A dream came true at North Belle Vernon's Foster House
Growing up in North Belle Vernon, Dave Bashada daydreamed about one day owning the Foster House.
The bar and restaurant on the borough's main street has been around since the late 1930s.
"Right over in front of the bank, we used to hang out at night," Bashada said. "I used to say, 'I'd like to own that bar one day.' And here it is, 20 years later." Bashada and his wife, Theresa, have owned the Foster House since 1990.
The couple made sure not to tamper with the bar's quaint setting, but they heavily invested time in expanding on the business' established reputation.
"I built the place for the first 10 years," Dave Bashada said. "I worked here probably 80 hours a week. That's all I did. I spent probably three quarters of my life in this building, and then it was time for me to move on."
Dave Bashada has been the transportation supervisor for the Belle Vernon Area School District for the last four years.
His wife, Theresa, has run the Foster House for the last eight years, with her husband as an adviser.
A former bar waitress, she graduated from California University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor of science degree in marketing and management.
Dave Bashada earned a bachelor of art degree from Cal U, where he majored in urban planning and minored in business.
The two met while attending the college.
They later bought the Foster House from Jim Monahan, a Wilmington, Del., native now living in Perryopolis.
Monahan years ago decided to ditch his job as an auditor in Pittsburgh for National Steel Corp. and try his hand in the restaurant business.
"I didn't lose my job, it just didn't look like a good future," he said. "Rather than leave the area, I was in my late 20's, we said, 'Well, we'll try to open a bar.'"
Monahan jumped at the opportunity when he found out a family member was selling the Foster House.
"I bought it in 1983 from my wife's cousin," he said. "At the time, it was called Don and Ray's Place. They had it about two years."
Monahan said there are many things customers have always loved about the Foster House.
"It's like Cheers. You know a friendly face or certain characters are always here. And they have great food," he said.
About a year into his ownership, Monahan hired Dave Bashada as a bartender and cook while he was in college.
Monahan later asked Dave Bashada to be manager of his other business, McMonagle's bar and restaurant in California Borough.
Dave Bashada brought what he learned there back to the Foster House when he returned as the owner.
A 1980 Belle Vernon Area High School graduate, Dave Bashada was the running back for the high school's conference championship team.
He used his connections in the community and experience working in the bar and restaurant business to promote the Foster House and cater to a broader age base.
"Dave was a member of the fire department, so those guys used to always come over," Monahan said of when he ran the Foster House. "Dave, at that young age, he was already an officer. He was always like a leader of men."
Dave Bashada offered food and drink specials for several of the first years he ran the business.
He and his wife expanded on the bar's trademark line of King Sandwiches that Monahan first introduced.
The sandwiches, topped with homemade coleslaw and french fries, can be ordered with hamburger, capicola, sausage, steak, fish, chicken or only cheese.
They are made with fresh white bread from Valdiserri's Bakery in North Belle Vernon. One of the busiest times at the business is from 4 to 8 p.m. on Sundays, when buy-one-get-one-free Sunday King sandwiches are offered.
"You have to eat it here," Dave Bashada said. "They've eaten on top of vending machines and video games."
Theresa Bashada said the business, which holds up to roughly 75 people, also buzzes at lunch on Fridays.
"A lot of times, people call ahead with hopes to get a seat when they get here and their food's ready or they'll be standing and eating it," she said.
The Bashadas said the Foster House is well known in the Valley and beyond.
"About two months ago, I had a couple in here and I could tell they were first timers, so I asked them how they heard about us," Theresa Bashada said.
"They said they were coming from Dayton, Ohio, going out to Philly and they stopped at the welcome center in Pennsylvania and said, 'Where could I get a good sandwich?' They lady who was working there who was living in the Valley told them exactly where to go. They came here."
"Myrtle Beach or Orlando, Fla., no matter where you go or who you see that's from this area, somebody's heard about this place or they've taken someone a sandwich from here," Dave Bashada said.
"It's just a different kind of coleslaw. It's homemade everyday. Everything here is. We bread our own fish. There's more homemade here than people probably realize."
"Everybody says it's better than Primanti's," Theresa Bashada added with a laugh. The Bashadas said their experience running the Foster House has been made much easier by a devoted support staff.
"It's like a family here. They take care of each other," Dave Bashada said of the dozen Foster House employees. "That's been the best thing and the easiest thing. We have people that open up. We have people that close up."
Dave Bashada's 78-year-old father, Ted, has been coming to the business at 5:30 a.m. for 20 years to make the homemade soup.
"He makes probably the best beef vegetable soup you'll ever have," Dave Bashada said. Long-time customers have been the lifeblood of the business.
"We have a guy who gets two bowls of soup everyday. He's been coming here for, who knows?" Dave Bashada said.
The business has changed hands several times throughout the years.
Joe Dimasi first operated it as Dimasi's Bar and Grill.
Rostraver Township resident Bert Rechichar, a former National Football League player with the Baltimore Colts who once held the record for the longest professional field goal, at one time owned it under the name The Extra Point.
Monahan named it the Foster House after he learned that its bar area came from a Monessen business with the same name.
"I was talking to Mrs. Dimasi and I said, 'Where did you get this bar?'" Monahan said. "She said, 'My husband bought that out of a bar and hotel down in Monessen that had closed during the prohibition.'
"They had to disassemble it down at the Foster House on Tenth Street in Monessen and they hauled it to North Belle Vernon on a horse and wagon and installed it. So I said, 'We'll just name it after the old Foster House.'"
Dave Bashada said he has always been a Foster House faithful.
"When I first started going out and about, it was just you could come here and nobody bothered you. If somebody was going to bother you, they're not going to come here," he said. "Back in the day, it was just a bar for everybody. It wasn't the fanciest place, but it's got a lot of history.
"We just gave them food that you know you were getting when you came here and that's served the same way every time."
The Bashadas said they are proud to be part of Foster House history.
"We appreciate everybody's support from the Mon Valley and wherever for 20 years, because without them, we wouldn't be here," Dave Bashada said.
The Foster House is located at 426 Broad Ave. in North Belle Vernon. It is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from noon to midnight Sundays. It can be reached at (724) 929-7679.