In the Chef’s Corner: The Red Rooster Café

Featured in the Winter 2013 of WV Executive Magazine
By Vanessa Roach

The Red Rooster Café, located on Elk Street in Gassaway, resides in a building constructed in 1905. For many years the building housed the Gassaway Midland Department Store, and then it became the Braxton County Senior Center until a new facility was built.

The building had been empty for several years when my husband Ritchie and I were approached with the idea of purchasing it to establish a restaurant and build apartments. My husband always had an interest in having a restaurant; I tell people this was Ritchie’s dream and I’m living it.

We purchased the building in 2008 and set out to “demodel” the remodeling that had been done over the years. We removed the drop ceilings, took out the fluorescent lighting to expose the original tin ceilings, uncovered the 10-inch hemlock beams, removed several layers of floor coverings and painted and decorated. The Red Rooster Café, with its “Country French Quarters” atmosphere, opened for business the day after Thanksgiving of that year.

Dairus Davis, our cook, was the first person we hired. He has 18 years of experience in cooking and managing restaurants, and he does a great job on the grill.



The dishes we serve at the Red Rooster Café are recipes handed down from my family. My mother, grandmother, my aunts and even uncles were excellent cooks. I make all the Italian dishes, and the items on the menu are the items I have served in my home to family and friends over the years.

We run daily specials for lunch and always have a fresh homemade soup on the menu. On Friday and Saturday nights our special is West Virginia rainbow trout. All day on Fridays we serve a Mexican special of beef or chicken enchiladas with Spanish rice, a grilled taco, taco salad and nachos grande. On Sundays we host a buffet.

Meeting so many different people from all over—not just West Virginia but the United States as well—has been exciting and fun. Customers often tell us we’re the best-kept secret in West Virginia.

The Red Rooster Café’s hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information, call (304) 364-6023.



Table talk: New eatery in Gassaway is a place to crow about

Featured in the Charleston Gazette May 26, 2009
By Julie Robinson Staff Writer

GASSAWAY, W.Va. -- Travelers on Interstate 79 are discovering another reason to hit Exit 62 around lunch or dinner time.

Café Cimino in Sutton has long lured in-the-know drivers away from the fast-food options at Flatwoods. Now, the Red Rooster Café offers a discriminating dining option in neighboring Gassaway, about 2.5 miles from the exit.

Owners Richie and Vanessa Roach opened the restaurant in November, fulfilling the gregarious Richie's long-held wish to run a restaurant or sports bar. They plan to open a sports bar downstairs. A gifted hostess and cook, Vanessa welcomes patrons as if they are guests in her home.

He's in constant motion, attending to his other duties as Gassaway's mayor and owner and director of Roach Funeral Home. Her cell phone rings constantly, and she never knows if the call is for the funeral home or the restaurant, but she juggles the potential confusion calmly.

The day after the Roaches bought the historic building, which originally contained the Gassaway Midland Department Store and later served as a senior center, demolition crews began tearing out cubicles and dropped ceilings to reveal the original warm wooden beams, floors and trim. The Roaches installed dropped rails on which they've hung colorful curtains that divide the large dining space into more intimate seating.

"We didn't want to see the building empty," Richie said. "We bought it for the community."

Red Rooster Café initially served lunch only, but now offers dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings and an extended brunch on Sunday. At lunch, served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, the menu features salads, burgers and deli sandwiches. 


The generously stuffed sandwiches each bear a name of local interest. The Big Elk Burger -- named for the river, not the meat -- features a half-pound patty of Angus ground beef. The Birch is a grilled cheese of provolone, havarti and Jarlsburg cheeses. Vanessa's Italian heritage shows in the Jo Jo sandwich of cappicola, salami, cheese, Italian peppers and cracked olives and in the Rita, an Italian version of fried bologna on toasted Italian bread with cheese and Italian peppers.

Salads include a grilled steak salad for $8, grilled chicken for $7 and homemade potato salad for $2. Vanessa makes red wine vinaigrette that she's served in her home for years. The simple dressing is so popular with customers that she's considering bottling it.

If the soup de jour happens to be Heather's wedding, be sure to get a cup or bowl. The recipe comes from the former Jim Reid restaurant in Nutter Fort, where Vanessa's aunt worked for 40 years. Daughter-in-law Heather Roach experimented with seasonings in the tomato, broth, spinach and acini de pepe pasta soup until she got it just right. The light soup forgoes the usual meatballs.

The Roaches pick up a supply of Italian bread from Health Bread in Clarksburg, where they both grew up. They moved to Gassaway in 1967 to run the former Bartlett, now Roach, Funeral Home.

"We've never regretted a day here," she said.

Heather Roach's help didn't end with the wedding soup. She and husband, Ryan, who works at the funeral home with Richie, and even their 6-year-old Tate lend a hand in the restaurant. On the weekends, the Roach's son JR and his wife, Tammy, and their son Tre, 11, drive down from their home in Clarksburg to help with the buffet.

The elegant Vanessa makes the red sauce, meatballs, lasagna and stuffed shells from old family recipes.

"Before we had the restaurant, I did not make meatballs because my mother's and grandmother's were so good. I did not want to hear Richie say that mine were not as good as theirs. Why go there," she said. "Now I have to make them. He says they're just as good." Smart man.

 The portions are larger than any reasonable adult can handle. Most leave with a take-out bag holding the next day's lunch. "We're known for our portions," she said.

The cloth tablecloths come out for evening dining. Appetizers include bruschetta, mini crab cakes and barbequed shrimp. Entrees range from an 8-ounce filet for $24 to chicken alfredo with portobello mushrooms for $16 and ravioli with sun-dried tomato cream sauce for $13. All entrees include salad and side dishes. Beer and wine are available with all meals.

Seafood dominates Friday evening's menu including fresh rainbow trout, shrimp, scallops and crab cakes made mostly of lump crab meat and a smaller than expected amount of filler. "People are amazed. We've had people from the [Chesapeake] Bay area in, and they are just blown away by our crab cakes," Richie said.

On Saturday nights, diners feast on a prime rib dinner including salad, potato side dish, vegetable and dessert for $18.99.

The Sunday brunch includes two entrees, such as carved rib roast, ham, chicken Alfredo or pork tenderloin, soup, salads, side dishes and dessert for $11.99 for adults and $4.50 for children.

John Schuder bakes his specialty desserts daily. Strawberry gateau, fruit trifle, lemon drop cake, New Orleans style bread pudding, as well as pies and cakes baked by Sue Gregory. The desserts tempt diners from a prominently displayed dessert cart. "About 80 percent of the customers get dessert," Schuder said.

Vanessa and Schuder recently attended a food show/convention and were surprised at all the ready-to-serve options available to food servers. "I'm amazed that you can own a restaurant and never turn on the stove," she said.

"Basically they're just vending food," Schuder said. "Everything we do is from scratch. That's really what makes us unique and uncommon."

The Roaches recommend reservations, especially for out-of-towners who don't want to wait for seating. Their Mother's Day brunch was so popular, it required three seatings. Vanessa still managed to seat walk-ins, if they promised they wouldn't occupy the table into the next timed seating.

"I feel really honored to be working with Vanessa and Richie. They appreciate fine dining and want to bring it here for everyone to experience," Schuder said.  "We really want people to consider us as a place to go for special occasions."


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Located in Midland Market, 602 Elk Street, Gassaway, WV Phone : (304) 364-6023 Fax: (304) 364-6024
Hours: Lunch - Available Tuesday through Friday 11:00 am to 2:00 pm | Dinner - Available Friday and Saturday 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm | Sunday buffet available 11;30 am to 2 pm

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