We’re knee-deep in awards season right now, but as everyone knows awards are utterly useless indicators of value or quality. In reality, the only practical use for awards lists is as a springboard for debate. Which winners deserve to bask in their accolades? Which winners were wrongly rewarded? Our only competition as local taste makers, Morgantown Magazine, has just released its 3rd annual Best of Morgantown awards, and our own aggressively opinionated townies, Aaron and Sam, are chiming in with an additional and far more accurate two cents. Today’s Topic: Personalities.
Local Chef - Simon Poulin - Sargasso
Aaron: Sure, if you want small overpriced portions meant to dazzle you from the plate. Seriously though, Sargasso barely counts as eating. It’s all presentation. Much better meals to be had in this town much, much, cheaper. This whole Best of Morgantown thing seems like it’s only out to strengthen their reputation. I wonder if they advertise in the Magazine?
Sam: I know Chris McDonald cooks at Stefano’s. We went to school together. He’s one of the funniest people that I knew growing up. I’ve never eaten there – and I continue to believe that is a ridiculous location for a restaurant – but I’m biased toward him. I’ve also worked at Cafe of India before it was Mother of India. I tend to think that they can cook down there. I think there’s an automatic bias that plays into the idea that the cook making $40 dinners is a better cook than the one making $20 dinners. I don’t buy into that even a little bit. That’s not knocking Poulin; I’m sure he’s great. But his restaurant isn’t the first, second, or third place I’d think to eat, and I think that matters here greatly.
Local Bartender - Grace Hutchens - Apothecary Ale House & Cafe
A: The greatest local bartender is Lucy from Gene’s. We all know that. In fact, it’s one of the least disputed statements one could make about Morgantown. Grace does a great job… but I’d bet she agrees with me.
S: Yep. It’s Lucy. But is part of the issue here that she doesn’t make cocktails? Because I don’t care. It’s still Lucy.
Local Media Personality - Geoff Coyle
A: Is there a thinner category out there? I think Morgantown suffers from small market syndrome on this one. If you’re making your mark as a media figure in Morgantown…. are you really making your mark?
S: I generally don’t pay attention to our local media, so I’m not really in a position to knock Coyle’s victory here, except that I don’t know who he is, I’ve never heard of him, and I wouldn’t think to myself, “What’s Coyle thinking here?” And that’s not knocking Coyle. I’m just not familiar. But how does Tony Caridi not win? Or Kevin Connoley? Aren’t they bigger names with a broader reach?
Local Twitter Feed - Geoff Coyle
S: Nope. Not even a little bit. Coyle’s feed is overwhelmingly tweets about WVU sports. It’s like the ticker at the bottom of Sportscenter. That’s not what Twitter is for. Nobody’s following the game on Twitter (I hope). We’re all on there to snark about the games. And there’s more to Morgantown than WVU sports, no matter how shocking a thought that is to consider. Coyle is a very anodyne pick in this regard.
I’m trying to think who’d I’d pick and one thought is @ddryan. He stays up on local events, he cracks jokes, he doesn’t take Twitter very seriously (mostly), it’s easy enough to ignore the arcane passions (like Dr. Who). His is a broadly relevant Twitter account that tackles multiple subjects. I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting.
And obviously, some people are assuming we’d pick ourselves for this category, but this was an amateur competition. Our professional status precluded us from competing. To keep things fair you see. Arrogance!
Local Politician - Barbara Fleischauer
S: Sure. Whatever. There’s no such thing as a best-local politician. Maybe a least-worst. But I don’t suppose Least Worst Of Morgantown is nearly as appealing a headline/competition.
A: Barbara’s the best, and I don’t mind saying so. It’s rough out there for a liberal in this state. Glad Barbara’s fighting the good fight. I always thought she should try to step up to the State Senate or Congress, but I can’t imagine why she’d want too.
Local Hairstylist - Audra Mayhew
S: John Cavalier.
A: I, clearly, am not allowed to have an opinion on personal grooming.
S: To be fair, it’s pretty ludicrous that I’d have an opinion here either.
Local Artist - David R. Merrill
S: * shrugs violently *
A: I have no idea who that is. There are some great local artists out there, Brian Pickens, Erica Lindsey, Meg Juckett, Malissa Goff come immediately to mind, but I’m sure this guy is deserving. I guess. Does anyone know what his M.O. is?
S: Just figured out who David Merrill is and…uhh…no.
Coach & Local Person You’d Want to Have A Beer With - Bob Huggins
A: Well, winning “Best Coach” was easy if your only real competition is Dana Holgorsen, and nobodies voting him anything more than a train ticket out of town. The other award seems fitting too. Fun fact: I’ve only met Bob Huggins once. Where? In a bar, of course.
S: Coach and Local Person? Was this really a category? Also, for obvious reasons, I’m out on this one. And less obvious ones too. I get that he isn’t changing for anybody, but how do you enjoy anything with Huggins without being extremely worried about his health and well-being?
A: Again, they combined them, since Bob Huggins is a juggernaut in this town. He’s our only god’s-honest “celebrity”! Sort of.
We’re knee-deep in awards season right now, but as everyone knows awards are utterly useless indicators of value or quality. In reality, the only practical use for awards lists is as a springboard for debate. Which winners deserve to bask in their accolades? Which winners deserve to rot in hell? Which winners have won three times in a row? (Hint: the ones with a -3- beside its name.) Our only competition as local taste makers, Morgantown Magazine, has just released its 3rd annual Best of Morgantown awards, and our own aggressively opinionated townies, Aaron and Sam, are chiming in with an additional and far more accurate two cents. We’ll cover all of the Best of Morgantown awards over the next week, but today we’ll start with the tastiest category of them all: Food & Drink.
Sweet Indulgence - The Cupcakerie -3-
Sam: Wrong. It’s still Dairy Queen. And I don’t even like the new anodyne Dairy Queen. But a chocolate/Oreo blizzard still trumps everything else that’s available in this town, and I’ve got the extra pounds to prove it. (Also, it has far more reasonable hours and is far more accessible. It’s almost impossible to believe that the Cupcakerie has survived for as long as it has existing where it does. Surely there are better locations available?)
Aaron: I will say that the Cupcakerie’s success baffles me, but then again, I don’t understand why a person would want a small cake. Go big or go home people! That said, I breezed in there the day before Mother’s Day last year thinking it would be an easy way to win points and it was completely picked over. It was like a bomb went off in there. The girl at the counter swept the last few crumbs into a decorative gift box for me and mom was pleased as punch. I still don’t quite understand the market for cupcakes though.
Sushi - Ogawa -3- (Runner-up: Volcano)
S: Kroger, duh! No, but really, I don’t necessarily have a quibble with this, although I still tend toward Lavender Cafe in all discussions of locally available Asian food. However, my wife last week told me that her Ogawa meal was quite good, so I’ll suspend judgement.
A: I’m a big Kroger fan, but I only eat sushi twice a year though.
Burgers - Tailpipes (Runners-up: 5 Guys and Atomic Grill)
A: No real complaints here, as I’m a big Tailpipes fan. That said, the best burger I’ve ever eaten in my life was at the Atomic Grill, so that was what got my vote. I think Tailpipes is deserving and a great example of a thriving local business but I just was blown away by my first burger at the Atomic Grill. I don’t really fetishize hamburgers like I do chicken wings, so I don’t have any big complaints about this one. The inspiration for this post was because I’ve been so outraged in the past that Wings Ole won best wings, I was ready to rant and rave about that, but mercifully there was no Best Wings award this year. There should be no democracy if the people can’t be trusted to use it wisely. Awarding Wings Ole the Best Wings award gives me shivers.
Late-Night Menu - DP Dough
A: More like, Least Reliable Late Night Delivery, or possibly, Tastiest Dough Encased Cheeseball. Seriously though, Best Late Night Menu? For a restaurant that only sells one thing?
Breakfast - Tudor’s Biscuit World
S: Did Tudor’s suddenly start serving actual breakfasts that I’m unaware of? Because if they’re not offering eggs-over-easy, toast, and fried potatoes, count me out. Inexplicably though, it should be noted that Morgantown’s breakfast scene isn’t any great shakes. But if you can’t get eggs, home-fries, and toast, it isn’t comprehensive enough to count for me.
A: Hey, those biscuits are a meal unto themselves. They’re the size of basketballs! They stay that size as they pass through your system, too.
Outdoor Dining - Mountain State Brewing Co.
S: RIP Richwood Grill, a competitor that should have owned this category, especially since it was open last year. That place’s deck was one of Morgantown’s great places to eat a meal.
A: The demise of Richwood is disheartening. I’ve got no use for Mountain State’s back deck though: it has the same view as my office window.
Pizza - Pizza Al’s -3- (Runners-up: Mountain State Brewing Co. and Pies & Pints)
S: What, no Little Caesars? I kid, I kid. Pizza Al’s is pretty good, even if all of the toppings generally slide right off the pizza if you’re getting carry-out.
A: I like Pizza Al’s and I like Milano’s. What I like even more is that there’s a weird family tree of pizza places that sprung up from mid-90’s Pizzeria Italia employees and as long as you stay in that family tree you’ll get a good piece of pie.
Power Lunch - Black Bear Burritos (Runners-up: Sargasso and Terra Cafe)
A: I love Black Bear, and they’re deserving of their other awards which we’ll talk about later, but Best Power Lunch? I get why Sargasso and Terra Cafe are on there, if only because those businesses are primarily frequented by the well connected and well to do. Black Bear does a robust lunch crowd of University folks and downtown workers, but the only power players that I’ve ever seen go down there are on Friday nights when the under-ten crowd wants to stay a little longer to postpone their bedtime.
S: What on earth is a “power lunch” and how do these three restaurants end up on the same list together? The Terra Cafe has a terrible location. Sargasso’s isn’t much better. And Black Bear is extremely casual for the uptight banker set, surely. If you want a rotating collection of city players, how about the Mother of India lunch buffet? Centrally located, all sorts of people in attendance, delicious food…
Fine Dining - Stefano’s
A: If by “Best Fine Dining” you mean “Best Restaurant Located Beneath a Bowling Alley”, then I absolutely agree. Some people have a really weird definition of “fine.”
S: I still like Cafe Bacchus, both because of the delicious food and the very cool venue. And, if I’m not mistaken, it too has outdoor eating.
New Local Restaurant - Atomic Grill
A: I love the Atomic Grill. I love their food. I love the room. Their waitstaff can be a little obnoxious, but as long as they stay out of my way and keep the preening comments to an absolute minimum I leave happy.
Local Brew - Morgantown Brewing Company
S: In that I’ve been sober for seven years, I’m probably not qualified to judge, so I’ll simply say that it’s good that the BrewPub isn’t on here, as I remember thinking that their beer was amongst the most intestinally ruinous stuff I’d ever consumed.
A: Sam, since you’ve been sober for seven years I’ll give you a pass on this one… but that IS the Brewpub. However, I’m happy to report their brew has improved measurably since the intestine wrecking years you remember. It was a dire time for that place, where the only beer that could be trusted was the beer in bottles. That said, I think the best local beer is the Chestnut Brew Works that you can find on tap in a variety of local establishments. It seems like a good model for them. They get their beer to the people without all of the hassle of running a restaurant.
Romantic Restaurant - Stefano’s (Runners-up: Cafe Bacchus and Oliverio’s)
S: “Hey baby, I want to ask you something.”
“What’s that honey?”
“It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long-time. And it’s very important to me.”
“Go ahead sweetie.”
“You mean a lot to me, yknow, and I really feel like what we’ve got here is something very special, so much so that I know I can ask you and you’ll give me an honest answer.”
“That’s true, we do. What do you want to ask me?”
“Do you think that guy upstairs is going to pick up the seven-ten split? That’s a tough throw even before you think about the pressure of being in the Industrial League…”
Cocktail Menu - Bartini
S: Sure, whatever. Bartini strikes me as the kind of place that caters to Morgantown Magazine’s most devoted readers.
A: Yeah…. no. I’ve got a good friend who works there and he’s tried desperately to get me to come check it out, offering free drinks and everything, but I just can’t do it. I do think it would be amusing to go and try to order one of their world famous “Bargeritas” and see how long I can insist that’s what they’re known for before getting tossed out by an annoyed waitress.
Beer Selection - Apothecary Ale House and Cafe
A: Absolutely the right call. Best beer selection in town, hands down. I get a lot of grief from friends who lived here in their twenties and then moved away, often citing the reason for their exodus as “I outgrew Morgantown”. I think that’s bullshit. I tell them that there’s two different Morgantown’s, college-kid Morgantown and grown-up Morgantown, which is a little harder to find sometimes, but it’s there. The Apothecary is probably one of grown-up Morgantown’s best bars.
Neighborhood Bar (TIE) - Gene’s Beer Garden and Mario’s Fishbowl
A: You know, I can’t really say anything bad about the Fishbowl (other than the TVs are too small and the service is iffy) but I’m as big of a Gene’s proselytizer as you’ll find. If I could only drink in one Morgantown bar for the rest of my life, it’d be Gene’s by a country mile.
S: Better food at Mario’s, worse service. Less food at Gene’s, better service. There’s no right answer between these two heavyweights.
Vegetarian Friendly and Place to take out of Town Guests - Black Bear Burritos
A: I love the Black Bear. I think these are two perfect awards for them. I took a vegetarian out of town guest to the Black Bear recently and they were literally overwhelmed that they could order a vegetarian version of the entire menu. These awards seem well deserved. Of course, I’m a total carnivore so you won’t see tofu pass these lips.
S: Ehhhh. There are a lot of restaurants that might have a serious axe to grind here. Lavender Cafe, Mother India, and Chaang Thai all come immediately to mind. Each has significant vegetarian offerings. Also, it seems very odd to combine these two categories unless there’s a particular answer you’re trying to generate.
A: I guess it should be noted they were seperate catagories, but since Black Bear is a juggernaut in these awards, they were just listed together.
Place to Caffeinate - The Grind
S: Seems like there are lots of options, right? I think if I’m going to get a coffee, I still like going into the downtown Slight Indulgence most off, mostly because I can buy weirdo coffees if I wanted to, but because I’m an adult man, I can also buy my simple cup of black coffee without any of the accompanying nonsense.
A: I’m baffled by the Grind, but some folks I know swear by it. Jay Redmond sold it the second he heard there was a Panera coming, so I always felt like it probably wasn’t a winning business. I’ve read some employee horror stories on Facebook though, so I’m not sure what to think about it. Then again, I think coffee is gross, so I don’t have much of an opinion.