- scooter Aug 3, 2003 08:20 AM
Historically, WV queries have generated little feedback. So, as I spent all last week there, I thought I'd share my find(s).
Morgantown is a restaurant wasteland. Granted, when I was there WVU was out on summer vacation, but it's not like great restaurants spring up in the vacant buildings downtown the moment college students show up. The one place we tried that was even remotely Hound-worthy was Oliverio's, a family-style Italian place in Morgantown's optimistically named "Wharf District." It's just off University Ave. (119 Hwy) south of town. I had a really good italian sausage and roasted peppers pasta dish. Even here, the chicken parmesan was fairly weak.
Back Bay (seafood), Casa d'Amici (pizza) and others were universally weak. Ruby and Ketchy's (off I-68's exit 10) was good for breakfast.
Otherwise, I'd steer clear of this town...for food or anything else. Very disppointing.
Look more carefully. Olivero's sucks. But there is another good Italian place in a strip mall by the WVU hospital.
Also, for mediterrian look for a place called "Baklava and More" in another strip center, off on the side. A little hard to find, a perfect chowhound place. I had a great Kabob there, and the have good gyros.
Also, the indian place downtown is quite good with the Vindaloo.
It's unfair to say that Morgantown doesn't have good food. It's just a little hard to find! The good Italian place in the strip mall by WVU hospitals, if it's the one the previous writer thought of, is Puglioni's, and they have great pizza and pasta. Oliverio's is by reputation only OK. In the community of Westover, however, is a great Italian place called Rose's (on Rt. 100 North on the just after it breaks off from Rt. 19). Rose makes her own pasta and meatballs; her manicotti is particularly good, and you get a ton of food with your entree(lots of salad, foccacia, garlic bread). The house Italian dressing for the salad is thin but probably your best bet (unless you're a big fan of ranch dressing).
The Indian place downtown on Fayette Street, Cafe of India, is very good. Next to it is a very basic but good Japanese place called Yama (patronized almost totally by WVU Japanese students). Another good place for sushi in Morgantown is Daikoku on University Avenue near the Evansdale Campus of the university. If you want a pricy gourmet dinner, try Cafe Bacchus on High Street. Very good food (from pasta and vegetarian entrees to steak), good wine list, and an award-winning flourless chocolate cake on the dessert menu. And if you're just passing through Morgantown on Interstate 68, just off the Westover exit in a strip mall is a branch of a local chain called CJ Maggie's, which just opened up. It has decent wood-fired pizza, pasta and sandwiches.
Daikoku is excellent.
The rolls are all well done, especially the simple but delicious soft-shelled crab roll. Once you leave the standard rolls, the different combination rolls border on being obscenely overstuffed, including the house roll that I don't think one can actually fit into a human mouth.
The real magic of this restaurant is the nigiri.
In most sushi restaurants, the nigiri is formed with a squeeze of the underlying rice and a casual application of the fish. When you try to eat it properly the fish detaches and you end up with a mismatched bite.
The chef and owner of Daikoku, Mr. Tanaka, is one of the few chefs I have seen who follows the exact hand motions for making nigiri. His nigiri is perfectly formed with the best balance between fish and rice that I have encountered. It's flawless, it's profesisonal, it's exactly what you want to see. The way he cuts the fish is different, too. Most places will serve a uniform, sometimes pre-cut rectangle. At Daikoku, Mr Tanaka's cuts take into consideration the grain of the fish, including in the cut the fattier or differently textured parts that you won't get at other places.
The yellowtail tastes fundamentally different from the yellowtail i have tried anywhere else. It is not the mellow, generic filet taste you may be used to. It has a very sharp flavor, almost tangy. The color is fantastic. I suspect that this speaks to the freshness of the food as well as the chef's skill. The white tuna is softest, most buttery sushi that you are likely to find. Most other places partially cook it so that the chefs can more easily work with it. No such lame excuses at Daikoku.
I was not a fan of tuna (red, maguro) previously since I found it to have a slightly metalic, astringent undertone. Little did I know that there was a luxurious, earthy richness to tuna when properly done. Well, I do now. The same goes for the salmon. Usually you find either a glossy, slightly gelatinous or a indistinct, multigrained and fatless slab of orange on top of your rice. Mr Tanaka's salmon, again, making use of all the colors and edges of the filet, presents salmon nigiri that is soft and textured and that tastes like (you will suddenly realize) salmon should taste.
There is more to the restaurant than sushi and everything else i have tried has been solid to fantastic.
The Morgantown food skeptic seems to have managed not to hit any good restaurants in Morgantown.
Puglioni's, located near the hospital off VanVoohris, someone else mentioned. It's is a favorite of ours. Italian, with some vegetarian selections. I tend to get the veggie lasagna, shrimp scampi, or the veggie sandwich--my husband loves the french fry salad, and I think they have the best ranch dressing of any place around;
Flying Fish, also near the hospital on VanVhooris, is a seafood deli. I particularly like the crab and corn chowder. Quite inexpensive for fish;
Mediterrean Deli on High Street is good, although not as good as Ali Baba's, which it somewhat replaced (the owner got tired of working so much and closed all but the Deli.) I usually get falafel. His son is running the restaurant at the airport, Voyagers, which is good, but not as good as Ali Baba's was;
Asian Garden, just past the hospital on University Avenue, has Chinese, Malaysian and Thai and everything I have gotten there is good; Peking House is good, but I find the owner's wife intollerably rude, and don't go there; for takeout I love The Great Wall, which has fantastic crispy bean curd in brown sauce, although my husband tends to get General Tso's Chicken;
Madeline's has very good food, although typically horrible service. I find that as long as you expect a long wait and poor service, it's a good dining experience;
La Casa on Wharf Street has Mexican American and a good vegetarian selection (and it is called the Wharf District because there used to be a wharf there, when the river and the railroad were more important);
We frequently go to Los Mariachis, also near the hospital, and in the same strip as Puglioni's because it's fast and inexpensive, and also because we like all the guys who work there; my best friend prefers Rio Grande in Sabraton, and goes there whenever he comes into town.
Crocket's, on Univeristy Avenue in Star City has bar food, and used to have great wings, although I haven't been there in ages, so I wouldn't guarantee it; I have friends who love Prime Thyme, which is off 68 by the Ramada Inn, although it's not one of my favorites; Maxwell's, on Wall Street, off of High street, is a great vegetarian restaurant that many people don't know about, due to it's somewhat hidden location. (They also serve non-vegetarian items) The mushroom burger is my absolute favorite, although I will, on occasion, eat other things;
The Boston Beanery is a local chain that is hit or miss, I love the seafood chowder, but anything is typically okay as well; I have never heard anyone say anything bad about The Glasshouse Grille on Beechurst, although I haven't gone there because it's not within my budget;
Crosley's and Mario's Fishbowl on Richwood are good--Crosley's is expensive, the Fishbowl is bar food, but well loved;
Also on University downtown is the Brew Pub, which many people I know love, both for the food and the beer. They also have live music weekend nights, including bluegrass;
Tiberio's on the Pierpont Road is okay, although somewhat plain; I have friends who love Daikoku and the other Japanese restaurant downtown (Yama), but I haven't gone enough to have an opinion; If you like Indian food, Cafe of India is supposed to be fantastic. I don't care for curry, so my opinion doesn't count;
There is a restaurant on Pleasant Street, Black Bear, that many people I know really like. I believe it serves burritos of an American sort;
The previous commenter seems to have hit some of the worst restaurants in town: Back Bay tends to towards expensive AND awful; Oliverio's--overpriced and typically of uncertain quality. And any pizza place is suspect, as they appear and disappear continually to serve drunken college students, who are not the most discriminating consumers (Nothing against drunken college students, they just aren't all that particular about pizza).
Oh, there's also Spruce Street Sub Shop, which is a hole in the wall sub place that inexpensive.
If you're willing to drive a bit to Fairmont, there's a Mexican place at the "mall" in Fairmont that has fantastic vegetarian fajitas, and in the other direction, is Muriale's, which is inexpensive and good Italian. I always order the Scillian Spaghetti, which I love.
Hopefully that will help anyone who is wandering towards this area, and convince others that Morgantown is NOT a food wasteland.
It looks like the Spruce Street sub shop recently went out of business, but other than that your list is on target. I get the gyro wrap at the Mediterranean Market; it's addictive. There's also Fatty Loaf's on Walnut Street; incredible pizza and interesting people. Oh, and my fiance recently found the only place in town where you can get a good Philly cheesesteak; Jersey's, on the Mileground.
I love eating in Morgantown when I am over there! But you have to know what to look for. As most other towns some of the best places are off the beaten track.
I remember when I was very young being so excited to eat at the Boston Beanery. I forget what they had that I loved so much (maybe it was the chowder I really liked that when I was little) but when my Mom would go shopping over there I would wish and hope we stopped there.
This area of WV has some truly great real Italian fare due to all the coal mining (maybe not served in classic style primi, secondi, but...). I am so excited to head west towards home (Garrett County) next weekend for what you WV'ers will recognize and few others do: Pepperoni Rolls!
Ate at Puglioni's while in Morgantown last week. The homemade pasta was great, the fresh baked bread was good. I liked that the house salad had some different greens. The meatballs were good (although not huge meatballs like you get someplaces just fyi). Was a nice meal after a long stressful day at the hospital. And the prices were good. It had nice ambiance- casual but not cheesy.
Ok, first off if you think Oliverio's is italian your knowledge of la cucina italiana, is minimal. And just so you know chicken parmesan is not italian. And good food in morgantown is easy to find there are some very good restaurants with excellent chefs, for example try the boat house bistro, or cafe bacchus which are much better. So if anyone finds an authentic italian restaurant in morgantown let me know, that means on the menu written first and second plate and after dinner they give you coffee and grappa let me know, i ll be there tomorrow
I'll have you know that my in-laws are second generation Italian, and even they eat at Oliverio's occaisionally. Most Italians won't eat out Italian because their mama's cooking is always better. :) Clearly you're misinformed if you think the Boat House is good food: I've actually eaten there, and the best thing was their wine list. The tomato and mozzarella salad was pathetic: unripe tomatoes (actually green inside!!) with mozzarella sliced straight from the plastic wrap, with a little truffle oil and balsamic vinegarette. As if the truffle oil made up for the tomatoes and mozzarella. The rest of my meal was similarly bad and overpriced: $80 for something i could have made better at home!
Sargasso's is a new place in Morgantown (www.DineSargasso.com) on the waterfront. I had dinner this evening with my wife and a business associate. The food was very good, the room was attractive, the prices were reasonable. The service was just plain poor by comparison. Our server, a young woman, was clearly untrained and would have been perceived as a poor server in a greasy spoon. The chef really needs to work with his staff on this. Also, they have a very informal coat check system. Just a couple of coat trees and racks by the register across from the (lovely) bar. Just like the Dew Drop Inn. Might want to reconsider that, too.
But, the food was good. I had an osso bucco that was fabulous while my wife had the special which was a shrimp creole with andouille sausage over pasta. Our business associate had a pulled pork dish. We each enjoyed our dishes greatly. The cost was about $150 for dinner and another $20 for drinks (one each). If they raise the service to the level of the food, Sargasso would be an excellent place. Right now, I'd still recommend Cafe Bacchus over Sargasso.
Must rave about Sargasso! Beautiful environment on the river, great decor, windows open making it open air on a lovely evening. Very creative and beautifully served cuisine. Definately fusion---Asian, French and Italian plus some American. We had Perfect Salmon and a Wahoo daily special, both fantastic as were the soup, salad, bread and cheesecake. Great wine list, as well. Raves!!!
Lunch was also good at Taste of India. However no atmosphere AT ALL. Good little buffet and very tasty and inexpensive.
I can't believe nobody has mentioned Solera Cafe on Richwood Avenue. That little place far exceeds any of those stuffy overpriced places on the "Wharf District". Every time I have been there with my husband has been better than the last. Great food, great wine, great service, great atmosphere. Just Excellent!!!
My parents live near Morgantown and have been to many of these places. I am just going to flat out admit that when I am there for visits in the summer with family, I crave Wings Ole. I know I know. Not very chow worthy-in fact it is a hole in the wall. But I love their burrito special and the fries n blue!! When we drove up the first time my DH was like really-we are eating lunch HERE? When we left he was raving about how good the burrito was and it was his first time dipping fries in blue cheese (loved also).
So if you are looking for a good hole in the wall lunch spot....this is my rec. !
I'd echo many of the suggestions of others here, but I still felt compelled to reply to the OP.
I think your "steer clear of this town...for food or anything else" comment was unnecessary. There is a lot of charm in Morgantown - and, as others have mentioned and I can confirm - some pretty good food, too -- if you take some time to find it.
Spending a few days in a small, rural town that, admittedly, requires some effort on the part of a Hound, and then making such a sweeping generalization not only about the food, but about the town itself, is lazy. And your snipe about the "optimistically named 'Wharf District' only echoes that - with only a few questions of local folks, you would have quickly learned why the District is named such.
In my opinion, Hounds are folks who do a little more digging, and a little less judging.
Although we live near Pittsburgh, several years ago we built a vacation home on the Cheat River close to the lake. I enjoy cooking and entertaining, and we rarely venture out to Morgantown, but we do have three favorite places:
Black Bear Burritos, in town, has an eclectic menu of imaginative fillings wrapped in tortillas. Perfect for lunch or a casual dinner, and a decent beer selection. Good prices.
Cafe of India closed downtown a few years back, but relatives of the original owner reopened next to (the worst seafood restaurant I have ever experienced) Back Bay. Good Indian cuisine, and their lunch buffet is a great value.
My favorite, however, is Voyagers located at the airport (Hart Field). It is located in the main level of the terminal building (not very good signage) and will soon change its name to Ali Baba. Yes, the same one that used to be downtown, but some additional menu selections for those unfamiliar with Middle Eastern cuisine. The hummus is to die for, and every thing I have ordered there has been served promptly, hot, and delicious. The Owner usually comes over to say hi, whether he knows you or not.
A few nights ago we went to Voyagers and I was extremely pleased with the Parmesan-crusted Tilapia with mango glaze (served with a decent rice pilaf and very garlicy sauteed spinach). DH enjoyed his citrus-crusted salmon and perfectly cooked mix of green and yellow string beans, zucchini, and carrots (how were the beans cooked perfectly, yet so was the zucchini?). For dessert, since it was my birthday, I ordered Choclava. Is is basically baklava infused with layers of bittersweet chocolate. Warm and melty and absolutely decadent! So good, in fact, that I am thinking of having this restaurant cater some events at our lake house so I don't have to spend days cooking when we have guests this summer. :)
FWIW, we consider Oliverio's to be "okay", just overpriced and a bit on the snotty side (if you know what I mean) for what it is. For Italian, I will wait until I can get to Lidia's in Pittsburgh (or my Mom's house...)
No where to eat in Morgantown?
Did you try Yama? It's like being magically transported to Tokyo.
Richwood Grill? Simply amazing infusion of Appalachian flavors with global technique.
Maxwells? I can't go very long without a spinach melt. In my opinion the worlds best sandwich.
You're missing out by looking only to the big names.
Oh and the Italian place in the strip mall by the hospitals is Puglionis. Yes they are fabulous, their pine nut salad dressing is one of my all time favorites (up there with Yama's ginger salad dressing). Home made bread smothered in garlic butter.
The Indian Place, cafe of India has moved again but I agree they are wonderful. I love their Mango Lasi and their hospitality and food are outstanding.
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