Friday, June 29, 2012

Rocktop Bar and Grill

The much anticipated Rocktop Bar and Grill, featuring a rooftop bar and hot tubs and rock-n-roll music, has finally opened. It has been marketed as a Las Vegas-style bar and restaurant with a killer comfort-food menu and music that doesn't require bumping and grinding. However, considering the rooftop does have two large hot tubs, I don't think bumping and grinding will totally be out of the picture.

It's located on the roof of the building that formerly housed Dragonfly (it has recently changed locations to 160 Fayette St.) at 241 Chestnut St. You would think this would be a fairly small area, but the bar expands the entire roof of the building and has multiple levels, making it seem larger than life.

They are still in their opening stages, so some areas are definitely half-baked at the moment, including the entrance. There is a large sign draped down the side of the building that says Rocktop, but if you were looking for an entrance, you might get confused. Two bouncers were standing at the entrance of what looked to be a sketchy parking garage and a small sign said "Rocktop now open" was near them. We walked up to them, they checked our IDs (21+ only, folks), and led us to a door. When we opened the door, it was like a different world.

The walls look to be all hand-painted (and incredibly time consuming). As you ascended the three stories worth of stairs, it felt like you were getting ready for a roller coaster ride. There was a speaker up the stairway saying things like "get ready for the time of your life" and things of that sort. Paired with the vibrant, colorful paintings on the wall, I wasn't sure what to expect.

When we finally reached the top, a woman greeted us and asked if we'd like to sit inside or out. We didn't have a preference, but ultimately decided on inside. Our waiter, Cole, was immediately over to take our drink orders and hand us menus.

The long, thin snakeskin print menus did not run the gambit of food options, but the select few all sounded amazing. After a couple of recommendations, I opted to go with their chicken and waffles, while Mel went with the baja tacos. I was really happy she picked something that looked awesome to me, too, because I knew she'd give me a bite.

Our drinks came out in large mason jars, much to my delight. It's not like I drink out of mason jars often, or ever, really. In fact, I didn't even know that was like a "West Virginia" thing until a couple months ago. But I do love the idea of melding this chic, Vegas-style bar with classic West Virginia. Plus they were huge, and I drink a lot when I eat.

While we waited on our food, I glanced around - they have some framed records on the wall from bands like U2 and Dave Matthews. A giant black chandelier with orangeish yellow bulbs was near the bar area, and a bunch of clear bottles had a glowing light underneath it that changed colors. Bar has swag.

Our food was out very quickly and presented on two large plates. The first thing Mel and I did was quickly divy up our portions. She gave me half her tacos, and I gave her half of my chicken & waffles. I'm not sure who won this round, because they were both pretty great.

The chicken and waffles ($16) had two large boneless, southern fried chicken breasts, thick house waffles surrounded in a maple balsamic glaze. It was garnished with three sprigs of asparagus and a buttermilk cheddar biscuit.

What made this dish, for me, was the maple balsamic glaze. It was delicious. The crispy chicken and soft waffle was a good mix of textures, and of course, I like the salty and sweet. The maple balsamic glaze is what gave this dish some more depth and a modern take on this classic comfort food. Do yourself a favor and try something different, it'll pay off.

I loved the "rockin baja tacos" ($14) almost as much, if not more than, the chicken and waffles. It was house-battered tilapia, baja slaw, chipotle pico, cilantro cream all housed in a soft tortilla, with a side of grilled corn on the cob.

Maybe I just have a thing for fish tacos that is being newly discovered? But I love the freshness, the lightness, the cleanliness of these flavors. The crunch of the tilapia with the light, flaky inside with the cool slaw, pico and cream were a perfect combo for the soft tortilla dish.

This dishes aren't totally college-friendly on a budget, but it doesn't hurt to splurge a little every one in a while. Once we finished our plates, we opted for a couple drinks. I went with their
LA Women ($9 - ouch!) which was Grey Goose, Sprite, Lime Juice, and Cocaine. Yep, it says Cocaine. That's actually an energy drink, and I think they're some sort of sponsor of Rocktop. My drink was pink and overall pretty good. You could taste the energy drink in it, which I'm not crazy about, but it was still good. My total was $26. Our awesome server gave us our drinks in plastic cups so we could roam the territory. You wouldn't believer how big this area is.

We left the dining area through double doors and walked around to another bar area near the two large hot tubs. There are some stairs leading around to different parts, and we found a set of chairs that we sat in and chatted while taking in the scenery. It's nice to have a different view of town, and I love people watching and watching the cars go by. We didn't even explore the whole area, but there is a good bit of space here, with some durable chairs and couches spread throughout for some more intimate gatherings.

I noticed there were some young people - donning stilettos and miniskirts - as well as older people with a 50th birthday party going on. As of now, it seems to welcoming of all walks of life. Unfortunately, I think that might change as students come back in town.

As we were leaving, we went down a separate, wider set of stairs that were totally unfinished. That was a little scary, but I'm sure that will be fixed soon enough.

One note: They say their staff is always right ... regardless. That's a joke. That's not how the hospitality industry works, and the condescension does no wonders for this bar. Otherwise, I enjoyed myself, the staff was pleasant, and I think it's a great space. Hopefully it continues this way, and hopefully that "rule" is never put in place.

Grade: A
Rocktop Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mountaineer Gun Sales and Mountaineer Country Ice Cream

How could you not be curious about a place called Mountaineer Gun Sales and Mountaineer Country Ice Cream? I couldn't not be intrigued. A friend and I hopped in our car and headed out toward Point Marion Road. It's actually fairly close - I just don't head that way very often. My Google Maps was slightly off, but my friend spotted their sign and we pulled in.

It was not at all what I was expecting. The building was actually quite nice. Not where I'd expect to buy guns. They even had crafty things displayed outside, alongside benches and rocking chairs. It almost looked like a little craft store. I saw a bright pink sign claiming 24 ice cream flavors.

As soon as you open the door, the ice cream portion is off to the right. I didn't even look at the rest of the store. The ice cream case was surrounded with people. I tried to maneuver my way around to see some of the flavors. They were boasting original sundaes and various kinds of cones - like cookies & cream. But I wanted a large waffle cone and ... caramel cheesecake cookie monster?

Seriously, did somebody make this ice cream for me? Caramel AND cheesecake AND cookie dough? Uh no brainer. They did have a ton of flavors, but I saw this one, and it had my name written all over it.

The process here was kind of unorganized. People were filtering in from all over, and there wasn't a set line. Luckily one of the workers spotted me and hooked me up with the ice cream. He seemed like my flavor choice was one of his favorites, too.

My total came to just under $5. That's kind of pricey for one large waffle cone, but I was happy to pay it. The ice cream had swirls of caramel, chunks of cheesecake and cookie crunches.

Now, I know it's not like they make the ice cream themselves each morning, but it is a nice place to get something different. Plus, I'd love to sit outside, waffle cone in hand, and watch the traffic go by.

Grade: A
Mountaineer Gun Sales and Mountaineer Country Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fairmont Edition: Muriale's

For the next issue of Savor WV Magazine, I'll have a profile on Muriale's Italian Restaurant. So, for the first time ever (I know!), I headed on out to Fairmont to get a first-hand look at this restaurant and all the buzz that surrounds it.

I've had so many people tell me how fantastic this place is. And from people whose opinions I value, too. It's just that it's in Fairmont, and I'm never in Fairmont, and it's hard for me to justify a trip all the way out there for just a restaurant then to turn back around and come home. But I totally did it. And it was totally worth it.

Spaghetti & Meatballs
I'm not going to go too much in detail about the history of the restaurant (you'll have to check out the magazine for that!), but it has been a staple in Fairmont for more than 40 years. This is THE restaurant in Fairmont, and it's THE place to go for Italian in North Central WV, and quite possibly the entire state. It's a family-owned Italian restaurant that features family recipes for spaghetti, rigatoni and their all-time best seller - lasagna. The current owner is Rocco Muriale, who is the second-generation, and he is quite the guy.

Meatball Casserole
There's a ton of parking at this restaurant. There's some outdoor dining spaces (and a deck!), as well as multiple dining rooms inside. When I walked inside, there was an immediate sense of comfort. The walls were lined with family photographs and memorabilia, sports merchandise, Italian decor and more. Once I told the girls at the front that I was there to interview Rocco, they had me sit in the "cubby" area, which donned more photos and decorations. The staff here is more than accommodating, all the way up to Rocco, who was constantly waving and talking to his customers throughout the duration of the interview. Hospitality matters just as much as the food does here.

There's a real sense of community, of family here. From the old-school photos hung on the walls to the friendliness of the staff, they've got something special going on here. And it's not the tacky, fake plant kind of "Italian" places that pop up too often. It's real, it's genuine, and it's loving. After I spoke with Rocco for quite a bit, he had his staff make some dishes for me to photograph - the spaghetti, lasagna and meatball casserole. After I took my photos, I thought I was on my way. No, no. Rocco had something else up his sleeve. When I wasn't around, he had his staff box up the lasagna, fill a large container full of meatballs and bag up a whole loaf of bread for me to take home.

I was grinning from ear to ear on that drive back home. The whole time, I was just smelling hot Italian food, and I couldn't wait to dig in. As soon as I got home, the container packed full of lasagna was open, and my fork was in the center of chunky, rich tomato sauce with tender noodles and creamy, smooth Italian cheeses. This took me straight back to my mother's homemade lasagna. It's easily the best lasagna I've had at any restaurant. Wow. The flavors blend together seamlessly, yet each is defined. the ingredients are fresh, and it's just like mom used to make. It doesn't get any better than this.

The meatballs, too, are out of this world. Flavors of garlic, breadcrumbs and Italian seasonings are prevalent. Coated in their hearty red sauce, the meatballs are a meal all in their own. I make tons of little meatball hoagies with their fresh bread and the giant meatballs.

I wish I had a chance to try their desserts - because the dessert tray looked heavenly. There will definitely be a next time. This has got to be one of the best restaurants in the state. If you haven't tried it, you're doing yourself a disservice. I honestly can't wait for the next opportunity to go. This would be one of those few restaurants, that if I could, I would go higher than an A. The food is phenomenal, the service was exceptional - I can't find anything about this place that isn't amazing. Except that it's not in my backyard.

Grade: A
Muriale's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I had been really excited at the thought of Chillberry for quite a while. As soon as I got word that the owners of Chaang Thai, one of my favorite restaurants in town, were opening a new froyo shop, my expectations soared. It finally had its soft opening, and I can't say I'm overjoyed.

Located downtown, it may be convenient for those already in the area, but if you're not already downtown and seeking out some frozen yogurt, I'm going to guess you'll hit up Sweet Frog or Naticakes based solely on location at this point. We all know it's a pain to park downtown, but if the restaurant is really worth it, we'll concede. This small shop may not warrant those concessions.

It's located right next to Chaang Thai on High Street. In fact, I think you can navigate from one restaurant to the other. When I walked in Chillberry, I was taken aback by the size. It is pretty small. I guess I was expecting something larger, like Chaang Thai. It's long and narrow, and the only seating is couple-seating alongside the wall.

It seems as though they have college kids staffing the joint - not a surprise here. But considering it's not even been open a month yet, you would think the workers were excited and happy. Meh. I actually felt a little awkward.

Just like Naticakes and Sweet Frog, you walk toward the back, pick up a small cup and stare down the line of yogurt options. Chillberry has, by far, the least amount of variety, with only 6 options: Chocolate, Vanilla, Cappuccino, NY Cheesecake, Original Tart and Peach-Mango Tart. Weird that they didn't have any berry flavors? These options change fairly regularly, I believe. And it looks as though they have another yogurt machine that's not quite ready for service, so that would at least bring them up to 8 when that's up and running.

One of the main differences at Chillberry is that they have dispensers opposite the wall of frozen yogurt. These dispensers have things like animal crackers, peanut butter cups and a ton of cereal. I remember looking down the wall and questioning who would want some of those things on their ice cream. Usually I'm tempted by all toppings, but random bits of hard cereal were not appealing to me.

Once I got closer to the register, I realized they had a very small selection in small compartments, like the other shops. There were a few fruits, but not a ton. They also didn't have any hot chocolate or caramel or things like that. They had a couple containers for sprinkles and M&Ms.

I got a little bit of chocolate, vanilla and cheesecake and topped it with some peanut butter cups, cookie dough bites, M&Ms and some Butterfinger. I think my total came out to $3.83 or something. It is .43/oz. Luckily, I had known about the outdoor dining area, because the girl working didn't mention it. I asked if the outdoor dining area was open, and she said yes. Then I asked how to get to it, and she pointed to the back door with an "EXIT" sign overhead.

So, we walked outside. If there is one thing that sets this froyo shop apart from the other two, it's the gorgeous outdoor dining area. It's like a garden with flowers and stones and cascading seating. You can tell they put their money in this area. You would not know you were in Morgantown, let alone High Street, with this nice area. It also looks as though they'll have a children's play area down at the very bottom.  I know this will probably appease many parents, but if I'm going to sit outside in this nice, almost romantic outdoor area, I don't want to be near a bunch of screaming kids.

We sat outside on a picnic bench, where we fought the sun in a race to consume our froyo. But the yogurt itself was kind of bland, and the toppings didn't seem the freshest. I didn't even finish mine - but that could be because there was too many toppings for the amount of yogurt I had that didn't melt. It wasn't anything great, but I'm probably very biased because hot caramel topping would've made anything taste great. I'm just disappointed in the variety offered here. To compete with the other two shops, I think it might have some trouble, unless there's enough foot traffic through the area for people stopping out of convenience.

You can tell it's still a work in progress - when we walked outside, there was a very large knife just sitting on the railing. But the outdoor area overall has a ton of private areas and seating for multiple groups of people. At night, I think there are even lights to set the mood even more. Maybe when it's more settled, I can check it out again.

Grade: C 
Chillberry on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 25, 2012

Crockett's Lodge

Crockett's is on University Avenue in Star City, so it's a little far away from the main drag. Especially if you go there to drink. I wasn't interested in the downtown scene not too long ago, so a friend and I hit up Crockett's. There is parking around back, which I didn't know, so that was a plus. We walked in the front, showed our IDs and chose a booth.

Looking over the menu, one thing that looked different to me was the "cheese crisp," so I put in an order for that and a beer. I always thought of Crocketts as a more country bar, but when we were in there, they were playing pop songs. I was okay with this. This night, they had karaoke, which was beyond entertaining. The MC was pretty funny, too.

Our cheese crisp came out, which was a tortilla sprinkled with beef, tomatoes, banana peppers, olives and green peppers. It had sour cream and salsa on the side. It was pretty tasty - just like a quesadilla without the top tortilla. It was cut into triangles, so it was nice to pick at while we were drinking. Salty, crunchy, cheesy - perfect combo.

The atmosphere at Crocketts is so laid-back and relaxed; it's probably one of my first choices for a bar just because of that ambiance. And there are TVs everywhere for whichever sport you're wanting to watch. If you're looking to relax and have a good time, I'd recommend Crockett's.

Grade: A
Crockett's Lodge on Urbanspoon