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Wine List Boasts the Best Restaurants in WV

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John Brown John Brown
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John Brown is president of Brown Communications in Charleston. He writes about wine each month for The State Journal.

From the time I was able to toss a quarter on the oaken bar at Joe’s Sportsman Inn and request a “cold one,” until this very day, I have always appreciated the exquisite synergy between food and a companion beverage.

At Joe’s, it was a hot dog made with mouth-searing chili sauce created by the proprietor to keep patrons from ordering food. Joe, who preferred to sip Calvert Reserve blended whiskey without interruption, could never understand why his thermo-nuclear hot dogs were so popular. Anyway, I think that’s when I discovered that food was a lot better when accompanied by a complementary liquid other than water.

Since those “dog days,” I have had the occasion to dine at some pretty special eateries on this planet. As a result, I always try to keep a list of restaurants that impress me, particularly ones that understand the importance of cultivating a good and fairly priced wine list. I am happy to report that we have quite a few good ones right here in West By Golly.

It’s one thing for this backwater wineaux to say nice things about a grubbery, but when a prestigious international magazine does … well that, to use the local vernacular, is “spay-chull.” You should know that Wine Spectator Magazine has recognized eight Mountain State establishments with “Awards of Excellence” and another for “Best of Awards of Excellence” for their wine lists.

The state restaurants receiving Awards of Excellence are: Bridge Road Bistro, The Chop House and Laury’s in Charleston; Provence Market Café in Bridgeport; Final Cut Steak House in Charles Town; Sargasso in Morgantown; Savannah’s in Huntington; and Spats in Parkersburg (within the Blennerhassett Hotel). Another state restaurant, The Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, received “Best of Awards of Excellence” and that’s quite an honor since fewer than 1,000 dining establishments achieved that distinction.

One restaurant that is conspicuous by its absence from the Wine Spectator list is the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. In years past, The Greenbrier’s Main Dining Room, Sam Snead’s and Prime 44 West, all received awards from the magazine. They are not among this year’s awardees because they have not presented their wine lists to the magazine for review. I spoke to an official at the Greenbrier who noted that the restaurant lists are currently being reviewed and updated. Once this process is completed, the resort will be presenting them for review. Expect them to once again be among the Wine Spectator awardees.

And while not every restaurant in the state will seek recognition from publications such as the Wine Spectator, there are several establishments that deserve mention here for their exceptional food and their thoughtful wine lists.

The South Hills Market and Café in Charleston, owned by Richard and Anne Arbaugh, features a superb and ever-changing menu of continental, low-country and new American delicacies with a visually appealing presentation. The wine list is well conceived, priced fairly and complements the cuisine.

Another Capitol city establishment — Paterno’s At The Park — has become the city’s best Italian restaurant with a very good and reasonably priced wine list. And Rocco’s in Ceredo is, without a doubt, one of the best restaurants in the state, featuring artful and inventive southern Italian delicacies. Rocco knows his wine and the list marries seamlessly with his creative cuisine.

The charm and atmosphere of Café Cimino in Sutton is only exceeded by the Italian and Mediterranean dishes inspired by Chef Tim Urbanic. I once participated in a 10-course Italian meal with accompanying wines, including consecutive older vintages of Barolo. Café Cimino is also a B&B and should be on your must go-to list.

In the northern part of the state, the Wonder Bar, between Bridgeport and Clarksburg, has always been known for its excellent steaks. With new ownership, the steaks are still superb, but the wine list has been completely improved and updated. There have also been major improvements to the physical look of the place, but one thing that has not changed is the iconic red carpeting on the walls.

One other restaurant in Charleston deserves mention here. Noah’s Eclectic Bistro is a small, 11-table establishment that features — as its name implies — a very wide-ranging menu. Chef Noah Miller is a Charleston native who has a wealth of gastronomic experience, including a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. The wine list is exceptional for its variety and value, and the food is wonderfully inventive and delicious.