Monday, November 28, 2011

Kenyan Cafe

The Kenyan Cafe is located in Chelsea Square, which is near Applebee's. It's one of the more unique restaurants in town, as I believe it's the only African cuisine in Morgantown. The restaurant focuses on healthy food and organic drinks. The Kenyan Cafe has vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

When we walked in, the woman waited a minute before coming over to us. This confused us, so we weren't sure if we should seat ourselves or what. She finally came over and asked what we wanted to do. She grabbed menus and seated us at a table. Once we were seated, she cleaned it off. When I was sitting there, I had a chance to finally take in the scenery. The walls were brightly colored - oranges and greens, and some sophisticated art littered the walls.

Our table had a cup of silverware that you plucked your own from. That wasn't my favorite part of the dining experience, but I made it work. I looked over the menu - Briani caught my eye. It is a mixture of well-seasoned beef, rice, corn and green beans. I ordered that, as well as a side of vegetarian samosas, which is sough with African spices wrapper in a flour rub. I also ordered a water, which was convenient, because the fountain machine was right across from us.

We waited for what seemed like a long time, and then my samosas came out. Steaming hot, two small pastry-looking pockets came out. I bit into it, and my first thought was that it was a potpie. It had carrots and peas and green beans. It was tasty, though. It was like a a miniature potpie with almost a sweet aftertaste.

Finally, our meal arrived. In a big bowl, a mixture similar to stew came out. Not only was it steaming hot, but it was spicy. The beef and vegetables were tasty together, but after two bites, my mouth was on fire, and the dish was starting to taste bland. I had originally ordered a water, but I refilled with a coke, and it was exactly what I needed for this dish. The sweet coke balanced out the heavy, spicy meal. The meat was tender, and the veggies were cooked until they were almost mush. It was exactly like a really thick stew. Once I had my coke in hand, I finished the large meal and felt satisfied.

We went to the front counter to pay, and the staff asked us how we liked our meal. Though $15-$20 isn't worth it to me, I liked the experience of trying something new. The hearty, spicy dishes aren't my fancy. But I do know a lot of people prefer that type of food. I might go back and try something different - though all the dishes are fairly similar. It's a good addition to the scene, but it's just not my type of food.

The restaurant has a great little story, though, and supporting local business is a great thing. I think a lot of people would be a fan of this.

Grade: C
Kenyan Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fayetteville Edition: Pies & Pints

It's rare that Chris and I are making the trip from Morgantown to Princeton together. This just so happened to be the case one day during Thanksgiving break. So, we seized the opportunity to try a new restaurant along the way. I've had my eye on Pies & Pints in Fayetteville for awhile - ever since I tried the Charleston location a few months ago. I already had a taste of the excellent pies and fun atmosphere, and I expected the original location would be no exception.

The restaurant is located just off the highway and back a street. Signs lead right to the restaurant. Unlike its brightly colored companion in Charleston, this Pies & Pints doesn't stick out. I actually passed it the first time, but I realized it as soon as I did, turned around and headed back. A large parking lot was situated behind the building. When we walked in the restaurant, I was surprised it wasn't larger. The waiting area is right in front of the restaurant, so all those at the bar looked at us as we waited.

The one in Charleston is set up slightly different - when you arrive, it isn't a grand entrance. We were seated along the wall in a booth/seat table combo. The menu is the same as I remembered Charleston's - lots of creative pies and some tasty looking brews. The first thing I was drawn to was the salads. I am a sucker for a good spinach salad. Pies & Pints has a nice spinach salad with Gorgonzola cheese, grapes, sunflower seeds and red onions in their house vinaigrette. The distinctive crumbly cheese has quite a bite to it. The red onion have a mild, slightly sweet flavor and the house vinaigrette was mild and slightly tangy. The grapes, though, are what makes this salad. That sweetness brings all those flavors together.

Chris opted for a Caesar salad - delicious. The light dressing and homemade croutons made this salad simple and tasty. He really enjoyed it - down to the last bite.

I already knew what type of pie I was wanting - the chicken gouda was heavenly. It has marinated grilled chicken, bacon, smoked gouda, red onions, chipotle crema and scallions. Chris decided on the Mediterranean Shrimp Pie, which has shrimp, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, fresh garlic, lemon & herbs. We split a large pizza for maximum cost-benefit and deliciousness.

My side of the pizza has that delicious smokey cheese taste with some salty bits of bacon and creamy, tangy chipotle. I would've liked some more chipotle on the pizza to really help mesh those flavors better, but it was still fantastic. One of my favorite pizzas I've ever had. The creativeness of the pizza and fantastic smokey/salty/creamy flavors combine for a really great pie.

The Mediterranean pizza is lighter and more acidic - with the lemon and salt - but delicious in its own way. A lighter pizza was some salty olives, artichokes and shrimp. Salty, lemony and light - this pizza is a nice pie that won't weigh you down. They were both delicious.

This location is more homey, but just as delicious. These pizzas are some of the best that the state has to offer. What are you waiting for? #GetSome

Grade: A
Pies & Pints Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Princeton Edition: Grillbilly's

I've been wanting to go to Grillbilly's for a long time, but Chris all but refused. He didn't think it would be any good. And from looking at it, you'd be concerned. Grillbilly's is, essentially, a small blue trailer that you can go to the drive-thru window or there are a few picnic tables outside. There's another window you can just walk up to and order. It was surprisingly nice for a day in November, so I wanted to test out Grillbilly's before we wouldn't be able to sit outside any longer.

We pulled into the small gravel parking area and walked up to the window to order. There were a few signs in the window that listed their specials, but the man opened the window and handed us their menu. We took it over to a picnic table and perused our options. They have lots of burgers - cheeseburgers, double cheeseburgers, bacon cheeseburgers, double bacon cheeseburgers - you get the idea. They also have a few other sandwiches, like chicken, pulled pork, BLT, grilled cheese, grilled pb&j, and some hot dogs. They have three cheesesteak sandwiches, and sides like fries, onion rings, cheese sticks, fried mac & cheese, fried pickles and mushrooms.

I had heard their cheeseburgers were the best, so I knew I wanted that. He said they had any toppings, so I got ketchup, mustard, mayo and onions. I also decided to pair it with an order of the fried mac & cheese. Chris ordered a hot dog and the "5 Alarm Chili Cheese Fries." He asked how hot they were, and the man at the window said he could make it as hot as he wanted. Chris asked for just the basic ones, and we took a seat back on the picnic table. These guys are really willing to customize your meal any way you want it.

A short wait later, the gentleman called to us and handed us a big brown bag and a Styrofoam container. We took it over to the table to eat. I took out my burger first. I bit into it and was surprised at the bun, first of all. It wasn't a generic bland bun - it was actually tasty and fresh. The burger was very good, with all my specified condiments blending together to create a burger paradise. It reminded me of my dad's cooking on the grill. The mac & cheese bites were delicious, too. Want fried foods, reminiscent of carnival food? Here ya go! Better than Sheetz, as these were creamy and cheesy and had a nice crispity bite to them. This place had already won me over.

Then I tried Chris' "5 Alarm Chili Cheese Fries." I was hesitant because I'm not a fan of spicy food, but these weren't spicy like I was thinking. 5 alarm? Definitely not. But delicious? Absolutely. It was a heaping pile of waffle fries coated with melted cheese and a sweet chili, with some fried jalapeno peppers on top. It was fantastic. A slight warmth to my mouth after trying it, but so delicious even a non-spicy person like me could enjoy.

This little place really is a decent find. The food is tasty. It's not some high-class, creative mastermind. It's a good ol' drive-in with some tasty burgers and fries. Give it a try.

Grade: A
Grillbilly's on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Princeton Edition: Pizza House

I've been excited about this place opening for a long time. It's not just a new restaurant for me to try in Princeton, it's a new restaurant completely! It's right in the same building with Dragon Palace, Curves and Sally's along Stafford Drive. It's opened by the same owners of the Chinese restaurant, Dragon Palace. So, that's interesting. It has the same large, red lettering on the outside like Dragon Palace. It even has the outside door, then a small entryway, then another door to the restaurant like the Dragon Palace.

Once we got inside the restaurant, I realized how spacious this area was. We walked in, and there was a dining area to the left and a dining area to the right. The buffet was straight ahead. A waitress walked up to us and asked if we wanted the buffet. We said yes, and she seated us to the left. Maybe those who are ordering off the menu sit on the right side. Apparently they have both options here. We got situated in our booth, ordered our drinks, then headed up to the buffet. It was a few of those islands, like what you'd see at a Chinese restaurant.

Since its name is "Pizza House," I was expecting this buffet to be filled with pizzas, like CiCi's. But it was not. In fact, only a very small portion of the buffet was devoted to pizzas. There were only about six pizzas, one with cheese, one with sausage, one with pepperoni. One was a chicken alfredo. Two were dessert pizzas - cherry & pineapple. The rest of the buffet was some noodles, some mushrooms, some quesadilla thing, gravies. A huge area was devoted to salad, and the other area was devoted to some desserts - like light pastry-type things they serve at the Chinese restaurant.

They also had a soup, which was vegetable on this day. I was quite disappointed by this sad display of pizzas, but I tried not to let that get in the way of my judgment if the pizza was outstanding. It was not. It was generic, bland, lifeless. There weren't many varieties, some of the pizzas were all taken, and those spots weren't refilled. No thought was put into what types of pizzas people might like. If your name is Pizza House, you should specialize in pizzas. Six terrible pies isn't cutting it. It wouldn't surprise me if it was frozen & heated up in a microwave. The chicken alfredo wasn't too bad, though. It was a little salty, but it actually had some flavor. It was probably the sole redeeming factor of the visit, along with their spaghetti.

The problem with anything on the buffet that wasn't pizza, which was about 75% of the food, was that the spoon to get the food was scalding hot. They must have had some issues with some ventilation system because the spoons were so hot that I simply couldn't get some food, and one woman requested that a waiter bring out a different utensil.

But once I got the spaghetti on my plate, I really liked it. The noodles were thick, and the sauce was robust, but nothing a decent jar couldn't handle. While the wait staff was attentive, and the owner seemed nice, the pizza is not good here. You cannot open a restaurant, call it Pizza House, put out a handful of generic pizzas and think people will come. Pizza Hut has better pizzas and much more variety. And that's saying something.

Grade: D
Pizza House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Princeton Edition: Gino's Pizza & Spaghetti

Gino's is a West Virginia restaurant, though I had never been to one before Princeton. I had tried it once before, but never completed a blog on it. We decided to check it out again. We ventured to the Athens, WV, location. When we walked inside, a loud doorbell went off. We stood up at the front and glanced over the menu until we made our final selections. Since "spaghetti" is in their name, I knew that would be my choice. It also came with garlic bread.

Chris ordered a large pizza, and we also got an order of their cheesy bread. We also got a couple of bottled drinks - no fountain drinks here. I hate that, though, because I drink a lot when I eat, so I had to use my one bottle sparingly.

We took a seat in their small dining area. Most of the tables were dirty, but we grabbed a few paper towels to wipe one off and took our seat. Our food came out, and we had a feast before us. I tried the cheesy bread first. The melted cheese on top of butter-soaked dough was delicious. Dipped in marinara, these cheesy bread sticks were delicious and addicting.

My spaghetti was less exciting, though. The sauce was kind of bland, and it was very runny. I also did not get two huge meatballs like the photo showed; there were just a few chunks of meat in the sauce. I would have preferred the photo. Every time I tried to take a bite, the sauce would splash everywhere, since it was basically water-like. It wasn't terrible, but I didn't even finish half of it.

Chris' pizza was quite tasty. It had a crisp crust, lots of flavorful mozzarella cheese and a hearty tomato sauce that made a pretty great pie. It's not a bad place, especially for the prices, and I wouldn't mind trying it out again.

Grade: B
Gino's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Princeton Edition: Cafe Soleil

Located on historic Mercer Street, stumb- ling upon Cafe Soleil was quite the find. Chris and I actually ran into this restaurant when we were going to Nonna's Italian Kitchen. This little cafe though isn't the easiest to experience. It's only open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. So, I thought I'd never get the chance to check it out. Luckily, since I'm on Thanksgiving Break, I am here during those times and hours and able to finally see what it's all about.

Sandwiched between other buildings, this restaurant stands out with its brightly colored flowers and sun painted on the windows. Parking is abundant here, so that's not a worry. It's difficult to see it the restaurant because of the glare from the windows, as well as the painting, so I had no idea what I was in for. When I stepped inside, I was blown away. The building is huge! It's very deep. We walked in, and tons of tables littered the floor. We walked all the way to the back, where a counter was situated, all the while feeling like the walk was awkwardly long. Local patrons looked on us as we finally made our way to the very back.

A woman at the counter told us to have a seat and she'd be out. So, we chose a table fairly close. On it was a little mirror/flower decoration and a number. We were table #20. A waitress came over to get our drink orders. We both ordered pops, and she brought back two cups and two cans. I suppose their fountain machine must haven been out of service, as I saw it behind the counter.

We looked over our menus, but I was a little stumped on this one. I really had no idea what to get . It seems the bulk of their menu is a make your own sandwich or make your own salad. They had about two sandwiches you can order - both a version of a club. I also saw that there was a small "speciality" sheet near the menus when we walked in. The waitress didn't hand us one, but I went up and grabbed it to see what other options they had. Chris noticed the top said "Free Dessert Friday." I was too excited. I'll come back to that. For this day, the special was a "quesadilla burger," which was described as being "a thick, juice burger covered in melted pepperjack cheese, paired with lettuce and tomato and southwest dressing all wrapped up in a four tortilla and grilled to perfection. Chris ordered this. While this sounded tasty, I thought I might as well make my own sandwich since that is what their bread and butter is.

I opted for a sourdough bread with turkey, provolone and cranberry mayo. I also got all their garnishes: lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle spear. Both of our meals came with a side, which were broccoli slaw, fresh fruit, chips, pea salad or a side salad. We both ordered the broccoli slaw, which was a ramen noodle based dish with broccoli, carrots and almonds in it, along with their light dressing. This was really tasty and refreshing. I never had a side like this, and I was very impressed with the creativity and flavor.

My sandwich wasn't bad either. The turkey was just like lunch meat - not chunks - and the provolone was fine. The veggies were fresh. The cranberry mayo was essentially a mayonnaise with a few cranberries laid on top - they two weren't intermingling. They were simply co-existing. But, all in all, my sandwich wasn't bad. It wasn't anything I couldn't make on my own. And considering I'm the one who ordered the individual ingredients, the creativity wasn't surprising. But this small restaurant did have some decent options at a good quality. And, hey, it's lunch, so something fresh and filling is what I was after. I was content.

But Chris' burger, on the other hand, was nothing impressive. While it sounded delicious, one bite and all I could taste was charred burger. It was way overcooked. I couldn't eat that. Luckily, he wasn't too put off by it, but it was hard for me to swallow.

We went to pay, and I had Chris mention the free dessert. She riddled off a couple options, but we decided on a red velvet cupcake and some Oreo cake balls. My cupcake was good, with tons of icing and a moist center. The Oreo balls were tasty, too. The inside was Oreo, and the outside was a white chocolate coating. For free, you really can't go wrong.

While the hours are tough, it's really a nice little dining place in Princeton. You have a lot of options to customize here, and it's a light, refreshing spot for lunch.

Grade: B
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