• Steven Keith

A new donut shop, new menu items and a rampy recipe

We have a new restaurant opening, new menu items debuting and a follow-up on a stinky hot story we’ve been following for weeks. It’s a big week in local food news, so let’s get to it!

Vandalia Donut Company (photo by Charleston Main Streets)
Vandalia Donut Company (photo by Charleston Main Streets)

Vandalia Donut Company Opens


A former (and very popular) donut food truck that once graced Charleston streets has just opened a new “bricks and mortar” location in a storefront next to Kin Ship Goods on Tennessee Avenue in the getting-hipper-by-the-minute Elk City district on the city’s West Side.


Tri of Donuts from Vandalia Donut Company
Tri of Donuts from Vandalia Donut Company

You may remember Vandalia Donut Company made a big splash in town with its mobile truck a few years ago before improvements required to meet fire-code standards were too cost-prohibitive for the business to make at the time.


They vowed to return one day – and that time is now. The sweet shop had a soft opening last Thursday through Saturday and is now open to the public those same days moving forward.


And we’re not talking your basic glazed donuts here. Vandalia cooks up incredibly creative orbs like the Number 42 (a scratch-made buttermilk donut rolled in cinnamon sugar), a Hummingbird Cake Donut (dolloped with whipped cream cheese, toasted pecans, coconut and salted caramel sauce) and a Nutella Crunch (a cinnamon-dusted buttermilk donut topped with whipped Nutella cream, drizzled with Nutella ganache and sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts.)


I mean, can we just take a moment and read that sentence again?


Vandalia Donut Company (Charleston Main Streets)
Vandalia Donut Company (Charleston Main Streets)

It’s a cinnamon-dusted buttermilk donut topped with whipped Nutella cream, drizzled with Nutella ganache and sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts. Good God.


Not only does the local family-owned bakery make everything from scratch – from the donuts themselves to the toppings that adorn them – but the new space was gorgeously conceived by them as well.


You’ll find lots of exposed brick, stone and ductwork with wood floors, glass cases and colorful tile accents.


For now, Vandalia will continue to serve up its classic buttermilk donut and two specialty versions of it each day, along with a selection of coffees from nearby Mea Cuppa.


But stay tuned to the donut shop’s Facebook page, where they’ll announce expanded hours and menu offerings (including additional baked treats and lunch, which you’ll eventually be able to enjoy in the dining room) later this year.


Current hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, offering takeout only for now.


New Menu Items as Barkadas


The problem with some of my favorite restaurants is once I’ve made it through the entire menu (no matter how much I love it) I start getting a little bored, wishing there were new dishes to try.


Cinnamon Sugar-Dusted Donuts from Vandalia
Cinnamon Sugar-Dusted Donuts from Vandalia

That’s why I adore a restaurant with changing daily or weekly specials, and why I’m especially a fan of a good brunch. Besides making drinking at breakfast socially acceptable, most brunch menus also showcase new and changing dishes you won’t find on the regular menu.


Barkadas in Fort Hill is killing the brunch game, but I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for a few new items to pop up on the restaurant’s regular menu. (Read that as, there’s only so much Spam a man can eat.)


Finally, that wait will soon be over.


Barkadas has printed a menu that will soon offer two new items to their repertoire.

You can sample Pinoy Pepperoni Empanadas, which are house-made pockets of dough stuffed with Langonesa sausage and mild pepperoni with a touch of cheese, plus gochujang aioli. For those who aren’t familiar, gochujang is a popular savory, sweet and spicy Korean condiment made from fermented soybeans, so think of this dish as a mashup of Filipino-Appalachian pepperoni rolls (or mini calzone bites) with a little heat for dunking.


A new Bahn Mi Sandwich will feature chicken adobo (a soy and garlic-spiked chicken) with napa slaw, cucumber relish and that same gochujang aioli tucked inside a bahn mi roll.

Can’t wait to try both new additions!


A Recipe for Your Ramp Burger


So what did you do this weekend?


I drove more than an hour round-trip. Just to try a burger. And I’d do it again.


Lemonberry Donut from Vandalia Donut Company
Lemonberry Donut from Vandalia Donut Company

After being taunted by all the praise readers sent in last week about Burger Carte’s new “Mountain Mama” burger with bacon, fried-green tomatoes and ramp aioli, I made the trip down Route 60 to try one myself.


And as promised, it was a glorious, multi-napkin, delicious hot mess. The ramp aioli was like creamy, garlicky fireworks in my mouth and the burger itself was a wonderfully seasoned, hand-smashed revelation that could run circles around the preformed, pre-seasoned, frozen patties you find at so many other places these days.


As good as it was, though, I still couldn’t help but miss the ramp pimento cheese on the Ridge View BBQ version that started this whole ramp burger obsession for me several weeks ago.


Vandalia Donut Company on Tennessee Avenue
Vandalia Donut Company on Tennessee Avenue

Clearly sensing my need, reader Mel Kipp wrote in with the best message I’ve received in many moons.


“In case you ever want to make your own ramp-infused pimento cheese dip …” she said, while also attaching this week’s recipe that made me salivate on sight.


“I subbed the ramps for the scallions and used Duke’s Real Mayonnaise,” she told me. “And yes, it’s great as a dip!”


As a sauce, a dip or maybe even to drink, I’ll be whipping this up in my home kitchen lickety-split.


• • •


RAMP PIMENTO CHEESE


8 slices of bacon

1 cup mayonnaise

4 oz. cream cheese

1 4-oz. jar diced pimentos, drained

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (optional)

2-3 scallions, diced

2 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded

salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Cook bacon in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towel and crumble.

  3. In a medium bowl, stir together bacon, mayonnaise, cream cheese, pimentos, peppers, scallions and shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. Evenly spread mixture in a 2-quart casserole dish and bake for 25 minutes until cheese is completely melted and bubbly.


• • •


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 wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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