Friday, October 24, 2014

Beckley Edition: Tamarack

Tamarack CollageI LOVE Tamarack. LOVE it. It embodies the arts and culture that is West Virginia. There are bits and pieces from artists all around the state in this one spot. And it's awesome. You can get pieces of art, Fiestaware, jams and jellies, glasswork, clothing and more -- all created by West Virginians.

Tamarack3 CollageTamarack2 CollageThey have a cafeteria, which is managed by The Greenbrier, where they serve up tuna melts, chicken pot pies, rainbow trout, and fried green tomato sandwiches.

I got a fried green tomato sandwich to go. It was placed in a plastic container, which kind of steamed it by the time I got to it.

It was OK. Good for cafeteria food, I suppose. But a little mushy by the time I got to it. My fault. It was pretty heavy. Between cheese bacon and fried tomato. Something fresh - maybe onion? Something. I think would make this a little less dense.


Grade: B
Tamarack Food Court on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Morgantown Edition: High St Pasta Co.

High St Pasta Co.

The High St Pasta Co. came out of nowhere. I heard about a sister pasta shop opening by Chico's Fat, but I had no idea it was so far in production and ready to be open to the public. Sher, photographer extraordinaire, happened to see they were open the other day and clued me in. Today, a group of coworkers and I went for lunch.

High St Pasta Co.The space is beautiful. Exposed brick, purple-gray wall color and some sleek black and white chairs fill the inside. The point-of-sale system is via an iPad-like thing. Just slick and cool.

High St Pasta CoThe food is for more of a quick lunch. They have all you can eat pasta for $8.50. Or you can get pasta to go for $8. OR you can get an all you can eat for $8.50 AND get another box to go for an extra $2ish.

High St Pasta Co.The menu is quite small with a simple concept. You pick your type of noodle: angel hair, spaghetti, fettuccine, penne, fusilli or gluten free. You pick your sauce: meat, marinara, alfredo, or pesto. Pick your salad dressing for your side salad: Italian, creamy Italian, catalina, gorgonzola, poppy seed, honey mustard, or white balsamic vinaigrette. Plus you can add a meatball (or 3), cheese bread and a few others.

High St Pasta CoHigh St Pasta Co

I ordered fusilli, with marinara, with a meatball, with gorgonzola dressing for my salad and a drink. It comes with a small piece of bread. In small talk, the guy at the register said they do make their pasta, and they make it in Chico's kitchen. The two are owned by the same person.

Salad was fine. Fresh lettuce and bits of onion, tomato and carrot. Gorgonzola dressing was also tasty with some chunks of gorgonzola. Mm. I wish I had a chance to eat more of it, but work called and I had to leave early-ish.

High St Pasta Co.My pasta was good. It was a little overcooked; usually, pasta is a little al dente. This was pretty soft. But that doesn't offend me. The sauce had a good flavor. Just a little spice there that gave it something extra. The meatball I think needs a little work. A little kick of spice but not necessarily in the best way. But, still, overall a decent dish.

High St Pasta Co.It's like a fast food Italian place. Quick, easy, limited options. I think it fills a certain void in downtown Morgantown, so I'm happy with it. It does what it's supposed to do. I do, however, wish they had something signature or creative. Maybe a special sauce? A specific appetizer? Something so it doesn't feel super run-of-the-mill. But overall, a decent value and nice to have a pasta option downtown. And their creative design/concept is on point. Just translate that a little to a food item or two, and I'd be happy.

Grade: B
High St Pasta Co. on Urbanspoon

Pigeon Forge, TN Edition

I recently went to Tennessee (Pigeon Forge, specifically) to visit my parents while on vacation. Pigeon Forge is a very tourist-heavy town, so it was tough to scope out restaurants that got to the real culture of the town instead of tourist traps. But we tried.


Creamery CollageThe Old Mill Creamery - We went here mostly because we had a long wait for our dinner. But there were a dozen or so options in the form of bowls, cones or shakes. I got a two-scoop cone with a peanut butter moose tracks sort of ice cream and another that I can't remember. But overall, pretty tasty!

Grade: A
Old Mill Creamery on Urbanspoon

Old Mill CollageThe Old Mill Restaurant - This is where we chose for dinner my first night there. While our wait was incredibly long, once we finally got in, service was quick. A house salad and some corn fritters were rushed to our table. I ordered the meatloaf, with a side of macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes (which were served family style) and a pecan pie. The price was about $20 all inclusive. It comes in a nice set. And it was also pretty tasty. The meatloaf was ground pretty fine, so it was crumbly. But the top had a nice tomato flavor. The corn fritters, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese were all good. Average-ish. The pecan pie was good. Overall, a decent meal. Love comfort food, but the wait was so incredibly long. And nothing was totally mind-blowing.

Grade: B
Old Mill on Urbanspoon


Alamo CollageAlamo Steakhouse - This is one I wanted to go to because I heard really good reviews. In an act of luck, we ended up going for lunch, so it's a good bit cheaper. I ordered the horseradish-crusted sirloin with a side of mushroom risotto and their potatoes. I ordered it medium, and it was definitely overcooked. I saw no pink. BUT flavor was on point. The horseradish-parmesan crust wasn't so much a crust as it was melted cheese with just a tiny tang (don't be scared by the horseradish - not potent). Mushroom risotto was flavorful, and the fried potatoes were average. Overall, though, very good lunch.

Grade: A
Alamo Steak House on Urbanspoon


big Daddy's pizzeria CollageBig Daddy's Pizzeria - My parents are a big fan of this place. It's laidback, and they have an arcade. We ordered a spinach artichoke dip for an appetizer, which was tasty. The pita chips especially were covered in salt and garlic and were perfectly crisp and soft at the same time. We went for a large herbivore pizza, which has marinara, mozzarella-provolone blend, spinach, roma tomatoes, roasted garlic, banana peppers, mushrooms, red peppers and feta cheese. It was tasty. Overall, decent meal, but nothing outstanding.

Grade: B
Big Daddy's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Smoky Mountain Brewery collage
Smoky Mountain Brewery - I was anxious to try some local beer, so we stopped at the Smoky Mountain Brewery for a snack. And beer, duh. We ordered their eggrolls, and I have to say I'm disappointed. They were just bland, and the sauce was overpowering. But I was a fan of their beer. So, maybe something else would be better.

Grade: B
Smoky Mountain Brewery on Urbanspoon

Old Mill Pottery & Cafe CollageThe Old Mill Pottery House Cafe & Grill - My favorite place. Friends of my parents chose this place, and it was a good one. It's like the lunch equivalent of The Old Mil. I had a spinach quiche and their potato soup. Huge portions, served with fresh fruit and a piece of cinnamon raisin bread. Healthy, fresh and filling.

Grade: A
The Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille on Urbanspoon
Dixie Stampede Collage
Dixie Stampede
Dixie Stampede - I don't have better pictures of this because we weren't allowed to take any. But this is the first time I did a dinner/show combo thing. It was pretty exciting. There's a constant horse show (and a really heavy focus on north vs. south - I thought we were over that). And it's quick! They bend our tickets depending on what kind of drink we want. I went with lemonade. Then in rounds they bring a creamy vegetable soup, a biscuit, an entire rotisserie chicken, pork loin, corn on the cop, a potato and a final pastry. I couldn't even finish the pastry, I was so stuffed. But it was awesome.

Grade: A
Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show on Urbanspoon

So, those are all the main restaurants we visited. BUT we also went to some other cool places, like the Smoky Mountain Opry, the Old Forge Distillery (where I bought chocolate moonshine) and two different candy shops: The Old Mill Candy Kitchen and the Smoky Mountain Candy Makers. Lots of taffy was had. And is still being had.

Pigeon Forge Collage

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Beckley Edition: Calacinos Pizzeria

Calacinos CollageOn my seven-hour trek to Tennessee to see my parents during their vacation, I got hungry. I knew there were a handful of places in Beckley I hadn't been. So at a rest stop, I found the number for Calacino's Pizzeria, called in an order to pick up and asked to pick it up in a half hour or so.

I don't really know how I got to this place (thank you, GPS). But what I DO know is I somehow skipped the 40 cent toll, so that was awesome.

Inside, it seems as thought it's kind of sports bar-like. Lots of photos and jerseys on the wall. I stuck to the front, though, and picked up my pizza. They had it ready and waiting. Decently priced. I took it to my car and opened the box.

The first thing I noticed was that a chunk of it was hanging over the edge. That's why they couldn't shut the box all the way. Huh. Makes sense now.

Calacinos PizzeriaI mean, kinda. Why don't they have boxes big enough to fit their pizzas? Or was this one just different? Seems like that would be a thing that's important.

The pizza itself was very good, though. I got mushrooms and meatballs. Delicious sauce, crisp crust, some saltiness from the meatballs (which were slices, really) and the mushrooms. Good balance. Good pie. Will definitely stop here again on my way through.

Grade: A
Calacino's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 20, 2014

Welch Edition: Sterling Drive-In Restaurant

Sterling Drive In
McDowell County doesn't have the greatest reputation. A once-thriving coal-based industry in the area has slowed to a crawl, bringing with it an influx of drug abuse and poverty. It's been documented time and time again. Truth be told, I'm sure the same could be said about many areas of the state.

Sterling Drive InBut I've never been to this county, and I've wanted to go for years. I just wanted to see it for myself. Unfortunate circumstances brought me all the way south, but I made the best of it by stopping at the Sterling Drive-In. The Sterling Drive-In is one of the last drive-ins in the state, so I was excited to check it out (and I also got a nice story out of it for Taste WV). 

Sterling Drive In
You can still park, flash your lights and have a carhop come to you ready to take your order. Or, you can park and head inside. Since I had been in my car most of the day, I went inside. The interior has orange vinyl and some photos of cars, news clippings and other memorabilia on the walls.
Sterling Drive In

Looking over the menu, there are sandwiches and dinners and the like. But their "Signature Sterling Sub" is where it's at. It has cranberry sauce, bacon, lettuce, tomato and their special "spread" on a deep-fried bun.

Sterling Drive InThe owners say that no one ever guesses correctly what's in the spread, and few people do know. But it seems to be a pork mixture. Let's hope.

Sterling Drive InBut it's good! It's different, but it's tasty. A little bit of sweet, some crunch, some fresh and something ... odd. The spread isn't entirely noticeable since there are so many toppings, but it's definitely worth it to try and get a taste of the local food culture. It's fun, and I appreciate it for what it is.

Sterling Drive In

Grade: A
Sterling Drive-In Incorporated on Urbanspoon