Tucked away in a small town in Athens County called The Plains, an old miner’s house-turned-restaurant serves the appetite of locals and visitors alike. At the turn of the 20th century Athens County was amongst the most fruitful mining areas in Ohio, and The Plains was known as one of the coal-mining communities of Little Cities of Black Diamonds. Today, it houses families, small businesses and—for the past five years—a gourmet restaurant called 9 Tables.
In front of the little wooden house, a large steel sign that reads ‘9 Tables’ sways in the wind. Candles, wine bottles and various ornaments decorate the entrance to the restaurant. Inside, Bill Justice is busy preparing ingredients and cooking up sauces in the kitchen. His wife, Susanne, is setting the tables, ensuring that every glass is spotless and each fork is perfectly aligned with the plate next to it. In a black dress adorned with little gold sparkles, she seamlessly blends in with the jazz-inspired ambience of the place; the dark red walls are decorated with large paintings, old instruments and vintage dresses.
A Family Restaurant
True to its name, the restaurant only has nine tables and can seat up to 30 guests. Most evenings, Susanne and Bill run the place by themselves, however, on particularly busy evenings they will get outside help or have one of their daughters set up the tables or help serve the food. While the
food is epicurean and gourmet, the menu reads clean and the table setup is simple, “You can bring someone who has never gone to fine dining before and they immediately feel comfortable,“ Susanne explains.
Bill’s journey to owning a high-end restaurant has been rather unconventional; he used to work on a golf course, where he would occasionally meet French chefs, “They golfed poorly so they needed a fresh supply of golf balls all the time, and I would bring them golf balls and they would make me food. And I just wouldn’t leave them alone until they showed me how it worked,” Bill says.
Collaborating with Local Farmers
The menu varies each month and relies on fresh supply from local farmers and supermarkets, as everything is sourced locally. One of Bill’s signature dishes is mussels in white wine and cream sauce with garlic croutons. “I don’t have any secrets and I am always ready to show my guests how I make things” Bill says. The restaurant is open three days a week, from Thursday to Saturday. The couple tell their guests that while a dinner usually takes around 2 hours, a 7-hour dinner is not unheard of. With an open kitchen, and thus, an open view to Bill working his magic, time easily flies by. Bill pours wine into a pan so that flames spark from it, before he delicately arranges tonight’s course on one of the white round plates.
9 Tables is undoubtedly a high-end gourmet restaurant with superb food, but Bill and Susanne make it feel like a home where everyone is welcome.