It goes without saying that we here at Adventures On the Gorge like to eat. We play like we mean it, and we eat just as zealously. That’s why we have so many places to do everything from dine with napkins on our laps to straight pig out. Smokey’s On the Gorge, Chetty’s Pub and Buffler’s BBQ Grill are our main establishments, and each has won awards for its fare. Add the new snack bar at Canyon Falls Swimming Hole and Scoops Ice Cream Shoppe, and you may never want to leave our resort to eat.
Or will you?
Known by many but unbeknownst to just as many, 5 minutes down the road and across the Bridge, Fayetteville has quietly become the culinary capital of West Virginia, with a line up of restaurants that rivals anything in any city on Earth. In no particular order (I actually pulled names out of a Cathedral Cafe travel mug), here’s a lengthy low down on the best places to chow down.
Secret Sandwich Society
If you doubt that Fayetteville, West Virginia is really the hidden culinary jewel we’ve proclaimed it to be, look no further than the Secret Sandwich Society. For David Bailey, this is the second successful restaurant in Fayetteville (Pies & Pints was first). He and co-owner (and fiance) Tashia Hippler have capitalized on the speakeasy craze to create a sandwich joint tucked under the old Pies & Pints building at the corner of Keller and Court.
They also lit upon the idea of a president-themed menu, since, hey, aren’t presidents the ultimate secret society? “We didn’t want whitewater names!” notes Hippler. Their sandwiches are named for presidents, their salads after first ladies and the burgers after Secret Service presidential code names. If you’re chawing on one with jalapeno, habanero pepper-jack cheese, roasted garlic aoli and a fried egg, for example, then your eating a Rawhide, which was the Secret Service’s codename for Ronald Reagan.
Pies & Pints
As I’m often fond of telling people, “Nobody ever walked out of Pies & Pints unhappy.” One of the first really good restaurants in Fayetteville, Pies still stands out as one of the finest. Many visitors to town don’t consider their vacations complete without a visit.
Pies & Pints’ menu includes an array of eclectic and creative pizzas—New York style to the last—plus a slew of appetizers, including the best hot wings upon which I’ve ever burnt my lips. The Food Channel called their Grape Pie (red grapes, gorgonzola cheese and rosemary) one of the top ten pizzas in America. If you’re thirsty, well, they’re also the official pub for Bridge Brew Works, the local brewery. Glug, glug, glug!
Diogi’s Latin Grill & Cantina
D… O… G’s—that’s where the name comes from, and the proprietors, Oscar and Barbara Aguilar come from Philly, where Oscar earned his chef stripes. (Actually, Barbara is originally from Beckley and Oscar is from El Salvador.)
This Latin-themed restaurant is thoroughly unlike any other “Mexican” joint you’ve been to—a bar with a stream running along it, the hands-down best carnitas on Earth and a danged-fine burger selection will attest to it. If you’re not up for any of those, try the mole (MO-lay) and for dessert, Oscar’s bread pudding… which you can get deep fried if you dare. Into something a little healthier? Ask for an organic beet salad, which isn’t on the menu (NOW you’re a local).
One last bit… as the name suggests, Diogi’s likes dogs, including yours. Bring your furry friend along and sit outside, and they’ll happily fetch him a bowl of cool water and his very own doggie taco.
The Vandalian doesn’t really have a theme, but it also doesn’t really need one. With the best coffee in town, killer burgers and homemade cheesecake (including occasionally one with bacon in it) that will make your whole family gain a pound each, this diner-style eatery is a step outside the Fayetteville norm. It’s not rustic. It’s not quaint. It’s actually sort of modern, and the walls are always adorned with art (which is for sale) by local artists.
The Vandalian is rapidly becoming a favorite breakfast spot with its hearty helpings of classic food done right, and there’s always a healthy crowd at lunch and dinner, but one of the things I love most about it is it’s location. The Vandalian is right on the corner of the biggest intersection in downtown Fayetteville, and parked at a window table, I can always count on seeing at least one person I know stroll past.
One last thing about the Vandalian. During the winter months, Sunday and Monday nights are for sushi and burgers only. One of my favorite dinners in town is a roll or two to start and a jalapeno-pepper-jack-slathered burger called the R/X.
Gumbo’s Cajun Restaurant
If spending a day on the water in Fayetteville leaves you craving something from the sea, you can skip the trip to the coast. Gumbo’s owner Susan Jones-Wiles has you covered. She has traveled to Louisiana and collaborated with other chefs to learn the traditional flavors of cajun and creole cooking, two distinct styles of New Orleans cuisine. Since buying Gumbo’s in 2009, she and chef Jamie Hamilton have been serving up fresh fish specials and steam pots full of crab legs, mussels and shrimp. (And, of course, Gumbo.)
Susan said an important foundation of the Gumbo’s menu is the authentic flavor and style she’s worked to perfect. In the award-winning Shrimp and Grits, for example, the smoked bacon, garlic and grits combine for a simple and true taste without any heavy sauces. Local and organic foods, including grass-fed WV beef burgers, are another staple of Gumbo’s. “It’s hard in West Virginia to find healthy, organic food,” she said. “I’m trying to contribute.” Continually honing her craft, Susan said she always trying something new at Gumbo’s, and is working on expanding the eatery’s vegetarian options.
Cathedral Cafe & Bookstore
If you ask a local to refer you to a great place for breakfast most will direct you to Cathedral Café, located in downtown Fayetteville. The atmosphere is always laid back in this beautifully converted church. The stained glass windows cast colorful shadows on the tables while animated conversations of climbing or rafting can be heard throughout the restaurant.
Wendy Bayes, owner of Cathedral (and former Rivermen raft guide), has successfully offered a unique alternative to the Egg McMuffin. With a diverse community in Fayetteville of both seasonal and year-round residents, Wendy has created a menu that offers something for everyone. If you wish to sample local fare, order the gravy over sourdough bread. If you have a sweet tooth, the freshly made, award-winning carrot cake is a must! Feeling a little sluggish? Order a double red eye, it is sure to get your motor running.
In addition to their food, Cathedral is known for its vast selection of coffees and Italian sodas, but it’s easy to forget until you walk back in that it’s also a bookstore with a wide selection of eclectic local-made gifts as well.
Wild Flour Bakery
Recently, Wild Flour Bakery posted this on their Facebook page: “Today we have banana chocolate chip and blueberry muffins, turnovers, cinnamon rolls, strawberry and blueberry coffeecake, cream horns, no-bakes, lemon bars, cake balls, gobstoppers, brownie explosions, peanut butter bars, asiago and everything bagels, spinach and feta rolls, pepperoni rolls and much more!” Does someone have a napkin? I’m drooling over here!
Located in downtown Fayetteville, Wild Flour Bakery offers a nice selection of sandwich options for its lunchtime crowd. If a sandwich is not your thing, try their chicken pot pie turnovers and follow it up with a red velvet cake ball.
If you are a Travel Channel enthusiast, Wild Flour Bakery will be spotlighted on the new show, “Park Secrets.” The show will offer, in addition to local hiking and climbing possibilities, a look at the “WV Hot Dog.” Swing by Wild Flour and try out their version of the WV Hot Dog before you see it on TV!
Dirty Ernie’s Rib Pit
When you dine out, the wait staff of a restaurant will often make or break your experience. When eating at Dirty Ernie’s Rib Pit, you will encounter some of the friendliest servers in the area. Dirty Ernie’s offers great family fun complete with cracking open peanuts and throwing the shells on the floor! Then, to find out that the server offering up your vodka infused “Rib Tickler” is none other than one of the owners of the establishment—well, it offers an even more personal touch to your meal.
Mike Price and Brad White offer a rustic dining experience that is fun for all. Their hands-on approach to customer service is bar none. Located just off Rt. 19 in Fayetteville, Dirty Ernie’s specializes in its succulent ribs. If you are trying to decide which night is best for your Dirty Ernie’s dining experience, try Thursday. Every Thursday you can come in and eat slow n’ low smoked beef brisket with two sides for only $12.99!
Elliott’s Whitewater Bar & Grill
There are two things I appreciate in a restaurant—consistency and never having an empty glass. At Elliott’s Whitewater Bar & Grill, you’re guaranteed both. Elliott’s caters to a good-timing, no-frills kind of crowd. With a laid-back atmosphere, 6 big screen TVs and live entertainment 3 nights a week, there’s always something going on (though you might want to hide your colors if you’re not wearing blue & gold when the Mountaineers play). Even though this might not be your home and your name might not be Norm, Elliott’s will feel like your local neighborhood bar right away.
They serve traditional bar food and sport a huge selection of bottled beers behind a full bar. The local favorite? The HAWG Wild Pig Wings—four braised pork shanks with a tangy BBQ sauce and onion rings. All of their menu items are reasonably priced and large—you may even suffer a case of your eyes being bigger than your stomach.
A note to folks who “ain’t from ‘round here:” Elliott’s allows smoking in the restaurant and therefore does not allow children under 18.
Studio B Gallery
While not technically a restaurant—okay, it’s not even close—Studio B does, in addition to pottery and other crafts, house the finest selection of bottled craft beer in the state of West Virginia. “So what?” you might ask. “It’s only West Virginia.” Well, I’ll put their inventory up against anybody else’s anywhere anytime.
If you’ve got a quiet evening around a campfire planned and your taste in brews run a little higher brow than Lowenbrau, go there and behold. Hipsters and rock climbers, don’t worry—they also carry PBR in cans.