At the intersection of Routes 92 and 84 in Frost is a small one-story store and restaurant. It first opened in 1946 and while it has changed hands several times, it has nearly always served the community as a convenience store.
In 2019, the store got a new owner, who revamped it and opened under the name of Dean’s Den.
Chef Andrew Dean – who passed the store on a regular basis as a resident of Frost and chef at nearby Mountain Quest Inn – took the leap into opening his own business after realizing he was ready for a change.
“I was looking for a change; something else to do,” he said. “This store had been vacant for quite some time.”
Dean noticed that the building was undergoing renovations, and he asked the owner about renting the facility. Thus began the store’s new chapter as a specialty convenience store and restaurant.
Dean chose to start slow, with a limited menu of lunch and dinner staples – which he had perfected.
“I think we had seven or eight sandwiches, some salads,” he said. “Kind of simple.”
When he first opened the restaurant, Dean was proud to say all the items on the menu were made fresh and were all homemade – a fact that is still true today.
Along with menu items, such as pizza, gyros, ribeye steak and cheese sandwiches and grass fed burgers, there is a weekly special which Dean posts on the restaurant’s Facebook page. He even lets his customers determine the special, by way of a “suggestion contest.” The winner gets a free meal that week.
The menu went over well and before he knew it, the first two years of operation were under his belt. That is not to say those years were without issues, but they did go quickly.
During that time, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled, which saw a lot of temporary residents leave the county. While Dean said those customers would have been welcome, he wasn’t relying on them to stay afloat.
Then March 2020 roll-ed around, and the COVID-19 pandemic hit West Virginia.
Despite state issued restrictions and widespread fear of social interaction, Dean’s Den stayed open and continued to serve its customers.
“I stayed open all the way through,” Dean said. “We shut down the indoor dining completely, and we did that longer than any other place in Pocahontas County. We closed the inside for about five months. That was challenging.
“We did one hundred percent to-go orders,” he continued. “We even started doing delivery which is kind of cool.”
Even with the struggle of the pandemic, Dean chose to ramp up the menu, and at the beginning of 2021, unveiled a three-fold menu full of appetizers, entrees and delectable dishes to satisfy the taste buds of all foodies.
You will find that he doesn’t dish out just any jalapeno poppers and deep fried pickles. They, too, are made fresh.
And the international cuisine? The same.
It may seem odd to visitors to find a menu boasting authentic General Tso’s Chicken or Lamb Gyros at a small restaurant next to a farm, but that’s what you get at Dean’s Den.
Dean is always cooking up ideas for things to, well, cook and enjoys seeing satisfied customers go from doubtful to pleased after their meal.
“I’d love to expand the menu a little bit more,” he said. “Maybe play around with it. I’d love to put things on the menu that don’t exist on the paper menu but are things people ask for.
“There are people who come in and see our special board and, depending on the special, will look at it kind of funny,” he added. “I think there is a small percentage of people who go for the safe items on the menu because they don’t know exactly where they are in food quality. I think there are a few people who are scared, but then you have others that are willing to try, and ninety-nine percent of them are extremely happy with what they get.”
Along with new menu items, Dean’s is also serving dessert items from Susanna’s Confections, which is located in Highland County, Virginia.
There is also a wide variety of organic, non-GMO, gluten free and other specialty items available in the grocery area.
“Hummus, charcuterie boards, organic beets – just interesting, harder to find items,” Dean said.
Joining Dean in the kitchen is fellow chef Caleb Tatner, who joined the team at just the right time.
“I was lucky enough to meet him two days before opening,” Dean said. “He came in and said, ‘If you ever need any help, I’m here.’ I was like, ‘Okay, you want to show up tomorrow and see.’ He’s been a big help. He has professionally cooked in a couple different places. He already had cooking experience. The timing was really great.”
Dean hasn’t settled yet, and still has plans to expand even more – menu items, outdoor entertainment and possibly even other locations.
“The plan is to just keep going and hopefully expand,” he said. “Actually, I’d love to open another location somewhere. That would be great. People from Highland County come here and they’re like, ‘why don’t you open in Highland County?’ and people from Franklin have been here and have said, ‘Why don’t you come to Franklin?’ It’s just everybody. I wouldn’t mind that at all.”
For now, Dean is focused on his current location and wants to add a little entertainment, as well as more tables to the outdoor dining area. With seating for up to 30, he hopes to have a horseshoe pit and corn hole games for diners to enjoy on the warmer evenings when they come by for a meal.
When people stop by and want to meet the namesake of the store, they need not worry, Dean tries to always be there.
“I’m here at 7:30 a.m. and I go home about 9:30 p.m.,” he said. “It makes for long days. That’s what it takes, though.
“There are a lot of little stores that will close on this day and close on that day if they have something to do and things like that. I think from a customer standpoint, if somebody travels to your location and you’re not there, they tend to be a little disappointed. I try to stick to the hours as much as I can.”
Although many people would want to take breaks every once in awhile, Dean just grins and says of breaks, “They’re overrated.”
For a complete menu, visit Dean’s Den Facebook page.
Dean’s Den is open Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.