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With a worldwide health pandemic rudely canceling our summer vacation plans, we had to put the every-other-year trip to visit family in Europe on hold to enjoy a few closer (and safer) outdoor escapes.

One such excursion took us to Snowshoe Mountain in Pocahontas County for a fun-filled weekend of stunning vistas, mountain biking, kayaking, backcountry ATV tours — and one epic dining experience.

While some of the resort’s restaurants were either closed for the summer or running on limited hours due to COVID-19, we still got to hit a few favorites — burgers and barbecue at Foxfire Grille; local craft beer, tacos and candied bacon (candied bacon!) at Old Spruce Brewery; delicious salads, sandwiches and wraps at Old Spruce Tavern; artisan wood-fired pies from The Pizza Slice.

But the culinary highlight of the trip came on a gorgeous evening at Appalachia Kitchen, one of the resort’s newer restaurants located in the posh Corduroy Inn, just a five-minute walk from Snowshoe’s main village.

Tucked inside the renovated cozy location that used to house the resort’s long-time upscale restaurant, The Red Fox, Appalachia Kitchen has been consistently ranked Snowshoe’s #1 restaurant on Yelp since opening two years ago.

It’s easy to see why.

Impeccable farm-to-table cuisine is lovingly prepared with Appalachian flare by talented Chef Ed Shuttleworth, and then served with care in lovely surroundings. All meats are sourced from regional farms (all produce, too, when in season) with fresh ingredients shining in flavor combinations that sing.

Owners Kristin and David Billings sure have a hit on their hands here.

The night of our visit, we were escorted to an outdoor table overlooking the slopes and wasted no time ordering a bottle of wine while marveling at our choices on the menu.

We wanted to try the smoked trout and crab dip or the baked Brie encroute with smoked tomato jam and roasted garlic, but landed on sautéed mussels in a coconut-ginger broth that we wanted to slurp by the bowlful and duck sausage-stuffed mushrooms topped with shaved Parmesan and aged balsamic.

I also enjoyed the restaurant’s interesting take on an Appalachian Chopped Cobb Salad, using fresh smoked trout and pancetta (instead of ham, turkey and bacon) to blend with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in a tangy buttermilk-chive dressing.

As much as I enjoyed it, I’m still kicking myself for not trying the colorful roasted beet salad with spiced cashews, oranges and goat cheese drizzled with West Virginia honey.

For dinner, we were determined to dig into venison meatloaf with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and red wine Demi-glacé, plus the Heritage Farms bourbon-glazed Berkshire pork chop with sweet potato hash, but were talked into sharing the day’s fresh catch, locally caught trout with charred cauliflower and pecan-studded rice pilaf.

Having gone overboard with soups, salads and appetizers (and knowing dessert was still to come) the lighter option was a great call. Even more so since we then proceeded to order three desserts. For the two of us.

We adored a hot-from-the oven mountain berry cobbler and a moist, fudgy chocolate cake, but really lost our minds over a seemingly simple bowl of gelato bursting with the most amazing toasted browned butter notes.

And right as we capped off that incredible meal, almost if by design, a fiery sunset faded over the ridge that — like the food we just enjoyed — took our breath away.

Your next visit to Snowshoe won’t be complete without booking a table at Appalachia Kitchen. It’s easily the best food on the mountain. Get a sneak peek at what’s waiting by browsing the mouthwatering photo gallery on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

IF YOU GO: Appalachia Kitchen, 5811 Snowshoe Drive, at Snowshoe, is currently open for dinner from 5-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, call 304-572-2030, visit www.appalachiakitchen.com or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.

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 as “WV Food Guy.” He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.