Main Street on Central

Four partners breathe new life into an old restaurant in the historic Village of Barboursville.

By Keith Morehouse

 

Mark Cross says he’s not likely to ever forget his first restaurant job — shucking oysters at Gatsby’s Oyster Bar in Barboursville.

That was in 1983. Flash forward a few decades and Cross again finds himself spending long hours in the same historic building at 646 Central Ave. in Barboursville, this time as one of four partners who have opened the region’s newest fine dining establishment — Main Street on Central.

A veteran of the restaurant business, Cross has long operated 21 at the Frederick in downtown Huntington. In his new Barboursville venture, he’s been joined by partners Jeremy Adams, the owner of Christopher’s Eats in Barboursville; Marshall University Men’s Basketball Coach Dan D’Antoni; and Dr. Ben Moosavi, a plastic surgeon practicing in Huntington.

Jon Elmore

The restaurant’s building has a long history. Now, the four partners are hoping to make some history of their own with their new restaurant.

The building that’s now home to Main Street on Central was erected circa 1870 when Barboursville was already a thriving community and the city of Huntington was little more than a gleam in the eye of rail tycoon Collis P. Huntington.

The stucco-clad structure is listed under one address but historically was three separate buildings, each housing a variety of businesses — including a general store, pool hall and barber shop. With portions of the interior walls removed, the three are now interconnected.

Huntington attorney and real estate developer John Hankins bought the building in the late 1970s and turned it into a showplace, furnishing it with antiques reflecting his love of history and railroading.

“We purchased the interiors of two railroad cars from the 1880s and incorporated them into the two main rooms of the structure,” Hankins said.

Jon Elmore

When the Hankins restoration work was completed, the building became home to Gatsby’s Oyster Bar. Later, after Gatsby’s closed, the old building housed a procession of other restaurants — The Orient Express, Dirty Ernie’s Rib Pit, C.R. Thomas’ Old Place and, from 2001 to 2015, the Blackhawk Grille.

“We started talking about opening this place in February of last year,” said Cross. “Jeremy and Ben originally came up with the idea and reached out to Danny. Then they enlisted me. All of us put in some money, signed a bank note with First Sentry and bought the building from John Hankins in May. Then it took us a while to get going on the renovation work that was needed.”

The building hadn’t been used in several years, so it required considerable work. With the kitchen in sad shape, the partners decided to rip out everything and replace all of it with new equipment, to the tune of $100,000.

“We had a $32,000 cooler built out back so we can keep our food fresh,” Cross said. “We very much wanted to preserve the building’s historic atmosphere, but there were lots of things that needed to be updated. We put down new flooring, changed the lighting and put in a third restroom because the men’s and women’s rooms were so small. The new one has a unisex designation.”

They also reupholstered the booths.

“Originally,” Cross said, “the booths at Gatsby’s had seats John had taken out of a railroad car. But the old horsehair and metal springs were a long way from being comfortable, so we decided they had to go. And we worked on the oyster bar to make it functional again. I think that’s one of the coolest features of the whole building. We have a couple of different kinds of oysters every day.”

Cross said Main Street on Central is “mostly a seafood restaurant. We’re working with some real good suppliers who fly in fish from all over the world.”

Jon Elmore

The restaurant features a daily selection of fresh fish that is sold at market price. The menu also offers Panko Breaded Fried Shrimp ($26), Filet Mignon ($45), Spaghetti Bolognese ($25) and Home-Style Meatloaf ($25).

“We have a really nice list of appetizers that we’ve developed primarily as bar food,” Cross said. “We raised all the tables in the bar area, which is the entrance to the restaurant, to bar height so they’re more comfortable. Our vision is that the bar area will be a really fun place, with a quieter atmosphere elsewhere in the restaurant.”

“I love the bar, especially the stained glass window hanging over it, something that Hankins took out of an old rail car,” he added.

The restaurant opened Feb. 20, with a rave review from Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum: “The food is fantastic and the building looks great. Perfect atmosphere and the staff is second to none. A great place run by great people.”

Jon Elmore


 

Main Street on Central

646 Central Avenue, Barboursville

(304) 955-5109

Tuesday – Thursday from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Friday & Saturday from 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.


 

JAMES E. CASTO is the retired associate editor of The Herald-Dispatch and the author of a number of books on local and regional history.

 

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