Pretty much every time I’m bee-bopping around town enjoying a drink or dinner, checking out a local event or zipping through the grocery store, someone I see is going to pop the question: “So Food Guy, what are the best new restaurants in town?”
It’s usually a pretty quick response to steer folks to my latest favorites, but as many of you have pointed out recently, we seem to be in a bit of a restaurant rut at the moment.
There are a couple of recently opened high-profile spots that aren’t quite ready for prime time (and I do have a few new hidden gems to reveal in the coming weeks) but lately I’ve found myself recommending short culinary road trips to discover new places.
That brings us to today’s roundup of three really good restaurants to check out on a quick trip down I-64 West to Huntington.
First in line is my newest go-to spot in downtown Huntington, which just happens to offer one of my favorite types of food: Greek! And I’ll give you two great reasons why a meal at Navarino Bay is worth the drive.
One, the location. Situated on the open, second-floor mezzanine overlooking The Market — a collection of independent boutiques, cafés and restaurants on Third Avenue near Pullman Square — you can enjoy your meal while watching the bustle of this cool new market below.
Two, the food. The restaurant’s somewhat elevated menu of Greek and Mediterranean cuisine is the real deal — and it’s been fantastic both times I’ve visited.
Open just over a year, this brainchild of Georgios and George Alexandropoulos (think they know Greek food?) Bay combines the Mediterranean classics you’d expect, but they also share space on the menu with exciting offerings you may not.
Sure, you can get hummus, grape leaf rolls, spanakopita, flaming saganaki cheese, gyros, mousaka, pastichio and plenty of feta, olives and lamb. And they’re SO good. But you can also try a fresh tuna Kalamata salad, zesty Greek pork sausage, juicy grilled quail, glistening lemon salmon, broiled mahi-mahi with torched tomatoes and just-salty-enough bifteki, which are feta-stuffed seasoned beef patties.
We adored the fresh Greek sampler offering a taste of several appetizers, then devoured a giant lamb gyro, savory shrimp saganaki (sautéed in an iron pot with tomatoes, onions, garlic, feta and white wine) and a show-stopping Frenched rack of lamb seared and roasted with aioli, tomatoes, arugula and seasoned potato wedges.
Not convinced? Just look at the mouthwatering photos I snapped before digging in.
If you love great Greek food, or are just looking for a “cool” new restaurant to check out, Navarino Bay is a hit.
IF YOU GO: Navarino Bay at 809 Third Ave. in Huntington is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is closed Sunday. For more information, call 681-378-0020 or visit www.navarinobay.net.
Next, trade baklava for barbecue at a World War-themed café inside an active shooting range. Yes, you read that correctly.
Located just off 5th Street East (exit 8 on I-64) inside the Bare Arms Indoor Range & Training Center — where, yes, you can buy and shoot guns — there’s a cheery little restaurant serving up surprisingly delicious barbecue, burgers, sandwiches and more.
I was skeptical when I first heard of the place, but was completely won over (by the restaurant only, let’s be clear) once I tried it out myself.
The menu is everything you would expect and nothing more. A selection of deep-fried appetizers, wings, nachos and such are available, along with a variety of pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and salads. Nothing fancy, but all pretty tasty.
We took a large group for a birthday celebration and everyone enjoyed the food they tried. The barbecue, brisket and ribs were tender and juicy, with a six-pack of sauces adding any flavor you need from sweet to heat. Burgers and sandwiches were big and satisfying. Wings were meaty and flavorful. Fries were crisp and well-seasoned. Sides like coleslaw and potato salad provided creamy cool accompaniment.
What’s more, the place was spotless and service was super friendly and on-point. With the exception of not serving adult beverages (probably a good idea at a gun range, however), I didn’t have a negative word about the place.
We liked it so much we had them cater a small family gathering at my parents’ house just a few weeks later.
IF YOU GO: Bombshells, Burgers & BBQ at 2134 Fifth Street Rd. in Huntington, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 681-204-3994 or visit www.bombshellsbbq.com.
Finally, trade cheeseburgers for curry at a haven for authentic Thai cuisine cleverly named Food Thai Thai at the Merritt’s Creek Farm Plaza in Barboursville.
Tucked inside a small strip mall just a few doors down from the Starbucks, Food Thai Thai serves a selection of authentic Thai soups and curries, stir fries, rice and noodle dishes, salads and more. How authentic? You won’t be able to pronounce much on the menu, but mouthwatering descriptions and, in many cases, equally appealing photos help guide you along.
The Moo Khour Kluea (salted pork belly with garlic, pepper and brown sauce) was just as good as it sounds. The Som Tum Thai “pok pok” (Thailand’s most famous salad featuring shredded green papaya with carrots, tomatoes, peanuts, chiles and lime) was a refreshing change from everyday iceberg. The Tom Kha Gai (chicken and mushroom coconut milk soup studded with chiles, lemongrass and kaffir lime) was deliciously tangy. The Gai Phad Pong Karee (chicken in a style of yellow curry not found in other local Thai restaurants) offered a great balance of mild heat and sweet.
I left no room for dessert, but options include Kanom Tuay, a custard made from rice flour and coconut milk, and Kanom Foy, a gold-hued egg-based dumpling.
Service was a bit slow both times I’ve stopped in, albeit very friendly, but the food was solid and a colorful selection of Thai art and photos add to the ambiance. There can’t be enough good Thai food around, if you ask me, and I’d place this spot high on the list.
IF YOU GO: Food Thai Thai at 940 Lauren Christian Drive in Barboursville is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day but Tuesday, when it is closed. For more information, call 304-955-5504 or visit “Food Thai Thai” on Facebook.