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Pandemic leads to local restaurant owner achieving dream

The Inter-Mountain photo by Edgar Kelley Jeff Strahin stands in front of his newly opened restaurant Jeff’s Ultimate Grill in Norton.

NORTON — During a time when COVID-19 has had so many negative impacts on lives, one entrepreneur returned home to West Virginia because of the pandemic and has managed to make a lifelong dream come true.

Jeff Strahin, a 1985 graduate of Elkins High School, has spent a considerable amount of his adult life working for popular food chains, mostly in North Carolina. He was in management at one of the popular destinations in the Tar Heel state when COVID-19 hit.

“Due to COVID, I was laid off as an assistant manager by Ruby Tuesday back in March,” Strahin recalled. “Then on June 1 they closed 100 of their restaurants and mine was one of them. So I really didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Strahin said that two weeks after he lost his job he learned that the site of the former Bob’s Hot Dogs in Norton was available to buy.

“I learned of it being up for sale and the mountains were calling, so I made my way back,” he said. “It took me from June until the end of October to get everything in order and get open, but I’m thrilled to death to be back home. I was born in North Carolina, but the mountains are my home.”

Jeff’s Ultimate Grill has been open in Norton for three weeks now.

Strahin said at this time last year, he would have never imagined being where he is today.

“I certainly didn’t figure at the beginning of the year that I would have moved from North Carolina back to West Virginia and own my own restaurant,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to do my own thing for a whole lot of years and this is like a dream come true. I did not see this happening at all, but I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m really, really happy about it.”

Strahin said that with the way his restaurant is set up, COVID shouldn’t have any effects or pose any problems for the business.

“Even with the governor tightening up the mask mandate, this location was COVID proof before COVID ever happened,” he said. “There is no indoor dining and there are picnic tables outside, so you walk up, you order, you wait on it, which most people do in their cars, and then you take it and eat wherever is safe for you.”

The old restaurant where the Ultimate Grill is located was known for its hot dogs and Jeff is confident that customers will enjoy what he has to offer in that capacity.

“I actually have a red hot dog that I have brought up out of North Carolina called the Bright Leaf Carolina Packers hot dog,” he said. “It’s an all red hot dog and they are really, really good. The reception on those has been exceptional.”

At the Ultimate Grill you can get your choice of toppings on your hot dogs plus two different kinds of homemade chili, either hot or mild. But Strahin is serving up many different things other than hot dogs. Besides serving different types of subs, the grill also features hamburgers and homemade pepperoni rolls. Corn dogs and dinosaur chicken nuggets are available for the kids.

If you’re into spicy foods, one of Strahin’s most popular items so far is his Ultimate Burger, which features a garlic-habanero seasoned burger, creamy sriracha sauce, grilled jalapenos, spicy pickles, ghost chili cheese, blue cheese crumbs, lettuce and tomato.

“I have people that keep coming back for the Ultimate Burger,” he said. “I’ve been selling two or three of them a day.”

Side items include onion rings, both traditional and curly fries, jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks and fried mushrooms.

If that wasn’t enough, Strahin is also offering traditional bone-in chicken wings with seven different sauces, including his own “Ouch” sauce which features some of the world’s hottest peppers.

The Ultimate Grill also offers breakfast from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. The breakfast menu includes: sausage, egg and cheese biscuit, bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, breakfast burritos, and homemade biscuits and gravy.

For those looking for sweets, the restaurant offers homemade cheesecake, ice cream, banana splits, sundaes and cookies. Strahin has also created an ice cream treat called a Hurricane.

Jeff’s Ultimate Grill is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Everything has been going really well and the reception for the surrounding communities has been great,” said Strahin. “There have been plenty of people coming around and they are thankful that we have opened up at this location. They like the menu and it has really been going well.”

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