The Food Guy: Axes and Ales sold, Umami closes, your votes needed!

In local restaurant news, downtown’s Axes and Ales has new owners and expanded hours, a local sushi grill closes, a new Chinese buffet is on the way, a Spencer bakery is making waves and Habitat for Humanity wants your help picking which restaurant to feature at its upcoming “A Taste of ...” dinner in Charleston.

That’s a lot to digest, so let’s dig in!

Axes and Ales sold to new owners

Bricks & Barrels owners Matt and Nikki Holbert have purchased downtown’s Axes and Ales bar and The Lucky Dill deli, expanding the axe-throwing bar’s wine and beer offerings — and hours. On Oct. 1, the couple took over Charleston’s first axe-throwing bar from Rick Harper, the guy who started it but recently moved away when his wife got a new job out of state.

I got to speak with Matt and Nikki about their new venture before the sale was announced publicly — and again after — and they tell me they’re really excited to make a few changes in the coming months.

“We’ve already expanded the wine and beer menu, plus we’re expanding the axe-throwing hours to better match the demand we’re seeing,” Matt said. “We have ideas for expanding the bar’s food menu too, but nothing is settled yet.”

He said the deli does a great lunch business, so they plan to keep its Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, Pepperidge Farms bread and daily soup features intact.

To help with the transition, they’ve also hired Maddie Farmer, formerly a server at Bistro at The Barge, as the restaurant and bar’s new general manager.

For more information, call (681) 205-8344 or visit

One Asian restaurant closes, another opening

I was sad, but not surprised recently, to learn that Umami Sushi & Hibachi Grill on the East End had suddenly closed. Business had appeared to be dwindling quite a bit of late, plus a recent price increase on many menu items was met with resistance from some customers.

Those wanting to get their Asian food fix will soon have another option on the other end of the central Kanawha Valley soon, though. Renovation work and signs announce that a new China King Buffet restaurant is “coming soon” to Riverwalk Plaza in South Charleston. It will be located in the office building next to Krispy Kreme that used to house an eye doctor.

Popular bakery in Spencer

There’s a bakery in Spencer that is drawing rave reviews from the locals there, including one of my faithful readers.

“I live in Spencer and have used your suggestions for a long time,” Susan Myers wrote. “I carry lists of your suggestions in my wallet, so my trips to Charleston include good eats.”

Now, she wants to return the favor.

“Spencer has Chrissy’s Bakeshop, open Tuesdays through Saturdays, and she’s the real deal — a pro who moved here from the West Coast. I can’t believe I’m eating in Spencer when I’m there, and she has put dessert back into my vocabulary. It’s worth every bite AND worth a drive.”

Susan suggested I check out the bakery’s Facebook page for proof, and it’s definitely chock-full of incredible looking artisan baked goods, pastries, light lunch fare and more, many baked in small batches using local organic ingredients whenever possible.

Chrissy’s Bakeshop, 215 Main St. in Spencer, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (303) 746-7804 or look up the bakery’s Facebook page.

Help Habitat choose a restaurant

Each February, Habitat for Humanity of Kanawha & Putnam hosts an awesome “A Taste of ...” fundraiser featuring the food of a popular West Virginia restaurant served at a lively gala in the Clay Center Grand Lobby right here in town.

This “win-win” event gives guests a chance to enjoy top-notch food from around the state without the long drive, plus gives out-of-town restaurants the opportunity to showcase themselves to a new audience.

“We like to pick a great restaurant that is one to three hours away from Charleston that can pull off a nice catering event that far from home,” said Shawn Means, the group’s executive director.

“In the past, we’ve featured Café Cimino from Sutton, Muriale’s from Fairmont, Stella’s/Livery Tavern and The French Goat from Lewisburg, Rocco’s from Ceredo and The Station from Fayetteville.”

Next year’s dinner is coming up in just a few months, and Habitat would love to know who you think should be featured.

Is there a great restaurant you’ve heard about in Huntington, Parkersburg, Beckley, Fayetteville or Lewisburg that you’d love to enjoy at the next “A Taste of ...” dinner? How about a lesser-known gem from Ripley, Buckhannon, Elkins or Putnam County that could make a big splash in the capital city?

Please send me your suggestions and I’ll share them with my friends at Habitat.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston

Gazette-Mail. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by e-mail at You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”


Campbell, Virginia - 2 p.m., Wallace Funeral Home & Chapel, Barboursville.

Fisher, Helen - 6 p.m., Cunningham - Parker - Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Johnson, Linda - 2 p.m., Highland Memory Gardens, Chapmanville.

Kessler, Carolyn - 5 p.m., Gatens-Harding Funeral Home Chapel, Poca.

King, Charles - Noon, Cooke Funeral Home Chapel, Nitro.

Pauley, Bernice - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Sigman, Christopher - 2 p.m., Propps Family Cemetery, Summersville.

Williams, Archie - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.