Benny & Babe at the Buckley Opens This Week

In downtown Marietta, the iconic Buckley House has undergone a stunning transformation and will officially open its doors on March 10th as Benny & Babe at the Buckley. The transformation, and the newest dining experience in Marietta, is the result of one couple’s dream and dedication. Ben and Amy Postlethwait purchased the building in December and have worked tirelessly to prepare for the restaurant’s opening.

Ben is a graduate of the International Culinary Academy in Pittsburgh, now part of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He quickly rose through the ranks in the industry. “I started my career at a multi-concept restaurant in Nationwide Arena as a line cook. From there I took a position as a line cook at a Japanese restaurant and was promoted to sous chef within 3 months,” he said. “My first head/executive chef job began in 2005.”  He held the executive chef position in Columbus until he moved back to the Mid-Ohio Valley (he and Amy are both originally from New Martinsville).

The Buckley House was built in 1879 (Michelle Waters)

During the past two years, Ben had been serving up delicious barbeque style food from the Benny & Babe food truck. The truck developed a loyal following, with customers driving for miles to enjoy upscale versions of traditional foods. But when the couple saw that the Buckley House was once again on the market, they recognized an opportunity to create something truly special in a permanent location.

The physical labor it required of us to bring this place to the gorgeous state you see now was the most intense and challenging thing I’ve done in my life.

The house, built in 1879, has been completely renovated and its rooms bear little resemblance to the previous restaurant. The exterior façade of the building has been given a fresh facelift, but the major changes are apparent when one steps over the threshold. Wallpaper has been replaced by crisp white paint and carpeting has been removed to expose the original floors. Stair risers are accented with tile, and lights cast a soft glow on the dark tin ceiling throughout. Amy is responsible for the interior design and decorating, and her skill has resulted in dining rooms that are intimate without feeling crowded. Every table has a faux marble top that Amy handcrafted herself, and no two are identical. Lightweight chairs add an airy touch to the rooms, and classic linens and tableware complete the casual elegance.

It’s astonishing that the couple was able to renovate the entire Buckley House in just over two months, a job that would take even professional contractors much longer. “The physical labor it required of us to bring this place to the gorgeous state you see now was the most intense and challenging thing I’ve done in my life. We worked 7 very long days every week since before Christmas and there were so many times I thought we just couldn’t pull it off,” Amy explained. “We learned to do things we never imagined we were capable of. To say this has been a mentally, emotionally, and physically draining time doesn’t even begin to describe the reality of what we have been through the past two and a half months.”

Formerly, the upstairs level was used as a private residence, but Ben and Amy have added an entire floor of dining and gathering options. At the top of the stairs, the landing creates a small intimate dining space. Just down the hall, one room has been transformed into a comfortable lounge, with darkened walls and soft drapes. Next door, another room is set up for small private groups, with polished table and chairs beneath a sparkling chandelier. And finally the bar area, with its dim lighting and tile-trimmed bar. While the restaurant does not yet have a full liquor license, guests will be able to enjoy wine, beer, cordials and non-alcoholic cocktails. The room will be open during regular dining hours, but the menu will be limited to items such as charcuterie trays and appetizers. The dining room can accommodate 42 guests and the rooms upstairs will seat about the same number. In addition, Ben plans to have the outdoor patio ready for al fresco dining when the warm weather arrives. Throughout both levels of the restaurant, the walls are tastefully adorned with vintage and antique art sourced from local antique shops.

Visitors to Benny and Babe at the Buckley can expect a unique dining experience, with upscale dishes infused with southern style. Ben and Amy have traveled through the southern US, and love the Charleston, SC type of cuisine. Ben is joined in the well-organized kitchen by his sous chef Steve, and an excellent staff both prepping and serving the meals. His manager Oliver Barnhart was training at the five-star Sanctuary on Kiawah Island when he was invited to join the Postlethwaits in their new enterprise. Mid-Ohio Valley natives, Oliver and wife Carolyn greet visitors with warmth and obvious pride in the restaurant they represent and Amy credits the couple with being part of the restaurant’s success.

“Once Carolyn and Oliver joined us full time, we were able to breathe and push forward. I don’t know what we would have done without them. They prepared training manuals, set up our ordering/payment system, sourced all the alcohol, helped with painting, set up, helped me find treasures from local antique stores, trained the front-of-house staff, and just went above and beyond to make sure everything was absolutely perfect.”

The dining experience at Benny and Babe may be new to some guests, but it lends itself to a very pleasant and well-paced meal. The dishes are smaller and meant to be shared, so be sure to order something different from your companions and settle in for a wonderful meal! The food is brought to the table as soon as it is fully prepared, ensuring that everything is fresh and at its peak flavor. The Farro & Beets also features blood orange, goat cheese, baby greens and roasted shallot dressing. The Grilled Carrots & Goat Cheese Burrata is plated with caramelized shallots, spiced pecans, peach agrodoice and dill yogurt sauce.  The burrata is smooth and creamy, and the sauces elevate both dishes to another level. All the sauces, dressings and stocks are house made from scratch, and Ben seems to be a wizard with his combinations of flavors and textures.

Listening to someone enthuse about their meal really makes me happy and proud.

Ben has made it a mission to use fresh, quality ingredients sourced from local producers and has already formed partnerships with many area businesses. Breads and rolls from the Bread Garage, pork and chicken from Sugar Butte Farms, micro greens from Yellow & Blue Greens, and honey products from Snider Family Farm are just a few of the collaborations being formed to create the menu. For example, the delicious Lavender Lemonade is made with lavender from Bellavue Manor in McConnelsville, and the main supplier of beef is Hoopers Farm, also in McConnelsville.

Ben and Amy are quick to publicly acknowledge their providers, and followers of the restaurant on Facebook will see announcements when another small grower has been added as a source. That commitment to using locally sourced ingredients results in an ingredient-driven menu that will change with the seasons.

Every dish leaving the kitchen is a work of art, and the Ricotta Gnocchi is no exception. The tender gnocchi is served with a tomato confit and wild mushroom with sage brown butter. The plating is impeccable, and this writer predicts that we’ll soon see hundreds of social media posts from delighted diners! It is clear that Ben and Amy have committed to providing an outstanding dining experience for their guests and Amy shared one of her joys: “I just love watching people while they try a new dish and discover how much they enjoy it. Listening to someone enthuse about their meal really makes me happy and proud.” 

Ricotta Gnocchi with wild mushroom and tomato confit (Michelle Waters)

When the Wagyu Tri Tip arrives on the table, the beautifully cooked beef is presented on a bed of heirloom potatoes, crispy brussels with lardons and fig sauce. The melt-in-your-mouth wagyu has the perfect char and the entire dish is seasoned to perfection. That wonderful balance of seasoning is apparent in every meal and is once again testament to Ben’s skill in the kitchen. One couple enjoying the soft opening was Tim and Eva Bennett and Eva echoed the other diners’ compliments,

With every bite we could taste the love, passion and respect for the ingredients, many sourced locally.

“Being able to share plates and experience them as soon as they are cooked to perfection brings a wonderfully unique flow to the meal. With every bite we could taste the love, passion and respect for the ingredients, many sourced locally. Our only regret is that we weren’t able to try one of everything.”

For desserts, Emily Lantz creates dreamy concoctions that provide the perfect ending to a delicious meal. The Matcha Strawberry Éclair, dipped in white chocolate matcha and filled with strawberry pastry cream, is bursting with fresh flavors. The Peach Blueberry Galette with honey bourbon whipped cream and pecan crumble features a flaky pastry crust and just begs to be shared.

The concept of small plating and sharing dishes will enable diners to try foods they may otherwise not have tasted. Ben and Amy believe this unique feature will add another level of diversity to the area restaurant scene. They expressed their respect and admiration for their fellow restaurateurs and are excited to offer another dining experience to downtown Marietta. The Buckley House has had a long life on Front Street, and Benny and Babe at the Buckley is a glorious new chapter in its story, one that will surely be appreciated by locals and visitors alike.

Currently, Benny and Babe at the Buckley will be open for dinner at 5:30 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, with final seating by 9:30 pm. Sunday brunch will be 10:30 am to 2:30 pm. Check their Facebook page for updates and announcements.