During the height of COVID-geddon, I received a request from reader Richard Boyd seeking my top restaurant recommendations for his first-ever visit to Lewisburg this summer.
Prefacing my comments with the fact that some places may not have fully reopened yet, I told him Stardust Café is a wonderful lunch or dinner spot and The French Goat is one of the very best restaurants in the state, for sure. I shared that I've had hit-or-miss meals at The Livery Tavern, although I love its atmosphere and décor, and that I really like the Italian fare at The Humble Tomato.
I also confessed that while a lot of people love Food & Friends, I've never really been a fan and like other options much better. Or for a fun casual lunch, I suggested Jim's Drive In serves up awesome burgers, hot dogs, fries and more just a minute outside of town.
His take after visiting?
“The French Goat was not open the days we went, but we did try The Livery and you’re right – it was hit-and-miss. We also tried Food & Friends for lunch and agree with you there, too.”
And then a funny thing happened.
“The Humble Tomato was good,” he told me, “and we spoke with a young lady as we left and told her that a food critic in Charleston recommended the place. She said: Oh, you must mean Steven Keith!”
Yes, I know the owners, but don’t just take my word that it’s an awesome place to grab a drink and a great meal in Lewisburg.
During a recent trip to Greenbrier County, we stopped in for a quick lunch and ended up enjoying a fantastic feast of giant Italian meatballs topped with fresh shaved parmesan; sauteed Brussels sprouts with thick-cut local Swift Level bacon, goat cheese and hot honey drizzle; stuffed pepperoni roll calzones; shrimp alfredo pasta and all the desserts.
A tantalizing Sunday brunch menu features Chicken N Waffles, Biscuits N Gravy, Shrimp N Grits, Steak N Eggs, Brussels Benedict, a breakfast burger, breakfast pizzas, soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta and this little revelation …
A glorious Tot N Gravy bowl full of tater tots topped with housemade sausage gravy and two fried eggs.
Good God, sign me up.
IF YOU GO: The Humble Tomato, 855 Washington St. W in Lewisburg, is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 681-318-3788, check out www.thehumbletomato.net or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.
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In other regional restaurant news, readers keep sending in their hot tips and requests for tasty new spots they want me to check out. Here are the latest to add to my list …
Up Da Hollor Pizza, Cabin Creek
Reader J. Michael Mollohan said he had a tough time finding dining out options when he moved from the East End to East Bank this summer, even more so when it came to restaurants that would deliver. After several visits to one such place, however, he now feels confident to recommend it to anyone.
“A place with the unlikely name Up Da Hollor Pizza serves up some of the best pizza I've had since I left WVU,” he reports. “They boast a 20” extra-large. That's a lot of pie. Their sauce, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the best around. Really, really good pizza.”
He also says they’ve ordered the restaurant’s Philly cheesesteaks, which they found excellent as well.
“Their large subs are huge, but they have a tendency to slightly undercook them, so be sure to specify well-done when you order. Even I still lived in Charleston, I’d occasionally make the trip for one of their pies. It’s that good.”
IF YOU GO: Up Da Hollor Pizza, 15111 MacCorkle Ave. SE in Cabin Creek, is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more information, call 681-221-7460 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.
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Bobbie Jo’s Sports Grill, Sissonville Drive
“You need to check out Bobbie Jo’s Sports Grill,” writes reader Andrew Cunningham, “it’s a local place with great food. The BBQ is outstanding, especially the ribs, and they have a house sauce called Fat Daddy’s that is good on several things.”
Even though the restaurant hasn’t updated its Facebook page in months, they have interacted on other pages promoting “the best ribs around” while touting their “Goodbye Hunger, Meat Happiness” slogan. Gotta love that.
Recent customer reviews on their page have also praised the smoked chicken salad, pulled pork barbecue, coleslaw, baked beans and more.
IF YOU GO: Bobbie Jo’s Sports Grill, 3119 Sissonville Dr. in Charleston, is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. For more information, call 304-347-4073 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.
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Venetian Estate Restaurant & Pub, Milton
Another reader in Dunbar reached out to ask if I’d ever been to the Venetian Estate Restaurant & Pub in Milton. The what, I thought? That’s a pretty fancy-sounding name for a small-town restaurant.
But then when she mentioned the place had recently hosted a wedding, it hit me.
That’s the new name of the old Maylon House, a unique restaurant on US 60 inside a striking home surrounded by lovely gardens where we celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary a few years ago.
Under new ownership, the place recently reopened and is trying to up its game as a special-event restaurant, pub and wedding venue.
“I believe the pub has been open since May and the restaurant maybe for a couple of months,” the reader told me. “Four of us tried the Sunday brunch in the restaurant about a month ago and definitely want to go back. My husband had the French toast, bacon and potatoes and said it was great. I had the chicken and dumplings, which was good but not very warm.”
She went on to say her sister’s Monte Cristo and mother’s salad were both hits.
“We asked to see a dinner menu and it looked good,” she added. “It had about the same prices as Tidewater. We’d like to try the pub as well and expect it to have a more casual menu. The service was great.”
Although I haven’t been to the new place yet, I’m totally rooting for it.
When we previously visited for our big family dinner, I was impressed with the gorgeous grounds, the charming house and the whole idea of such a nice dining experience in an unlikely location.
We had a glorious evening, ambiance-wise, but food and service were inconsistent – sometimes stellar, sometimes rough. Still, we enjoyed our evening there and felt the place had potential to be a great spot for special gatherings.
I hope the new owners can make a go of it.
IF YOU GO: Venetian Estate Restaurant, 1742 Midland Trail/US 60 in Milton, is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Sunday brunch and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner Monday-Saturday. The pub is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information, call 304-390-4575 or visit www.venetianestate.com.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.