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.
"There's no fish fresher, no sandwich better than the one made by Coleman's. The crunch of these filets, seen in extreme close-up, is one of the most appetizing sounds on earth. And the taste ... and the aroma: forget about it!"
"Joe Coleman holds up one of the big filets of fish that will soon be cut into smaller filets to be breaded, fried, and sandwiched."
"A rare photo of Coleman's -- without a long line of people waiting to get their sandwiches."
"That's Joe Coleman, current owner of the fish market, in the foreground. The formidable gent pictured behind him is Joe's grandfather, who started the market in 1914."
"Coleman's is a highlight of the historic downtown marketplace. The market and the area surrounding it are worth a tour."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle