• Steven Keith

Dining outside and indoors (!!!) at local restaurants

Updated: May 28

Well hello, old friends! It's so nice to see more restaurants re-opening their doors ... cautiously.

Dining room inside Black Sheep

With indoor dining at restaurants back in my life, I made the most of the opportunity by hitting a couple of spots (OK, six in five days) this week to see how they were handling their new business reality.


One of not packing folks in, but rather managing reduced capacity, spacing out tables, masking staff and adopting all manner of new sanitary practices.


I’m happy to report all restaurants I visited are taking the restrictions seriously and I felt completely safe being out and about again. There were no crowds and I was impressed with some of the safety precautions in place.


One restaurant had a display of sanitized pens for signing receipts at the register, with a separate bucket to place them in for cleaning after every use. Another didn’t even provide a pen, asking you to use your own. (Not sure how we would’ve paid had we not had one.) And a third even had us throw away our own disposable plates and utensils to prevent staff contact at our table.


It was all so nice to see.

• • •

The very day indoor dining resumed, I popped downtown to Black Sheep Burrito & Brews for lunch to enjoy one of the restaurant’s new “Ribeye Smasher” burgers, which they tell me have been “selling like crazy” since debuting last Monday.


Argentinian Smasher at Black Sheep

I can see why. The Argentinian (two ground ribeye patties with a fried egg, chimichurri, lime crema and pickled onion on pillowy brioche) was so phenomenal that I can’t wait to try the rest.


The next evening, I sampled a delicious Apple Salad from Hale House (romaine with candied bourbon pecans, sliced green apple, craisins, bacon and blue cheese crumbles tossed in apple vinaigrette) before taking the fam to longtime favorite Fazio’s for a delicious Italian feast of chicken basil, veal Parmigiana, seafood alfredo, a blackened filet, Caesar salad and a basket of their intoxicating garlic toast.


A sunny Saturday afternoon drew me to Pies & Pints for two wonderful West Virginia craft beers (a double IPA from Stumptown and a new-to-me IPA from Bridge Brew) which I paired with a plate of rosemary garlic flatbread with warm goat cheese and balsamic glaze.


Apple Salad at Hale House

And a scorcher Monday found me celebrating Memorial Day on the riverfront deck at Mountain Pie Company on the River between South Charleston and St. Albans, where I enjoyed the spicy Morning Pie pizza featuring sausage, onions, cheese, over-easy eggs and Sriracha on a pesto-painted thin crust.


Such a pleasant way to mark the unofficial start of summer!

• • •

Indoor dining options expand even more this week, with the opening of Town Center Mall’s street-level restaurants. Chili’s, Outback and Panera Bread all reopened over the weekend, with Tidewater Grill and The Chop House reopening today – all under current COVID-19 guidelines.


The full mall, meanwhile, is now open limited hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. (All mall stores haven’t reopened, however, so it’s best to call in advance if you want to shop a particular place.)

• • •

In other positive local restaurant news, I had a delightful conversation with Adelphia Bar & Grill owner Deno Stanley, who shared what customers can expect as they reopen this week.


Morning Pie at Mountain Pie on the River

“We took advantage of the down time to completely close, even for takeout, so we could do a real deep-cleaning and lots of updates,” he said, as workers were putting the finishing touches on some of the improvements.


Some of those efforts include an mostly updated kitchen, new floors, new paint and trim, plus some new racks and signage for the bar.


“We also took everything off the walls, so we’re in the process of deciding what we’ll put back up and how the place will look.”


I can’t wait to see the “new” place – and eat there once again.

• • •

And finally, here’s a spark of even more good news in the midst of this never-ending cloud of COVID gloom.


Deck at Mountain Pie on the River

Charleston’s own Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill was one of 25 BBQ restaurants from around the country selected to receive a $10,000 gift from Kingsford Charcoal to help them survive these trying times – no strings attached.


“With many of our beloved BBQ joints closing or trying to get by with delivery and carryout, Kingsford wanted to step in and lend a hand to ensure BBQ-loving Americans can keep the flames ablaze,” the team at Kingsford Charcoal said.


Dem 2 was chosen to receive the gift, they added, “to help them keep serving up great BBQ in their community.”


Good on you, Kingsford. And congrats, Dem 2 Brothers!


• • •

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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