I need your help with this one, folks.
Some restaurants I fall in love with immediately. The food, the service, the ambiance — they all come together and it just works. You’ll be hearing about a few of these places in the coming weeks.
Other restaurants, I never really care much for because they’re just not firing on all (or any) cylinders.
Then there are places like Genesis Café, restaurants that I’m really rooting for but they don’t have my heart just yet.
There is a lot to like about this newish little spot on the corner of Virginia and Summers streets downtown, in a troubled location that has seen its share of restaurants come and go (usually quickly) in recent years.
Genesis Café is clean and cheerful. Menu variety is pretty darn good, including some ethnic choices. They’re open for breakfast, which is a biggie for me, and you can place to-go orders online. Most of all, owners Joey and Jocelyn Simonton (who also do great work with their local Kona Ice truck) could not be any nicer. These are people you want to see succeed.
My hold-up here is the food, which has been hit or miss over the course of several visits.
Breakfast offerings include everything from Belgian waffles with various toppings to breakfast sandwiches, wraps and platters. You also can get oatmeal, fruit, granola, fresh bagels, baked goods and locally roasted coffees.
I’m a fan of The Charleston breakfast platter, featuring two eggs any style, sausage or bacon, seasoned potatoes and sausage gravy that (I can’t believe I’m saying this) may actually have a little TOO much sausage in it.
The Chocolate Chip Strawberry Dream waffle is tasty, but I’m pretty sure the tenders atop my Chicken & Waffles were left over from the day before. They were so tough and dry that I could barely cut through them. With a knife.
The lunch menu includes an impressive array of nearly 30 starters, salads, soups, wraps, sandwiches and Asian dishes. Not bad for such a small place.
I was most excited about the ethnic offerings, so those dominated my first three visits. Not great, though.
My Lumpia (Filipino spring rolls with seasoned ground pork, cabbage and veggies) were significantly over-fried. My Pancit Canton (Filipino egg noodles stir-fried with pork, chicken and shrimp) needed a healthy dose of salt to add flavor, the Chicken Adobo looked nothing like the photo promised and the Pork Adobo also was dry.
For lunch, the signature Joey’s Famous Bison Burger gets rave reviews, although me and mine found it a bit dry and lifeless. Since it is a leaner meat, bison really needs a healthy amount of sauce, condiments or other flavor enhancements to compensate — and this burger didn’t.
To be fair, a few of those visits occurred in the late afternoon and I noticed they microwaved my food to reheat it. Maybe it was better a few hours earlier, I don’t know. Online reviews have been pretty stellar, so I’d love to know what I’m missing.
Maybe it’s the Rockin’ BBQ with smoky pulled pork and slaw, the Wild Game Hot Dog or the Top 40 grilled sandwich stuffed with savory sliced roast beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Maybe the homemade lasagna really is as good as I’ve heard, but they have been out each time I tried to order it.
What have you loved at Genesis Café that I should try next? Please send me your thoughts, so I can share an update here down the line. I want good things for these folks!
And if you haven’t tried it yet, I would suggest making your first visit during breakfast. The restaurant’s slogan is “the beginning of a great day,” and my best visits have been during the morning hours.
IF YOU GO: Genesis Café, 700 Virginia St. E., is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (breakfast only) on Saturday. Closed on Sundays. For more information, call 681-205-8575 or visit www.genesiscafewv.com.
Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”