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The Food Guy: Burger place's grand opening was an extrava-Gonzo!

The wait is over, Charleston.

After what seemed like an eternity of drool-worthy teasing on Facebook, the highly anticipated Gonzoburger is now officially open for business.

The new West Side craft burger and beer joint — located inside the old Chris’ Hot Dogs storefront on West Washington Street — made its public debut with great fanfare Friday evening at the largest ribbon-cutting ceremony anyone on hand could remember.

A crowd of more than a hundred gathered on the sidewalk to hear how city officials, the building’s owners and Gonzoburger owners Frank and Julia Gonzales shed blood, sweat and tears over the last year to make this new restaurant a reality.

Julia shed a few more that night, as she emotionally told the crowd about her memories of eating hot dogs inside this same nostalgic location as she was growing up in Charleston many years ago.

And while Frank, Julia and building owners Dewayne Duncan and Andy Tanner spared no expense in restoring the building to its former glory — complete with the same floor, tin ceiling, wooden booths, marble-and-wood bar and light fixtures — the addition of colorful art, a new mural and fresh paint have brightened up the place quite a bit.

Simply put, they’ve done a stunning job balancing historic preservation with modern updates to create a crazy-cool space.

Although only drinks and sliders were served Friday night, I snagged a table at Saturday evening’s private pre-grand opening dinner offering a limited menu of four burgers and a few sides.

I’m not going to spoil you with specifics just yet, but suffice to say I can’t wait to go back now that the full menu has rolled out this week. The restaurant opened to the public Monday for lunch only and will ease into dinner service in the coming days.

Only time will tell what the future holds and I’ll sneak in for an “official” review once they get up and running at full speed. But my hunch is Gonzoburger has a very bright future ahead of it.

It’s a great concept run by great people in a great location. Sounds like a recipe for success to me.

•••

Folks are still raving about this year’s Charleston Restaurant Week, which preliminary numbers show may have been the biggest yet. Dollars and cents aside, though, it’s the food you’re recalling so fondly.“First of all, I love your columns. They are more about culinary experiences than just food,” wrote Charleston reader Jack Cipoletti. “You’ll probably get quite a few e-mails about fan favorites from Restaurant Week — this is one of them.”

Jack said he and his wife were especially pleased to discover Bridge Road Bistro had added a few entrees last week in addition to the special menu items published in advance.

“I opted for one of those — the pork chop with smoked apple brine topping — and it was outstanding,” he said. “The chop was very thick, but very tender and juicy. The apple brine topping was a nice enhancement, adding to the flavor rather than masking it. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone on their next visit.”

Jack ended his message with an offer I’ve heard from so many.

“Keep up the good work. If you ever need help trying out new restaurants or dishes, add me to what I’m sure is a long list of volunteers!”

And then came this lofty restaurant praise from reader Terri Hassig.

“Bistro at The Barge has absolutely the best food that we’ve had bar none,” she insisted. “All of us who’ve been there have been to New York City and everywhere imaginable, and we’ve never had better service or better food anywhere.”

She did, however, go on to explain her intense displeasure that the restaurant doesn’t have a nicer sign out front. She said the vinyl banner hung on a fence isn’t befitting a restaurant of this caliber and she was hoping I’d help her “raise a stink” about it.

Turns out, restaurant managers says they’ve tried but have run into difficulty with current city regulations governing new signage.

“I’m going to call my city councilman right away,” Terri told me. “We really need to do something to improve the business-friendly environment around here.”

True that. The independent restaurant business is tough enough, so anything we can do to improve those odds is better for our local economy.

•••

Love may be in the air across the state tonight, but a national research company says Valentine’s Day is anything but a red-letter day for West Virginia’s independent restaurants. According to the new “State of Restaurants” report from Womply, Feb. 14 is only the 82nd-best restaurant sales day of the year in the Mountain State, with a mere 14 percent increase in average transaction volume and only a 27 percent lift in revenue compared to an average day.

Those are two of the report’s key findings after analyzing transactions at small, independent restaurants in all 50 states every day throughout 2017. Other West Virginia-specific finding include:

Cinco De Mayo is the best sales day of the year for West Virginia restaurants, with a 57 percent increase in transaction volume and 73 percent increase in total sales.

On average, West Virginia’s local restaurants make $27,600 per month in sales revenue, ranking the state 45 among the 50 states and Washington D.C.

West Virginia restaurants earn 51 percent of their revenue between Friday and Sunday.

Finally, the average restaurant here sees 36 transactions per day at an average ticket of $25.66.

Interesting food for thought.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at http://blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy/. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by email at wvfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”

Funerals for Saturday, August 24, 2019

Barron, Dennis - 11 a.m., Airborne Church, Martinsburg.
Baylor, Elizabeth - 1 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.
Bonds Jr., Patrick - 1 p.m., King of Glory International Ministries, Charleston.
Burgess, Corey - 5 p.m., Aldersgate United Methodist Church.
Burns, Helen - 11 a.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation, Inc., Grantsville.
Caldwell, Gary - 6 p.m., Long & Fisher Funeral Home, Sissonville.
Casto, Carroll - 1 p.m., Raynes Funeral Home, Eleanor.
Casto, Roger - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Winfield.
Duty, Fred - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.
Fisher, Bernard - 2 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.
Gwinn, Lloyd - Noon, Church of Christ, Craigsville.  
Habjan, Nathan - 1 p.m., Wilson-Smith Funeral Home, Clay. 
Hall, Daniel - Noon, Witcher Baptist Church.
Hinkle, Ethel - Noon, Church of Christ, Craigsville.  
Hoffman, Bruce - 2 p.m., Foglesong - Casto Funeral Home, Mason.  
Kinder, Siegel - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.
Kyler, Virgil - 11 a.m., Pleasant Grove Cemetery, Reedy.
Palmer, William - 1 p.m., Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home, Charleston. 
Raynes Sr., Steven - 1 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Oak Hill.
Truman, James - 2 p.m., Newton Baptist Church, Newton.
Turner, Keith - Noon, Full Gospel Assembly,  Huntington. 
Webb, Antoinette - 11 a.m., SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Oak Hill.
Wilson, Greg - Noon, Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.
Withrow, James - 1 p.m., Cooke Funeral Home Chapel, Cedar Grove.