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The Alpha Tavern in Wheeling Welcomes New Chef

Photo by Alan Olson Alan Huffman, new chef at the Alpha Tavern, works in the kitchen.

WHEELING — A local favorite chef in Weirton is now bringing his skills to the Alpha Tavern.

Late last month, the Alpha Tavern welcomed Alan Huffman to its kitchen. Huffman formerly operated the Spicy Gringos restaurant in Weirton before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the restaurant to shut its doors. Huffman later decided that Spicy Gringo wouldn’t reopen, and instead brought his talent, and his food, to the Alpha Tavern.

Alpha Tavern co-owner Beau Catalano said he was familiar with Huffman’s work and had developed a friendship with him. Both men operated restaurants in Weirton, with Catalano operating an Undo’s. Upon learning that Spicy Gringo would not return, Catalano said the Alpha Tavern offered him a job, which he accepted.

“He was debating whether to open at a new location or to just try again, but he decided to come on board with us,” Catalano said Wednesday. “He’s a straight up guy, a good guy, he works hard. Everything he makes is from scratch, and all the sauces he makes are impressive. He’s willing to teach people.”

Catalano said the Alpha Tavern staff devised Tijuana Tuesdays, which would give Huffman a chance to demonstrate his particular brand of cooking. Huffman was born in New Cumberland but had lived in San Diego for 18 years, learning and mastering Baja Mexican cuisine. He returned to the area in 2011, opening Spicy Gringo in Wellsburg before eventually moving to Weirton.

“COVID impacted our business there,” Huffman stated. “But I’m excited about this opportunity with the Alpha Tavern and the ability to continue my focus on Baja Mexican cuisine. I’m sure Wheeling will love it.”

Catalano said the first Tijuana Tuesday, which took place earlier this week, was indeed a huge hit with diners.

“He does Baja Mexican, which is a little bit different — he’s not doing ground beef tacos,” He said. “He’s using Yucatan chicken, making all these different sauces and marinating the chicken and beef. It’s some really good stuff that just doesn’t come out of a can. It was new and exciting.

“Just compared to what we were doing, we almost doubled the people coming in,” Catalano added. “He had a clientele who followed him down here.”

Catalano said the Alpha Tavern would continue Tijuana Tuesdays as a regular event, while potentially expanding their offerings down the road. After spending a few days in the kitchen, Huffman said he liked what he saw in his new team, who he said had a lot to teach him.

“It’s tremendous to be with individuals who have the experience I was lacking in my restaurant,” he said Friday. “They’ve been running cooking lines all their lives. I started from scratch and never had any formal training, so it’s nice to have people who have knowledge I can learn from.”

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