West Virginia: 5 Signature Tastes with an Appalachian Twist
- West Virginia
If you haven’t tried moonshine, slaw dogs or pepperoni rolls, then you probably haven’t been to the mountainous and history-rich state of West Virginia.
Melding its Appalachian roots with locally abundant ingredients, the food of West Virginia is down-to-earth, flavorful and even historical. Try these regional staples that span the culinary spectrum from hand-held snacks to locally crafted sprits.
Pepperoni Rolls: West Virginia’s State Food
Ask anyone outside West Virginia about pepperoni rolls and you’ll likely get a blank stare. Ask any West Virginian and you’ll get a sermon on this delicious regional comfort food consisting of pepperoni baked into a yeasty white bread. The recipe was created by an Italian baker in the 1920s for coal miners needing a hearty meal on the go. Although you’ll find pepperoni rolls across the state, try the original recipe at the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont.
Pepperoni rolls, on the menu since 1927 at the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont
West Virginia Ramps: Flavor Straight from Nature
Also known as wild leeks, ramps are an abundant springtime edible often compared to an oniony leek or a garlicky green onion. Several towns host annual ramp festivals including the Ramps and Rail Festival in Elkins and the Feast of the Ramson (another word for ramps) in Richwood, the self-proclaimed Ramp Capital of the World.
The Slaw Dog: A Hand-held Roadside Meal
Another staple comfort food found in quirky eateries statewide, the West Virginia slaw dog combines picnic-food staples into one deliciously messy meal: a hot dog topped with meat sauce (sort of like chili, minus the beans), chopped onion, coleslaw (cabbage and mayonnaise) and yellow mustard. Exact combinations may vary, but try a classic at Skeenies of West Virginia in Charleston.
Moonshine and Appalachia go together like … well, like hot dogs and coleslaw. Historically, moonshine was produced illegally, by the light of the moon, to avoid taxes and regulatory laws. Nowadays, you can find plenty of legal versions of this 90-proof corn whiskey at distilleries throughout the state. Visit the Bloomery Plantation Distillery in Charles Town for its SweetShine liquors flavored with the likes of chocolate, raspberry and walnuts; or try whiskey, vodka, rum or gin at the award-winning Smooth Ambler Spirits in Maxwelton.
Complimentary tours and tastings at Smooth Ambler Spirits distillery in Maxwelton
Wine Made in West Virginia
Wine lovers will find plenty to toast to in West Virginia, where off-the-beaten-path wineries often boast rolling mountain views and tranquil grounds. Lambert’s Winery, a family-owned operation in Weston, makes small-batch vintages and offers tours and tastings. At Kirkwood Winery in Summersville, try wines fermented with fruits and vegetables including apples, elderberry, old-fashioned dandelion wine or honey mead.
Fly into Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), which offers connecting flights to Yeager Airport (CRW) in Charleston, West Virginia’s capital city. Rental cars are readily available in Charleston.