The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

Charleston Restaurant Week = $500,000 Impact

Did you hear the great (CHA-CHING!) news about Charleston Restaurant Week, which recently wrapped up its third year with a record 20 participating establishments?

Buzz Foods, the event’s brainchild and promoter, calculated that more than 10,000 meals were sold during this year’s Restaurant Week. Those meal costs – plus tax, gratuity, bar sales and parking – add up to an estimated economic impact of around $500,000 for those 6 days alone.

I believe it.

There wasn’t an empty seat in the house most places I visited, with several restaurant owners and chefs saying it was their best and busiest Restaurant Week yet. And that’s despite bad weather than hampered some travel (and closed at least one participating restaurant) at the start of the week.

Nice work, Buzz!

In the ‘Chain’ Gang, Longhorn is a Cut Above

I’m all about raising awareness and support of solid, independent, locally owned restaurants, choosing to spend my dining out dollars at such places the vast majority of time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good quality “chain” restaurants out there.

lobster filetJust like most people, we occasionally find ourselves inside one of these national behemoths and I’m here to tell you: All chains are NOT created equally.

Most are cookie-cutter concepts offering average tasting, oversized portions served by unenthusiastic (yet tragically over-blinged) servers – dreading their next summons to sing “Happy, Happy Birthday” to a squirming toddler.

But some are good, really good, and I’ve always put Longhorn Steakhouse in that category. I recently stopped in to try out the restaurant’s new winter seasonal menu and was reminded just how top-notch this place is.

bacon cheese dipI know what you’re thinking, folks, but hear me out.

The creamy Vermont white cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon dip, flecked with green onions and served with crispy pita triangles, was dreamy. My broccoli Asiago cheddar soup was rich and flavorful, but not overly thick and heavy.

The Blue Ridge wedge salad was your typical combination – crisp hearts of romaine, plump tomatoes, bacon, crumbled blue cheese, red onions and blue cheese dressing – but all were very fresh.

My steak was spectacular.

The tender, juicy center-cut filet topped with lobster and tangy lobster hollandaise over fresh steamed asparagus was not only top-quality beef, but was also served at the perfect medium-rare temperature I requested. (A true rarity, which is why I rarely do the chain thing.)

cheese soupThe pecan praline sweet potato casserole with coconut topping served with it was decent – not at all overly sweet – and the Black Forest cherry lava cake I ended with was a fine finisher, although it was missing its promised molten center.

All items above are part of the restaurant’s special seasonal menu, which will change again within the next few weeks, but there are some shining stars on the regular menu as well.

I’m telling you, the food was strong from start to finish.

  • IF YOU GO: Longhorn Steakhouse at 91 RHL Blvd. (between Dudley Farms and Trace Fork shopping centers) is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. For more information, call 304-744-4112 or visit

Stonewall Resort Chef Competing in U.S. Cook-Off

In hot news on the state culinary beat, Stonewall Executive Chef Tim White has been selected as one of 11 finalists to compete in the U.S. Copper Skillet Cook-off Competition in Chicago this week.

Stonewall Resort lamb dishWhat got him there was his recipe for Grilled Rack of Mountain State Lamb with Potato and Parsnip Puree, Minted Peas with Spinach, Butter-Braised Baby Carrots and Red Wine Reduction, which he’ll prepare for a panel of judges in the Windy City tomorrow in hopes of bringing home top honors.

“The sweetness from the parsnips and carrots plays well against the richness of the lamb and bitter tones of the spinach,” White said, “and the mint is a classic pairing with lamb.”

Although the dish isn’t currently offered at the resort’s restaurants, a variation of it does appear on conference menus.

Competing in the “Senior Chef” category, White will also have to use ingredients from a mystery basket plus select pantry items to prepare a dish that would be typical at a conference center like Stonewall.

A panel of judges will select one winner, who will then go on to compete at Bonaventure Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, FL, with that winner returning next April to compete in the Global Finals.

Go, Tim, go!


Chef Tim White

Kiss for a Free Queso – Today Only at Qdoba

Now here’s a Valentine’s Day restaurant promotion that I actually get a kick out of … 

Go into any Qdoba Mexican Grill today and kiss your mate – or a complete stranger, if they’re willing – and you’ll get a free entrée with a purchase of one of the restaurant’s Queso entrées.

The fourth-annual “Queso for a Kiss” campaign coincides with the rollout of the chain’s new Queso Diablo and Queso Verde creations launched just this week.

Queso Diablo features a blend of fiery jalapenos and smoky chipotles, while Queso Verde incorporates fresh cilantro and lime juice for a smooth and zesty flavor. The original 3-Cheese Queso is available, too, and any of these three options can be enjoyed in a burrito or variety of entrees.

Charleston’s two Qdoba locations are at Trace Fork and Charleston Town Center mall. For more information, check out

Now who’s ready to pucker up? I’m hungry!

Charleston “Restaurant Week” Menus Announced!

For those of you salivating over what choices you’ll have during Charleston’s upcoming “Restaurant Week,” I’m going to put you out of your misery. The menus have been announced! 

In case you missed the big news, Buzz Food Service has recruited eight top-notch local restaurants to participate in this year’s inaugural event, coming up Jan. 27-Feb. 1. 

Get the original scoop at, then check out the eight featured menus below …


BLUEGRASS KITCHEN (1600 Washington St. East, 304-346-2871)

First course:

* Simple salad or cup of soup du jour


* Pan-seared whole trout with organic stoneground grits, stewed kale and bourbon mustard sauce.

Dessert, choice of:

* Any available dessert.


BRIDGE ROAD BISTRO (915 Bridge Road, 304-720-3500)

First course, choice of:

* Cup of French Onion Soup

* House Salad

Entrée, choice of:

* Grecian Chicken Penne Pasta

* Apple Cured Pork Chop with fig and apple glaze with polenta and house vegetable

* Seared Salmon with polenta and house vegetable

Dessert, choice of:

* Bread Pudding

* Ice Cream


ICHIBAN (103 Capitol St., 304-720-7874)

First course, choice of:

* Gyoza (steamed pork dumpling)

* Almost Heaven Maki (shrimp and blue crab with spicy mayo, garnished with green onions and chili powder)

Entrée, choice of:

* Ichiban Land & Sea (filet with scallops drizzled with Asian sauce served with asparagus and choice of steamed or fried rice)

* Bamboo Chicken sautéed in General Tso’s sauce with choice of steamed or fried rice.


* Decadent Chocolate Spoon Cake.


NOAH’S ECLECTRIC BISTRO (110 McFarland St., 304-343-6558)

First course, choice of:

* Grilled Romaine Salad: Lightly grilled romaine, peppercorn dressing, grape tomato and shaved parmesan

* Soup of the Day: Chef’s Daily Creation

Entrée, choice of:

* Moroccan Spiced Braised Lamb: Tender braised leg of lamb with chickpeas, apricots, golden raisins, cous cous and mint yogurt

* Shrimp or Chicken Pad Thai: Bean sprouts, julienne vegetables, fried egg, rice noodles, peanuts, cilantro, coconut-peanut sauce

Dessert, choice of:

* Chocolate Lava Cake

* Vanilla Ice Cream with fresh berries


PATERNO’S AT THE PARK (601 Morris St., 304-205-5482)

First course, choice of:

* House-made meatball over polenta cake

* Italian Sausage Stuffed Pepper

Entrée, choice of:

* basil chicken (pan seared bone-in chicken breast with a basil marsala cream), tomato risotto and seasonal vegetable

* veal cutlet picatta (pounded veal tenderloin with a lemon and caper butter sauce), parmesan risotto and seasonal vegetable


* Cannoli chips


SOHO’S CAPITOL MARKET (800 Smith St., 304-720-7646)

First course, choice of:

* Caprese Salad

* Minestrone

Entrée, choice of:

* Lasagna

* Four-cheese ravioli with tomato basil

Dessert, choice of:

* Tiramisu

* Cannoli


SOUTH HILLS MARKET AND CAFÉ (1010 Bridge Road, 304-345-2585)

First course, choice of:

* Spanakopita Dip with Smoked Tomato Relish and Pita

* Garden Greens with choice of Dressing

* Braised Pork Belly with Succotash and Caramel Soy

Entrée, choice of:

* Chicken and Waffles with Braised Greens and Pecan Gastrique

* Pan Seared Grouper with Braised Leeks and Fennel with Saffron Beurre Blanc

* Grilled Petite Filet with whipped Potatoes and Vegetable Melange with Bordelaise

Dessert, choice of:

* Petite Doughnuts with Chocolate Sauce

* Creme Brûlée with Berry compote


VANDALIA GRILLE (212 Hale St., 304-343-4110)

First course, choice of:

* Tuna Nachos

* Bruschetta

Entrée, choice of:

* Cedar Plank Salmon

* Vandalia Filet


* Fried Cheesecake

Parkersburg’s North End Brews Now in Charleston

After stopping by several times, I finally wrote a pretty nice review of the new B&D Gastropub in Kanawha City, a bar-and-grill kinda’ place that set up shop in the old Murad’s location.

In addition to some pretty good pub grub, one of the coolest discoveries I made was stumbling upon the fine microbrews crafted at the North End Tavern & Brewery in Parkersburg.

Although I’ve heard of the place, I’m much more familiar with the likes of Bridge Brew Works and Mountain State Brewing Co. and just haven’t had the opportunity to sample North End’s fine creations. That all changed with the opening of B&D, currently the only place in Charleston to carry them.

All North End beers are hand-crafted on site from all-natural ingredients, including the finest barley malts, cereal grains, hops, yeast – and pure West Virginia spring water. Styles range from Belgian ales and Czech pilsners to British porters and light American lagers.

On the dark side, there’s a rich and frothy porter with roasted chocolate and black patent malts, or you can lighten things up with a crisp golden ale. There’s also a berry wheat (with West Virginia blackberries) and an aggressively hopped IPA bringing five select American malts and five unique American hops together in a bold blend.

But the best by far is Roedy’s Red. North End’s flagship brew is a classic American amber with bold hop and malt characteristics. Traditional two-row and caramel malts create its unique body while Warrior and Amarillo hops give personality to its aroma and finish. This amber ale (think a “hoppy” Killian’s) has won statewide competitions, including several People’s Choice Awards.

I can see why. It’s a beauty!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s efforts to honor local employees, restaurants, businesses and hotels in conjunction with National Tourism Week.

After weeks of the public nominating – and then voting on – their favorites in a variety of categories, winners are being announced TONIGHT during a reception at the Charleston Civic Center!

In the food-related categories, honors go to …

  • Favorite Restaurant – Pies & Pints
  • Favorite Specialty Drink – Sangria, Lola’s
  • Favorite Food Dish – Black Bean Pie, Pies & Pints
  • Best Restaurant Employee – Dana Mindrescu, Marriott
  • Best Frontline Ambassador – Aaron Clark, Bridge Road Bistro

Congrats to all!

Huntington Restaurant Offering Inaugural Meal

If you happened to catch the presidential inauguration on TV this week, you may have wondered just exactly what all of those dignitaries were noshing on when they sat down for an elegant luncheon after the ceremony.

Well, wonder no more.

Savannah’s Restaurant in Huntington (a fantastic place, by the way!) is celebrating the 57th Inauguration of the President of the United States this weekend by recreating the meal served that day. The three-course menu includes …

  • First course: Lobster Tail with New England Chowder Sauce
  • Second course: Grilled Bison with Red Potato Horseradish Cake
  • Third course: Apple Pie with Ice Cream, Cheese and Honey

The menu is available as a three-course prix fixe meal or individual courses may be ordered a la carte. Wine recommendations for each course also will be included on the special menu, which is available tonight and tomorrow night only, Jan. 25-26.

For more information or reservations, call 304-529-0919 or visit The restaurant is located at 1208 Sixth Ave. in Huntington.

“Like” T.G.I. Fridays and Help Feed the Hungry

Local T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants have kicked off their third annual “Can For A Fan” virtual food drive benefitting nine regional food banks.

Both restaurants in the greater Charleston area (Southridge and Nitro) will donate one can of food to the Mountaineer Food Bank for each new local Facebook fan who “likes” the chain at

In addition to Facebook, the initiative expands to Pinterest this year. On the T.G.I Friday’s “Can For A Fan” Pinterest board,, users can “like” the Mountaineer Food Bank pinned logo and an additional can of food will be donated.

The drive continues through Dec. 31, or until 5,000 cans have been donated.

Mountaineer Food Bank works to end hunger in the Charleston community through partnerships, innovative programs and community engagement.

Love a Veteran? Treat ‘Em to a Free Meal

Two local restaurants are honoring America’s servicemen and women this Veterans Day by offering free meals to anyone who brings in their valid military ID this Monday, Nov. 12.

T.G.I. Friday’s is saying thanks to the men and women who protect our country with lunch on the house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day. All they need to do is show proof of service – either a U.S. Uniform Services ID Card, a U.S. Uniform Services Retired ID Card, a Current Leave and Earnings Statement, Veterans Organization Card, a DD214, a photograph in uniform or by wearing their uniform.

In addition to a free meal for veterans this Monday, Texas Steakhouse and Saloon will also give up to five friends and family members dining with military members their own 10% discount.

Texas Steakhouse and Saloon has a long-standing relationship with the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that helps injured armed service members. All year long, one dollar of the proceeds from every “Grandma’s Shortcake” sold at the restaurant is donated to the group, resulting in a $51,000 donation.

That’s a lot of cake!