Clendenin Edition: The Trail Kitchen

By Candace Nelson - 10:48 AM

The trail kitchen

The Trail Kitchen
, located off the beaten path near Clendenin, got a lot of attention when it opened for its "pay what you want" scale. 

The trail kitchen

It has since made the rounds for its location, its open or closed status, and its specials. I couldn't wait to check it out.

The trail kitchen

Because it isn't quite "along the way" for anyone, really, I had to make a special trip out here - and I'm glad I did before they closed for the season. 

The trail kitchen

Let's start with getting here because that's half the battle. I have a Subaru for a reason; I like to be able to go just about anywhere. But if you have a vehicle with a low clearance or are not comfortable driving on unpaved roads, this may not be the road for you. I made it fine - nice and slow on the dirt roads - but know that you're going to see mostly ATVs and trucks in the parking area. 

The trail kitchen

The building has a nice outdoor deck area, as well as indoor seating. You order at the walk-up window, which has a menu listed - but no prices. It is a little awkward - without even a suggested price - because money is such a weird, taboo topic in our culture and looking at someone and telling them what you think their work, their effort, their staff are worth. Here's the restaurant's explanation on why they do it:

Our way to "Be the Change we wish to see in the world" ... We have decided to use a business model we have not seen before in any other restaurant. There will be NO prices on our menu! Our customers will decide how much they will pay for their meal. Here will be your 3 options ...

1. Pay only what you can afford
2. Pay what the meal is worth to you
3. "Pay it forward" to help someone who is quietly suffering financially

You will be handed an envelope when you order. Deposit your money into the envelope, the amount will be based on the 3 choices above, then put that envelope into a mail slot near the takeout window to pay for your meal, it will be completely private. OR you can choose to pay with a credit card and the amount will be between you and your cashier. WHY WOULD WE DO SUCH A CRAZY THING???? Please read to the end. Sometimes God whispers and idea in your ear that challenges your way of thinking. We did not do this lightly or on whim. Much thought and prayer went into this decision.

1. Someone who can't afford a meal, gets a meal while keeping their pride and dignity intact.
2. Someone who can afford a meal gets a great meal and pays what it's worth to them.
3. It gives those who can pay a little extra the opportunity to "pay it forward" to someone who is quietly suffering.

This prolonged pandemic and polarized political divide is creating a toxic environment in our country. When you're overwhelmed with fear and frustration, the best answer is to respond with fearlessness, and faith. We have faith in ...
Our community
We the people
and especially West Virginians

Anyone can fall on hard times and this pandemic has only amplified the problem for many families. Imagine if you couldn't take your daughter to a special birthday dinner, or celebrate a special event, or just needed a real meal that didn't come from a microwave. We will offer delicious meals made with quality ingredients, this is a real restaurant and we take pride in our food. We are not rich people, we are not a non-profit, we are not a "soup kitchen". We have built a first class commercial kitchen with an enormous deck on our property with our life savings and months of hard work.

We are a family owned small business that operates on old fashioned American values...
Faith in God
Hard Work
Quality product
Service to others
Strong Community

Life is more than the mindless pursuit of money and material things. We still have to pay bills, buy food, maintain the restaurant equipment and stay complaint with the health dept.. This bold move to operate solely on an honor system is scary, but we believe you must. "Be the change you wish to see in the world" and we believe this is the right thing to do. This is our preferred business model. If for some reason we are unable to continue operations in this manner, we will adjust our pricing plan but only if the original plan proves to be unsustainable. The founding fathers of our country had faith in "We the people" when they wrote our constitution. So, we will have faith in the people as well.

The Markers
The Trail Kitchen LLC "In God We Trust"

The trail kitchen

So I walked up to the window and put in an order for their "Trail Dipper," which is grilled sourdough with pepperjack cheese, american cheese, turkey, lettuce, tomato, onion and homemade ranch to dip it in. They also had homemade french onion dip that I added - I figured it could be fun to try that as a dip for the sandwich, too. 

The trail kitchen

After I placed my order, I walked inside the little breezeway area that has restrooms, as well as a small complimentary coffee bar. How nice that is for those who have been traveling! A little pick-me-up. After just a few minutes, my food was ready and I left to enjoy it. 

The trail kitchen

The sandwich is stacked. The bread is beautifully grilled, the cheese was perfectly melted, and there's a substantial amount of deli turkey, without it being unwieldy. The one thing I would change is the stringy shredded lettuce. I don't love that texture when glopped with a sauce. So I scooped out the bulk of it and enjoy the remainder of my sandwich.

If you want a one-of-a-kind West Virginia experience, the Trail Kitchen can provide that. I appreciate what they're doing and providing, and it's something different we can enjoy.

Grade: A

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