Most folks in the Mid-Ohio Valley would not think of Saint Mary’s, WV as a culinary destination. However, since 2015 the small town just 25 minutes up Route 2 (or Route 7 if you’re on the Ohio side) has been home to The Boxcar, a local restaurant focused on fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
The Boxcar was opened by Chef and owner Kristian Lenard. Originally from San Diego, Lenard took a circuitous route to the MOV. Lenard was born into a military family, moving around often and spending many years in Texas before coming to the area to be closer to family. With a background cooking in country clubs, Lenard found that he was tired of working for other people and was ready to open his own place. Rather than look for spaces in the larger nearby cities, Lenard saw an opportunity to create, in his words, “one great place to eat” in the small community of Saint Mary’s. “I didn’t want people to have to drive to Parkersburg to get this kind of stuff,” he said.
With a motto of, “Eat Locally,” The Boxcar’s menu focuses on accessible food prepared in a gourmet way. Lenard works with local vendors to source as many of his ingredients as possible. Produce comes from farmer’s markets, beef from nearby farms. They also try to make as much as possible, right down to the salad dressings, “in house.” The goal at the Boxcar isn’t fine dining; rather, Lenard and his team work to create hometown food in an elevated way.
The space itself is warm and inviting, with heavy wood tables and booths accenting the railroad-themed decor (the restaurant’s name is a reference to the trains that still run through Saint Marys’ downtown). The Boxcar has also recently had an expansion, nearly doubling the size of their dining room. “We waited patiently for the other tenant to leave, and then we knocked down a wall,” Lenard said, laughing. With the expansion of the square footage has also come an expansion of their menu, adding some additional pasta options again with the intention of giving locals an option nearby.
The Boxcar has also, for the first time this year, created two special three-course menus as part of MOV Restaurant Week. Lenard said that he was interested in the “3 for $30” concept, specifically the chance to offer a high-end entree at a still-reasonable price. At a recent sampling of their restaurant week offerings, the lobster bisque was sweet and buttery while still perfectly smooth and creamy, and the side salad was simply but surprisingly fresh for February, with just the right amount of peppery bite from the honey mustard dressing. The highlight, however, was the chili-rubbed pork tenderloin with root beer bbq sauce. The heat of the chili rub added flavor without becoming overwhelming while pairing perfectly with the sweetness of the root beer bbq. The pork was paired with garlic potatoes and several huge and perfectly cooked asparagus stalks.
Lenard said that, just as he strives to keep Saint Marys locals in town, that the special menus would be, “a good opportunity for people to come in,” from Parkersburg or Marietta, to see what they have to offer.