Another garden restaurant and ... Hellbender is back, baby!
Who knew when I wrote about a couple of lovely garden restaurants last week that I would find myself in another so soon?
But there I was, spending an awesome guys weekend in Canaan Valley, when a ferocious hunger took hold a few days ago.
We had already eaten at Hellbender Burritos and had plans to hit Ish Kitchen at The Billy Motel later that night. (More on both below!) So we popped in for a midday snack at Milo’s Café at the Bright Morning Inn in Davis, where we’d had an awesome dinner during last year’s gathering.
Since we were there for lunch this time around, we got to sample a different menu. And what a small, but mighty, menu it was!
Limited in options – but not on flavor – we eyed a counter with a smattering of fresh-baked goodies, plus a menu with a handful of soups, salads and appetizers. The highlights, however, were the half-pound bangin’ burgers and smokin’ sammies featured right at the top of the menu.
Before the appetizers. As they should be.
My gloriously messy Mushroom Gruyere Burger with housemade bacon jam was simple perfection, as were the seasoned fries served with it. The Smoked Gouda Maple Bacon Burger with chipotle mayo is already calling my name for next time. My friend’s BLT with avocado mayo was a hit, plus the Chicken Pesto and Milo’s Cheeseburger both had me salivating.
Better still, we devoured them with a cold beer while relaxing under a shade tree and colorful plants out in the restaurant’s side yard filled with picnic and café tables, umbrellas and fire pits for late-day diners.
What a great day!
• • •
Did somebody say … Hellbender? Why yes, yes I did.
That home of massive (and massively good) burritos along the main drag in Davis has been a highlight of our annual guys gatherings for years, so we were crushed when COVID shut its doors back in 2020.
Not for a short time, mind you, and not just for indoor dining. The whole place was completely shuttered for so long that most people thought it was kaput for good.
Then, miracle of miracles, the popular hangout did reopen months ago for takeout orders only – and has welcomed diners indoors once again.
It’s a little different now. You order at the counter and everything is packaged as if it were to go, but you can still sit inside the restaurant to gulp it all down.
We pretty much had one of everything. And we pretty much were in heaven.
• • •
You’ve heard me profess my love for the restaurant at The Billy Motel near Blackwater Falls quite a bit. And you heard how excited I was to learn its Ish Kitchen was expanding this summer to be able to accommodate even more fans.
But I was still a wee bit nervous when we walked up to the door this past weekend and cautiously walked inside.
Would it be just as cool as it once was? Would it still have that cozy, intimate, “no one else knows about this place” kind of vibe? Most importantly, would its menu of international dishes still be just as diverse and delicious?
Well, folks, I’m happy to report that the new bigger space looks awesome and the food is impeccable. The vibe has changed a little, sure, because the restaurant and bar sit in probably triple the space it had before. That makes it bigger. More open. A little different.
But still every bit as cool to be tucked in a tiny West Virginia town.
• • •
Finally, after I wrote about it being National Ice Cream Month, I heard from several readers who were experiencing mild freak-outs when they tried to pop by Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream on Capitol Street last week to find the windows covered and the door locked.
I mean, people were seriously losing their minds.
But, I told them, never fear. The café was just temporarily closed a few days for the first phase of a little remodel, and it reopened this past Sunday on National Ice Cream Day.
Great timing, eh?
• • •
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.