Expanded Vandalia Co. keeps getting better and better
Like a fine wine, The Vandalia Co. just gets better with time.
When Vandalia opened as a donut truck in Charleston back in 2017, it became an immediate sensation thanks to its simple – yet simply delicious – concept.
After 42 different recipe attempts, they finally perfected the perfect buttermilk cake donut (lightly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, showered in cinnamon sugar) which they offered topped in different ways on different days.
Exact same donut, yet always something “new.” Genius.
Four years later, after mighty struggles I’ve shared before, The Vandalia Co. opened a much-anticipated brick-and-mortar café on Tennessee Avenue, bringing those same donuts plus a selection of breakfast and lunch treats to a ridiculously charming café on Charleston’s West Side.
As a result, their fan base grew, prompting Vandalia to start staying open some evenings, hosting special events and setting up a backyard garden, complete with chairs, cozy quilts and a fire pit.
And now, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony this past Saturday morning, the place has opened a new artisan goods market offering a small-but-mighty collection of food products, kitchenware, candles, home décor, cards and more right next door to the restaurant.
Guests were treated to live music, free gifts, food samples and a seasonal beer on tap. And, of course, they could do a little holiday shopping. That’s exactly what I did, before popping over to the café to check out its expanded menu of new donut flavors, assorted baked goods, breakfast and lunch items, wines and beers.
There are the donuts, of course, topped with the likes of lemon cream and blueberry, cookies and cream, pumpkin pie crumbles and caramel sauce, and more. Later in the day, when the donuts are no longer warm, they crumble and layer them with the same ingredients mentioned above to create donut parfaits. Genius.
A breakfast sandwich is made with thick-cut bacon, eggs, sharp white cheddar and lemony red pepper greens on brioche, while popular breakfast tacos feature grilled flour tortillas stuffed with chorizo, eggs your way, crispy hash browns, black beans, pico de gallo, Southwestern crema and cotija cheese.
Salad and grain bowls include the Greek (spring greens with cucumbers, tomato, feta, kalamata olives, hummus, couscous, Greek dressing and tzatziki) and the Crispy Thai Chickpea (spring greens with crispy chili-lime chickpeas, peppers, carrots, red cabbage, cucumbers, crushed peanuts, green onions and cilantro-lime basmati rice with peanut sauce).
And there’s the best-of-the-bunch.
That's the Harvest Grain Bowl with spring greens with fresh local apples, sausage, white beans, roasted sweet potatoes, dried cranberries, feta, toasted walnuts and pepitas on a blend of couscous and quinoa drizzled with maple cinnamon balsamic vinaigrette.
It's SO good, y’all.
Vandalia’s housemade chicken salad is a hit and rotating scratch-made soups include Italian sausage with potato and kale, vegetable curry, roasted butternut squash and more served with Charleston Bread.
Small bites served after 4 p.m. each day include snacks like pimento cheese and crackers; crostini with spicy strawberry jam, whipped goat cheese and basil microgreens; sausage balls with hot honey dip; and giant beer-house pretzels served with beer cheese, hot honey mustard and spicy brown mustard.
And then there’s an ever-changing lineup of pastries, scones and such created by newcomer “Baker Josh.” (Seriously, that’s what they call him, and he was shying away from the limelight that day.)
But after trying the nice snickerdoodle bar and phenomenally rich, creamy and decadent peanut butter bar he made for Saturday’s grand opening, I’ve got to track this guy down to give him the credit he deserves. That peanut butter situation, bursting with toasted peanut flavor and topped with velvety smooth dark chocolate, was the highlight of my weekend.
Baker Josh, call me!
If you haven’t been to The Vandalia Co.’s charming little (but growing) spot, you need to remedy that lickety-split. It’s as cute – and delicious – as can be.
IF YOU GO: The Vandalia Co. at 611 Tennessee Ave. on Charleston’s West Side is open through the holidays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 304-825-3145, visit www.thevandaliaco.com or check out the restaurant’s Facebook page.
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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 www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at email@example.com.