Adventures in dining: Class V tastes in the Gorge

Bring wild, wonderful West Virginia to the table!

Why should adventure stop with the outdoors? Instead, try shaking things up with meals that defy expectations.

Country Thai Restaurant | Lansing

It’s exotic, eccentric and wholly unexpected. Rising above a quiet suburban neighborhood, Country Thai appears out of nowhere. Keep a sharp eye— it’s a gem worth finding.

Here, you’re treated to dishes of aromatic southeast Asian cuisine, prepared by the owner herself. Adding to Country Thai’s charm is the ordering system. It’s like a cafeteria. You grab a tray and bring it up front, where a friendly chef explains the daily specials. Typical delicacies include sweet-and-sour chicken, fried rice, drunken noodles, curry, and spring rolls.

The “combo” is a good choice if you get overwhelmed. Otherwise, pick what you want and pay—no waiting! Drinks are similarly unexpected. Soda aside, you can order craft beer, Thai iced tea and other Asian beverages.

Country Thai has plenty of table space and booths. What’s more, you can surf the web with free wi-fi.

The Stache | Fayetteville

This ice-cream shop has scoops of charm. It’s tiny, with shelves of bright toys and candy. Bar stools line the little counter up front.

The Stache’s perky vibe extends to its Hershey’s ice cream. Most flavors are exotic or extravagant— stuff you won’t easily find at the grocery store. For example, there’s Blue Moon: a mysterious treat with an intriguing taste. It sure looks tempting with sprinkles, though— whatever the flavor!

Superman is another oddity. Kids especially like it, because who can miss those vibrant stripes of strawberry, banana and Blue Moon? But if you prefer something more sophisticated, The Stache has gallons of choices. Traditional picks aside, you can try flavors like Cinna-Graham Swirl (a pound cake base with cinnamon-graham streusel!), Road Runner Raspberry and Cappuccino Crunch.

The Stache stays open long enough for seasonal desserts, too. In previous years, the owner has served pumpkin ice cream and homemade pumpkin pie.

Pies & Pints | Fayetteville

One bite of these pizzas, and you’ll be forever spoiled. Each one starts with handmade, hand-tossed dough and roasted garlic oil. Then, brace yourself for flavor, flavor, flavor!

Pies & Pints’ fresh toppings ensure eye-popping results, no matter which pie you choose. But because we’re focusing on exotic dishes, try showstoppers like:

  • Black Bean: the zestiest “taco” you’ve ever tried. Cilantro, creme fraiche, cheddar, jalapenos, salsa and seasoned beans thickly cover this pie.
  • Thai: pizza jazzed up with toasted coconut, shrimp, curry sauce, lime, cilantro and basil.
  • Grape & Gorgonzola: a local favorite (even among meat lovers!). Red grapes bring sweetness, while rosemary and Gorgonzola cheese keep things savory.

Not a pizza fan? Pies & Pints’ extensive menu also has sandwiches, salads, desserts, and craft brews.

Secret Sandwich Society | Fayetteville

What Pies & Pints does for pizza, this restaurant does for burgers and sandwiches. Starting with local bread and artisan cheese, chefs fill their creations with homemade ingredients. Even pickles, ketchup and dressing are made in-house!

Dig into imaginative offerings like:

  • Rawhide: a burger with jalapenos, roasted garlic mayonnaise, pepper jack cheese and an over-easy egg.
  • McKinley: a spiced meatloaf sandwich with chipotle-bacon jam, 1,000 Island and crispy onions on sourdough bread.
  • Truman: a turkey sandwich with peach jam, blue cheese spread and crispy onions on a toasted baguette.

Secret Sandwich Society’s menu continues with many more sandwiches— including vegetarian ones. Salads, loaded fries, and desserts are also available.

Gumbo’s Cajun Restaurant | Fayetteville

Low Country cuisine in southern West Virginia? Yup!

At Gumbo’s, you’ll find classics like jambalaya, blackened shrimp, and Cajun po’boys. As for sandwiches, try muffuletta— a zesty Louisiana sandwich with tapenade, melted provolone, and ham. There’s also the “Atchafalaya”: grilled rye with turkey, bacon, slaw, Swiss cheese and Creole tomatoes.

The appetizers have personality, too. Try Screamin’ Shrooms: breaded and fried fungi with homemade buffalo sauce, bleu cheese crumbles and dressing. Other choices include fried okra, crab cakes, fried crawfish and buffalo shrimp.

Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant | Mount Hope

There’s Italian food … and then there’s authentic Italian food. With the Veramessa family behind the counter at Giuseppe’s, you can count on the real deal.

For starters, say goodbye to breadsticks. You won’t even find them! Try the baked meatballs instead, or go for the breaded shrimp and cocktail sauce.

As for dinner entrees, you’ll have to make some tough choices. The Veramessas serve baked rigatoni, spaghetti with meat sauce, eggplant parmesan, lasagna, and ravioli— among others. Each serving comes with salad and hot garlic bread. The latter is so good, though, you might want to order some more. Extras cost less than a dollar!

Buon appetito!

Cafe One Ten | Oak Hill

It may look modest, but this restaurant doesn’t cut corners. One Ten’s homemade touch gives pop to seemingly ordinary things like hummus and flatbread pizza. Same thing holds true for entrees that break the mold.

Consider the Red Devil Deep Fry: a sourdough sandwich with bacon, ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese. As its name implies, batter and high temps are involved. But the result is delicious— and clever. Try dunking it in honey mustard!

The Breakfast Burger is another surprise. You expect morning burritos and sandwiches these days, but not patties. Why? Who knows. Fortunately, One Ten grabbed the bull by the horns. This burger features a fried egg, hash browns, bacon, and your choice of cheese.

The dessert section is pretty adventurous, too. Ever tried fried Oreos? One Ten serves 6 piping-hot cookies per order. Tin Roof Sundaes are an option if you want to avoid the fryer. Look forward to vanilla ice cream with walnuts, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream … with a cherry on top. Interestingly, the original recipe belonged to Kelly Drug— the original business on 110 Main Street.

What about you? Where do you go for adventurous meals in the New River Gorge?

The post Adventures in dining: Class V tastes in the Gorge appeared first on Bridge Day.

Get ready for spring with these seasonal staples

Those balmy, carefree days are right around the corner. Just head to the New River Gorge, where special events and activities make the season even sweeter.

 Color in the mountains

The Gorge reaches the height of its powers as winter wanes, revealing springtime gems. For this reason, no hike should be without a camera.

Wildflowers are the easiest, most rewarding surprises to spot. Nothing stands out against greenery like sprays of color, and the Gorge abounds in blooms. There are star chickweeds, which resemble spiky fireworks; crimson cardinal flowers; frilly Culver’s root; and many more intriguing plants. If you’re especially lucky, you might find a lady slipper orchid.

Rhododendrons are especially showy. The “great” variety, which reigns as West Virginia’s state flower, has extravagant white clusters from June to July. There’s also the Catawba rhododendron. Its magenta blooms really pop! Expect to see them in May.

Mountain laurel, another shrub, looks just like a rhododendron. But rising above its stubby, dark green leaves are lovely crowns of frilly pale pink or white blooms. These flowers appear from May to June.

That’s just the tip of the bouquet, too! In fact, so many colorful plants flourish here, there’s an annual celebration: the New River Gorge Wildflower Weekend. Local state parks also have special hikes throughout spring.

Wild animals

The New River Gorge attracts animals, too. Its deep, remote canyon provides a sheltered corridor for a host of mammals, reptiles, and birds.

While you’ll find critters any time of year, spring is prime time. People aren’t the only ones who appreciate warmer weather! More than 60 mammal species live in the Gorge. Mink, deer, coyotes, bats and river otters are just some of the residents you’ll spot in this neighborhood.

Numerous reptiles and amphibians live here, too. You might find five-lined skinks, common map turtles, eastern worm snakes and hellbenders. Timber rattlers and copperheads are the only venomous animals in the Gorge. They’re reclusive and shy, though.

Last but definitely not least: birds. The vast region forms the perfect habitat for hundreds of migrating and local species. Naturalists and visitors from across the country flock here for the flashy warblers, glorious bald eagles and dazzling tanagers. In fact, the New River Birding & Nature Festival is an annual highlight. This year’s gathering is May 1-6 and will feature hikes, scientific presentations, cabin hangouts and hot meals.

Wild rapids

For locals and rafters across the country, spring marks the return of world-class whitewater. Some rivers are particularly rambunctious. Melting snow and rain engorge the rapids, creating one feisty ride after another.

Outfitters start guided trips on the New River in April. If you’d like to give this thrilling sport a try, now is one of the best times! The tranquil Upper section is great for beginners; it has calm pools and lively (but not scary) waves.

For an adrenaline rush, there’s nothing like the Lower. Its Class III-V rapids, muscular currents and looming boulders will wake you up for sure!

Closer towards summer, the Gauley River comes into its own. Hailed by rafting fans as the “Beast of the East,” it boils with more than 100 rapids, complex hydraulics and tricky chutes. You must be 15 or older on some guided trips, and outfitters recommend prior rafting experience. But if you’re game, there’s nothing like a ride on a world-famous whitewater river.

Wild ice cream

Well, sort of! The Stache in Fayetteville serves Hershey’s ice cream, but not the kind you usually find in stores. Ever tried Play Doh, Graham Central Station, Cappuccino Crunch or Superman? It’s also the only place in West Virginia where you can order the mysterious Blue Moon.

Try flavors like these in a cone, or transform one into a milkshake or sundae. The Stache makes fresh smoothies and iced coffee, too. Locals also gather here at noon for bag lunches. You can have BBQ, hot dogs or chicken salad with chips and a drink— all for less than $6!

Old-fashioned ambience is another reason to visit. The Stache’s tiny interior is crammed with whimsical toys, vintage candy and craft kits. Talk about a trip down memory lane!

The Stache opens in April— the earliest you can get a scoop of summer pleasure.

What’s your favorite rite of spring in the Gorge?

The post Get ready for spring with these seasonal staples appeared first on Bridge Day.

Get some second helpings of these Taste of Bridge Day winners

You don’t have to wait till October 2017 to devour 2016’s best appetizer, entree and dessert.

Taste of Bridge Day chefs don’t appear at annual events like ghosts; they actually cook the delicious meals you remember all year long! We’ll show you where those award-winning entries live in the New River Gorge.

Who took the feast?

Who made the best roast beast? At Taste of Bridge Day, gourmet cooking is serious business. It’s a gastronomic party that precedes the world’s biggest BASE jumping festival. Regional restaurant chefs prepare gourmet fare at Smokey’s on the Gorge, and you can vote for your favorite entry after sampling everything.

It’s not just about wining and dining, though. Restaurants take great pride in their chefs and meals, so bragging rights are at stake, too.

Did you try these 2016 winning recipes?

  • Best Appetizer: Smokey’s on the Gorge’s Smoked Shrimp with Bloody Butcher Grits
  • Best Entree: Buffler’s Broccoli and Cavatelli with Sausage
  • Best Dessert: Gumbo’s Genoise Organic Chocolate Cream

Smokey’s on the Gorge
Home of Taste of Bridge Day itself! The long timber porch treats you to mesmerizing views of the canyon, while the gourmet buffet satisfies everything else.

Smokey’s is open all day and has a full bar, too, so staring at the Gorge from breakfast to dinner is an option. It’s a seasonal restaurant and closes in winter, but look for Smokey’s to reopen in May!

Buffler’s BBQ Grill
Family-friendly ambience doesn’t keep this restaurant from slacking in the cooking department. Smoked brisket and pulled pork from Buffler’s are a local treat. The Gorgantic— a 28-inch monster pizza— is a hit, too.

Gumbo’s Cajun Restaurant
It turns out our corner of West Virginia makes some pretty good low country cuisine! Order enormous portions of gumbo, catfish po boy and blackened shrimp. Gumbo’s also serves hearty burgers and sandwiches.

Crave even more fabulous flavors? Visit these runners up:

Chetty’s Pub
This laidback sports bar merges comfort food favorites (wings and “Class IV Cheese Fries”) with sophisticated fare. The Miami burger or chicken breast comes off the grill with melted Swiss cheese, smoked ham, dill pickles, Dijon mustard and garlic mayonnaise. Chetty’s Ultimate BLT also comes with eye-openers like fried green tomatoes and sriracha sauce.

Cafe 110
Homemade meals, affordable prices and cheerful service keep this Oak Hill mainstay ticking along. Cafe 110’s garlicky hummus and warm, thick pita bread are favorites, but the daily specials are always satisfying. Pulled pork, meatballs and grilled southwestern chicken are typical stars, but the buffet covers many genres, too. Try one of their creamy pies, too— if you have room.

Arrowhead Bike Farm
It’s easy to assume that only bikers feel welcome at this Fayetteville watering hole. But the biergarten appeals to foodies, too. Arrowhead serves excellent soft pretzels, fancy bratwurst sandwiches and craft beer.

Where are you going to dine next?

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