Small Town America Arises and Eats Well


For people like me who grow up in major metropolitan areas, living in a small town (Huntington has a population just under 50,000) is an adjustment. When I first moved here five years ago I easily noticed what was missing. But as I have written before something pretty neat is happening here despite the national economy.

Perhaps West Virginia is a bit unique in that it never rose high in the boom times so it did not fall as far in the recent difficulties. Many new businesses have started in the past year, belying the belief many people have that everything is going to hell in a hand basket with this administration.

One new star in our gastronomic constellation here is The Backyard Pizza and Raw Bar. Located at 841 4th Avenue in downtown Huntington (where, as we say here, the old Chili Willi’s used to be) Drew Hetzer has built a wood fired pizza oven to produce an interesting and delicious array of pies. Currently open for lunch, hours will expand to include dinner when the liquor license is in place, expected next week. He will offer micro-beers and an interesting selection of drinks from his own extensive experience as a bartender.

We enjoyed the Seafood Fra Diablo and the Jammin’ Jamaican which I ordered as a slice and a salad. Combos were tasty and the crust was very nice and crisp.

His raw bar provides a selection of fresh oysters (less than 48 hours since harvesting) including Delaware Bay but also will have Blue Points from Long Island Sound,  Beausoleils and others from Nova Scotia, and others from Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle. He also plans on selling tuna and rolled sushi eventually.

This setting for his restaurant appealed to Drew because his mom worked at Chili Willi’s and he enjoyed watching everyone working and the camaraderie of the team there. Although he had a love for the hospitality business he pursued various majors at Marshall but finally came back to his first fascination. He also has run a video production business and it was that enterprise that helped fund the construction of this restaurant.

He has reused materials and is eager to be as green as possible with all aspects of The Backyard Pizza and Raw Bar. He also wants to get local food connections. Right now he is using Sysco as his major supplier. He hopes to make connections with suppliers at the Wild Ramp and use as many local ingredients as possible as soon as he can.  He plans on using cheese curds from one local farm in order to make his own mozzarella.

The restaurant will have WIFI but anyone who lingers for a long time will be urged to move to several areas of high counters if diners need the table space. Electrical outlets are provided every few feet under those counters for laptop usage.

Drew says anyone who wants to start a restaurant HAS to be passionate or they will fail. You can be passionate about the eating experience there. GO!!

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6 Responses to Small Town America Arises and Eats Well

  1. Dubrovniklady says:

    Maybe a trip back to visit you again, as I would love to see this unique pizza parlor.

  2. Gunta says:

    So encouraging to see this sort of business springing up. I wish them the best of success.

  3. hahaha…you are missing interesting pizza…another concept to introduce there!

  4. Ingrid says:

    That pizza looks amazing…..yum 🙂

  5. It was very yummy!!

  6. It is interesting that there is noise that someone is going to open right next door with pizza and beer….that will be a shame only because of possible confusion of someone walking down the street going into the wrong one….but Drew is known and I think he will do fine.

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