A Delicious Journey Through West Virginia: The Food Lover’s Guide
Hello, fellow foodies! If you’re planning a trip to the beautiful state of West Virginia, or even just curious about the local cuisine, you’re in for a treat. Tucked away in the Appalachian region, this state is rich in culinary treasures that blend both tradition and innovation. Let’s get started on this gastronomic journey through wild and wonderful West Virginia!
Classic Comfort: Traditional West Virginian Cuisine
The first thing you need to know about West Virginia food is that it’s deeply rooted in comfort and tradition. This means lots of hearty, homestyle dishes that fill your belly and warm your heart.
Pepperoni Rolls: The State Food
Let’s start with the undisputed star of West Virginia’s culinary scene: the Pepperoni Roll. As simple as it sounds, this delectable snack, invented by Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, is essentially a soft, white bread roll filled with pepperoni. Some versions also include cheese or peppers. You can find pepperoni rolls throughout the state, from grocery stores to high-end restaurants, but a trip to Fairmont – considered the birthplace of the Pepperoni Roll – is a must for food lovers. Here, local spots like Colasessano’s and Country Club Bakery serve up some of the best examples of this iconic dish.
Appalachian Soul Food
Moving on to more hearty fare, West Virginia is known for its “Appalachian Soul Food”. This includes classics like cornbread, beans and greens, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes. You’ll find a lot of these dishes at family-run diners and local hangouts. In Huntington, Cam’s Ham offers a mouth-watering sugar-flaked ham sandwich that has been a local favorite since the 1950s.
Fresh from the Farm: West Virginia’s Farm-to-Table Movement
As much as it is about tradition, West Virginia’s food scene is also about freshness and quality ingredients. The state’s lush, fertile lands make it perfect for farming, leading to a blossoming farm-to-table movement.
Several restaurants in West Virginia emphasize locally sourced ingredients. Charleston, the state’s capital, is a hotbed for such dining establishments. Check out places like Bluegrass Kitchen, which serves organic, locally sourced dishes in a relaxed setting. Another great spot is The Wild Ramp, a unique Huntington-based market that sources all its products from local producers.
There’s no better place to experience the state’s agricultural bounty than at one of its many farmers markets. The Capitol Market in Charleston is a must-visit. Here, you can find everything from fresh produce and meats to cheeses, wines, and even plants and flowers. Other notable markets include the Morgantown Farmers Market and the Bridgeport Farmers Market.
Sweet Tooth Satisfaction: Desserts in West Virginia
West Virginia’s dessert scene is every bit as delightful as its savory counterparts. From classic pies to inventive pastries, the state offers something for everyone.
Shoney’s Strawberry Pie
A beloved treat in West Virginia, the Shoney’s Strawberry Pie is a local favorite. This delectable dessert features a flaky pie crust filled with fresh strawberries and a glossy, sweet glaze. Pair it with a cup of coffee, and you’ve got the perfect end to a West Virginian meal. The best part? You can find this dessert at any Shoney’s restaurant throughout the state.
Appalachian Apple Stack Cake
A traditional dessert in this region, the Appalachian Apple Stack Cake is a sight to behold. This multi-layered cake is filled with spiced apples and has a history of being a communal dish, with each layer often made by different members of the community. Today, you can find this traditional dessert in bakeries and homes across the state, especially during the holidays.
Craft Beverages: Sipping Through West Virginia
The food scene in West Virginia is truly remarkable, but that’s not where the gastronomic delight ends. The state also boasts a thriving craft beverage industry, giving you a chance to wash down that delicious food with equally commendable drinks.
West Virginia’s craft beer scene is blooming. Microbreweries across the state are putting their own twists on classic ale and lager recipes, with many using local ingredients to give their brews a distinct West Virginian flair. Wheeling’s Wheeling Brewing Company is one such establishment, producing beers that reflect the history, culture, and character of West Virginia. In Charleston, visit Big Timber Brewing for their delicious and diverse range of craft beers, from refreshing blondes to rich stouts.
Wineries and Distilleries
The mountainous terrain of West Virginia provides an excellent environment for vineyards. Wine enthusiasts can enjoy tours and tastings at wineries like the Forks of Cheat Winery in Morgantown, which offers an impressive selection of fruit wines and traditional grape wines. If spirits are more your speed, West Virginia also boasts an array of distilleries. Smooth Ambler Spirits in Greenbrier County is renowned for their quality bourbon, gin, and vodka, all distilled using local resources.
Food Festivals: Celebrating West Virginia’s Culinary Heritage
To truly immerse yourself in the local cuisine, time your visit to coincide with one of the many food festivals that the state hosts throughout the year. These events offer a fantastic way to sample a variety of what West Virginia has to offer while also soaking up the local culture.
The West Virginia State Fair
Held annually in August, the West Virginia State Fair is a must-visit event. Beyond the amusement rides and live entertainment, you’ll find a vast selection of food vendors serving everything from classic West Virginia dishes to innovative culinary creations. Make sure to arrive with an appetite, because you’ll want to try everything!
The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll Festival
Considering the iconic status of the pepperoni roll in West Virginia, it’s no surprise that there’s an entire festival dedicated to it. Held in Fairmont in June, the Pepperoni Roll Festival is a one-day event that features a pepperoni roll eating contest, a bake-off, and of course, plenty of pepperoni rolls to sample from various local vendors.
Our culinary journey has come to an end, but let’s be honest – we’ve barely scratched the surface of the wonders of West Virginia’s food scene. The state’s rich cultural history, love for local ingredients, and the warm hospitality of its people make it a truly unique place to explore, especially for food lovers. Whether you’re diving into a plate of Appalachian soul food, sipping on locally-crafted brews, or indulging in a slice of strawberry pie, you’re sure to have a gastronomic adventure that you’ll remember for years to come.