• Steven Keith

Owners of Yelp's top restaurant opening a spot in Charleston

Last week’s news that a new vegan restaurant was opening on Virginia Street wasn’t just a welcome announcement because there will be another cool dining spot in downtown Charleston.

Vegan banh mi from The Loopy Leaf
Vegan banh mi from The Loopy Leaf

It’s even more exciting because The Loopy Leaf is owned by the same folks behind Kelly Farm Kitchen in Harpers Ferry. That’s the restaurant I recently told you about that was named one of Yelp’s “Top 100 Places to Eat in 2021.”


Spicy curry ramen noodle bowl
Spicy curry ramen noodle bowl

And not just one of the top 100, but THE top place on the list.


Number one, baby, right here in West Virginia.


The Loopy Leaf will be a 100% female-owned, plant-based restaurant serving vegan breakfasts, burgers, tacos, subs, salads, ramen, snacks and, I quote, “some of the funkiest beers in America made right here in West Virginia” at Abolitionist Ale Works based out of Charles Town.


Facebook teasers for the new spot show glistening vegan brats, chili-cheese dogs, boneless buffalo wings, super-stacked Impossible burgers, banh mi, Southern-fried chick’n, crab cakes, BBQ jackfruit tostadas and a whole host of colorful, healthy and hearty salads so gorgeous they’ll stop you in your tracks.


BBQ jackfruit and slaw tostada
BBQ jackfruit and slaw tostada

They’re also teasing a cozy, welcoming vibe and a possible Oct. 13 opening date, so stay tuned.


This is all exciting news, for sure, but let’s address the elephant in the room.


Nothing — and I mean nothing — has been able to succeed in this space at the corner of Virginia and Summers streets beside Fifth Third Bank’s downtown location.


That surprises a lot of folks, but not me. While it is a nice “space,” it’s not an ideal “location” for a restaurant with high rent, low foot traffic and limited parking.


A prime location downtown should make it a nice, convenient, successful spot for the working lunch crowd, but that’s just never really played out here. Bridge Road Bistro tried it. Genesis Café tried it. Melange Café made a good go of it for a minute.


Here’s hoping the owners of Yelp’s top restaurant of 2021 will finally break that curse.


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Due to lingering COVID concerns, organizers of this year’s Taste-of-ALL Charleston have decided to cancel next month’s large in-person food fest planned at the Four Points Sheraton in favor of a campaign urging diners to try special Taste-of-ALL dishes that will be offered at area restaurants Oct. 8-17.


Impossible burger with crispy fried onions
Impossible burger with crispy fried onions

New to this year’s reimagined fest are also awards designed by Blenko Glass that will be handed out for Best Fall Flavor, People’s Choice and a Critics’ Choice selected by me and my tasting partner-in-crime, former Gazette-Mail food writer Judy Grigoraci.


We’ll be making the rounds to restaurants along with you that week to pick who will take our top honor.


Visit www.festivalcharleston.com/events for more details, including menus, in the coming days!


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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 wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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