The Food Guy: Hidden foodie gems in Eastern WV

If the new year takes you to Snowshoe Mountain for a mid-winter getaway, there are lots of new eats you won’t want to miss.

In addition to usual haunts like Foxfire Grill, Cheat Mountain Pizza, The Junction and Sunset Cantina — all in the Village — a handful of more recently added restaurants are now welcoming guests.

Zenkei Japanese-American Chop House in Soaring Eagle Lodge serves top-notch steaks, sushi and more. The new Old Spruce Brewing at the entrance to Silver Creek is making its own seriously good craft beer (get the red IPA!) and light bar food like sliders, tacos and giant pretzels in a cool, rustic cabin-like setting.

Located in the same spot where the celebrated Red Fox restaurant wowed diners for years, owners David and Kristin Billings’ newish Appalachian Kitchen (and its upstairs Tuque’s Bar and Grill) at the Corduroy Inn has quickly become the mountain’s top-rated restaurant thanks to an upscale farm-to-table menu of regional specialties.

Melt into a cozy booth to enjoy delights like hickory-smoked trout and crab cakes with caper-dill remoulade; a roasted beet salad with spiced cashews, oranges, goat cheese and West Virginia honey; venison meatloaf with roasted-garlic mashed potatoes and red wine demi-glace; rainbow trout with pecan wild rice and hazelnut brown butter; and a Heritage Farms Berkshire pork chop with sweet potato flan and maple-glazed apples.

I simply must go!

IF YOU GO: For more information on these and other dining options at Snowshoe Mountain, including hours of operation during different seasons, call 877-441-4386 or visit snowshoemtn.com.

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Although there are a handful of routes to get you from Charleston to Snowshoe and back, I’m usually partial to the one that cuts across the stunning Highland Scenic Highway running north of Marlinton to east of Richwood, offering breathtaking ridgetop views as far as the eye can see.

I especially prefer that route through Richwood now that a very cool gastropub has opened there.

Tucked in a storefront right along the town’s Main Street, Whistle Punk Grill & Taphouse is a casual restaurant serving flavorful and fresh handcrafted food using locally sourced ingredients paired with an impressive selection of craft beers and wine.

Whistle Punk is located in the 1923 building that originally housed Richwood Bakery. The structure has undergone several renovations and restorations through the years, each of them painstakingly preserving the original floors, ceiling tiles, windows and other details.

Within these walls, Whistle Punk’s funky decor is as eclectic as the menu, which offers a surprisingly lengthy list of nearly 30 extremely imaginative options.

You can start out with appetizers of Chesapeake Bay crab dip, truffle fries and Greek meatballs with tzatziki; or maybe a classic Caesar, wedge, spinach or smoky Gorgonzola salad with mixed greens, candied nuts, onions and Dijon sherry dressing. Flatbreads and quesadillas include grape and Gorgonzola with fresh rosemary and balsamic drizzle; slow-roasted brisket with sharp cheddar, pico de gallo and black beans; and applewood-smoked bacon with feta and wilted spinach.

Hand-pattied West Virginia beef burgers run the gamut when it comes to possible toppings, and 10 mouthwatering sandwiches feature combinations like the Hayburner’s Black Forest ham and fontina cheese with crispy onions and blackberry mustard; the Skyliner’s spinach, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and provolone; the Powder Monkey’s pulled pork with house-made BBQ sauce, cheddar and charred red onions on Texas toast; and the Shoofly’s peanut butter, banana and honey on grilled cinnamon-swirl bread.

On my recent visit for lunch, I started with a deliciously gorgeous fresh quinoa, organic local kale and spinach salad full of roasted peppers, sliced avocado and dried cranberries drizzled in a house-made lemon-thyme dressing.

Sandwich options are so mouthwatering that I truly could not decide, so I let my waitress do the dirty work. She brought me the popular Potlatch stuffed with roasted turkey, garlic aioli, balsamic onions, sharp cheddar and blue cheese crumbles, a gem that proved its worth after just one bite.

I finished the meal by treating myself to an incredibly fudgy, dense wedge of chocolate torte whose only flaw was being served too cold right out of the refrigerator. Had it been removed a good half-hour earlier, it would’ve delivered the creamy, silky texture the chef intended.

My lunch was so fantastic, I can’t wait to go back and try one of 18 elevated steak, chicken, seafood and pasta dinner entrees.

Owners Lance and Stacy Raffo have done a wonderful job creating a popular, fun and delicious hangout for locals and visitors alike. The next time you find yourself anywhere close to Richwood, Whistle Punk is a can’t-miss place you’ll definitely want to check out.

IF YOU GO: Whistle Punk Grill & Taphouse, 35 E. Main St. in Richwood, is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Monday. For more information, call 304-846-2020 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at http://blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy/. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or wvfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy”.

Funerals for Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Blume, James - 2 p.m., Wallace & Wallace, Rainelle.

Gunnoe, Freda - Noon, Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Hunt, Lloyd - 1 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Rogers, Christopher - 1 p.m., Raynes Funeral Home, Buffalo.

Shepherd, Camella - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Smith, James - 2 p.m., Fox Hill Cemetery, South Charleston.

Turley, Imogene - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Webb, Barbara - 11 a.m., Ellyson Mortuary, Glenville.