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The Food Guy: From Sterling memories to stellar food events

20181031-gm-food-guy-West Side Lunch.jpg

The West Side Lunch, a Charleston eatery, circa 1940.

Remember all the recent obsessions I shared from readers reminiscing about the old Sterling Restaurant in downtown Charleston? It ain’t over.

But this latest longing for information comes from a very heartfelt request.

“I saw an article online you wrote about the Sterling Restaurant and Andy Raptis,” wrote Steve Arthur, a transplant who grew up in Charleston and graduated from Charleston High, but now lives in Maryland.

“My grandfather was a friend of Andy’s and was Greek and worked in restaurants in Welch during the 1920s and then in Charleston during the ’30s and ’40s.”

His message also came with a photo taken at the West Side Lunch in Charleston, where his grandfather worked, sometime around the late 1930s or early ’40s.

“My grandfather is the second from the left and his name was Tom Lekas,” Steve recalled. “Unfortunately, Tom died in 1943 as a result of an accident in the restaurant. He was scalded badly from a large coffee urn. He was hospitalized, caught pneumonia and died within two weeks.

“I’ve been researching my grandfather for genealogy purposes and would love to reach out to one of Andy Raptis’ children to see if they would happen to remember any stories about my grandfather. If you have contact information for them, would you please pass along my email address in the hope they may contact me to talk about their dad and Sterling’s history?”

Steve said from the late 1930s until the late 1950s, his grandmother, Kathleen Lekas (Tom’s wife), also was the pastry chef and baker for Brotherton’s Food Market in town.

“The Brothertons were awfully good to my grandmother after my grandfather Tom died in 1943.”

If any longtime readers or Raptis family members out there knew Tom Lekas or have any information to share with Steve about his grandfather, please let me know and I’ll put you in touch with him.

It would be so nice to share a happy ending to this story a few weeks from now.

•••

The Sterling was too “before my time” for me to know if they served a good mac ‘n’ cheese there, but I’m hoping to dig into a bunch of tasty ones when I judge the fifth annual Charleston Mac & Cheese Cook-off from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday at Capitol Market.In addition to more than 20 local restaurants, businesses and individuals serving up samples of their signature gooey goodness, there will be kids activities, live music and — debuting this year — beer for sale and new event pricing.

Tasting wristbands ($10 for adults, $5 for children) provide unlimited samples from all competitors and a chance to vote for your Peoples’ Choice and Kids’ Choice favorites — just as I’ll be tasting all entries to help select the Judges’ Champion.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Childhood Language Center, which provides free speech and language therapy to children across West Virginia.

•••

Saturday’s cheesy pasta-palooza isn’t the only fun food event coming up.The Putnam County Craft Beer Festival also takes place from noon to 4 p.m. that day at Sleepy Hollow Golf Club. Tickets ($28) include 12 tasting tickets and a commemorative tasting mug, plus access to live music, food trucks, and arts and crafts, while VIP tickets ($38) provide one-hour-early access, a T-shirt and 16 tickets. Parking is first come, first serve, but shuttle service will be provided from Valley Park and West Teays Elementary School (https://sleepy-hollow-golf-club-events.ticketleap.com/).

Also Saturday, Gritt’s Farm will host a 21-and-over Pumpkin Smash from 3 to 7 p.m. at its farm in Buffalo, which is all decked out this time of year. The event not only includes access to all of the farm’s fall attractions (a corn maze, fire pits, corn hole, slides, live music, pumpkin smashing, games and more) but also brews from Bad Shepherd Beer Company and wine from Stone Road Vineyard. In fact, charter buses from Black Sheep locations in both Charleston and Huntington will do the driving so you don’t have to. Tickets are $50 at the door or $70 with the bus ride (https://grittsfarm.ticketleap.com/).

And then next Saturday, Nov. 10, the second annual combined Wagging Tails & Nitro Ales chili cook-off and craft beer fest takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the city’s Living Memorial Park. More than 40 craft beers will be on hand, along with a sanctioned International Chili Society chili competition, corn hole tournament, food trucks, vendors and more. The event is free to attend and is dog-friendly. Beer tasting wristbands are $25 and include unlimited 4-ounce pours. Chili tasting tickets are $1 each. The event raises money for Dog Bless, a local rescue that finds home for stray dogs (http://www.nitro ales.com/).

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 e-mail 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 THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2019

Anderson, Robert - 1 p.m. Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Atkins Jr., Archie - 11 a.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Burdette, Davy - 8 p.m., Allen Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Edwards, Dianna - 2 p.m., Montgomery Memorial Park, London.

Loving, Nancy - 1 p.m., Groves Creek Community Church, Harrison.

Meadows, James - 2 p.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Miller, Ruth - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Smith, Carl - 11 a.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Thornton, Sammie - 1 p.m., Gatens - Harding Funeral Home, Poca.

Vance, Zenda - 11 a.m., Montgomery Memorial Park, London.

Whitson, Grady - 7 p.m., Deal Funeral Home, Point Pleasant.

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