Steer Your Way Through the Lunchtime Waters – The Wheelhouse

The Wheelhouse – South Hills Shops, Charleston, WV

Dan says…

Even though I am the first opinion in this review I am the last person to post. So I have had the privilege of reading their opinions prior to writing mine.  So before you get wrapped up in spicy BBQ, cold bread, charts and graphs I need to tell you that the Wheelhouse is good.  This place doesn’t look like much on the outside and most would drive by without giving it a thought.  I love trying new places, but something about this place didn’t attract me.  Our good friends at the WV Hot Dog Blog rated a WVHD at the Wheelhouse, which prompted us to take a closer look.

The first thing you’ll notice about this place located adjacent to Kid Country Toys and the Bridge Road Bistro is the decor.  The Wheelhouse refers to the place where the Captain steers the ship.  Charleston has a right Sternwheeler history and the Wheelhouse theme keys off that history.   Photos, memorabilia and props fill the walls.  There is even a full size john boat hanging from the ceiling.

The Wheelhouse is only open for lunch.  The menu is very simple.  Nautical-named sandwiches, a variety of salads and for the soup lover at least three soups per day.  I choose the turkey reuben, priced at $5.95, and sub’d pumpernickel for marbeled rye.  The toasted pumpernickel was piled with shaved turkey, sauerkraut and a tasty 1000 island dressing. It was a good sandwich, but I agree with Susan that it need a few more minutes on the grill.

If you want a quick lunch in a cute local joint give the THREE fork Wheelhouse a try.

Misty says…

 When the decision was made to go to the Wheelhouse, I quickly got my hands on a menu floating around the office.  I’ve heard this place gets pretty crowded and I didn’t want to get in there and fumble around with a decision on what to eat.  When we got there, I ordered first since I already knew what I wanted.

I decided on the Tug Boat- a large pork BBQ with slaw on a sesame seed bun for $4.50.  And of course, I ordered a regular soda for $1.49. 

They took my order and gave me a cup.  I filled it up and went to one of the open tables to wait for my food.  This is when I noticed the “2 refills please” sign.  Ummm…I thought…This is not going to go over well with Susan.  This is a variable she probably has not factored in on her soda purchase.  Oh well, it doesn’t hurt me, I foolishly thought.  Usually, as part of my diet plan, I try to only drink 1 (2 at the most) cup(s) of regular soda for lunch.  Ridiculous, I know.  But I just can’t bring myself to tolerate diet soda.  And this is my compromise.

Anyway, when the server brought it out, I was initially pleased.  It was a large bun with plenty of BBQ and slaw for me.  In fact, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to eat it all.  And it looked pretty good.   But then:

Downgrade 1:  the bun wasn’t warm

Downgrade 2:  I had BBQ chips. That’s a little too much BBQ for me.  And they are not really my favorite, but I can eat them.

Then, as the others get their sandwiches, I start feeling worse.  I notice that some people have toasted bread and some have other kinds of chips.  Why wasn’t I given a choice?  Why couldn’t the order taker ask:  Would you like your bun toasted?  What kind of chips do you like?  I guess I know better next time, but really???

OK, I get over that, then I take a bite.  I chew, I swallow and then it hits me.  Wow, that was spicy.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I was pretty sure it didn’t say spicy in the description…because I try to stay clear of these kinds of items.  Like I always do, I try to keep my “poker face” and take another bite.  Nope…I was not wrong…Now, Susan notices my face.  Since I’ve been called out, I have to admit that I think my sandwich is spicy.  This seems to happen a lot and my fellow diners are always skeptical.  So, I offer up a try.  Daniel confirms…it does have a little kick.  I try to argue with him that it is a little more than a little.  But they do have a higher tolerance for this.

2 refills later and with only half of my sandwich gone, I had to stop eating.  I just didn’t like it.  I did finish my chips though.

A good, plain deli sandwich really doesn’t excite me much.  And I didn’t think this sandwich was really that good…spicy or not.  It just wasn’t what I like.  I give Wheelhouse 2 Forks.

Susan says…

This joint was already on our list of places to review, and I always enjoy a warm turkey sandwich, but the real hook for me was a coupon about to expire in my dine-a-mate book.   I am one of those suckers that can’t stand to let a coupon go unredeemed.  Well, unless it’s grocery coupons…50 cents off is immaterial to me and I always forget I have them until I am on my way back home from Kroger.  I don’t even bother anymore after repeated grocery coupon FAIL.  But failing to redeem a BOGO lunch is practically a crime. 

We attempted to order from the Wheelhouse for delivery on a rainy workday a couple weeks ago.  I thought I was calling early enough at 10:30, but was told our lunch wouldn’t arrive until after 1:00.  There’s no way Misty & I wanted to wait that long so we had to make alternate plans.  I was wondering if it was the unusual increase in demand due to the rain, only one delivery person available, or wild popularity which caused the unbearable delay on the food.  After visiting in person, I am going to assert it was a combination of all three.

We have been trying to go to lunch a little earlier lately – leaving the office between 11:30 and 11:45 – to minimize the wait time at our destination.  It was a good thing we arrived at the Wheelhouse before noon because while we sat there enjoying our meals, there was a line from the counter to the door.  The whole time we were there.  The restaurant can seat about 40 people (just a guess) and the tables were almost full, so we felt compelled to eat and leave ASAP so someone else could sit down from that endless line.

I was waffling between the BBQ and my usual sandwich order of turkey and cheese.  I am glad I went with the turkey after seeing the surprised/insulted look on Misty’s face when she realized the BBQ was rather spicy.  I like mine sweet instead.

For $5.50, I got the standard red plastic basket lined with waxed paper, a small bag of Lay’s regular chips, an offensive pickle spear, and a large turkey sandwich with Swiss and lettuce.  I had to pay an extra $.25 for the cheese.  I also ordered a fountain Diet Coke.

There was nothing “wrong” with my meal per se, it’s just that every aspect could have been a little bit better.  I’ll break it down:

  • The chips.  They were Lay’s regular.  They had Lay’s regular barbecue and some Sun chips that I noticed behind the counter, but I was not offered a choice.  Daniel asked if he could get barbeque flavor and they gladly accommodated him.  I just don’t think Lay’s regular is the way to go.  Kettle-cooked chips and a variety of flavors presented so that customers can make their own choice would be an improvement.
  • The pickle.  Most people probably like the pickle so I can’t fault a place for using them.  However, if I realize it’s coming, I can politely refuse it and save them the cost of the item.
  • The bread.  Personally, slices of bread just don’t do it for me on a sandwich.  I much prefer a sub-type bun, French bread, or something with some crust all over it.  (The only sandwich I can think of where slices work for me is the ham & brie sandwich at south hills market & cafe.)  I asked for my bread to be toasted and they asked if I’d rather have it grilled, to which I replied a gleeful “YES”.  However, the bread was barely grilled and the cheese barely melted.  I would have liked a little longer stay on the grilltop with a slathering of butter to help the bread crisp up.  A roll would have made my sandwich so much better.
  • The cheese.  I only had two choices: Swiss and American.  Since I consider American to be fake cheese, I really only had ONE choice, which is no choice at all.  The reason I stayed away from Subway years ago was their lack of cheese choice offering only Swiss and Fake like this joint.  Another improvement the Wheelhouse could make is to offer a few different cheeses.
  • Toppings.  The description of my sandwich was turkey, lettuce and mayo.  Could it be any more boring? 
  • The turkey.   There was a black pepper taste to it which disturbed me, but the portion and quality of the turkey was excellent. 
  • The drink.  A sign is posted next to the fountain limiting folks to two refills.  C’mon people.  It costs you PENNIES to provide the fountain drink.  I already paid an extra quarter for a slice of cheese, can you not let me go wild with the fountain soda?  How many people get more than two refills anyway?  I thought Misty might have to sneak an extra one to cool down her burning tongue.  I think she was in mild pain during that meal.

These are the type of sandwiches my super-picky father would eat.  Very plain, very safe.  There is obviously a market for it, becaue the place was packed.  It’s just not for me.  If I am in the mood for a traditional turkey and cheese sandwich I GREATLY prefer Deli Fresh.

DEATHMATCH:  Wheelhouse vs. Deli Fresh.

Deli Fresh gets a take down on chip selection.  They not only offer the kettle style I love, but also Lay’s regular for the boring people, Frito’s, Cheetos, and all the other O’s.  Wheelhouse only has a few to choose from and only if you ask for a choice.


Deli Fresh also gets a take down on toppings.  A choice of cheese comes with the sandwich and I can add many different veggies to it for free.  I usually get lettuce, green peppers and jalapeno peppers on mine, but you could add even more.  My sandwich at Wheelhouse came with mayo and lettuce.  Whoop de doo.


At Deli Fresh I can get as many refills as I please.  At the Wheelhouse, I can only have two.  More points for Deli Fresh.

As long as the price is close, I’d be willing to pay a little more for the better bread, the better cheese, and the bigger selection.  But Deli Fresh wins even on price.


The Winner:  Deli Fresh.  If I want a non-gourmet, non-ethnic, regular ol’ turkey sandwich, I would go to Deli Fresh.

Again, nothing really wrong with the food here, it just didn’t excite me.  TWO FORKS.

908 Walnut Road
Charleston, WV  25314
Wheelhouse on Urbanspoon


6 responses to “Steer Your Way Through the Lunchtime Waters – The Wheelhouse

  1. I just noticed this line- “These are the type of sandwiches my super-picky father would eat. Very plain, very safe.” Two things. 1. Picky eating is genetic. 2. A turkey and cheese sandwich with lettuce only is a “very plain, very safe” sandwich. I sub bun does not raise a sandwich to “exciting”.

  2. The Wheel House is about the only place in town to get a really good sandwich. . . quality bread, quality meat, fresh let. and tom.
    Charleston and WV in general is a sandwich lover’s wasteland.

  3. “quality meat,” and lots of it.

  4. Actually a good place to get a really good basic sandwich is the Blue Moon Cafe

  5. It is so sad that you did not try any of their homemade soups. I have tried almost all of them and have yet to be disappointed! I highly recommend the broccoli and cheese. This business is also owned by people who are from the area.

  6. I am late on this review but thought I would offer my two cents. I have tried Wheelhouse a few times (reuben, a salad, and a chicken wrap) and I have not been impressed and I will not order from them again.

    If you want a great sandwich, head over to M&M Mart in Kanawha City. They have Boar’s Head meats & cheeses and their sandwiches are just phenomenal. They don’t skimp at all on their meat & have a great selection of breads, meats, and cheeses. I highly recommend them!

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