By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
A new steakhouse is making its mark on the Coosa. Located at 1504 Rainbow Drive, Wellington Bleu’s owner Chase Barkley shares the story of his restaurant’s establishment in Gadsden.
Born and raised in Marshall County, Barkley’s relationship with the restaurant business is rooted in his childhood. He grew up in his parents’ restaurants, learning the fundamentals of restaurant ownership, while exploring all components that coincide to ensure the business operates smoothly and successfully. Barkley could frequently be found scrubbing dishes, which he admitted he thought was fun as a child until he grew wiser.
Though Barkley’s concentration in college focused on computer building, programming and designing websites, he continued assisting his parents with the family business – developing an affinity for cooking in the process.
Surrounded by chefs and a variety of cuisines from Cuban to Italian, Barkley’s connection to cooking emerges as a lifelong passion. When an opportunity to establish a restaurant in Gadsden arose – the city to which he and his family often traveled to dine – he encouraged the family to pursue the chance that stood before them. While COVID-19 created a less-than-ideal environment for new restaurants to open their doors, the Gadsden community, with its plethora of restaurants and interest in eateries, proved worth the risk.
“I decided to explore the market and see what segment was missing [in Gadsden],” said Barkley. “We decided to concentrate on class recipes with fine cuts of beef as the centerpiece, with fresh seafood and pasta offerings as well.”
Wellington Bleu’s resides as the result of Barkley’s encouragement, the name deriving from the restaurant’s two specialties: Beef Wellington and Chicken Cordon Blue. While Wellington Bleu’s signature dishes create the foundation for its menu, the eatery offers customers weekly features such as Tuscan chicken, mahi-mahi, Surf & Turf and crab cakes. Mouth-watering burgers, panini-grilled sandwiches, soups and massive dinner salads curb all cravings, while homemade cheesecakes cater to any sweet-tooth that wanders through the door. In the spring, the restaurant plans to offer an expanded lunch menu with affordable prices that allow customers to visit time and time again.
Barkley describes the restaurant’s atmosphere as elegant, but casual. After extensive remodeling, the building includes fine touches like tablecloths and a fireplace, but does not require formal dress to experience all it has to offer. Its seating extends beyond indoors to the patio decks outside, which provide breathtaking views of the Coosa River.
“[Wellington Bleu’s] bar is in a separate area of the restaurant and offers unmatched views anywhere in town,” said Barkley. “You can reach out and almost touch the water.”
Barkley noted that Wellington Bleu’s plans to host exciting events outdoors in the near future. Presently, the restaurant is including its music series indoors, with solo and group acts providing visitors with acoustic melodies as they dine. Barkley hopes to feature piano music as well, in the coming weeks.
Barkley encourages groups to contact the restaurant to reserve meeting spaces for civic clubs, professionals, families and friends. He welcomes all to enjoy a private dining experience with a menu tailored to the guests’ specific needs. Wellington Bleu’s also caters, delivering meals to businesses.
Despite the obstacles Barkley and his family overcame to establish Wellington Bleu’s in Gadsden, closing during the holidays and losing several staff members due to the pandemic, his hope for the restaurant’s success shines bright. Through engaging the Gadsden community and exploring its wishes, Wellington Bleu’s strives to serve all its customers, one delicious meal at a time.
“While it has been challenging, we hope the community will know that we want to be a nice place to offer an enjoyable experience,” said Barkley. “We are striving daily to improve and become what they want us to be for Gadsden. We are investing in more training and always seeking new, talented faces to help us get better. We enjoy greatly meeting new people and helping others in the community. We want to be a blessing to all who enter here and work also – we hope everyone will return and see how we improve, and will enjoy the new things we have planned.”