• Steven Keith

Culinary magic in the mountains: The Billy restaurant is back!

The restaurant at The Billy Motel is back! And now, it’s even bigger (and better?) than before.

Shrimp summer rolls from ISH kitchen at The Billy Motel
Shrimp summer rolls from ISH kitchen at The Billy Motel

ISH kitchen, the restaurant at the Billy Motel & Bar in the Canaan Valley town of Davis, reopened June 1 after an extended remodel that welcomes a new dining room, full bar and the same unique globally inspired menu you’ve heard me rave about many times before.


After the place opened as a retro roadside motel – with a surprisingly eclectic and swanky lounge and small-plates menu – years ago, its following became so legendary that owners closed the restaurant last year to build a larger one in its place.


Spanish spicy roasted potatoes from ISH kitchen
Spanish spicy roasted potatoes from ISH kitchen

Bringing flavors from around the world to the mountains of West Virginia, the restaurant’s offerings on this week’s menu alone feature the cuisines of eight (EIGHT!) different countries.

Yes, in little ol’ Canaan Valley.


There are cheese puffs with creamy herb sauce from Portugal, roasted potatoes with spicy Bravas sauce and garlic aioli from Spain, a spring mix salad with Manchego and walnuts from France and marinated shrimp or tofu spring rolls from China.


Plus there’s a noodle bowl with ramen or rice noodles and pickled veggies from Japan, ground beef and kefir lime grape leaf rolls from Vietnam, tangy panang curry with naan bread from Thailand and a mezze platter of salads, dips, veggies and rye flatbread from Poland.


Wow!


I’m so excited to check out the new digs that I’ve already booked a long weekend getaway there next month.


• • •


Speaking of West Virginia vacation areas, nearby Canaan Valley Resort welcomed new Executive Chef Casey Sanders this spring, bringing lots of culinary experience, global influences and passion to the resort’s menus.


Chef Casey Sanders
Chef Casey Sanders

Although Sanders has worked in some of the most storied luxury resorts across the country and world (and served under a Michelin Star chef in New Zealand) his West Virginia roots led him back to the Mountain State.


A graduate of the Culinary Arts School at Pierpont Culinary Academy in Fairmont, Sanders says he’s excited to be home.


“I feel privileged to bring the experience I’ve gained working across the country and around the world to Canaan Valley Resort. I plan to create a destination dining environment that appeals to our local residents, as well as guests visiting from near and far, and we will showcase West Virginia’s culinary bounty.”


Among the changes he’s instituted so far include having separate food menus in the restaurant and bar.


The restaurant will feature an upscale, modern and sophisticated selection of homemade pastas, fresh seafood from the Atlantic coast, prime meats and game prepared in innovative ways, and homemade desserts. The bar will feature a tapas-style menu offering tasty small-plate treats like pork belly bao buns.


For more information, contact the resort at 800-622-4121 or visit www.CanaanResort.com.


• • •


Finally, news of the Aug. 6 Charleston High School All-Class Reunion culminating in a dinner featuring retro restaurant dishes CHS students might have enjoyed back in the day stirred up lots of memories for many of you.


After teasing the menu and asking for additional suggestions last week, you responded in kind.


Expanded bar at The Billy Motel
Expanded bar at The Billy Motel

“Steven, two other past favorites would be the Bob Phillip’s French Frank hot dog and Southern Kitchen’s onion rings,” wrote CHS Class of ’66 graduate Gary Borstein. “Lots of people will also remember the Gold Dome at the East End side of the Kanawha City bridge – 10 hot dogs for one dollar!”


Those were the days!


“The one menu item that stands out in my memory is the Slim Jim, a ham sandwich on grilled oblong-shaped toast,” wrote DLSKEEN via email. “It was delicious. I think it also had cheese, tomato and lettuce.”


The Long Bob sandwich from Phillip’s was a very similar (and some say better) version of the Slim Jim – and a version of it still may be available in Kanawha City.


“I never ate at Phillip’s, but the Long Bob sandwich is on the menu at Trivillian’s Drugstore and has been for years,” reader and writer Denise Giardina reported. “I don’t know what the connection with Phillip’s is, but the sandwich hasn’t disappeared.”


Retro lounge at The Billy Motel
Retro lounge at The Billy Motel

I also received several questions from readers asking if the recipe book being created as a gift for reunion attendees might be available for sale to the public as well.


“I enjoy reading your articles in the paper and getting ideas of different foods and restaurants to eat,” reader Christie Browning wrote.

“I read your article in today's paper about the food at the Charleston High School reunion and I am wondering if there are plans to sell the Taste of Charleston High cookbooks. I am not a graduate of that school, but have heard about many of those recipes and would love to purchase a cookbook.”


That’s a great idea, so I reached out to the reunion committee who said they’ll definitely consider it.


Tickets for the All-Class Reunion dinner at the Charleston Convention Center are $60 each and must be purchased by July 4. For more information on the event or to purchase tickets, visit www.chaswvccc.com.


• • •


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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