Mountain State Meals: What to Eat in West Virginia

Enjoy a bounty of wild and wonderful flavors with these iconic West Virginia dishes. 

Photo By: Marion County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Photo By: William Wolfe

Photo By: William Wolfe

Photo By: Prime 44 West

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Photo By: William Wolfe

Photo By: William Wolfe

Photo By: William Wolfe

Photo By: William Wolfe

Photo By: Prime on 4th

Photo By: Greater Morgantown Convention & Visitors Bureau

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: Tudor’s Biscuit World

Photo By: William Wolfe

Photo By: William Wolfe

Photo By: Dee Jay’s BBQ Ribs & Grille

Photo By: Bavarian Inn

Photo By: Atomic Grill

Photo By: William Wolfe

Photo By: iStock

Photo By: The Greenbrier

Photo By: Hillbilly Hotdogs

Photo By: Steve Shaluta Photography for Marion County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Photo By: iStock

The Best Meals in the Mountain State

Biscuits ‘n’ gravy, homestyle meatloaf, fresh-caught rainbow trout … sure, traditional Appalachian specialties are still celebrated throughout the Mountain State. But a rising crop of talented young chefs are also putting their own contemporary spins on classic dishes, with mouthwatering results. From roadside diners to luxury resorts, here are the best places to savor West Virginia’s unique flavors.

Illustration by Hello Neighbor Designs

 

Pepperoni Rolls

Created in West Virginia by Italian immigrants needing a hearty, delicious and, most importantly, non-perishable lunch to take underground while working the coal mines, pepperoni rolls are now the state’s official food. Some modern-day takes are topped with sautéed onions, peppers and marinara, but you’ll want to start with the original recipe. Featuring spicy sticks of pepperoni baked inside a warm, fluffy roll, the banner version is served at Tomaro’s Bakery, located in the heart of Clarksburg’s Italian community.

Go to: Tomaro's Bakery

Biscuits and Gravy

Ask true Mountaineers their breakfast of choice and they’ll likely say it’s two scratch-made split buttermilk biscuits smothered in thick sausage gravy. Biscuits and gravy is a dish that’s good almost anywhere, but it’s great at Stonewall Resort near Weston, where fresh-ground pork flavors your morning dose of creamy goodness. The rustic-meets-upscale Adirondack-style lodge setting on the banks of stunning Stonewall Lake adds to the appeal. The dish is a great way to fortify yourself before tackling the resort’s Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course or its miles and miles of trails.

Go to: Stonewall Resort

Grape & Gorgonzola Pizza

Pizza may not be a West Virginia food staple, but the state has a version of it that stands apart from all the others. A fanatical following has helped Pies & Pints grow into a small regional pizza-and-craft beer chain, and the signature pie has made several national best-of lists. This clever creation features sliced sweet red grapes, creamy Gorgonzola and fresh rosemary on a razor-thin crispy crust. For an extra treat, add bacon — and be sure to ask your server to tell you that variation’s secret name.

Go to: Pies & Pints Pizzeria

Skillet Cornbread

Sometimes it’s enjoyed alongside a platter of succulent barbecue or crumbled into a bowl of pinto beans. Sometimes it’s cooked with ham and cheese inside, or flecked with green chiles and then topped with chili and sour cream. And sometimes it’s fried up into a johnnycake and enjoyed straight from the skillet. Whichever way you like yours, cornbread has an undeniable hold on the title “bread of choice” in West Virginia. At Prime 44 West in the luxurious Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, every meal begins with a complimentary taste of the owner’s blue-ribbon “Best of Show” recipe from the West Virginia State Fair — and diners get the recipe, too!

Go to: Prime 44 West at The Greenbrier

Ramps and Fried Potatoes

Enjoying almost cultlike popularity, ramps, or wild mountain leeks, are a seasonal delicacy that are like a cross between garlic and wild onions. Celebrated by locals and prized by some of the nation’s top chefs — when they can get their hands on them — ramps pop up fleetingly and are often pickled by fans who want them year-round. Mountaineers flock to special ramp dinners each spring to enjoy them fried up with potatoes and sometimes ham, bacon and other pork products. Savor your first taste at the Feast of the Ramson in Richwood, known as the Granddaddy of Appalachian Ramp Feeds.

Beans and Cornbread

Served in small-town diners and on family dining tables alike, a steaming bowl of “soup beans and cornbread” — often topped with chopped onions — is as ubiquitous a culinary pairing here as peanut butter and jelly. (Whether that cornbread should be of the savory or the sweet persuasion is still a matter of great public debate, however.) A Charleston institution, The Grill is a short-order joint beloved by locals for its tasty burgers, sandwiches and platters. In-the-know diners order a comforting bowl of brown beans, too, since it’s the best bowl in the state.

Go to: The Grill

Baked Steak and Gravy

Dredged in flour, browned in butter and finished in the oven, tender baked steak is about as comforting a meal as can be created, especially when it’s served hot and smothered in rich, savory gravy. It’s best when accompanied by a carb-rich trio of savory sage dressing, salty fried potatoes and warm-from-the-oven cornbread, as it is at Diehl’s Family Restaurant in Nitro. This unassuming spot that harks back to another era has drawn folks from far and wide for more than 50 years.

Go to: Diehl’s Restaurant

Apple Dumpling

The Golden Delicious apple was created in West Virginia and stars in a variety of homemade pies, cakes, cobblers and crumbles in every corner of the state. But folks swear there’s no better role for it than the one it plays in the legendary made-from-scratch apple dumpling. Order one to go from Apple Annie’s Bakery in Morgantown (pictured). For a sit-down experience in a homey atmosphere, head for the dually named Company’s Comin’/Murray’s Downhome Diner in Tunnelton (which also serves crowd-pleasing cornbread, soup beans, ham and ramps).

Go to: Apple Annie's Bakery

Fried Fish Sandwich

A simple (but large!) fried fish fillet on plain white bread with tartar sauce not included? How can this be called “The Country’s Best Fish Sandwich” by locals, visitors, food critics and national magazines alike? Well, take a bite. Located inside Wheeling’s bustling, historic Centre Market, Coleman’s Fish Market offers a sandwich that’s nothing but the truth. You’ll never look at tartar sauce the same way.

Go to: Coleman's Fish Market

Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

When a classic dish gets a contemporary makeover, culinary magic often ensues. That’s the draw of Huntington’s Prime on 4th, an ultracool urban bistro serving a host of inventive “Tappalachian” small plates and entrees. One of the best? Elegantly presented meatloaf served with buttermilk mashed potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, crispy Brussels sprouts, onion rings and a tangy ancho barbecue sauce. Though meatloaf is a down-home West Virginia classic, this version, paired with a signature cocktail or local craft beer, will satisfy even the most discriminating of palates.

Go to: Prime on 4th

Buckwheat Pancakes

An Appalachian breakfast staple, hearty and wholesome buckwheat pancakes are typically topped with simple butter and syrup — or your favorite locally made preserves, jams, applesauce or honey. With locally made sausage served on the side (of course!), this is truly West Virginia on a plate. There’s even a giant festival celebrating this culinary treat in the Preston County town of Kingwood, which is exactly where you should try them. With a steaming cup of coffee or a frosty glass of milk, it’s the best $9 you’ll ever spend.

Morels (Molly Moochers)

Highly prized – and just as highly scarce – these mountain mushrooms peek out of the ground for only a few weeks each year. Chefs in the know snatch up as many as they can, using the morels’ earthy essence to enhance pastas, sauces, soups and more. At The Forks Inn just outside Elkins, Chef Jon Eric Stalnaker features a cream of wild mushroom soup laced with morels picked that very morning along the banks of Shavers Fork. And with a resume running restaurants in Colorado, South Carolina, Paris and at West Virginia’s own Greenbrier, Stalnaker knows just what to do with this sought-after mushroom.

Go to: The Forks

Fresh Rainbow Trout

Fresh seafood in landlocked West Virginia? It’s a sure catch. The state’s abundance of clear mountain streams provides a bounty of indigenous rainbow trout, which are served in countless preparations statewide. At Elk River Inn & Restaurant in Slatyfork, you can settle in with a plate of locally caught, almond-crusted, pan-seared trout with butternut squash risotto, wilted kale and sauteed leeks — or enjoy trout served whole and filleted tableside with creamy grits and rosemary succotash. The food heightens the appeal of the cozy surroundings at this riverside inn near the base of popular Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

Go to: Elk River Inn and Restaurant

The Mountaineer Biscuit

Tudor’s Biscuit World is a West Virginia-born institution serving biscuits that make grown men cry and bring people to their knees. Stuffed and topped in mouthwatering combinations, the various biscuits have devoted followings. Hearty options include the Thundering Herd, with sausage, potato, egg and cheese; the Miner (with bacon, potato and melted cheese) and, of course, the namesake Mountaineer Biscuit, featuring country ham, a crispy potato cake, egg and cheese.

Go to: Tudor's Biscuit World

Pot Roast Melt

When it comes to providing comfort, few plates can top homemade, slow-cooked pot roast. After a day exploring Fayetteville’s New River Gorge, devouring Cathedral Cafe’s warm, tasty, melty combination of shredded chuck roast, cheddar cheese, tomato, red onion and horseradish mayo on grilled sourdough — inside an old church-turned-eclectic bookstore — is a downright religious experience.

Go to: Cathedral Cafe & Book Store

Wild Game

Venison, pheasant, bison, elk and other game meats all grace plates around the state. But tucked away in a small circa-1913 house in Berkeley Springs is Lot 12 Public House, where James Beard Foundation-honored chef Damian Heath one-ups the traditional preparation of a wild game dish. His buttermilk-fried quail atop a wild ramp waffle drizzled with sriracha-bourbon maple syrup is West Virginia’s delicious answer to the South’s chicken ‘n’ waffles. (You’re welcome.) And it’s one of just several can’t-miss New American dishes served with flair here.

Go to: Lot 12 Public House

Barbecue Ribs

You may not expect it in this tiny Northern Panhandle town not far from Pittsburgh, but the award-winning, fall-off-the-bone, sauce-kissed ribs served in an eclectic tiki bar-meets-sports bar atmosphere lure crowds from around the region. Dee Jay’s BBQ Ribs & Grille serves the ribs with smashed potatoes or cheesy, bacon-topped ’tater skins — which, come to think of it, sounds like a pretty brilliant idea.

Go to: Dee Jay’s BBQ Ribs & Grille

Venison Stew

West Virginia’s early settlers had to hunt in its mountains and fish in its streams to put food on the table, a tradition that resulted in countless wild-game recipes being passed down through generations. Folks here hunt mostly for sport now, but some still prize deer meat for its rich, lean and subtle game flavor. At the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, you’ll thank our ancestors as soon as you dig into the German-themed resort’s hearty stew of braised venison and wild mushrooms in red wine topped with garlic potatoes and English cheddar — with more venison and mushrooms dolloped on top for good measure.

Go to: Bavarian Inn

Appalachian Barbecue

Memphis and Kansas City may wrestle for the title of best barbecue, but West Virginia’s homestyle interpretations sure deserve a nod of their own. The retro Atomic Grill serves tasty Appalachian Bruschetta on cornbread crostini, and Ultimate Pork Skins topped with your choice of roasted pork, chicken or brisket (oh, go ahead, get ’em all!) bathed in melted cheese and locally made barbecue sauce. But a plain ol’ barbecue sandwich on butter-grilled Texas toast — paired with a local Morgantown-brewed craft beer — is the go-to lunch for many before catching a game at nearby West Virginia University, home of the Mountaineers.

Go to: Atomic Grill

Double-Cut Pork Chop

Pork chops and applesauce are an American tradition. And while this version of the dish may not be the one Grandma used to make, that doesn’t mean those same great flavors aren’t represented. With local art adorning its walls, the Appalachian-themed Bluegrass Kitchen serves a thick, apple-brined, slow-cooked chop glistening in a bourbon-mustard glaze, with grilled asparagus and mashed sweet potatoes on the side. At a hotspot specializing in organic, vegetarian and vegan specialties, this fine nod to carnivores makes a name for itself.

Go to: Bluegrass Kitchen

West Virginia Moonshine

It’s a drink as storied as the mountains themselves. And now that moonshine is legal to produce, top-quality distillers are popping up throughout the Mountain State. In the Eastern Panhandle city of Charles Town, not far from our nation’s capital, Bloomery Plantation makes an impressive line of flavored “sweetshines” that has won more awards than you can count. They’re all delicious sippers, but it’s the perfectly balanced sweet-tart Raspberry Limoncello that started it all. Enjoy it on-site, or at restaurants and stores around the state.

Go to: Bloomery Plantation Distillery

Greenbrier Peaches

It’s a rare soul who can try this iconic dessert and not then covet it. Greenbrier Peaches come from one of the country’s swankiest resorts, The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, which has hosted royalty, presidents, celebrities and families for decades. Served with vanilla whipped cream, fresh raspberries and a macaroon, Greenbrier Peaches are “A Greenbrier Tradition.” If you’re feeling a little overindulgent, order them with a slice of Toasted Coconut Pound Cake on the side. Divine.

The West Virginia Dog

Think the lowly hot dog is nothing to get excited about? Just says the words “West Virginia Dog” around these parts and watch the drooling commence. In a world of gourmet hot dogs topped with everything from kimchi to truffles, there’s something to be said for the simple pleasures of a good old-fashioned dog. In West Virginia, that means toppings of chili, mustard, onions and slaw – preferably on a dog nestled in a split-top (and sometimes butter-toasted) English bun. Although folks flock to Hillbilly Hotdogs near Huntington for dozens of crazy combinations (including the whopping 15-inch Homewrecker), this rustic roadside joint serves up a classic West Virginia Dog like no other.

Go to: Hillbilly Hot Dogs

Real-Deal Italian Pasta

North-central West Virginia’s large Italian population supports a dozen or more authentic Italian “ristorantes” that garner rave reviews for their real-deal Italian cuisine. But Muriale’s Italian Kitchen sits at the top of that list. Fans flock to this family-owned (and family-friendly) Fairmont spot for traditional specialties like spaghetti, lasagna and more. Can’t choose? Don’t have to! The “Taste of Italy” platter offers a sampling of homemade lasagna, hot-sausage rigatoni, ravioli and a giant meatball.

Go to: Muriale’s Italian Kitchen

West Virginia Margarita

There’s a good chance that you’ve enjoyed a frosty, salty glass of America’s most-popular cocktail once or twice. But you’ve probably never had one quite like this. Canaan Valley Resort, one of the state’s top four-season getaways, puts a West Virginia twist on this modern classic. Made with tequila and Cointreau, of course, the West Virginia Margarita gets its subtle sweetness from local Honey River Goldenrod Honey Mead from Healthberry Farm in Dryfork.

Go to: Canaan Valley Resort