The French Tavern (1924-1980)
For more than fifty years, the French Tavern was regarded as one of Huntington’s finest restaurants. Founded during the 1920s by Belgian immigrant George Weydisch, the eatery originated as a joint restaurant and grocery store on the city’s west side. It was renamed the French Tavern when the Weydischs moved it to Piedmont Road around 1932. In 1936, the restaurant moved again to 2349 Adams Avenue, where it remained for nearly four decades. With a menu offering hand-cut steaks, fresh seafood, and homemade bread, as well as blue plate specials each Sunday, the French Tavern soon grew into one of the city’s most popular eateries. After the Weydischs retired, the restaurant was operated by Ida Weydisch’s son, Henry Bode, and his wife Frances. In 1974, it was passed to their son George Bode and his wife, who moved it to a former supermarket at Adams Avenue and West Nineteenth Street. The new location featured a large dining room as well as a supper club, along with private banquet rooms. After over fifty years in business, the French Tavern closed in 1980.
Backstory and Context
Born in Belgium in 1889, George Weydisch immigrated to the United States with his wife, Maria, in 1909. Before coming to Huntington, the Weydischs briefly lived in Fairmont, West Virginia, where George worked as a glass worker, and in South Charleston, where he worked for the U.S. Naval Ordnance Plant. Around 1926, the couple moved to Huntington, where they owned a joint restaurant and grocery at 529 Camden Road. After Maria Weydisch passed away in 1927, George married Ida Saber, a German immigrant who had come to the United States three years earlier. Around 1932, the Weydischs moved their French Grocery & Meat Market to 226 Piedmont Road, where it was renamed the French Tavern. In 1936, the restaurant moved again to 2349 Adams Avenue. The small building had formerly housed the Cabell County detachment of the West Virginia State Police.
Over the next four decades, the French Tavern became one of Huntington’s most popular restaurants, offering high-quality meals in an intimate setting. The French Tavern was a common location for dates, anniversaries, and other special occasions, and was a favorite among Huntingtonians who wanted to treat their out-of-town guests. The menu featured a variety of fine dishes, including hand-cut steaks, live lobster and other fresh seafood, homemade wheat bread, and impressive desserts like baked Alaska. The restaurant also offered European specialties like French onion soup, French-style fried eggplant, and a popular salad dressing made with roquefort cheese. While diners often saved the French Tavern for special occasions, the restaurant offered discounted blue plate specials every Sunday.
After the Weydischs retired during the late 1950s, Ida’s son Henry Bode and his wife Frances took over the French Tavern. In 1974, they passed the restaurant on to their son George Bode and his wife Jenni, who moved the restaurant to a new location down the street at 1925 Adams Avenue. The new building, a former Kroger supermarket, was much larger than the French Tavern’s previous location. It featured a dining room with seating for two hundred customers, a 190-seat supper club, and banquet rooms for up to 250 diners. The supper club, which was called Frenchy’s, also offered live entertainment every night. While the new location greatly increased the French Tavern’s seating capacity, some customers felt that the move was a mistake, as it caused the restaurant to lose the intimate atmosphere that many guests had enjoyed.
After over fifty years in business, the French Tavern closed down in early 1980, and the Bodes moved to North Carolina. In 1983, the restaurant’s long-time building at 2349 Adams Avenue was demolished due to the deteriorating condition of the structure. Today, the site is home to a laundromat and a tobacco shop. Meanwhile, the French Tavern’s final location in the former supermarket is currently the site of Sew Many Blessings, a quilt shop, and Bloss & Dillard Insurance Company.
Casto, James E. Lost Huntington: The French Tavern, Huntington Herald-Dispatch. December 15th 2014. Accessed June 16th 2020. https://www.herald-dispatch.com/special/lost_huntington/lost-huntington-the-french-tavern/article_4ddf2dee-4ccc-5ff6-a466-5f83957e8ff0.html.
Casto, Jim. Huntington’s Favorite Former Eateries, Part 1, Huntington Quarterly. Spring 2011. Accessed June 16th 2020. https://huntingtonquarterly.com/2018/09/26/issue-73-famous-former-eateries/.