Getting spicy at the Snak Shak
It would take a lot of ink to chronicle the changes that have taken place at the Snak Shak on Third Avenue in Marlinton since its grand opening in June 2009.
Originally advertised as a Tropical Sno dispenser, Jonathan Gibson and his "silent partner," Chuck Kettler, of White Sulphur Springs, have repeatedly revamped and enlarged the premises and enhanced an ever-changing menu to meet the needs and wants of the Snak Shak's clientele.
The latest move in that endeavor is the addition of Kripsy Krunchy Cajun Chicken and Catfish, a brainchild of CISCO, a long-time leader in quality food distribution.
"Our goal is to provide the best food, the most pleasant environment and quality, friendly service," said Kettler.
In their effort to provide the best food, they have also found a way to price their menu so everyone can afford it.
If is affordable and you can't afford to miss it.
Kettler, Gibson and Glen Kotval brought some friends to Pocahontas County a few years ago to ride the Cass train.ﾠ A trip through Marlinton sparked a business plan.
The purchase of the Greenbrier Building in August 2008 led to the tasteful renovation of its apartments and with Kotval putting his cabinet-making skills to good use, the original small restaurant came to life, breathing life into the old building.
When not in the throes of remodeling, Kotval spends his time in the kitchen, where he has become the one common fixture in the midst of change.
Continually remodeling the interior and reworking the Snak Shak's menu exemplifies 23-year-old Gibson's approach to business.ﾠ He is not afraid to try something new, and he is always on the lookout for ideas and ways to better serve his customers.
Specialty chicken left Marlinton several years ago when Kentucky Fried Chicken closed its doors.
The Snak Shak is bringing it back - with a kick.
The fresh, never frozen, Krispy Kruchhy Cajun Chicken, white and dark, has a just-right spicy coating.ﾠ It's crisp on the outside and very, very moist on the inside. Add a bowl of red beans and rice and a fluffy biscuit, topped with honey butter and you are hooked.
Lunchtime at the Snak Shak resembles a coup on a poultry farm, as to-go orders pile up and chicken flies out the door.
The catfish is excellent, as well - and not the least bit fishy.ﾠ This is a result of zero trans-fat oil.ﾠ A corn/canola blend which boasts "no flavor transfer."ﾠ Your fish will never taste like onion rings, nor like the meal of a previous consumer.
Jimmy Smith, of Marlinton, reported that his mother-in-law, Audrey Sheets, doesn't eat fish.ﾠ But she ate catfish at the Snak Shak and said she would be back for more.
"She liked it, and she was right," said Smith.ﾠ "It was excellent."
Bring your appetite and a little bit of money.ﾠ A meal of two pieces of catfish, (and they are big,) a side, drink and a biscuit are on the menu for just $7.99.
A two-piece chicken and biscuit combo can be yours for as little as $3.49.
Don't want to fix dinner?
Order a family meal, with up to 25 pieces of chicken.
Several new sides are offered by Krispy Krunchy, such as Queso Sticks, deep-fried hot cheese, coated with crushed tortilla chips, served with chipotle sauce; Boudin (pronounced Boo-dan) Bites, which is a Cajun sausage, rolled up with rice and spices; and deep fried Corn on the Cob, incorporating the sweetness of the corn with the spiciness of the breading.
Customers are told to wait until their second bite of corn before passing judgment. Let the spice hit your taste buds, and you won't be able to put it down, said the staff.
The Jambalaya may not be your momma's jambalaya.ﾠ It has a different texture and it, too, is spicy, incorporating Boudin sausage and rice.
Geri Ortiz, of Louisville, Kentucky, has been in town for the past few days, training the cooks and staff at the Snak Shak as they join with 750 Krispy Krunchy Cajun Chicken franchises across the nation.
Ortiz is good at what she does, and she does it for 75 restaurants.
Her training, added to Gibson's willingness to blaze into the culinary wilderness, will serve diners well.
But customer satisfaction is still the name of the game at this establishment.ﾠ In addition to its newest menu items, the Snak Shak has retained its popular sandwiches and burgers, salads and specialty pizzas.
Vegetarians are not left out of the mix.ﾠ A Veggie Wrap or Veggie Pizza will more than meet expectations.
Several of my visiting family members have commented that the Hawaiian Melt, piled high with roast beef, turkey, ham, cheese, topped off with lettuce, tomato, mayo, horseradish and honey mustard, is the best sandwich they've ever eaten.
Top billing for that sandwich may be threatened by a proposed new addition to the menu.
The Chicken Cordon Bleu-grass - chunks of chicken tenders, provolone cheese and ham topped off with a honey mayo.ﾠ
I enjoyed an early premiere of this creation and will go on record declaring it to be a winner.
This Snak Shak staff is definitely "cooking with gas."ﾠ During recent renovations they replaced the existing ﾾ inch gas line with a 1 ﾽ inch line to accommodate the kitchen expansion.
Most eateries can be judged by their coffee - and tea.ﾠ Thereto, the Snak Shak excels with its Keurig machine, providing fresh, on-demand hot drinks.
All legal beverages are available at the Snak Shak, and, in keeping with the decorum of this location, are discreetly offered as a compliment to lunch or dinner.
An hour of good conversation, coupled with an array of Cajun food put before me for tasting and testing, ended with a well-earned compliment to the staff -
"Mom, I cleaned my plate!"