At the confluence of the Kanawha and Elk Rivers lies the small city of Charleston, West Virginia, known for the distinctive gold-topped dome of its Capitol Building. The banks of the rivers offer a diverse choice of cuisines ranging from pan-Asian to craft pizza and local beer to traditional Appalachian, with a few offbeat choices and fine dining selections in between. Here is our selection of the ten best restaurants in Charleston.
Charleston’s premier steakhouse, The Chop House, offers USDA Prime cuts of beef in addition to a plethora of seafood options. Declared the 2014 winner of Open Table’s Diners’ Choice Award, The Chop House is sure to please the most refined of palates. Ornate gas lamps and marble accents give the dining room a warm, romantic glow perfect for an evening for two or a special occasion, while the extensive wine list will ensure that entrees are perfectly complemented. Finish the evening in the cigar lounge or with one of the restaurant’s many exquisite desserts. The fine dining establishment near the banks of the Kanawha River is open for dinner only and reservations are recommended.
Nestled inside the Capitol Market, Charleston’s farmers’ market, Soho’s offers gourmet Italian food and wine in a cozy, comfortable atmosphere. Open for lunch and dinner, highlights include pollo alla parmigiana with Soho’s signature marinara sauce and the Soho lasagne layered with Bolognese meat sauce and ricotta cheese. If perusing the Capitol Market activates a sweet tooth, try the cannoli, tiramisu or Soho brownie. Dinner specialties also include less Italian surprises such as the jambalaya and five spice duck, which give a taste of local cuisine. This, coupled with a generous wine selection, makes Soho’s sure to please any appetite.
No list of cultural restaurants in West Virginia would be complete without mention of a hot dog stand, and Trivillian’s Pharmacy and Soda Fountain is a true institution. Locally owned and operated since 1950, Trivillian’s keep their menu simple and their service excellent. Local favorites include the peanut butter and chocolate milkshake, onion rings and, of course, the hot dogs and barbecue. The interior has stayed true to the restaurant’s 1950s diner roots, creating a classic retro ambiance. For a sweet slice of Americana, friendly service and an authentic West Virginia hot dog, go no further than Trivillian’s.
Styling itself as ‘An Urban Beach Bar & Grill serving beach shack food’, Tricky Fish has the best fish tacos in town. Diners can choose from mahi-mahi and catfish or more offbeat choices, such as tofu in either a crunchy shell or flour tortilla, topped with Monterey jack cheese, pico de gallo, romaine lettuce and buttermilk crème fraiche. As an urban beach bar, the atmosphere is very casual, with the interior walls decorated with local children’s drawings of the ‘tricky fish’ and there is also outdoor seating. Orders are placed at the bar and diners are encouraged to soak up the casual ambiance in a laid-back setting.
Ichiban is Charleston’s only downtown sushi bar. Near the center of activity on Capitol Street, the restaurant strives to represent Asia’s many different cultures and flavors, from sushi to noodle dishes to dumplings and everything in between. It is Charleston’s prime destination for imported sake, as well as authentic Asian fare: the restaurant prides itself on the presentation of its fresh, authentic meals, and the extra care comes through in the taste as well. The sushi bar is a memorable experience, with Ichiban serving its selections on a stage.
Encased inside Charleston’s historic Amtrak train station, Laury’s Restaurant has been offering some of the city’s best fine dining since 1979. The building was originally opened at the C&O Railroad Depot and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Situated on the banks of the Kanawha River, the restaurant offers fantastic views of the river and downtown Charleston, while the kitchen serves up steak, seafood, pasta and signature salads in an ornate dining room with stellar service. Starters include parmesan-encrusted escargot and lobster stuffed mushrooms, and lamb, veal, steak and chicken are all served as entrees and can be paired with a selection from the solid wine list. Laury’s is open only for dinner, and reservations are recommended.
Bluegrass Kitchen is located just across Washington Street, nearby the historic State Capitol building. Here you can enjoy contemporary Appalachian cuisine in a dining room restored to its 1920s glory, which maintains a casual atmosphere. The restaurant also functions as a gallery for the many fine artists living in the local neighborhood. The kitchen offers mountain fare classics such as mac and cheese and trout and grits, but also vegetarian options, like the black bean burrito. Bluegrass Kitchen is open for brunch, lunch, and supper, accompanied by live music on the weekends.
The Bridge Road Bistro is open every day for lunch and dinner, also offering a Sunday brunch buffet. An upscale venue is features live music and a robust menu. Chilean sea bass and wild Scottish salmon can be prepared grilled or in a Hawaiian or Mediterranean style, and the bistro’s beef and lamb are antibiotic and hormone-free, ensuring a wholesome and healthy dining experience. Bridge Road Bistro also has a food truck that travels throughout Charleston, serving the masses with its tacos, wrap of the day and fresh salad.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the South Hills Market & Café offers a full-service bar and boutique wine list. Its Bridge Road location is opposite the Kanawha River to downtown, a short distance from US 119 or I-64. The modestly priced lunch menu offers a wide variety, from Larry’s Reuben sandwich to the vegetarian tapas plate, with a three-course prix fixe menu offered for dinner Tuesday to Thursday, with a rotating selection. Meals are served in a cozy dining room and can also be ordered for carry out. If you’re visiting Charleston on a weekend, be aware that the café is closed Sunday and Monday.
Pies & Pints Pizzeria is a small boutique chain serving West Virginia and Ohio. Specializing in house-made pizza served with craft beer, the restaurants serves pizza creations that include classics, such as the margherita, and more unusual choices, like the Grape Pie or Thai Pie. A generous selection of salads, sandwiches, starters and desserts round out the menu. Each location has a unique beer selection, featuring international flavors and local craft brews. Charleston’s craft beer includes the Bridge Brew Works Coffee Stout and Charleston Brewing Company’s Wobbly and Raj IPA, all brewed in the city. This relaxed, pub-style pizzeria is a great choice for enjoying a few pints, pies or both with good company.