They say things aren’t always as they seem. But as I learned during an unexpected discovery in Hurricane recently, that’s not always a bad thing.
I’d been hearing lots of good buzz about a place there called Bubbarino’s Bites & Bubbles, with several readers suggesting I add it to my list of restaurants to review.
Heck yeah, I told them. With a name like “Bites & Bubbles,” I envisioned enjoying a leisurely lunch, brunch or dinner while sipping Champagne and savoring small plates of tapas and other elegant fare.
Imagine my surprise when I finally walked into the place and found more of a sports bar vibe, with a menu of all the fried things you’d expect at such a place. This was my own fault, mind you. Had I looked up the restaurant beforehand, I would’ve clearly seen its description as a casual place offering pub-grub favoritesthe bar for a frosty cold IPA while I scanned the menu. Knowing I may not make it back to this neck of the woods soon, I asked my waitress to recommend a few customer favorites.
She didn’t hesitate to suggest the sweet-heat treat that is the Honey Jalapeno Burger, a giant hand-pattied and charbroiled local beef burger topped with bacon, jalapenos, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, sriracha mayo and hot honey sauce.
Have mercy, this was a righteous burger! The bold flavors and contrasting textures were firing on all cylinders and the beef itself was perfection. It was well-seasoned, lightly charred, juicy as all get out and imperfectly shaped, just as a hamburger patty should be.
Needless to say, those visions of Champagne and tapas were a distant memory at this point, while I contemplated a return visit to try a few more of the 50-plus other dishes on a fairly ambitious menu.
Apps range from wings, fried peppers, pretzel bites and cheese curds to loaded tots covered with queso and chili. Jumbo salads include antipasto, Caesar, Greek, cobb, BBQ chicken and taco, while handhelds run the gamut from a thick grilled-cheese and chicken sandwiches to several stuffed clubs and subs.
You can also build your own pizza, dig into a fish or shrimp basket, or try some of those rockin’ burgers, like the Pimento Cheese, Chili Cheese Fry, Hawaiian Kick (with teriyaki bacon and pineapple) or The Bubbarino (with bacon, pepper jack and signature sauce).
Looking for a sweet ending? Desserts include beignets, cinnamon bites, lava cake, bread pudding and peach cobbler, plus a large selection of boozy shakes.
That’s right, folks, ice-creamy concoctions like Peppermint Bark, Gingerbread, El Choco, Chocolate-Covered Strawberry, Banana Split, Orange Creamsicle, Caramel, Birthday Cake and more can be blended with an assortment of liqueurs and libations.
There’s also a strong selection of top-quality beers you’ll want to sip, a handful of low-quality wines you’ll want to skip and a lineup of creative cocktails with suggestive names like Young Grass Smoker, Welcome to the Jungle, Chug Jug and Bubba’s Trashcan.
Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you also shouldn’t judge a restaurant by its name alone. No matter what you call it, Bubbarino’s Bites & Bubbles serves up a mighty fine burger. Based on my experience, I suspect there are other gems on the menu as well.
And it seems like that word is starting to spread. Bubbarino’s has announced it will open a second location at 6148 Childers Rd. in Barboursville in 2023.
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at email@example.com.