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Two brothers, cousin turn lifelong dream into reality

Aug. 18, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

BARBOURSVILLE -- Jeremy Adams is about eight months into living a lifelong dream.

It was January of this year when he, his brother David Adams and cousin-by-marriage Christopher Dixon opened Christopher's Eats in River Place, along U.S. 60 in Barboursville.

Dixon, the head chef, has 16 years of experience in the restaurant business, but it's a new gig for Jeremy, a developer with Palace Properties, and David, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Huntington Middle School.

What the brothers have discovered is that the restaurant business is a challenging one, Jeremy Adams said. You have to be creative, aggressive and work long hours. But these are men who are not taking the challenge lying down, and they have some unique developments to show for it.

The fledgling restaurant has attracted the Marshall University Coaches Call-in Show, which is changing locations for the first time after many years.

"I've followed Marshall my whole life -- it's my alma mater," he said. "I'm blessed. We have a three-year contract."

Those programs will begin at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 and continue through football and basketball season into March. Featuring Athletic Director Mike Hamrick and coaches Doc Holliday and Tom Herrion, they will be preceded each week from 4 to 7 p.m. by Kindred Communications' Herd Insider.

"We are excited to have Christopher's Eats on board with us as the new host of our Radio Coach's Shows," said George Smalley, general manager of Thundering Herd IMG Sports Marketing. "They offer an outstanding atmosphere, location and menu for our Radio Coach's Show attendees to enjoy."

Christopher's Eats also is about to double its menu size Aug. 20, including lower-priced lunch items, and it has introduced Sunday brunch, a catering service and is hosting private parties.

It offers live music every week and is bringing back the dueling piano act T & Rich Band for the third time on Sept. 6. The Cleveland-based, piano-playing duo takes requests and provides a similar atmosphere to Crocodile Rocks at Myrtle Beach or Howl at the Moon establishments across the country.

Christopher's Eats also has complementary wine tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month.

The guys have a lot of irons in the fire to bring folks in to check out coal-fired flatbreads and other scratch-made meals, as well as the carefully planned atmosphere, which has ideas borrowed from some of Jeremy's favorite vacation eateries in places like Asheville, N.C.; Hilton Head, S.C.; and Colorado Springs.

The idea for the restaurant first started to feel like a real possibility while Jeremy and David Adams were on a beach trip. They decided they needed Dixon's help to make it happen, and they encouraged him to leave Baton Rouge, La., to join them in the venture.

Also joining them from Baton Rouge was front-of-the-house manager Laura Halphen and kitchen manager Tremaine Bolds. And back-of-the-house manager Brian Geary came from Jacksonville, Fla.

"It's pretty risky for everyone, with them leaving home," Jeremy Adams said. They decided on Barboursville because it's where Jeremy and David both live, and Dixon, the restaurant's namesake, became the mastermind behind the menu.

"Our goal is to offer fine dining-esque food at better prices," Dixon said. He aims for the meals to have high quality presentation and layers of flavor, and to include things that the guys themselves like to eat, like burgers, steak and wings.

The coal-fired oven, manufactured by DoughPro, burns anthracite coal from Reading, Pa., which is mined via clean coal processes, the owners said. The coal burns extremely hot and imparts just a hint of a smoky flavor on the dishes, Dixon said.

He's also working with The Wild Ramp on developing seasonal menu items made with fresh ingredients from the local food market.

Everything is made from scratch, "except we have Heinz ketchup, by my request," said Jeremy Adams.

He wanted sturdy barstools. He wanted outlets to line the wall under the bar, so that guests could charge their gadgets. He wanted clean, fresh, beautifully designed bathrooms. He wanted ceiling panels airbrushed to look like wood, and unique lighting fixtures.

The restaurant, which has about 30 employees, seats about 125 people, including an area that can be blocked off for parties and a covered outdoor dining area.

Much of the decor and equipment was purchased locally, including re-upholstered booths from Ming's, wall art and tables handcrafted with West Virginia lumber, and all the kitchen supplies from Colonial Kitchens in Huntington. Bread from Brunetti's in Kenova and desserts come from Suzcatering from Barboursville.

"I think we have a good menu, a good location and ambiance in here," Jeremy Adams said, adding that it's been quite a learning process. "It's a tough, competitive business," he said. "I give it up to the people in the restaurant business."