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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

El Gran Sabor! An overdue visit to a Venezuelan café in Elkins

A recent planned trip to Elkins led to an unexpected visit to one of my favorite little unique restaurants in the state, El Gran Sabor, serving traditional Latin American food in the Potomac Highlands.

Chicken Cachapa, Rice and Black Beans from El Gran Sabor
Chicken Cachapa, Rice and Black Beans from El Gran Sabor

That’s right, there’s a legit (and legitimately good) Venezuelan restaurant right here in the mountains of West Virginia.

I remember being shocked when I discovered it many years ago, and was equally surprised again to realize how much I had missed it. Located just a few blocks off the main drag through town, El Gran Sabor is a casual Latin American café-meets-bistro-meets-bar tucked inside a charming house.

Shrimp Cachapas from El Gran Sabor
Shrimp Cachapas from El Gran Sabor

Everything on the menu here is fantastic, but let’s face it. You’re going for the cachapas, arepas and empanadas. Or maybe the tostones and yuca fries. You know, the foods you can’t find at almost any other restaurant in the state.

We started with tasty tostones, which are crispy fried plantains served with sauce for dipping. The slightly sweet plantains, mildly salty crust and creamy sauce all blended together beautifully.

Then we all dove into entrees featuring all manner of other specialties stuffed and prepared in a variety of different ways.

El Gran Sabor is most famous for its signature chachapas, and these babies did not disappoint. The sweet corn pancakes filled with cheese and your choice of beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, surf and turf, or ham and black beans – some also stuffed with onions, tomatoes and peppers – delivered the perfect savory bite with just a hint of sweetness from the corn cocoon it came in.

Breakfast Arepa from El Gran Sabor
Breakfast Arepa from El Gran Sabor

We also dug the arepas, which are pockets made from ground maize (cornmeal) dough that are also stuffed with diverse goodies. Similar to a bao bun, but much less doughy, they are addictively delicious.

Arepas are different from equally top-notch empanadas, which are typically smaller white cornmeal pockets also stuffed with meats and more. As with many dishes here, they’re served with fluffy rice and savory black beans bursting with flavor.

And yes, there are also plenty of nacho, taco, enchilada, burrito and quesadilla options – along with soups, salads, sandwiches, seafood and pasta – for those wanting something (in some cases) a little less Latin American.

If this place were closer to Charleston, I’d be a regular for sure!

  • IF YOU GO: El Gran Sabor at 413 Kerens Ave. in Elkins is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch Wednesday-Friday and from 4:30-9 p.m. for dinner Wednesday-Saturday. For more information, call 304-636-8200, visit or check out the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Outdoor Dining Returns to Capitol Street

Outdoor dining returned to downtown Charleston’s Capitol Street this past weekend and will run weekends through July 30 this year.

Sausage and Cheese Empanada from El Gran Sabor
Sausage and Cheese Empanada from El Gran Sabor

From Friday afternoon through Sunday evenings during that period, Capitol Street will be closed to vehicles from Kanawha Boulevard to Lee Street so restaurants can serve food and drinks to guests at tables and tents along the street. (Cross-traffic can still pass by Capitol Street on Virginia and Quarrier streets.)

Originally started to help increase outdoor dining space for restaurants during COVID, the trend caught on and has been a popular summer addition to the downtown dining scene ever since.

I’m so glad to welcome its return.

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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 or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at

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