A new restaurant opens in the Seneca Center Thursday, june 9—and anything goes in terms of the menu.
If you’re looking for a new food spot this weekend, consider this brand new eatery located in the historic Seneca Center for fresh seafood and “bangin’” burgers. We caught up with owner Vanessa Martenson to learn more about the place.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
Vanessa Martenson: I am the full owner of Vanessa’s Kitchen and my loving fiancé, Jay, does all the work with me, so he’s my partner in crime. I had this exact restaurant concept in Hudson, New York. I closed it and moved to Morgantown with Jay, who was ready to come home to West Virginia. The restaurant features amazingly fresh, never-frozen sushi-grade fish and seafood. I pair it with the best steaks I can get, and we fire up the smoker. The back of the restaurant houses a fresh fish market, too, so you can stop in, grab some fish or meat, and cook at home.
We chose the Seneca Center because it is absolutely beautiful. The woodwork and stained glass give the restaurant so much character. The other shops here have been so welcoming and sweet. It really feels like its own little community.
Q: Where did you learn to cook?
VM: I have always loved cooking. I started cooking with my grandma when I was 8 years old. She was a chef, too. We’re Italian, so food was always a big thing. When I was 14 and looking for my first job, I wanted to make more money than my friends. I applied for cooking jobs, got hired, and never stopped. After high school, I went to Johnson and Wales University, did an internship in Nashville, and the rest is history.
Q: It’s a challenging time for the service industry with staffing shortages, supply chain problems, and a global pandemic still bubbling below the surface. How are you guys managing?
VM: The COVID-19 pandemic has been exceptionally hard on food service establishments, and the supply chain has been completely broken. In New York, my menu changed daily—if I had it, that was great, and if not, it got erased from the board. Everything from boxes to sauce cups and all perishable foods have been hit or miss. All we can do is just kind of roll with it and keep changing what we have to do. And staffing has been impossible. We’re all short-staffed, and we just have to get through it. Most patrons understand, but some don’t. All we can do is smile.
Q: What should we eat first?
VM: Everyone always has their absolute favorite: Crab cakes, steamed clams in butter and wine, oysters, true dry scallops all sorts of ways, seared tuna, and surf and turfs are the most popular. While the quality is the best I can get, my food is by no means stuffy or pretentious. You can have all the fancy stuff, or just get a bangin’ chicken sandwich, chicken bites for the kids, or a burger. Anything goes here.