Friday, March 28, 2014

Morgantown Edition: Green Arch Market

Green Arch MarketGreen Arch MarketA convenience store in South Park isn't where I would typically look for a culinary haven.

South Park isn't home to many restaurants, and a convenience store is lucky to have something more than a stromboli, packaged pepperoni roll and fountain drinks.

Located at the corner of Green and Arch streets, Green Arch Market is bucking that trend.

Green Arch MarketHow many convenience stores have BBQ pork, jambalaya or vegetarian risotto? I can name one. Apparently a former server from Sargasso bought the property and a former sous chef from the restaurant is now the main chef here (his family also operated Glasshouse Grille and Flying Fish). That would explain some of the creative items on their menu.

Green Arch MarketThey have an array of chips, canned goods and even beer, which is great for South Park - since there isn't easy access to all of that otherwise. But what sets Green Arch apart is their hot food. They even cater.

I made a special trip out here with Vicki and Tony. There's parking available across the street. Inside, a small menu awaited us: triple grilled cheese, bbq pork platter, bacon cheeseburger, NY strip steak hoagie, pulled pork-macaroni and cheese-and vegetables, and chicken and andouille jambalaya.

For their most recent menu, check out their Facebook. They've swapped the burger for a chicken club sandwich: Ohio Valley free-range chicken breast with thick-cut bacon, caramelized onions, romaine and roasted tomato aioli.

Green Arch MarketYeah, I can see your mouth watering.

I ordered the pulled pork, macaroni and cheese and vegetables for $12. Tony did the same. Vicki opted for the NY Strip steak hoagie. It took a little bit to get all three of our orders ready, since there is only one person working. You might want to call ahead if you're picking up for lunch.  We waited for maybe 15 minutes or so. There's no place to sit inside, so it's to-go only. They were also cash only, but now I think they do take cards.

We took our to-go boxes back to the office. Vicki messaged me: "Amazing! Crusty on outside but soft inside so stuff doesn't squeeze out. Surprisingly spicy! The sauce he drizzled on has a peppery zing. Good heat. Definitely as good as it smelled!" She was a fan.

Green Arch Market
While my plate didn't have the most plate presence ... everything was in one wide open space so it all mashed together ... it was still good. While I really think they'd benefit from a sectioned-off box, the flavors of each were totes worth it.

The pork was tangy and delicious. A little more bite than I'm used to. The macaroni and cheese was huge shells with home sauce creamy sauce. And the sautéed veggies were a perfect complement to the richness and heartiness of the other two.

It's definitely a nice little treat in an unexpected area. I would actually travel out of my way to go to this little convenience store. I don't know if I can say that about any other place.

Check out their current menu:

Menu!

Chicken Club Sandwich $9
Ohio Valley free-range chicken breast.
Thick-cut bacon, caramelized onions, romaine, roasted tomato aioli.

Triple Grilled Cheese $5
Cheddar, swiss, and provolone cheeses. Grilled with garlic butter and sea salt.

BBQ Pork Sandwich with slaw $7
House-made pulled pork, southern inspired barbeque, Carolina style slaw, cornmeal dusted bun!

NY Strip Steak Hoagie $10
Hand Carved Strip loin, provolone cheese. Sautéed peppers, onions, and mushrooms on a toasted hoagie bun, finished with pan gravy.

Pulled Pork, Mac & Veg $12
Heaping piles of house-made pulled pork, creamy macaroni and cheese, sautéed vegatables.

Seared Chicken Salad $14
Ohio Valley Free-range chicken breast.
Mixed greens, sweet baby peppers, red onion, vine-ripe tomato. Sriracha sesame-soy vinaigrette.

Vegetarian Risotto $16
An ever rotating selection of fresh veggies, sautéed over smoked gouda risotto.

SIDES
Mac & Cheese $6
Chef’s Choice sautéed veggies $5
Carolina Cole Slaw $2
Chips and a Fountain Drink $1.50
Grade: A
Green Arch Market on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Morgantown Edition: Primanti Bros.

PrimantisSandwiches stacked thick and topped with slaw and a generous portion of house-cut french fries are the name of the game at Primanti Bros.

This iconic Pittsburgh restaurant has humble beginnings as a late-night cart dishing up sandwiches to truckers during the Great Depression. With success, the brothers opened a small storefront on 18th Street. When they happened upon a load of potatoes for the shop, they tried out putting them on sandwiches, and it became their trademark.

Since then, multiple locations have opened: Oakland (near Pitt), South Side, Market Square, PNC Park, Heinz Field, Consol Energy Center and more. It has 17 locations in the greater Pittsburgh area, and three locations in Florida.

PrimantisPrimantis

Primantis
And now, Morgantown, W.Va., is happy to call themselves home to the newest location. Opened just recently, the restaurant sits on the corner of a newly constructed row of buildings in the Suncrest Town Centre.

When Tony and I went, I was expecting the typical long-wait-for-new-Morgantown-restaurant-wait, but I was pleasantly surprised. Despite a full parking lot, our wait time was only about 10 minutes. They churn them out fast here.

The Morgantown location is brand new, so everything is clean and shiny (for now). There's a huge bar area that centers around the whole restaurant and to the left are garage-door type windows that I assume they will open when it's warmer. Oh, and a fire pit.

PrimantisPrimantisPrimantis

They're known for their sandwiches, but they also have wings, pizza, and, of course, beer. The menus vary by location, but they all have these sandwiches - which you can get with salami and cheese, or turkey and cheese, or roast beef and cheese, or pastrami and cheese. Their Pitts-burger is their #2 best seller (I talk about what is #1 at the other location I visited in Robinson).

Primantis
To start, I had a beer. And they do have some local beer, which is always nice to see. And we ordered an appetizer of mozzarella wedges. They had a little outline around them so we thought they might be special. They were OK - nothing out of the ordinary here. Mozzarella stick with oozing cheese always makes me happy.

The sandwiches are prepped right in front of the bar area, so that's pretty cool to watch. The other items are shipped through the kitchen. But the sandwich assembly is pretty straightforward - select the meat, add cheese, top with some crunchy, tart coleslaw and then crisp French Fries all on Italian bread. Stick a knife in it (literally) and ship it out.

PrimantisThey are utilitarian. It's basic, requires two hands, and is monstrous. It's designed as this hearty, filling meal that you can eat in one go - instead of reaching for fries or anything else. It's all right on the sandwich. With that said, it's not full of complex flavors or interesting combos - it's a sandwich with meat, cheese, fires and slaw. It's good, for what it is.

The meat is well-seasoned, the slaw is tangy and crunchy, the fries are crispy and hearty. It's tasty.

I hear a good bit of chatter about these sandwiches having that nostalgia aspect and Pittsburghers needing them whenever they go home. But the other ice of the coin is that they're overrated. I think I fall in-between somewhere.

PrimantisIf you're in the mood for a decent sandwich, it's a good option. I did - gasp - add some ketchup to mine for zing and extra flavor. I know that's a cardinal sin, but with all the meat cheese and bread, it's nice to have something to tie it all together. So, it's kind of your average sandwich, supersized, with some added ingredients. I do love the environment - laid-back, boozy and comfortable. Plus local-ish. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

It is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to midnight.

Grade: B
Primanti Bros. on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Morgantown Edition: Russ' Ribs

Russ' RibsI have been trying for months. MONTHS. to go to Russ' Ribs, a small restaurant in the Dellslow plaza with China City Restaurant.

Russ' Ribs has been a Preston County catering staple for 19 years. Just recently, he opened up this small restaurant in Morgantown that's only open select hours and days. While catering is their primary money-maker, the restaurant seems to just be getting by.

We had been calling randomly during the week - at first we thought they were open Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then discovered they're only open Wednesday and Friday. We would call randomly and wouldn't receive an answer or they'd answer and say they weren't opening that day.

Russ' RibsRuss' Ribs

When Russ himself answered the phone this past Friday and said they were open, I was not going to pass up that opportunity. I was starting to think the place was never open. So, Jake (a Preston County native), Tony and I hopped in the car and headed to the other end of Sabraton.

Russ' RibsRuss' RibsThe outside has some flashy graphics and the smoker "Gabby" sits beside the building. Inside, though, is pretty sparse. Just three mismatched tables, a lone counter top and some framed awards on the white walls. There's no door between the dining area and kitchen, and a rack full of random ingredients sits in the dining area. Their effort is not in the interior - much more of a take-out place.

Russ' RibsAs far as the menu, don't expect options. Except for your sides. When we went, the only thing that was ready was pulled pork. He said we could wait a half hour or so for chicken wings, but we didn't really have the time. So our option was pulled pork, which I was OK with.

It comes with two sides. They didn't have the potatoes (darn!), but I got collard greens and macaroni and cheese. Plus a drink, and my total was less than $10.

After a short wait, I was brought a large pulled pork sandwich with my two sides on a Styrofoam plate.

Russ' Ribs





Macaroni and cheese: Not thick and cheesy like I wanted, but still good. Sauce was thin, but they peppered it, and that reminds me of my mom. So, good.

Russ' RibsCollard Greens: Good flavor. Mine were a little watery, but tasty.

Pulled pork: Pretty tasty. He used his original sauce, which has won awards. Falls more into the Kansas City style of BBQ, with the pork and tomato/molasses sauce. I like the thick, smokey sweet sauce. Tons of meat was packed between the sesame seed bun, and I would love to have that sauce bottled to use for dipping.

But then this is when I fell in love with Russ.

Russ' RibsAs we were getting ready to leave, Jake was saying goodbye, and Russ called us back to try his chicken wings. No charge. He just genuinely wants people to love his food. That's special. And, they were some of the best wings I've had in town. Crisp on the outside and fall apart tender on the inside. He said it's a different kind of wing for Morgantown, and he wasn't sure if they were going to do well. I can tell you, that's all I want in a wing. I hate when the skin is slimey and fatty. Crispy skin and tender meat? Just perfection. We tried two different kind of sauces that he sauced up right in front of us. They were great.

It's rare you see someone who just genuinely wants to share their food with people - not for profit - but to share the love. I love that down-to-earth feeling here. I love the time, care and passion he puts into his cooking.

These are the kinds of places we need to be pouring our money into. People who genuinely care about their food, want to share it with the town, and it's good stuff. They aren't strong on the media and marketing aspect, so spread the word. Try a great sandwich and keep going back.

Grade: A
Russ' Ribs on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 10, 2014

Morgantown Edition: Real Juice Bar and Cafe

UntitledUntitled

UntitledReal Juice Bar and Cafe is the new kid on the downtown Morgantown block. It took the place of Garcia's Latin Market, which moved to the former Carvel location, at 119 Pleasant St. WBOY and WV Living already have short blurbs about it - and it just opened on March 3! It's getting a lot of attention.

UntitledUntitledThat might be because it's (one of?) the first juicing/health restaurants in the area. The only other restaurant that focuses on healthy items is the Shape Shop - that I know of. Juicing is kind of a trend right now. I'm not going to act like I know anything about it, because I'll let the 500 or so blogposts about ridiculous food I've eaten speak for itself.

UntitledSo, this place is right across from Black Bear, so there is that small parking ... garage(?) right there. That's convenient. When Tony and I walked in, it's pretty much what I would've expected. Some bright colored chalkboards, wooden tables, cute purple designs. Inviting and fresh. There were a few people working on laptops, so it's nice to have a cafe vibe here.

They have a number of juices, smoothies and vegetarian food items. Mostly salads, there's hummus and a few other odds and ends. The only meat I saw was tuna. I ordered the "avocado smash" on a bagel, which is avocado, olive oil and spices. I also got their soup of the day - potato - and a smoothie: "violet," which has blueberry, mango, lemon and orange. That, with a small tip, came out to about $18. That's hefty for lunch.

UntitledSmoothie: It was very liquid-y. I wish it was a bit thicker. It was also not cold - more room temperature. The flavor was good, though. It tasted fresh and sweet.

UntitledSoup: Also very runny. I tend to think of potato soup as thicker and creamier (aka fattier), but since they're more health-conscious, it lacked that cream to give it the velvety richness. There also weren't chunks of potato, rather little potato bits. The flavor wasn't bad, but it was definitely a "potato soup lite." At the counter, they asked what kind of bread I'd like with my soup, but it apparently failed to make it to my plate. Or Tony's.

UntitledAvocado smash bagel: Okay, this was fine. It was a pretty good bagel (lots of seed!), but you know how regular avocado tastes? Like an avocado. There's not a lot of flavor here. You typically use avocado in addition to something - not have it be the main flavor. They said there are spices, but nothing that I could taste. It was a tasty bagel, with a ton of just mashed up avocado and oil. Flavor was bland. Add a different texture (tomato?) or some spices or balsamic or something to accent the avocado flavor.

I tried Tony's hummus, and it was OK. It was a blackbean hummus, but pretty good overall.

UntitledUntitledSO. I get the point of this place, and it's probably a great option for folks are are very into juicing or not eating meat or just being conscious of their health in general. And this place tastes like it. I do think there are lots of options that are healthy but still pack a ton of flavor - the things I had here aren't really it, though.

I think healthy food doesn't have to taste bland. I think with some more thought, some of these items could be punched up. I liked the smoothie, but I think it should be cold and thicker. The soup was fine, but the avocado mashed up was bland. Just some spices could make it go places. And I simply can't afford $18 for lunch.

Again, it is new, and it's probably already valuable for certain people. And they may be wanting those people who are on the fringe, but if you want the bulk, middle-of-the-road people who could easily be swayed to go to the new Panera that's opening, I think some small changes could help. I'd much rather support a local business over a chain any day. But I don't want to do it for a subpar product.

They're open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed on Sunday. Give it a go and let me know your thoughts.

Grade: B
Real Juice Bar & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 7, 2014

Charleston Edition: Black Sheep Burrito and Brews

UntitledBlack Sheep Burrito & Brews is a well-known hipster burrito joint in Huntington that I've been dying to try for, well, ever. I still haven't gone (hopefully soon!), but they did open a location in Charleston, where the former Charleston Brewing Company used to be. It's this sort of joint-venture now, with Black Sheep dishing up the food and Charleston Brewing Company brewing and selling their beer.

Charleston Brewing Company's food wasn't well-received, and they adjusted, but overall, it seems this is combining the best of two worlds.

UntitledUntitled

The interior is nicer, brighter than I remember from the former place. We were sat near the back by the bar, so it was a little busy being right by the kitchen. But not too bad. I liked the music and ambiance.

UntitledI was there on the weekend, so it was the brunch menu. I had kind of wanted a burrito since it was my first time there, but they had french toast, which is hard for me to pass up.

It was whiskey cream french toast with bacon marmalade and cinnamon-vanilla infused blueberry syrup. And it was OK. Pretty heavy on my stomach, which was already not feeling great. But if you're thinking this would be your generic IHOP french toast - it's not. It's a darker bread, with a berry sauce - less syrup. More healthy? Not bad by any means, just not out of this world.

So, I'm OK with it. I think I want to try the one in Huntington - and a burrito - for the full experience. I want to love this place, so another dish, another time.

Grade: B
Black Sheep Burrito & Brews @ The Brewery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Morgantown Edition: Hometown Hot Dogs

Hometown hotdogsNorthern West Virginia is noticeably devoid of staple hotdog stands compared to more southern counties that set strict standards for these culinary classics.

Hometown hotdogsHowever, there are just a handful of places here that specialize in these beloved BBQ necessities. Hometown Hot Dogs, located in the Westover/Granville area is one.

It's not particularly new, and it's not far, but it just doesn't have a huge presence in town. It's pretty small and a little off the beaten path, so it's taken me some time to find it. But I finally did.

Hometown hotdogsHometown hotdogs

Parking is a bit precarious, and it's not huge inside. Everyone's eyes are on you as you walk inside - or at least they were on me and my group. We quickly took a seat at an empty table and looked over the menu plastered behind the bar area.  I ordered two dogs with mild chili, slaw, mustard and onions, with a side of fries. Vicki, former AP journalist extraordinaire, treated Tony and I to lunch. They don't take cards, so be sure to have cash handy.

Hometown hotdogsIt's fairly tight dining quarters (I kept getting bumped for folks trying to use the restroom), and you just kind of randomly find a spot at the bar to order, but they did hand us our food pretty quickly. We each had hotdogs, as well as communal order of fried pickles.

The hotdog - the slaw was this very mayo-type that really dominated the whole flavor. It was a little too much. But the sauce was good, and the hotdog itself was average. Pretty good overall, and definitely good for north central WV.

Hometown hotdogsBoth Tony and Vicki loved the fried pickles. They were pretty good - not something I'm crazy about in general. But not bad.

The fries were not cooked consistently. Some were crunchier, while other soggy. But good flavor and tasted more homemade than most places.

Here's their Facebook.

Grade: B
Hometown Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon