Vintage (Elkins)

I think it is safe to say the wine bar fad craze has peaked when one opens in Elkins. Nothing against Elkins, I actually like the town a great deal, but San Francisco is it not.  Still, Vintage looked really interesting so I passed on a few places I know and like to give it a try.

And, let me be clear, it is very interesting.  The inside is really impressive and it is clear the owners spent time and money to make it look right.  Brick interiors, a spectacular bar, fire place; it looks very nice.  I can’t do any better than their own video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlkFo4w2FCM&feature=player_embedded

The Vintage menu is huge.  Steaks, seafood, wood-fired pizza, pasta (including pad thai), duck, and on and on.  And they have specials.  And a comfort cooking business lunch (meatloaf, pork chop, fried shrimp).  I always worry that restaurants that try to do much, wind up not doing anything too well.  But let’s go from the hypothetical to my experience.

I started with the soup of the day — a butternut squash bisque that was creamy and well-spiced.

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I would definitely do that again.  My entrée was a tenderloin special of bacon-wrapped tenderloin topped with a sweet onion mixture and served over mashed potatoes:

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It was solid, assuming you like onions.  I thought the sweet onions complemented and didn’t overpower the steak (sorry, tenderloin).

Dessert was pecan pie, which was appropriately decadent.

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The wine menu was impressive, I think.  I’ll be honest, my knowledge of wine is pretty pedestrian. You are on your own here.

Vintage is right across the street from the Courthouse (25 Randolph Avenue) with a decently-size parking lot.  It’s large enough that reservations are probably not needed except for very busy times.  Still, if you want to be safe:  304-636-0808.  And the full website is here:  http://www.vintageelkinswv.com/

In all, Vintage is a good addition to a thriving dining scene in Elkins.  It’s worthy of a visit if you are in the area.

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Allegheny Restaurant (Harman)

If you’ve ever gone to Canaan Valley there is a good chance you’ve seen this place where St. Rte. 32 splits north from US 33 and heads to Canaan and Davis/Thomas.

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Curiosity and hunger got the better of me and I stopped by one Saturday morning.  The inside was mix of old tables, curios and a lunch counter.  There were two locals there finishing their coffee and one waitperson/cook/dishwasher.  I stepped up to the counter and got a classic breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries and toast.

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Look, that’s not a life-changing breakfast, but it was perfectly tasty and cheap (5 bucks or so).  The coffee, on the other hand, was awful.  Okay, awful may be a bit strong because it tasted like every “cup o’ joe” served at every diner in America in 1985.  And I drank gallons of that stuff.  But it’s 30 years later and the coffee at the mini-mart is vastly better. (I wonder if the coffee is better at the State Diner.  It has to be, right?)  And I’d pass on the 75 cent homemade donuts, which didn’t have much flavor but dunked well.

Overall, I’m glad I stopped but would be unlikely to do so again unless I was really hungry.  There are just better options in Elkins and Davis.  But if you are in the area and need a quick bite, it is fine.

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Boyd’s Steakhouse (Martinsburg)

Yeah, it’s been a while.  I’ll try to do better, but make no promises.

As I think I’ve said before, I grew up in Martinsburg which was always a bit a culinary deadspot.  Even as a kid, if we wanted a good meal we left Berkeley County for points north, south, east or west.  So, I was a bit excited — and a touch nervous — when my parents said that a great place had just opened in downtown Martinsburg.

Boyd’s opened less than a year ago in an old storefront in downtown Martinsburg (109 N. Queen St.).  (Aside:  I’m pretty sure it was the old Spring House, which was my favorite sandwich place when I worked downtown).  Martinsburg’s downtown has a few more restaurants that are open past lunch than it used to, but it is not exactly hopping.  So, parking isn’t an issue.  And you can’t miss the location; trust me that the velvet ropes aren’t for the Blue White Grill.

Boyd’s advertises itself as a fine dining steak and seafood restaurant and the front room does a nice job of selling that image.  The bar is up front and was apparently purchased from Al Capone’s estate.  The front is also heavy on tiffany-style glass and the staff are dressed in a roaring 20’s style that stops thankfully short of being more costume than uniform.  Be warned the bar area can get tight.

The menu is fairly large (probably too large, but I understand that they don’t want to over-specialize themselves out of business), yet a steakhouse demands a steak in the first pass.  I went with the NY strip, garlic mashed and broccoli (pretty classic).

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The glass ramekins for the sides was a nice touch.  I wanted to try the brussles sprouts but they were heavily tainted by bell pepper.  The steak was closer to medium than medium rare, but still had nice beefy flavor with enough of a satisfying chew that you knew you were eating a steak (that’s a good thing).  If you want to try a Wagyu steak, they have those too.

Before the meal, my parents and I shared an artichoke-spinach dip that was surprisingly good for something that appears on so many menus.  I feel silly for recommending it, but I do.  I also tried the B&O crab soup, which I thought would be a creamy crab bisque, but was more of a Manhattan style crab chowder:

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It was very good with a nice peppery kick (though oyster crackers would have been a nice touch).

Boyd’s has a full bar — Al Capone would have insisted — and they also do their own flavored lemonades, which were surprisingly refreshing.  Service was friendly and generally pretty attentive, though it was packed our night.

The steaks and entrees were in the $20-$30 range, which is about as high as it gets in Martinsburg.  It’s a good value, but not great.  I wouldn’t place Boyd’s in the top tier of WV restaurants (The Bavarian, Julio’s, Noah’s, Savannah’s, etc.) but it is quite good and needed in my old hometown.  If you are in the area, it is worth a visit.  On weekend, call for a reservation. (304) 262-2693. I can’t find a website, but they are on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/boydsteakhouse.

 

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Angela’s On The River (St. Albans)

I’ve seen Angela’s for awhile, but never ventured in until the last week or so.  I wish I had done so earlier.

Angela’s is housed in the old Chilton House on the Coal River.  It’s open for dinners only, but Missy and I ventured forth because I needed new content for the blog.  (Thanks Missy).  I don’t have any pictures of the exterior because the day we went was really cold and I wasn’t spending time outside that I didn’t have to.

The first thing you need to know is that parking is across Kanawha Terrace from the restaurant.  It’s a big parking lot, but it can be a busy road and there is only a lightly-signed crosswalk.

The restaurant is a converted house with a number of smaller rooms, most of which have a nice view of the river.  We were taken downstairs to what looks like an added on rec room that is probably used for the special events Angela’s hosts.

Angela’s is a successor to Windows on the River and has many of the menu items from that establishment.  One of those items was that night’s soup of the day, a spicy cabbage.

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Plenty of veggies (mainly cabbage, but that is part of the name) in a spicy tomato broth.  All in all, a nice way to start the meal (especially at a $1.25).

Our appetizer was a plate of homemade potato chips topped in melted blue cheese and green onions.

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The blue cheese was bubbling hot when we got the plate.  We were given three sauces on the side.  A balsamic (interesting, didn’t really work), their blue cheese dressing (in case you needed more), and a wonderful thick horseradish sauce.

Missy hadn’t a steak in days, she ordered the NY Strip with mashed potatoes and cole slaw:

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Despite the grill marks, Missy’s steak was perfectly uncooked.  It had a great steak flavor and was a decent size at 12 oz.  The potatoes were fresh.  The cole slaw was a little bland, but maybe we were just done with cabbage after the soup.  I chose the baked steak, which simply crumbled under my fork; it was not overcooked at all, which is often a risk with baked steak:

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The pan gravy had a hearty kick and the collard greens were satisfying, if not overly piggy.  We both left very happy.

Angela’s has a full bar and a decent beer list ; 10 years ago I would have been ecstatic to see Sam Adams and Stella available at a local restaurant.  Service was very friendly and attentive.

Angela’s menu is trying to navigate the narrow gap between the family restaurant and fancy dinner establishment.  Seafood, steaks, and Italian specialties are the main fare.  Frankly, it’s an underserved niche.  Missy’s steak was $19.95, my dinner was $12.95.  We had a nice, quiet dinner of good food and didn’t break the bank.

Angela’s is at 2 6th Ave, Saint Albans, WV 25177.  Phone:  (304) 722-2244.  It’s open for dinner only Tuesday -Saturday.  I don’t think they have a webpage, but they are on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AngelasOnTheRiver.  They are worth a visit.

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The Red Rooster Cafe (Gassaway)

The Red Rooster is a converted storefront located in downtown Gassaway.  It has regular, but not frequent, hours:  Lunch M-F, Dinner Friday and Saturday night, and Sunday brings a “brunch” buffet.  Missy and I first tried the Rooster on a Sunday and discovered they theme their brunches.  Our Sunday was “Mexican” and was, quite frankly, really disappointing. Not only was I in the mood for brunch foods (eggs, pancakes, etc.) but the Mexican choices just weren’t that good.  We were told the Mexican brunch was really popular in Gassaway, which kind of made Missy and me sad.

But I tried it again to eat off the menu.  This is on the 101 list after all.  Lunch is generally an assortment of sandwiches and tried their take on the Italian (the JoJo) which is cappicola, salami, cheese, Italian peppers, on garlic bread.

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A little thin, but a little cappicola and salami go a long way.  In all, this was a flavorful sandwich that was a lot better than you would expect in a random small WV town.  I wouldn’t go a long way out of your way, but would make a short detour if you were thinking lunch at one of the fast food places in Flatwoods.

Dinner, however, was really good.  I ordered the roasted garlic and honey chicken.  The meal began with a relish tray (not the usual start in central WV)

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The dip was royale dressing (think Russian without the pickle), but the best part were the garlicky olives.  If you like olives and garlic, these are fantastic and addictive.  Next came the salad with homemade vinaigrette:

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Nothing life-changing, but not the usual tired iceberg lettuce either. Dinner was great

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The chicken was roasted perfectly so that it remained juicy while the skin was crisp and bursting with flavor.  The potatoes were ideal and the Baja roasted corn with onions and peppers was nice change from the usual diner veggie.  I had some bread pudding for dessert which was good, not great.  The star of this meal was chicken, which was some of the best chicken I’ve had around here.  The meal (not counting the dessert) was $18; a little pricey but a decent amount of food.

They are proud that they make everything from scratch and have been doing since 2008.  Services is quick and friendly.  You can read more about them at their website: http://www.redroostercafegassaway.com/index.html .  You can’t miss them, but if you live by your GPS it’s 602 Elk Street, Gassaway.

Is it unique?

The Rooster is a weird little bird.  It’s not really on the way to anything, nor are there many reasons to be in Gassaway, so it has to be a destination.  Lunch is good, but not “go out of your way” good.  I really liked dinner, but if I’m in central Braxton and wanting a special meal, the even better Café Cimino is at the same exit and maybe a mile closer to the interstate.

On the other hand, there aren’t many towns as small as Gassaway with a place as good as the Rooster.  And it is only four miles off the interstate.  If you find yourself on I-79 near Flatwoods, take a break from the fast food and give it a try.

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Lebanon Bakery (Wheelling)

Yeah, it’s been awhile.

One off-the-beaten-path locations that is a must visit in the northern part of the state is the Lebanon Bakery and Restaurant.  The bakery is located on Main Street just south of downtown and has been there over 50 years.  It’s best known as a bakery specializing in, go figure, Lebanese, favorites:  nut rolls, baklawa, homemade bread and the like.  But, they also do some amazing food at lunchtime.  On my last visit I ordered the baked kibbe platter (the dining room was a little dark):

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That’s a huge portion of perfectly seasoned kibbe, fresh taboule, Lebanese rice, some olives and perfect feta, a tomato wedge and a pita.  It makes for a big lunch (they close at 5) but is so good you want to finish every bite (just get a salad for dinner).

Another house special is the faccacia, which is a homemade bread pocket stuffed with beef or spinach and general deliciousness and topped with melted cheese.  Again, very filling, but very good.  From their website this is one stuffed with beef:

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But you can’t leave without getting a dessert (for the road and the next few days).  Their baklawa (or baklava if you prefer) is superb; it is sweet and nutty and huge (you can easily divide a piece into three servings).  And if you want to add chocolate to the experience:

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That’s one piece or four servings.  They also do nut rolls, pistachio baklawa, and other items you can’t find anywhere else.

The address is 2122 Main Street and you can read about everything they do here:  http://lebanonbakery.com/.  If you like middle eastern food at all, or are curious, you should visit the Lebanon Bakery as soon as you can.

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Nashville TN

Magellan and I headed back in time (literally, who knew Nashville was an hour behind the east coast? the things they don’t teach you in school) to Nashville TN for a long weekend at the beginning of spring. We decided to break up the drive and stopped at Evaroni’s Pizza in Kenova WV for a bite to eat. It was ok. I’ve had better (see a recent post on The Pizza Place in Parkersburg) and I’ve had worse (lookin’ at you, most national chains).

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Moving on, we spent the night at a Hampton somewhere in KY. We were going to stop at the Corvette Museum on our way to Nashville but a recent sinkhole prevented that from happening. We did stop at the TN welcome center and picked up lots of literature including a brochure on an “All Access Pass” http://www.visitmusiccity.com/visitors/discountsdeals/TotalAccess. Since we were planning on visiting several of the places listed on the Pass, we decided to give this a go so after checking in to our super swank hotel, The Hermitage (not to be confused w/President Jackson’s home), we walked downtown (again with the literally as The Hermitage Hotel is on a hill near the Capitol building and you don’t realize it’s as steep as it is ’til you are walking back up it).

After purchasing our passes from the very friendly folks at the visitor center, we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum countrymusichalloffame.org. Even on a Thursday, this place was packed and understandably so. Fans of music in general, and Country music in particular, will enjoy the memorabilia – including Bandit’s Trans Am –  and history on display. During our visit we enjoyed several traveling exhibits focused on Reba McEntire and that Bakersfield sound.

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After leaving the Museum, we realized we were very hungry and headed over to Broadway to see if we could find some good food and entertainment. We randomly chose Robert’s Western World http://robertswesternworld.com/ and soon realized we chose well. We ordered a burger and hot bologna and several beers while listening to the afternoon house band’s renditions of many Country classics. The food was great, the service was stellar (particularly since there was only one woman working the bar and tables), and the music was excellent. I could’ve sat there all day, but instead we decided to check out the nearby Johnny Cash Museum http://www.johnnycashmuseum.com/.

This small space packs a huge amount of Johnny Cash. Memorabilia, albums. videos, and all sorts of history about the Man in Black. They also have a nice gift shop with music, books, shirts and much more. If you’re in Nashville, it’s definitely worth a visit.

After nap time, we headed back out on foot to find dinner and we had many choices nearby. We decided on 417 Union http://www.417union.com/ which is a lovely little space and had a good rating on Yelp. After ordering and not loving our meals, I read the Yelp reviews and learned the better reviews were for their breakfast/brunch.

The next morning we drove to The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, http://www.thehermitage.com/. We arrived just ahead of a large school group and managed to stay several steps ahead which made our visit most enjoyable. The tour begins with comprehensive information on the history of the Jackson family and life at The Hermitage. From here, guests make their way to the home and enjoy a docent-led tour through the two story house. After this, you may take a self-guided tour of the grounds, garden and graveyard.

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After immersing ourselves in the life of one TN President, we decided to drive an hour away to check out another. On the way to the home of James K. Polk in Columbia, we researched potential lunch destinations and discovered a Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant http://www.puckettsgrocery.com/ located just a couple blocks near our destination. The service and food at Puckett’s was excellent and we could understand why their Nashville location was packed when we walked by the night before. I had the three (of my favorite) veggies – slaw, o-rings and mashed potatoes w/gravy – and Magellan had a bbq pork wrap.

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The nearby President James K. Polk Home & Museum http://www.jameskpolk.com/visit.php includes an video, historical timeline and tour of the Polk family home. The folks who run this place are enthusiastic about our 11th President and it made the tour very enjoyable.

Heading back to Nashville, we stopped at The Cat Shoppe and Dog Store http://www.thecatshoppedogstore.com/, a must for cat lovers, and Parnassus Books http://www.parnassusbooks.net/, a must for book lovers. Though we didn’t get to meet Parnassus owner Ann Patchett or her dog(s), I did get an interesting story along with my signed copy of Bel Canto.

I can’t believe I didn’t take any pix of The Hermitage http://thehermitagehotel6-px.trvlclick.com/homepage.aspx. It is gorgeous and the service was stellar. There was a book in our room celebrating the property and its history which was quite interesting. It’s a sister property of The Jefferson in Richmond VA which is also fabulous. We had reservations at The Capitol Grille on Friday evening and I was very much looking forward to this. Our dinner and experience there exceeded my expectations. We began our meal with the sweet onion bisque with brie grilled cheese, bacon and chive NY Strip. This was the most delicious soup/bisque/whatever I have ever eaten. The grilled cheese was like a big crouton in the dish and it melted in my mouth. The menu changes regularly with items in season, but I hope you are lucky enough to enjoy this bisque if you get the chance to dine here.

On Saturday morning, I was up surprisingly early enough for us to enjoy breakfast at the nearby Puckett’s http://www.puckettsgrocery.com/ before they got crowded. They had a buffet which was a good deal and full of good eats.

With full stomachs, we decided to give The Parthenon http://www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Parthenon.aspx a try as it was a bonus included on our City Pass.  I wasn’t expecting much but it was amazing and you should visit if you’re in town. The statue of Athena must be seen to be believed.
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We learned the Corsair Distillery http://www.corsairartisan.com/ was nearby and open for tours so we thought we’d give it a try. The tours for the day were already full (if you want to visit call in advance to book a space on a tour) but we enjoyed a chat with the bartender and partook in an early morning adult beverage in their outdoor space housing a distillery tortoiseshell cat.

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The Frist Center for the Visual Arts http://fristcenter.org is an art museum located in Nashville’s former post office. The art deco architecture of the building is an interesting as the exhibits. They also have an excellent gift shop in which I found some artsy socks.

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Magellan mentioned that he almost chose The Hutton Hotel http://www.huttonhotel.com over The Hermitage but based on construction taking place around the Hutton’s property he opted for The Hermitage. We decided to check out the 1808 Grille http://www.1808grille.com/home.cfm?src=ppc_yahoobing_brand in the Hutton for lunch. Service that afternoon was from their special brunch menu and we both ended up ordering a dish with poached eggs, kale and pulled pork over grits. This dish was delicious! And, their special cocktails – I had something lemony – were the perfect complement.

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After an extended nap time, we decided to head down to the Oak Bar in The Hermitage for dinner. I enjoyed another bowl of the onion bisque and Magellan had a sandwich and a special bourbon only available at the Oak Bar. Service in the bar was outstanding and, as expected, the food was delicious. The perfect end to a perfect trip

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