Monday, February 29, 2016

Parkersburg Edition: The Coffee Bar

The Coffee Bar

During my trip to Parkersburg, I set up my home base at The Coffee Bar. I had a bit of time to kill and some work to do until Veronica got done with work, so I found myself squatting at the coffee shop.

The Coffee BarThis place is the cutest, first off. Minimal, light rustic wood, black accents and exposed brick. Totally adorable. I ordered a "Goldie Hawn," which has espresso, honey, steamed milk and vanilla.

The Coffee BarAnd, I also ordered this sort of strawberry pastry that was crumbly and huge and delicious.

The Coffee Bar
The coffee = a very soothing, good cup o' joe. The pastry = very sweet with small sugar crumbles all over the top with a thick layer of strawberry spread in the middle. Perfect combo.

Grade: A
Coffee Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Charleston Restaurant Week

CWV Restaurant Week
Bricks & Barrels: Blackened flat iron served with crispy fingerling potatoes, vegetables, and garlic compound butter
I know it's just a teeny bit late, but I wanted to mention all the great food I had during Charleston's Restaurant Week. Held during the last week of January, Charleston really did Restaurant Week right. I went to three different restaurants this week in order to write something up for Taste! WV Magazine (I really should get on that...).

CWV Restaurant Week
Bridge Road Bistro menu
Buzz Food Service organizes and sponsors the event, which featured 20 different restaurants offering a three-course meal for $30. Appetizer, entree and dessert for $30? Yes, yes and yes. During the first year, there were 8 restaurants, then 16 in the second year. And this year - 20!

CWV Restaurant Week
Bricks & Barrels - Chocolate decadent cake with vanilla sauce and fresh berries
Tons of people go out to find new restaurants and revisit old favorites. Aladdin Restaurant, Bricks & Barrels, Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill, Fifth Quarter, Leonoro's, Su Tei, The Block, B&D Gastropub, Ichiban, Paternos - and so many more participated. The event resulted in half a million dollars in economic impact.

CWV Restaurant Week
Bricks & Barrels - Sauteed shrimp with peppers and onions, tasso ham gravy served over grits
So, where did I go? I went to Celsius with Veronica - my first time at the restaurant, so it'll get its own post. I also went to Bricks & Barrels with Veronica, which was pretty amazing. I started off with these small bite-sized crab cakes, which were fine. The entree, though, is what was the best part. Their take on a shrimp and grits was creamy, tangy, smokey and all-around comforting. The flavors were balanced, the texture was varied, and the dish had soul.

CWV Restaurant Week
Bricks & Barrels - Mini chocolate brick
My friends opted for their steak and enjoyed it. My dessert was their mini chocolate brick, which was this chocolate shell with cream inside. Not bad.

CWV Restaurant Week
Bridge Road Bistro bread
The final restaurant I visited was Bridge Road Bistro. For starters, I had this French Onion Soup. It was pretty tasty. I love the croutons and Swiss cheese bubbling down the side. It's a very earthy sort of taste, but I'm into it.

CWV Restaurant Week
Bridge Road Bistro - French onion soup with crouton and Swiss cheese
For entrees, my friend Maggie got a salmon with potatoes and greens. I went for the bacon-wrapped pork medallions with whipped potatoes, haricot verts with toasted almonds and a huckleberry demi glace.

CWV Restaurant Week
Bridge Road Bistro - salmon with potatoes
The pork was quite good, as were the potatoes. The sauce really was a nice complement to the meat. Nicely thought out dish.

CWV Restaurant Week
Bridge Road Bistro - Bacon-wrapped pork medallions with whipped potatoes and haricot verts with almonds.
Dessert was creme caramel with fresh berries. Anything rich and creamy such as this has my vote.

CWV Restaurant Week
Bridge Road Bistro - Creme caramel with fresh berries.
I love the cohesive, community-driven aspect of this weeklong event. I think it benefits so many areas - including the patrons who find new restaurants, the restaurants who get a bump during a slow time of year and the economy that sees so much more money. I'd love to see this implemented in even more areas throughout the state.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Parkersburg Edition: Cham's Lebanese Cuisine

Chams Lebanese BistroI did a quick culinary tour of Parkersburg with BFF Veronica to check off a bunch of places on the 101 Most Unique Places to Dine list, and our first stop was Cham's Lebanese Cuisine.

Chams Lebanese Bistro
Cham's Lebanese Cuisine is a family-owned restaurant that serves up classic Lebanese dishes: shawarma, falafel, kabob, hummus, etc. I went for the shawarma, while Veronica opted for the falafel wrap.

Chams Lebanese BistroAfter a short wait, our dishes came out - and with a smile. Everyone here was very kind and friendly. My dish was not bad, but it wasn't the best shawarma I've ever had, either. A bit more wrap than meat, and a good sauce would've helped bring it together. But good quality meat and a big portion.

Chams Lebanese BistroV wasn't super keen on her falafel (but I haven't had a falafel I've been super keen on, either). I had a bite, and it wasn't bad. It was tough to bypass the dessert ... but we did have another dinner to get to, so none for this visit.

Chams Lebanese BistroOverall thoughts: Good, especially for the Parkersburg area. Great? I've had some in recent memory that are hard to top.

Grade: B
Chams Lebanese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, February 26, 2016

Morgantown Edition: Bombay Indian Grill

Bombay Indian GrillThe corner of University Avenue and Campus Drive has lured in yet another restaurant - this time in the form of Indian cuisine. Bombay Indian Grill opened on Monday and has had a steady stream of customers ever since, according to the owners.

Bombay Indian GrillThis restaurant space seems to be cursed. It has previously housed a Pizza Al's and some other short-lived places. So, what gives? Is it an awkward location? Is it parking - despite there being a giant short-term lot directly outside the door? Has there not been a unique enough restaurant to draw people to this area? Is there not enough foot traffic? I don't have the answers. But I wish these folks the best.

Bombay Indian GrillTony and I parked in the short-term lot and luckily got in right before the lunch rush. A sign outside noted a lunch special: $7.99 for two items on the lunch bar with rice. The bar had pans of channa masala, spicy garlic chicken, etc. Behind the counter was the full menu, which features favorites like chicken tikka masala, chicken vindaloo, lamb korma, etc.

Bombay Indian GrillAt the counter, I ordered chicken tikka masala, as well as an order of vegetable pakora. After paying, we found a seat and waited for our food. I really don't love this kind of seating - like faux booths that make me feel like they're going to tilt and break. Just my neurosis showing here. Otherwise, bright colors on the walls and a bit of odds and ends that need touched up. They've tried to get as much seating in here as they could, which lends itself to odd angles at some points.

Bombay Indian GrillThe lovely owner brought us out a sample of Mango Lassi, which is this mango yogurt drink - super velvety and smooth. I'm a fan.

Bombay Indian GrillNext up, the pakora. Green peppers, cauliflower, potatoes and onions are dipped in this delicious batter and fried until crisp and golden. Think Indian tempura. Fried VEGGIES can't be all that bad, right? I like the batter, and, even though it fell apart a bit, it was tasty. It was served with a tamarind dipping sauce and a coriander chutney. The tamarind is a bit sweeter, while the chutney has a fresher taste.

Bombay Indian GrillBombay Indian GrillThe naan was good - and plentiful! That's nice. Tony's butter chicken up there was very good, too. Not quite as sweet as mine but very flavorful.

Bombay Indian GrillThe tikka masala is super creamy and just a hint of sweet. It is delivered in a large bowl, with a small dish of rice - with, I think, the intention of scooping bits from the bowl to the rice and going spoonful at a time. Very good.

Bombay Indian GrillBombay Indian GrillWhen I finished, I went up to get a to-go container (enough for a whole other meal!). And, while there, I got some kheer. I love, love, love rice pudding. I also love gulab jamun, but I was trying to pace myself. It has a nice hint of cinnamon. You can't really go wrong with it, though.

Bombay Indian GrillI like this place. I'm not sure we need (or can sustain) a third Indian restaurant in town. And I'm not sure if it blows the other two away. But I do like it. I think I'd have to try a few more dishes to get a better gauge.

Bombay Indian GrillGrade: B
Bombay Indian Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Spencer Edition: Church Street Deli

Church Street Deli
A small deli in Spencer open only for lunch Monday through Friday posed a problem for me. But, where there's a will (ahem, an appearance on the 101 Most Unique Places to Dine in WV list), there's a way.

Church Street DeliI took a day off for some culinary adventure and made my way to Spencer to visit the Church Street Deli. After being misled by Apple Maps, I found my way there - and even parallel parked!

Church Street DeliChurch Street DeliInside, it opens up into a dim dining space with a few black tables and chairs, and further back sits the counter space. Off to the right and back, there is even more seating. Up at the counter, I made a quick decision to try the loaded potato soup, which was the special for the day.

Church Street DeliFor a cold, rainy day, there was no better cure. It was cheesy and rich - my only faint complaint is that it seemed to have this layer of film on top that I didn't totally love. Maybe that was sitting for a few before serving? Not sure, but the flavor was on point. This little deli certainly knows how to dish up a decent soup.

Church Street DeliBonus? The women's restroom was totally decked out in Marilyn Monroe. Cool. Haha.

Church Street DeliGrade: B
Church Street Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Huntington Edition: La Famiglia

La FamigliaLa Famiglia, located in Huntington, calls itself a southern Italian deli. They appear to have these sorts of items, as well as a dinner menu. Thinks pizzas, pasta dishes, etc.

La FamigliaThe restaurant has roots in Calabria, as the family's cultural heritage is Italian. They use the same recipes brought over from Calabria maintained through the generations.

La FamigliaThe environment in this restaurant is warm, welcoming. Super cozy. The service great. I thought a pretty straightforward dish would be the classic spaghetti and meatball pasta.

La FamigliaI found it fairly average. The pasta was cooked a little too long, and the sauce was a bit watery for my tastes. It wasn't bad; it just wasn't super exciting to me. Meatball was a bit dry. Nothing terrible, just nothing great.

La FamigliaThis little cannoli, for dessert, though, was pretty tasty! It had a nice crisp pastry and delicious creamy ricotta center. Overall, decent experience. But I've had better Italian in the area.

Grade: C
La Famiglia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Kenova Edition: Evaroni's Pizza

EvaronisEvaroni's Pizza, located in Kenova, found itself on the 101 Most Unique Places to Dine in WV list. So, I found myself in Kenova.

I visited on New Year's Eve, and they were totally slammed. So, while the nice brickwork outside looked as if it could be this inviting Italian cove full of delicious food, I only saw the entrance. I placed my order inside and was quoted a 30-minute or so wait. Veronica and I left to run a few errands. And about 30 minutes later, I get in line for the drive-thru to pick up my pizza.

EvaronisApparently, somebody forgot to hang up my ticket, and they frantically said just 10 more minutes. I pulled ahead, muttered under my breath a lot and generally felt all around frustrated. We were already running late, and this set us over. But I waited, and waited, and waited some more until they finally brought my pizza out.

Fortunately, it was so, so worth it. This pizza has a really sweet sauce. I don't typically love that, but it had some depth there. It's not a cheap sweet where a ton of sugar is just dumped in. It's a cultivated, marinated sweet that just gives the pizza an incredible flavor. The crust was crisp (probably because I scarfed it down as soon as it was handed to me). Very good.

So, go. Just don't be pressed for time when doing so.

Grade: A
Evaroni's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato