Coleman’s fish sandwich couldn’t be simpler: two pieces of soft white bread holding a cluster of steaming hot fried-fish filets. It is delivered across the order counter, wrapped in wax paper; then you find a table somewhere on the broad floor of the renovated century-old Wheeling Centre Market House, unwrap it, and feast.
Although fish sandwiches have long been its claim to fame, Coleman’s is a great place to eat other good seafood: the “Canadian white” sandwich (a bit more mild and “whiter” tasting than the regular fish), shrimp boats and baskets, fried clams, oysters, deviled crabs, and Cajun-spiced catfish. Coleman’s really is a fish market, and if you wait in the “Special Line” (as opposed to the “Regular Sandwich Line”), you can ask the staff to cook up just about any raw fish in the case, and pay for it by weight. On the side of whatever fish you get, there are French fries or Jo-Jo potatoes, and onion rings every day but Friday.
Coleman’s was started by John Coleman in 1914 in the old city market (which itself dates back to 1890). Joe Coleman, grandson of John, keeps things up to date with the latest advances in nutritionally virtuous cooking oils; and the iron pavilion in which the market is located was handsomely renovated years ago. In the heart of a muscular city better known for steel and coal more than cooking, Coleman’s is a living legend of American gastronomy.