Bluegrass Kitchen, Charleston WV

(Honeymoon flashback: In July 2009, Marie and I took a road trip up to Montreal and back, enjoying some really terrific meals over our ten-day expedition. I’ve selected some of those great restaurants, and, once per month, I’ll tell you about them.)

One day, not immediately, but one day soon, Marie and I are going to move from Atlanta to some place a little north of here. We’ve since decided that it will be Asheville, fingers crossed, but when we started discussing the future in 2007, we assembled a short list of towns that we might find attractive, and which would not make my children’s distance from their mother in Louisville, Kentucky any longer than it presently is. Marie read up on some towns in that radius and suggested that we add Charleston, West Virginia to that short list. She’d never seen the place; I had passed through briefly one evening in 2006 on my way to Toronto and found the city very charming. As we began constructing our honeymoon road trip, I decided to retrace that two-day drive to Toronto and linger in Charleston for a longer stay to let us consider the town at length.

Naturally, one thing worth considering is whether there’s anything to eat in Charleston. I was helped a great deal by that city’s small foodie network, which seems to congregate around some really terrific blogs like the delightfully-named Fork You. At the time, I was working for a company up in Alpharetta. I would take lunch from eleven to noon (and at the time, I was earning enough to justify eating out every day, which was nice), and from noon to one, I would cover the receptionist desk while she ate. This gave me an hour to read about restaurants in other cities, sensibly after I’d finished a good meal already. I lurked on Fork You and other blogs and message boards for several days before narrowing the choices for supper in Charleston down to Tasty Fish and Bluegrass Kitchen, two restaurants owned by the same people. Marie picked the latter.

Well, we got to Charleston… eventually. We were shooting for arriving at a comic shop that I had read about online around 4.30 but the traffic delays on the interstates in North Carolina and Virginia – more than an hour – had us finding the city at 5.45, well after the shop had closed. On a Saturday. Anyway, the long-faded “Marvel Comics on sale here!” sign didn’t actually inspire me with confidence. It looks, from what I saw online and from the outside of the store like something pretty disappointing anyway, so never mind.

I have to say that Charleston’s southern areas are less than inspiring, although the McCorkle Avenue exit is pretty fantastic – it’s like exiting down a spiral slide. Charleston’s downtown is much easier on the eye. The state capitol building is really gorgeous and there’s a small, if active, urban community.

I recall that we had to drive around a bit to find parking for Bluegrass Kitchen, settling on a lot about a block away. There was already a wait despite the early hour, and we ended up, after about fifteen minutes, sitting at the bar, We had a very nice conversation with our server / bartender about the city and what she likes and doesn’t like about this little part of West Virginia, and it really does seem like a good place, with good people

I had some pretty good enchiladas and some downright fantastic fried green tomatoes. Marie had a knockdown amazing dish of “rags pasta” in piri-piri tomato sauce with shredded beef and smoked Gouda cheese. Everybody seems to like Bluegrass Kitchen, and with good reason. It’s a shame that the corner of the city they’ve found hasn’t reawakened yet. In a city like Atlanta, it’s the sort of neighborhood you’d think twice about walking around in, as many of their neighbors have closed up shop and it doesn’t give off a “returning to life” vibe so much as an “on life support” one. I hope a couple more businesses step in to that intersection soon.

We weren’t quite done with Charleston after supper, but more about that next month.