Local restaurant offers fresh seafood at affordable prices

The name Jewel City Seafood can conjure up many notions about its meaning. One might suggest it is an allusion to the pearl found in an oyster, the proverbial “jewel of the sea,” but the truth is far less metaphorical: The Ohio River was once a busy thoroughfare frequented by Steamboats carrying barrels full of seafood from the Chesapeake Bay. For navigational purposes, nicknames were assigned to each city along the river. Huntington’s nickname was Jewel City. It is from this bit of oral history that the restaurant got its name.
Owned and operated by Joe Beter, Jewel City Seafood began its existence as a small seafood market on Huntington’s east end. After many years in the seafood business down in Florida, Beter came to West Virginia to be with his sick father. Beter said the visit, originally intended to last a few days, became permanent.
“I came up here to visit my father and he ended up having a quadruple bypass,” Beter said. “I was only supposed to be up here for a few days, but I ended up staying for six weeks. Then I went down to Florida to get me affairs in order and sell my house. I moved back up here in 1999 and opened Jewel City as a seafood market in 2000. I actually had the very first business license in Huntington for the new millennium.”
Jewel City remained in the east end until the nearby Big Bear Supermarket closed down, which hurt his business a great deal. Beter decided a new location was required to keep Jewel City alive. In 2006, the restaurant moved to its current location at 1317 4th Ave., a building that holds special significance for Beter.
“This building actually used to be my grandfather’s grocery store, called Beter Brothers” Beter said. “He built this building in 1920 and kept it open until 1958. My dad and his brothers and sisters all became attorneys and steel workers – no one wanted to come back and run the family grocery store. So, my grandfather just retired at that point. We rented it out for many years until Jewel City came here.”
Beter said that the business expanded to a full service restaurant when it re-opened, largely because the customers demanded it.
Today, Jewel City receives a considerable amount of product from all over the world. However, Beter said he still endeavors to get his seafood domestically when possible.
“We buy as much domestic product as we can, but it’s not always available,” Beter said. “Our product comes from all over the world. I get sea bass out of the Antarctic, tuna out of the Philippines, mahi out of Ecuador and Costa Rica and salmon out of Chile, but we try to get as much domestic product as we can, such as USA shrimp.”
Even though Jewel City sells a significant variety of exotic and imported seafood, Beter say that Marshall students often have the misconception that eating there is expensive.
“What a lot of students don’t realize is how affordable we really are,” Beter said. “We do a whitefish meal with three pieces, two side dishes and hush puppies for $6.99. We do a full meal version of that—five pieces of fish—for $8.99. We also serve a cod dinner for $10.99. On Taco Tuesdays we have $2 fish tacos. We try to serve a lot of inexpensive meals.”
Aside from the regular menu items, the restaurant also serves many daily specials. Additionally, the menu offers a few non-seafood items as well, such as filet mignon, grilled chicken, and a hamburger platter.
Although Jewel City has been a local favorite for many years, the restaurant gained further notoriety in 2012 when it was selected as one of the Top 55 Destinations in West Virginia by the Huntington State Journal. Most recently, Huntington Quarterly selected the restaurant as Best Seafood in the Tri-State for 2013.
Jewel City Seafood is open Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. They also offer a 10 percent discount to Marshall Maniacs.

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