MORGANTOWN - Wood County natives Jason Coffman and Matt Showalter are carving a niche in Morgantown's restaurant scene.
In July, the two restaurateurs opened their second restaurant in Morgantown, Black Bear Evansdale, to complement their first restaurant, Black Bear Burritos, which opened in February 2003.
Black Bear on West Virginia University's Evansdale campus, in the Suncrest neighborhood, is larger than the downtown restaurant at 132 Pleasant St. It is in walking distance of the Coliseum and Milan Puskar Stadium. A perfect place to stop for a bite to eat before or after a WVU basketball or football game, the owners said.
Wood County natives Matt Showalter, left, and Jason Coffman, right, offer craft beers from North End Tavern and Brewery at their Black Bear Evansdale restaurant in Morgantown.
The new Black Bear has about 150 seats, a private room, a fenced-in outdoor dining area and a 30-foot-long cherry wood bar that seats 25-30 people, said Coffman, a Vienna native who graduated from Parkersburg High School in 1992.
The downtown restaurant is cozier with 80 seats. It tends to get crowded and is in a more congested area, Coffman said, citing a reason to expand into a larger building on the outskirts of the downtown area.
Coffman said the business partners wanted to create a unique dining experience in Morgantown by offering fusion food that combines various culinary traditions.
Customers can build their own burritos, quesadillas, salads, nachos and strollers (salad wrap) using a variety of ingredients, along with ordering meals featuring chicken, pork, steak and seafood.
There are different-flavored wraps to place your favorite ingredients in.
The owners said they use products from West Virginia farmers when possible and purchase organic tofu from Spring Creek of Spencer.
The restaurants' website describes Black Bear this way: "We are an innovative small business providing a wide range of ethnic cuisines prepared using the freshest ingredients served in a unique Appalachian atmosphere that embraces the cultures, arts and music of West Virginia as well as Morgantown."
Black Bear provides a casual dining experience designed to appeal to families and local professionals, while being affordable to college students, said Coffman.
Coffman noted that Black Bear provided more than 10,000 free meals to children 6 and under last year.
Artwork adorns the restaurants' walls and live music is played on many nights.
Coffman said they wanted a different feel, look and name in the Black Bear restaurants to distinguish the two. The walls of the downtown location are green, while the newer spot, located in a former grocery store, has orange walls.
Besides being the owners, Coffman and Showalter are both cooks and plumbers and handle whatever else needs to be done at the restaurants. Showalter, a native of Washington, W.Va., graduated from Parkersburg South High School in 1994 and from WVU in 2000 with a business degree.
The restaurant owners met in Morgantown while students at WVU. Coffman graduated from WVU in 2001 with a degree in advertising.
The Black Bear owners are "huge fans" of craft beers brewed by Parkersburg's North End Tavern and Brewery and have several NET beers on tap, Coffman said.
Coffman said he would consider opening Black Bears in other cities, including Parkersburg, if the opportunity presented itself.
Coffman is the son of John and Anne Coffman of Vienna. Showalter is the son of Marsie Showalter of Washington, W.Va., and the late Randy Showalter.