Friday, February 22, 2013

Pittsburgh, PA Edition: Sal's City Deli

Sal'sSal'sI went to see the ballet recently in Pittsburgh and had a quick lunch while I was in the area. Sal's City Deli is right down the street from the Benedum Center and is only about four months old.

The sandwich shop kind of has an Italian flair - with some pastrami/salami "sangwiches." It seemed like a good, inexpensive lunch option, so I was excited to see the menu.

They have items like the Reuben, Muffaletta, French Dip, Grilled Chicken Aioli, and a Southwestern  Grilled Salmon - which I ordered.

It is a chargrilled salmon fillet with a jalapeno remoulade with sliced avocados on a roll. It came with a side of thick-sliced chips and a pickle spear. All for $11. 

Sal'sSal'sIt was really quite tasty. I wasn't sure what to expect with a sandwich shop because those that I've been to are pretty basic and not creative. I'm pleased with some of their different options for lunch and making a damn tasty sandwich with simple, fresh ingredients. My sandwich had a huge slab of salmon that flaked with a prick of my fork, fresh toppings and a slight kick in the sauce to bring it all together.

The manager happened to hear my friend and I mention Morgantown, and he came over to chat. Apparently he went to school at WVU and returned home and is currently working in the restaurant. Small world. He made sure we were satisfied with our meals, which we were.

For a nice little lunch place, give it a go. 

Grade: A
Sal's City Deli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Charleston Edition: Little India

Little IndiaWhen I was in Charleston briefly, a friend took me to Little India for some of the best Indian food I've ever had. It's right on Washington Street East, so pretty visible - even a non-Charlestonian like me could find it with ease.

Little IndiaI was told they had an awesome chicken tikka masala, so I said yes please! It's like my benchmark of Indian food. It's like the General Tso's of Indian food. I also got an order of vegetable pakoras. The menu is full of appetizers, tandoori/vegetable/chicken/goat dishes, seafood, rice and desserts. Quite a selection.

The owners are a family who are passionate about bringing Indian food to West Virginia - which is great. We need it. Their head chef is from Goa, India, and specializes in North Indian, South Indian and Indo-Chinese cuisine, as per their website. Authentic, delicious cuisine right in the heart of West Virginia? Absolutely.

Little IndiaLittle IndiaLittle India

Little IndiaThe interior of the building is fairly casual with some Indian flair on the walls. They have an upstairs lounge, and lunch and dinner buffets. My visit was between lunch and dinner, so no buffet was available then. But when all our food came out, it was like our own private buffet selection.

Little IndiaMy chicken tikka masala was a tender pieces of chicken marinated in a tangy creamy tomato-based sauce with ginger, garlic and other spices. It came in a large pot separate from another pot of rice. I think this tikka masala was considerably sweeter than other times I've had it, but it made it more rich and delicious. We ordered some naan, too, which helped sop up every last drop of deliciousness.

The pakoras were tasty and added another element - that fried, crunchy element. There were a few sauces on the table and I chose a sweet one to pair with the vegetable fritters. It's like an exotic homecooked meal. It certainly wasn't the comfort food I grew up on, but it still gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

Little IndiaIf you're from Charleston, you're probably thinking "duh," but if you aren't, definitely give it a go. I can't wait to go back.

1604 Washington St. East, (304) 720-3616,
Lunch Buffet: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday from noon until 3 p.m.
Sunday Buffet: Noon to 8 p.m.
Dinner Hours: Monday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Grade: A
Little India on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Helvetia Edition: The Hutte

The Hutte
The HutteThe HutteHelvetia is a small Swiss village up on a mountain in West Virginia - population 59 in 2010. It's an isolated community settled by the Swiss in 1869 and is known for maintaining the traditions, food and culture of Switzerland.

One popular tradition is Fasnacht, which is a festival on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday where the community burns Old Man Winter. It's similar to Mardi Gras and has roots in the Swiss Winterfest, but contains lots of crazy scary masks to ward off Winter. It's received national attention and has been something I've wanted to do for years.

The Hutte

I finally went. And in addition to the open mic music, browsing the local shops and museum, the parade and square dancing, there is an awesome little restaurant - The Hutte. They were doing a buffet that Saturday for the festival. But, by buffet, I mean they give you plate with a variety of food. There are no second-helpings, though. For $17, you got their Swiss Sampler Plate: sausage, Hutte chicken, bratwurst, parsley potatoes, green beans, saurkraut, cheese, homemade bread, peach cobbler and a drink.

The HutteThey also had some beer from Mountain State, which is pretty cool. And the food was so awesome. The potatoes were seasoned to perfection, as were the green beans. The chicken was a curry-pineapple flavor with a chunk of pineapple on top. Excellent. The chunk of cheese had a nice little bite to it, and the bread was so good. Sausage and bratwurst were both perfection - cooked perfectly, just the right amount of seasoning and not too heavy.

I have to give the sauerkraut its own piece here, though. I generally hate saurkraut. My parents made it every new year's, and I couldn't even stand the smell of it. It was sour and made my lips pucker and was just not pleasant.

The HutteHowever.

This sauerkraut was slightly sweet. It had a pickle on top for a little salt and bitterness. But I ate every last bite. I couldn't believe it. It was slightly sweet but tangy and a light crisp to the bite. Just marvelous.

The peach cobbler was probably my least favorite. It wasn't bad, but I was just blown away by the flavors of the main meal.

The HutteThe HutteThe Hutte

The HutteThe HutteThe Hutte

The HutteThe HutteThe HutteYes, it is a little pricey. But where else in WV can you get this kind of authentic Swiss food? Probably nowhere. And it's quite amazing to see this tiny, tiny town get flooded with a ton of people for this festival. It's a small place that you probably wouldn't know existed, as its fairly isolated. But if you ever get the chance, definitely take a look.

Grade: A
Helvetia Hutte Restaurant on Urbanspoon
The Hutte

Monday, February 18, 2013

Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint

Martin's Bar-B-Que JointMartin's Bar-B-Que JointThe long-awaited opening of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint came to fruition Friday. Ever since folks got word that the Tennessee restaurant was building a branch in Morgantown, BBQ-lovers' tastebuds waited in anticipation of the first authentic pulled pork sandwich  to come to this town.

Martin's Bar-B-Que JointMartin's Bar-B-Que Joint

Martin's has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for their pulled pork sandwich and "Redneck Taco." And with no local BBQ restaurants, Morgantown warmly welcomed the popular restaurant. And hounded them via Twitter about the official date. When I called, they said the official open is Saturday at 11 a.m. Luckily, I got word that a soft opening was happening Friday and got a quick meal before the weekend rush.

Martin's Bar-B-Que JointMartin's Bar-B-Que JointMartin's Bar-B-Que Joint

Located in the Suncrest Towne Centre, the new restaurant isn't large by any means, but it does have ample parking and enough room for a pit. The restaurant boasts making everything from scratch daily - and no freezers or microwaves are to be found. They smoke the hog for 22 hours. Unfortunately, this means they cook a certain amount and run out (which I experienced later on).

Martin's Bar-B-Que JointThe restaurant is counter-service, so we got in line and looked over the menu briefly before deciding on an item - sandwiches, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, ribs, mmmm. Since it was Friday and not many people knew about the soft opening, the line was short and fast-moving. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with a side of cole slaw. The server: "You know cole slaw comes on the sandwich, right?" "Oh, okay, then can I have a side of cornbread?" I also got a drink. They have some old-school pops, which are pretty cool.

We sat down and waited until they called our number, and then our food was delivered to our table. They had tons of people standing around to collect refills or help. Too many people, but that was only because it was the very first night. The tables contain buckets with paper towels and other condiments. My food was delivered on a large metal tray that kind of dwarfed the sandwich.

Martin's Bar-B-Que JointThe sandwich was so tasty. It's so nice to have a great BBQ option in Morgantown. It came with the Sweet Dixie sauce - a slightly sweet but tangy sauce. I wish I could've drenched this sandwich in the sauce. Next time, I'm going to ask for a sample of all the sauces. It was still really, really good. The pork is really tender, the bun is slightly buttered and steamed. The quality of the meat is just unrivaled. They forgot the cole slaw on mine, but I feel like that would be the perfect cool addition to the hot, saucy pork. The cornbread was a little dry - it seems like it could be an awesome based for meat or soup, but alone, not too much going on.

I loved my sandwich SO MUCH, I tried to come back Saturday. Unfortunately, we were met at the door with two women who told us they ran out of food. Oh well. I'll definitely be back soon. And won't forget dessert this time.

They're open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and are supposed to open their drive-thru in the next week or so!You can also like them on Facebook for a chance to be a shameless promoter.

Grade: A
Martin's BBQ Joint on Urbanspoon 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Campus Canteen

Nick's CanteenNick's Canteen

Nick's Canteen is a Morgantown/WVU icon - 50-plus years in the making. A couple years ago, ownership changed hands, and it's now called Campus Canteen. But most people still call it Nick's.

It's located right across Prospect from Boreman Hall on the downtown campus, so it's basically the only restaurant on campus without being a campus restaurant. They've long been known for their subs and gyros. But I hadn't been there since it was Nick's.

Nick's CanteenNick's CanteenNick's Canteen

The bright blue outside is home to essentially a restaurant, a head shop and a convenience store inside. Want a gyro with a side of condoms and a pair of eyelash curlers? This place has it. It's so cluttered and filled to the brim with merchandise, it's a little overwhelming. Especially for such a small area.

Nick's CanteenNick's CanteenThere's a menu board as soon as you walk in the door, and I just went after the standard gyro with a combo of a fountain drink and fries. After paying ($5 minimum for a card), I took one of the few booths to wait for my food.

They have so much stuff, there are two-liters sitting in crates on floors. It's also pretty grimy. It could use a thorough cleanse. Take a look at that salt shaker for instance. Ugh.

My food came out in a styrofoam container, so I took it back to my office. While I'm usually not a huge fan of fries, these were extra crispy - maybe even battered - so they had a nice crunch on the outside. I picked up some ketchup from inside the Mountainlair to use. So I was pleasantly surprised.

The gyro was okay. The meat had a little too much snap to it - like it was cooked for 10 minutes too long. A handful of lettuce was thrown on top and maybe a bit of tzatziki sauce. I just want to like this so bad because I really want a good gyro in Morgantown. It's just not happening. The meat was overcooked, too much lettuce, not enough tzatziki. And the flavoring wasn't even stellar. Not quite the Nick's I remember.

Grade: C
Campus Canteen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ray's Pastries

Ray's PastriesRay's PastriesI'm not a donut aficionado. I'm way more chocolate than pastry. More caramel than filo. More mousse than sprinkles. However, there is something special, I think, about a warm donut fresh out of the oven once in blue moon.

That brings me to Ray's Pastries. Apparently this gem has been around since 1966 baking up donuts, cookies, cakes, pies, pepperoni rolls and bread. But I didn't know about it until fairly recently. That could be because it's hidden in a small plaza just behind Long John Silver's in Sabraton. That's 1383 Earl Core Road for those of you keeping track (304-296-5105).

Ray's PastriesRay's Pastries

Ray's PastriesWhen I walked in, all I could see is one long counter encasing pastries of all sorts. My friend Tony and I quickly decided that we basically need one of everything. Maple-glaze cake donuts, chocolate twist donuts, coconut coated, lemon-filled, powdered, blueberry, glazed, Bavarian-cream donuts! We got a dozen. As well as a bag of pepperoni rolls. And a large provolone cheese pepperoni roll. And a large hot pepper cheese pepperoni roll.

Ray's Pastries
But the woman behind the counter was so sweet and helpful, it was difficult not to. I also probably shouldn't have admitted it was our first time, because then she wanted us to try a little of everything. So we did.

They don't take credit cards here, so make sure you have cash or checks on you. I think altogether, we spent about $22 on this carb-coma-induced lunch. We started splitting donuts so we could taste a little bit of most of them. The pepperoni rolls weren't bad. I had a few bites where it was totally dough, and I like my pepperoni/cheese combo to be split up a little bit more evenly. I enjoyed the hot pepper cheese ones slightly more, as they had a little bit more of a kick. The bag of pepperoni rolls didn't include cheese, actually, but my coworkers seemed to like them.

Ray's Pastries
While the donuts weren't warm by the time we got back to the office (or I'm not sure if they were under the case, either), they were still pretty tasty. A simple glazed donut had a bit of a crisp to the outside with a soft, pillowy inside. Quite tasty. Some of my other favorites include the maple cake donut, too, as a cake donut is just good. Crumbly, thick, filling with a nice maple frosting on top. And, of course, any filled donut is a friend of mine. We don't have a ton of places in town offering pastries, so this place is filling a nice little niche. And not doing a bad job of it.

Grade: B
Ray's Pastries on Urbanspoon