Morgantown Edition: Iron Horse Tavern

By Candace Nelson - 11:18 AM

Iron Horse TavernI've been religiously checking Iron Horse Tavern's Facebook and Twitter for updates on when they'd open. Imagine my delight when driving down High Street during my lunchtime break, I spotted an "Open" sign on the building, the previous location of Madeleine's. I literally squealed.

When I came back later on Wednesday for dinner, there were no other patrons inside. Which is what I expected - they aren't advertising yet. I'm assuming just passers-by are aware. It was just the second day of soft opening, so, of course, they're still working out kinks. We were seated in the left side of the dining room after requesting a table (as opposed to a high-top - I'm way too short for those. Awk.).

First impressions: I definitely get the tavern feel. Black furniture and dark brown woods cloak the interior. The wall decorations have a sort of worn-in vibe. It's pretty cool.

Iron Horse TavernIron Horse TavernIron Horse Tavern

Iron Horse Tavern
They have a limited menu for now, which is full of a few appetizers (fries, hummus, green beans, mac-n-cheese, mussels), soups/salads (tomato basil soup, house salad, beets and greens salad), burgers (cheddar, blue, Iron Horse), melts (cheese, pepper, 'farmhouse'), and dessert (sorbet and gelato).

Their beer menu (which they gave to me after realizing I was a food blogger) isn't going to be available until next week. But they have lots of WV beers (!!) - Chestnut Brew Works, Morgantown Brewing Co., Mountain State Brewing Co., Bridge Brew Works, North End Tavern, Big Timber Brewing. So cool. PS - did I mention the folks from Mountain State are the ones who opened up this new venture? You can expect quality in both the libations and food items.

Iron Horse TavernI was also able to take a gander at the full menu they'll serve - add in some wings, mushroom burgers, beer brats, chicken salad, cuban melts, catfish dinner, penne pasta and more. I'm sad the bahn mi that I saw on their original application to the city of Morgantown isn't available, but I imagine it might be tough with the ingredients, etc. No one else in town has it, though, so if you're looking to expand the regular menu ... :)

We started out with the 3-Cheese Mac-n-Cheese, which has gruyere, pecorino romano and smoked gouda. I figured Tony would be judgey with this because he is with most things - especially mac-n-cheese. But he loved it.

So good. Rich and smokey - from the smoked gouda, I was informed. It had a layer of cheese, bread crumbs and parsley overtop that was lightly browned, hiding a bed of elbow macaroni noodles in a creamy, velvety sauce.

Next: Entrees.

Tony ordered the Iron Horse Burger - which comes with bacon, roasted poblano, smoked gouda, and bourbon-chipotle BBQ. OK, I couldn't order that, so I opted for the Farmhouse Melt, so we could try two different things. The Farmhouse Melt had bacon, grilled apple, baby spinach, honey and goat cheese.

Iron Horse TavernThe burger - Good. Tony said the sauce added a nice tangy flavor with the smokiness of the gouda and poblano. He said the burger may have been a bit overcooked, and the bun could've been more toasted. My bite was tasty - juicy and flavorful. No dry hockey puck burgers here. Love the flavors.

Iron Horse TavernThe melt - Also good. Certainly less impressive looking than the burger, though. I think a different kind of bread would do wonders for this sandwich. Instead of a plain white bread, go for a larger sourdough or something. Flavors, delish. I like that they went slightly more risky than a lot of places with this unique sandwich.

Iron Horse TavernThe flavor is spot on. Add some more apple or maybe slice differently so I can get a piece of apple in each bite. Love the bite of the goat cheese with sweet tartness of grilled apple, saltiness of bacon. Smart. Very smart. And tasty.

Fries were seasoned well, but would be better crisper. That'll come, I'm sure. I asked for ketchup and ranch as sides, not realizing their ranch would be homemade. Score. It's smokey and definitely has a deeper flavor than any other ranch I've had. In a good way.

Dessert! They had two: blood orange sorbet and pistachio gelato. We got both, duh. Blood orange sorbet had the icey texture I like and was sweet, but not overwhelmingly sweet. The pistachio gelato has that creamy texture and was also quite good. I don't believe these are made in house, but shipped from their Pittsburgh distributor. Both good options.

I can't forget about the service.

Iron Horse TavernOur waitress, Aimee G. (I'm guessing by the receipt), was incredible. Super friendly, eager to help and answered my 1,000 questions about the place. She was honest with her opinions of items on the menu and helped steer me toward an excellent choice. Many restaurants direct their servers to say everything is good (without letting them actually taste the items) or choose the most expensive item. If she wasn't as crazy about an item, she said they were still working to improve it. Perfect, honest answer. She was genuine - I like that. I trust that. Also, I'm super glad they looked comfy. Is that weird? I just hate when I see servers wearing ridiculous things. Cool black T-shirts, too. She came by at the perfect times, filled our glasses regularly, I just really couldn't have asked for better service. Granted, she wasn't busy, since no one else was in there. But she got it right. Iron Horse Tavern folks, if you're listening, give her a raise.

And the price for an appetizer, two entrees, and two desserts? $35. Yep. Nice.

The flavors were well-thought out at this place. I can't believe this was only the second day of its soft opening. I would've never guessed. I like the ideas, the playfulness, the creativeness, the cozy vibe inside and the overall good execution of a good meal. My one overall suggestions would be to let things get crisper - the bread (and a nicer bread for the melt), the fries, etc. Easy enough, right? I can't wait to come back to the full menu and beer selection.

Want a good, local beer with some smart, unique menu options? Go.

Grade: A
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