Cafe Crema (Charleston)

As Charleston is rumored to be getting it’s first stand-alone Starbucks, I figured I should give a shout out to the newest local coffee shop in town:  Cafe Crema.  It’s located in the Patrick Street Plaza and is a proverbial mom and pop (or, more accurately, mom and daughter) operation.

The pride of Cafe Crema is their coffee.  The do standard drip coffee, but will do you a cup via the “pour over” method.  It’s a bit slower, as it brews a single cup at a time, but finished product is ridiculously smooth.  In addition, they do the standard mix of lattes, espressos, and mochas (hot or iced) that you expect from a coffee shop, as well as smoothies and “shakes.”  (“Shakes” is in quotation marks because, while I really liked the watermelon shake I had, it seemed ice cream free.)

In addition, they do a range of panini sandwiches, both with vegan and with meat.  My first try was the Boulevard Melt which contained swiss and provolone cheeses, roast beef, ham, turkey and salami with tomato and mayo.  Sandwiches come with a side which can be chips or a flavored hummus with carrots and cukes.

IMG_20160620_124330

It was a nice lunch.  I’d also recommend the capree which is mozzarella and tomatoes with a pesto sauce.  You can add a deli meat, which I did with salami.

They are open for breakfast, mainly selling coffee and Sugar Pie baked goods, but they will do toast with cream cheese, PB&J style or with cream cheese and avocado.

IMG_20160716_103927

Simple, but makes a nice breakfast.

It’s a small operation, but one I hope survives.  The entire menu can be found on their webpage:  http://www.cafecremawv.com/.

Posted in WV Dining | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Italian Grille & Deli (Hurricane)

Good Italian food is largely the strong suit of the northern part of the state (Clarksburg, Fairmont, Morgantown, Wheeling, etc.).  The Italian food south of Clarksburg has been disappointing, Rocco’s in Kenova excepted.  So, when a friend suggested I try this place, I was a bit dubious.  But of course, not dubious enough not to try it.

The location is really unassuming.  It’s a bland storefront in the Putnam Village Shopping Center — a strip mall off I-64 at the Teays Valley exit that frankly has seen better days.  To there, you have to go around at least two newer strip malls.  Inside is simple and clean, but unadorned. No murals or fancy set pieces; just simple tables and chairs.  The menu is purely Italian:  pizza, pasta and grinders.

And it’s pretty good.  Not Rocco’s or Muriale’s good, but as good as any Italian I’ve had in the area.

Almost every meal starts with the house rolls, which are knots of pizza dough served with marinara dipping sauce.

IMG_20160514_160901

You tear off a hunk and scoop up some flavorful red sauce.  Repeat until the rolls are gone.  The salads are fairly standard, though Missy noted the lettuce was shredded which she claims makes it taste better.  The Italian dressing is good and Missy liked the blue cheese.  We were hungry, so we started with the tomato mozzarella appetizer, which consists of fresh tomatoes covered in cheese and baked.  Simple, but good.

On our last visit, Missy ordered a crock of the baked spaghetti with meat sauce which was a large serving of piping hot spaghetti covered with gooey Italian cheese.  I tried the lasagna, which was a nice-sized plate of classic lasagna.  On an earlier visit, I ordered the classic spaghetti with meatballs:

IMG_20160514_161303

There is nothing fancy about this place; it is just serving good portions of classic Italian dishes at $10-$15 a dinner.  Missy took enough home for a good sized meal the next day.

Classic Italian food is a comfort food to me and I will go back.  I can’t find a website, but they are on Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/ItalianGrilleDeli/?pnref=story.

Posted in WV Dining | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

34:Ate (Williamson)

One of the fun things about driving around the state (I still drive around even if I’m not posting) is finding all of the new little places that serve really amazing food.  There may not be a place that says that better than 34:Ate in Williamson, a coal-mining town on the Kentucky line that I had never associated with good food.

34:Ate is a little lunch place in downtown Williamson (210 Pike Street) that does soups, sandwiches, desserts, and the occasional pop-up dinner (I think that means they just open up for dinner because they feel like it).  The name is a reference to Psalm 34:8.  Everything is super-fresh and the staff couldn’t be any friendlier.  Honestly, most places could take customer service lessons from these guys.

On my stop in, I had a peach iced tea and a Mesquite BLT (mesquite turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a peppery mayo):

IMG_20160611_122946

High quality sandwich that was very satisfying.  However, I was not so rude as to pass on dessert (a cherry pistachio trifle)

IMG_20160611_124638

Dessert was amazing and the options rotate and are listed on a chalkboard.  They have core lunch menu listed on the website (http://34atewilliamson.wix.com/34ate) and facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/34ate/) but don’t be afraid to check out the specials.  But if you are anywhere nearby, you should go.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Baristas Cafe and Pub (New Martinsville)

It’s been too long and there are restaurants to discuss.  One of my favorites seems like a good place to (re-)start.

Baristas in New Martinsville is the only restaurant I’ve discussed that was featured in the New York Times.  The article — which I will link if I can — discussed how in a town like New Martinsville there are two types of people:  Bob Evans people and Baristas people.

Count me in as Baristas people.

Most of the time, Baristas is a high-quality coffee house which also serves soups and sandwiches.  There is always a vegetarian option on the menu.  It’s a nice place to stop if you are in the neighborhood.

What pushes it over the top is the downstairs pub and river view garden.  The pub is only open weekends and evenings (I think).  Order your food on paper slips in the pub and feel free to take it outside.  The pub is full-service and has four good beers on draught (taps rotate and they plan to add two more).  When Missy and I walk in we were told that we chose a good day to come because they were making pizza.  I went with a small pie with sausage, fresh mozzarella, and onion.  The pub was dark and we didn’t use our flash, so here goes:

IMG_20160702_175354

Yeah, sorry.  The pie was much better than the photo.  The cheese was fresh and flavorful, ditto the sausage and the crust was properly chewy after being baked in a real wood-fired stove.  It was a really strong pizza, especially with a Big Timber Brown Ale.

Missy, however, was not to be dissuaded from the purpose of our trip — a Baristas Burger.  Other than the patty, the Baristas Burger is fairly simple LTO burger with a thousand island like sauce on the side.  The patty, however, is genius.  Baristas mixes ginger, honey and soy sauce into the meat.  Trust me, it works.

IMG_20160702_175338

Missy was sitting closer to the door.  What makes the burger is amazing is hard to describe; the ginger and soy accent the meat without overpowering it.

Put it to you this way, Missy and I made the two plus hour drive to New Martinsville for the purpose of having dinner and beer at Baristas and would do it again.  One of our favorite places in the state.

Check out their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Baristas-Cafe-and-Pub-366099844416/.  Or webpage:  http://www.baristascafe-pub.com/Websites/page.aspx?page=Home.  Or just find a nice day and go to 326 N. Main St. in New Martinsville.

Posted in WV Dining | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greenhouse of Teays Valley (well, Teays Valley)

One of the new additions to the 101 list is The Greenhouse of Teays Valley.  It’s hard to claim Magellan status and not try a place like out, especially when it is just down the street.

Like Dish Café, this place is easy to miss.  It’s part of a fairly boring looking strip mall about halfway between Teays Valley and Hurricane.  and shares a door with its neighbor Mayberry’s Ice Cream (must be branch of the St. Albans’ location).  When you walk in, the first thing you see is a store for Weber grills and local food products.  But go a little further and you will find a small bistro in the back with about 40-50 seats.  The décor isn’t much; the room is clean but generic and darkly lit, plus the high ceiling removes any intimacy.  The menu is traditional for a nicer WV restaurant (burgers, salads, entrees like pork loin and meatloaf).

The first time I visited, I was told they had a prime rib special (it was a Saturday).  I was hungry so I went with the 12 oz. cut.  As I talked to my server, I mentioned it was my first time there (it’s probably obvious when you walk in and don’t know to start walking to the back).  So, she let me try samples of their two soups:  a tomato bisque and a classic potato. The potato soup was hearty, but my favorite was the tomato bisque that had far more cream than I want to contemplate.  My next time in, I ordered a cup (which looked more like a bowl):

IMG_20150821_191058

This is not a light soup, but it had a sharp tomato flavor.  Still, both are worth ordering.

As I said, I went with the prime rib, along with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

IMG_20150801_173215

The prime rib was good:  it wasn’t overcooked and the rub gave a nice contrast to the beef flavor.  It wasn’t the best prime rib I’ve ever had, but it was solid.  The potatoes were homemade mashed redskins, but without much flavor (even for mashed potatoes) and more warm-ish than hot.  The sprouts, however, were awesome.  They were grilled to have a nutty sweet flavor and topped with a balsamic glaze.  Highly recommended.  I passed on dessert, but in addition to a few house made items, they sell Lil Bit of Heaven Cupcakes.

I went back a few weeks later for a sandwich, specifically the “gourmet loose meat” which is not something that is served often around here.  What I got resembled a sloppy joe:

IMG_20150821_195019

They say the loose meat is seasoned with chop house sauce.  That is a steak sauce with a lot of red bell pepper.  Despite my aversion to bell pepper, the sandwich was pretty good.  The chips were kind of a disappointment (I should have gotten fries).

The entrees I’ve had were good, if not exceptional.  The soup and sprouts were very good.  I probably need to try the steak and maybe the mac n’ cheese.

The service has always been friendly, if busy.  They serve wine and beer (decent selection of beer, but nothing huge).  Overall, the Greenhouse is a nice place with good food, but it is only unique because of the location in the back of a grill store.  It’s definitely worthy of a visit if you live in Putnam County or are in the neighborhood.  If you live in Charleston or Huntington, it can be a interesting road trip, but you will drive past places that are at least as good to get to it.

If you want to go, they are located at 3554 Teays Valley Road.  Check out the menu ahead of time here:    http://thegreenhouseteaysvalley.com/

Posted in WV Dining | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Da Vinci’s (Williamstown)

The New 101 list is out (more on that in a bit), so Missy and I decided to try out a place she hadn’t visited yet.  We decided to travel north to Williamstown and visit Da Vinci’s restaurant in Williamstown.  I’d been there once, and liked it, and seemed like a pleasant day for a drive.

Da Vinci’s sits on Rte. 14 in Williamstown, about 100 yards from the Bridge of the Ohio to Marietta.  It was busy on a Saturday night so we had to drive to the parking lot in the back and that’s when you get the idea that Da Vinci’s is a big place.  Very big.  The front area is the size of a standard restaurant and when you back there is a split that takes you to dining upstairs and down.  Missy and I were seated quickly by a teenager who has to be the daughter of the owner and wanted to be anywhere else but the business on a Saturday night (it was actually comical how unmotivated she was).  The table was snug but clean and our server was friendly and attentive, if a bit over worked.  We started with a half carafe of the house chianti which was good and well priced ($12).

Da Vinci’s is an Italian place and they serve pasta, pizza and the standard entrees at an Italian restaurant.  Probably the most “out-of-place” item on the menu was a house specialty they call a German Pizza.  It is corned beef, sauerkraut, cheese and horseradish sauce on the house pizza crust.  They do an appetizer version (6 in.) and it was too unusual to pass up.

IMG_20150815_180814

It’s really good.  Look, you have to like corned beef, sauerkraut and horseradish (we do) but the flavors melted together like they do on a good Rueben.  The sauerkraut and horseradish both had a nice kick and the corned beef was satisfyingly salty.  Who doesn’t want to start an Italian meal with a cheesy corned beef sandwich?

Missy chose the classic spaghetti with meat sauce and I went with the parmesan pasta.  After the standard salad (they toast their own croutons, so it was like having toast on the salad instead of bread-like rocks).  Missy liked her spaghetti — it had a nice tomato sharpness.  I really liked my pasta.

IMG_20150815_182357

The sauce was a combination of olive oil, garlic, chicken stock and a lot of parmesan cheese, with a few cherry tomatoes tossed in.  I added a chicken breast.  It was very light — the chicken stock brightened the dish.  It was perfect for a summer evening and I may try to recreate it on my own.  Our meals also came with some garlicky toast (cheese optional).

Missy and I chose to get dessert beers at North End Tavern, but the options at Da Vinci’s looked great.  Our entire meal (appetizer, wine, entrees) cost $45 before tip.  A great deal.

I’d highly recommend Da Vinci’s.  It’s not the best Italian place in the state, but in a state with Rocco’s and Muriale’s that’s asking a lot.  Still, it was quite good and well-priced.  They are located at 215 Highland Avenue in Williamstown.  Check out the details, including the menu, here:  http://www.villadavinci.com/home.html

Posted in WV Dining | Leave a comment

The Dish Café (Daniels)

Yesterday was a nice day for a drive, so Missy and I Magellaned our way to the greater Beckley area to try out a place with fantastic Yelp reviews:  The Dish Café in Daniels.  Daniels is a small community on Rte. 19 on the way to Glade Springs from Beckley.  The restaurant is located in an unassuming strip mall with a Dollar General; if you didn’t know to look for it, you would probably pass it (though the owners have erected a billboard about mile down the road).

In the owners’ own words, here is what they are trying to do:

The Dish Café is an eclectic culinary delight bringing unique flavor combinations and fresh ingredients to your table.  We’re committed to regionally grown fruits and vegetables, grass fed beef, and hormone free pork and poultry. We avoid artificial sweeteners, food dyes and genetically modified ingredients wherever possible.

Our concept was created by a group of partners who wanted to offer healthy food choices to a community that’s quickly discovering the health benefits of natural and whole ingredients.

Some care has been given to the inside.  The inside has a nice-sized dining room with tables and booths (the booths have monitors that appear to be connected to DirecTV) and second room with a fully-stocked bar.  It was all very tidy and clean.  Much of the furniture and decorations are recycled and repurposed, giving the place an eclectic feel that isn’t cluttered.  Missy and I started with selections from the bar (Manhattan for me and a Moscow Mule for her).  Both were quite good.  We also ordered some fried pickles, because …well, do you really need a reason.

IMG_20150725_165958

The Dish Café menu says they make everything from scratch.  The ranch dressing on the side had a nice pepper flavor, and the pickles used were quality dills.

The menu has a selection of flat breads (made with organic flour and agave nectar), sandwiches, and a few entrees.  Missy went with the Hawaiian flatbread of bacon, pineapple, banana peppers and red onions.

IMG_20150725_172017

Who knew organic flour and agave nectar would make a great crust?  The crust was crispy but not hard and we weren’t cheated on the toppings.  Missy finished it completely and I’m pretty sure she would order it again.

I was a bit hungrier and passed on the burgers (made with Swift Level Farms beef) and the pulled pork sandwich and went with the “Ridiculously Good Chicken,” which turned out to be a grilled chicken breast with a sauce of your choice. It was good, but I’m not sure it was ridiculously good.

IMG_20150725_172037

The BBQ sauce was smoky with a touch of heat and it was ridiculously good.  The side on the left is a cherry pepper slaw (traditional cole slaw with onions and chopped cherry peppers).  Missy, cole slaw purist, was appalled, but I really liked the extra punch. One the right is a fantastic mac and cheese made with penne pasta and red pepper flakes.  Someone at The Dish Café likes hot food.  Next time, I’m ordering the Hey Jack Burger (fried egg, pimento cheese, cherry pepper slaw, habanero jack cheese) with a side of mac and cheese.

Finally, the avocado brownie was too interesting to pass up.  From the menu, they use avocado “instead of unhealthy fats.”

IMG_20150725_175504

It worked.  The brownie was dense and rich and you wouldn’t know it was reduced fat except for the menu.

The one down side, it’s a bit pricy.  Our meal was $80, though that did include three drinks from the bar, an appetizer and a desert (plus tip).  Still, it was a very nice meal at a place that you wouldn’t expect.  If you are in the Beckley-area — or driving past Beckley — I’d highly recommend it.

The Dish Café is at 1466 Ritter Drive in Daniels (but you will know it as Rte. 19).  The menu is listed on the website: http://www.dishcafewv.com/.  They closed on Sundays.

Posted in WV Dining | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment