Formerly The Coffee Bar, The Cocktail Bar Revamps its Image and Offerings

If you’re looking for a night out, happy hour or a Sunday brunch, you’re bound to find all of the above on Market Street in downtown Parkersburg. Amid a variety of local choices, The Cocktail Bar, formally The Coffee Bar, stands out with its modern facade and intriguing menu. A downtown destination of its own, the restaurant recently updated its name to reflect its more diverse offerings.

Ryan Hannus pours a craft beer for a customer

The Cocktail Bar is owner Zak Huffman’s first restaurant, but not his first entrepreneurial adventure in the Mid-Ohio Valley. His venture into the restaurant business was motivated in part by his experience launching other start-ups, as well as the joy of engaging with customers. The result is a restaurant that has truly become a ‘third place’ for many of its patrons, known for its community-minded culture, support of local artists and musicians, and its great atmosphere. It’s a place to celebrate people’s commonalities over a shared experience, a drink, and of course, great food.

On the menu, you’ll find inspired dishes that compliment the craft cocktails, local brews, and wine served up at the bar. Their cajun-style shrimp tacos, for instance, pair perfectly with a margarita. Huffman said they were inspired by some of their favorite bars and restaurants across the state, including the famous Purple Fiddle in Thomas, WV, which also serves coffee and lunch during the day. In addition to their smattering of appetizers, small plates, and entrees, crafts beers like the Mountain State Miner’s Daughter Oatmeal Stout and their specialty cocktails are highly recommended. Oh, and their hummus platter, which was inspired by their Market Street neighbors to the north, Chams Lebanese Cuisine.

The house-made hummus platter

In fact, all of the downtown restaurants serve as inspiration for Huffman, who strives to contribute to the niche restaurant and nightlife scene found in the heart of the city. One can start with a glass of wine and appetizer at the Blennerhassett Restaurant and Lounge (formerly Brunello), head to the Parkersburg Brewing Co. for a beer end the night at The Cocktail Bar for a fun night of trivia, karaoke, or dinner. The variety of late-night options now available make it possible for diners to extend their time in downtown and hop around, which has not always been the case.

Although we haven’t seen a huge increase in new businesses yet, what we lack in quantity we make up for in quality.

“I’ve seen downtown evolve so much just in our five years here,” said Huffman. At first, he said The Coffee Bar primarily served those who worked downtown. “Now, people from out of town – some as far as Athens – come to downtown specifically to enjoy the growing scene. Although we haven’t seen a huge increase in new businesses yet, what we lack in quantity we make up for in quality. There’s not one business downtown in my opinion that doesn’t compliment it well.”

Owner Zak Huffman holding one of The Cocktail Bar’s specialty drinks

The early success of the bar concept challenges notions that downtown Parkersburg is primarily a working lunch destination or that Marietta is the only downtown that is happening on the weekends. During The Cocktail Bar’s “Name That Tune” and karaoke contests, the space is typically full of happy patrons having a good time. Their themed trivia nights, recently named #5 Top Trivia in the State in Best Things in West Virginia magazine, have quickly become popular local events. Open until 2:00 am, The Cocktail Bar is the last place to close up downtown most nights.

Along with the name change, the restaurant has undergone interior renovations since it first moved into its current location, including a build-out of the bar, new art installations, and of course the West Virginia mural, a nod to Huffman’s passion for community that extends beyond Parkersburg to encompass the entire state. The next phase includes adding fifteen additional seats to the bar, high-top tables, and high-back booths.

The “TCB” installation by Travis and Carolyn Barnhart
The West Virginia Mural, painted by Travis and Carolyn Barnhart

Since it first opened five years ago as The Coffee Bar, The Cocktail Bar has played a role in making downtown a destination – and Huffman has high hopes for continued revitalization in Parkersburg. He said he would like to see the City of Parkersburg keep an open mind and take some risks and adhere to the belief that downtown can be wonderful again without holding onto the glory days of the past or ‘the good old days.’ “We see so many once abandoned cities have people return and implement some really crazy ideas that work and boom, there’s a revival.”

Our bartenders are asked almost daily if there are any nice apartments over these businesses because they’d love to live downtown.

Huffman acknowledged a need for more residential spaces downtown. “With the increased traffic to downtown, our bartenders are asked almost daily if there are any nice apartments over these businesses because they’d love to live downtown. And right now, that’s missing.” And with ideas, Huffman said, people need funding. “We would love to see a financial institution believe in downtown and more grants from the state to help people who have the passion to take on these projects.”

Local art on display inside The Cocktail Bar
The change in name is a nod to the Bar’s extended menu, including specialty cocktails

From brunch every first Sunday of the month (featuring $10 bottomless mimosas) to live music every Friday night, The Cocktail Bar is its own unique destination, increasingly, like downtown Parkersburg itself. Huffman said he’s had some folks come in and say they haven’t been downtown in years, only to discover something new – a great testament to the important role local small businesses can play in revitalizing a neighborhood.