as a salad or cold ham, turkey, or chicken croissant sandwich with a garnish of grapes.
For something a little out of the ordinary, he also plans to set up a station where people can build their own tacos, stuffing their tortilla shells with a variety of items.
"It's going to be different than anything you've ever seen. ... That fish'll be hanging out of that bad boy at both ends," Burress said.
Scatterday first pitched the idea of a waterfront eatery to city officials last summer, and helped secure equipment donations from local businesses. With a late start in August, he acknowledges the idea didn't generate as much traffic as originally hoped, but he thinks with an earlier start and a fresh concept, things will be different this summer.
Although dozens of events are staged at Heritage Port each summer, drawing people from all over the Ohio Valley and beyond to Wheeling, the city has yet to find the right formula to make its waterfront a destination on a daily basis. Scatterday hopes a successful waterfront dining option will be part of that.
"This is one integral part of a bigger picture. This is very necessary to build that base support that will lead to more and more development," Scatterday said.
Also, later this fall, Burress plans to expand his business at the former Dawson's Meat Market shop on 12th Street. He runs a catering service from that location, but by October he hopes to serve meals for takeout and eventually offer a delivery service. He describes the menu there as "Mexico soul," where people can mix and match his traditional soul food favorites with Mexican dishes such as tacos, burritos, enchiladas and more.
Staff Writer Shelley Hanson contributed to this report.