Food thoughts: dining off the beaten path in Marietta Ohio

We spent about a month in Marietta, Ohio this spring. We were on an extended visit to our son and his family. While there, we did a bunch of exploring and dining out, mostly at lunch We hit the downtown hotspots such as the Marietta Brewing Company, The Galley, Austyn’s and the Town House, which our grandsons love for their fried pickles. We had a wonderful lunch at the House of Wines, which had the most creative cuisine we sampled. Sadly, we never made it for dinner. Our greatest culinary adventures were had dining off the beaten path in Marietta Ohio. Here are some of our favorite finds.

Breakfast

The Busy Bee

Ham and eggs at the  Busy Bee Marietta Ohio, photo Steve

Ham and eggs at the Busy Bee photo Steve Collins

We’re not big on chain restaurant breakfasts and went in search of a “greasy spoon” our favorite kind of breakfast joint. Our daughter-in-law recommended the Busy Bee in historic Harmar Village so we drove across the Muskingum River one morning to find it. We were charmed by Harmar Village with it’s the historic buildings. We discovered old trains parked on land adjacent to the restaurant’s parking lot. We were late and it was quiet inside. They had a ham steak and egg special that day and we both ordered it. The ham steak was wonderful, the eggs cooked as ordered and the potatoes fine. We were in breakfast heaven. Sadly, when we went back on our last day in town they weren’t open. We’ll be back on our next visit.

Lunch and dinner

Blacksmith Barbecue

Blacksmith BBQ Marietta Ohio Steve Collins

Blacksmith Barbecue, photo/Steve Collins

Our favorite find was Blacksmith Barbecue at 106 Green Street, right on the Ohio River. Pitmaster Kevin Black is a genius with brisket and ribs. After our first experience we were hooked. Not only was the food great, but prices are affordable. We worked out a strategy. For lunch, we’d share the One Meat Platter which comes with eight ounces of the meat of your choice, one side dish (choose from Macaroni & Cheese Brisket Bake Beans Zesty Coleslaw, Southwest Potato Salad, or Garden Pasta Salad) and a roll. Green beans were also on the menu when we ate there but they were absent when we recently checked the website. We loved the sweet baked beans with the chunks of brisket in them and would have loved the potato salad if the potatoes were a little softer. Black likes them a little crunchier than we do. We added an extra side; lunch for two for $13. For dinner we’d go for the Two Meat Platter which has six ounces of two meats, one side dish and a roll. Again, we’d add an extra side and have dinner for $17. They also offer a three meat plate at $21. It would have been over-kill for us. They also have big, family-style “platters.”

The brisket is juicy with a wonderful bark (the outside crust made from the rub) and a perfect smoke ring. We thought this brisket belonged in our Brisket Hall of Fame. We tried the pulled pork as well. Where there was fat on the pork the meat was tasty, but some of it was a bit dried out and lacked flavor. If you’re a fan of BBQ sauce, the pork will be delicious, but we eat our BBQ without sauce. We like to savor the straight from the smoker flavor.. On our last Saturday night we had a hankering for ribs. When we called at 6:30 to order, they were sold out. We had the brisket instead and got the last order of that. We learned that you have to order early here. We decided that we had to try these hot sellers so we went back for ribs the next day. The fall-off-the-bone, sweet ribs were worth the wait, though we’re sorry we didn’t discover them earlier in our stay.

As with many great BBQ places, it’s no frills here. In fact, it’s all take-out. There is one picnic table with a prime view of the Ohio River or you can eat in one of Marietta’s many river-front parks.

The Levee House

The Levee House Marietta Ohio Steve Collins

Crab cake and salad at The Levee House, photo/Steve Collins

It was a beautiful spring day, a respite from the chilly, rainy days we’d been having and an outdoor lunch on the river sounded perfect to us. If you enjoy dining outside with a great view check out the historic Levee House, at 127 Ohio Street. Sitting on one of Marietta’s charmingly brick-paved street it overlooks the Ohio River, the Williamstown Bridge and West Virginia beyond. We love buildings with a story. The Federal-style building, dating to 1826 is the last of the original riverfront structures in Marietta. The building housed Marietta’s first mercantile establishment. It later became a hotel, a saloon, and more recently, a restaurant. The front patio was the perfect spot on this clear, warm day. We ate simply. Steve had the Chicken Caesar. I had a crab cake served with a side salad. Both of our choices looked great and tasted good as well. Lunch was reasonably priced; the view priceless

Farther afield

We did a lot of roaming while we were in Marietta and this army marches on its stomach. Here are a few of our favorite food finds.

The Cornerstone Inn

The cornerstone Inn Beverly Ohio Steve Collins

Openface roast beef at The Cornerstone Inn, photo/Steve Collins

We discovered this cozy culinary gem quite by accident. It was a cloudy Sunday afternoon and we were on one of our southern Ohio drives. Our destination: the old mill in Stockport now the Stockport Mill Inn, the last remaining mill on the Muskingum River. As we passed through Beverly I noticed the sign outside The Cornerstone Inn promising home-style food; Traditions from Mother’s kitchen. We planned to have lunch at the mill not realizing it was a buffet. While it looked tempting, I just don’t eat enough to pay for “all you can eat” so we passed on it. Hungry, I remembered the sign and we headed back to Beverly.

We were a bit taken aback by a Christian symbol on the door. We didn’t want religious rhetoric with our lunch and we didn’t get it. What we got was a warm welcome and delicious home-made fare. While during the week, they offer a regular lunch menu, the Sunday brunch menu is more limited. A few egg dishes, a few salads and two entrees. At almost closing time, they were out of one of these- the remaining one an open-faced roast turkey sandwich. Steve couldn’t resist. It was an ample portion served with real mashed potatoes, good gravy and green beans. It reminded Steve of the

At $12 including tax and tip it was a bargain. Since I don’t eat dairy I opted for turkey salad on organic greens. They were out of the organic greens but offered to make it with conventional ones. The plate was huge and the turkey salad full of craisins and walnuts was delicious. I asked for the house-made vinaigrette on the side. I had leftovers to take home. Steve ended the meal with a piece of home-baked cherry pie. We knew we wanted to come back.

Another Sunday exploring covered bridges we again found ourselves in Beverly for a late lunch. When we walked in the owner let me know that this time they had the organic greens. We felt like valued regulars. This time it was baked steak that they’d just run out of or an open-faced roast beef sandwich, again it came with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans. Steve went for that and I again went for the turkey salad. Not wanting leftovers, I asked if they could make me a half-order and they graciously complied. If they’d been closer to Marietta we would have eaten here a lot more. We’re big fans of home-cooked fare. During the week they have a featured dinner each evening and the menu is available for the entire month. We wanted to get back for the fried chicken dinner on Thursdays, but never made it. If they’d been closer to Marietta we would have eaten here a bunch. If you’re passing through Beverly and like home-cooked food, stop at the Cornerstone Inn. It’s a rare treasure in a world of fast food.

Cham’s Lebanese Restaurant

Cham's Lebanese Restaurant Parkersburg WV Steve Collins

We loved the colorful mural at Cham’s , photo/Steve Collins

[Note: Cham’s is closed until 7/13/15. They’re visiting family in Lebanon.]
We would not have found this ethnic treasure on our own. It on a one-way street in Parkersburg, WV and you have to be on the look-out or you’ll miss it. Our son, a great fan of Middle-eastern food, used to work in the area and this was his favorite lunch spot. We needed a lunch spot during an exploratory trip to Parkersburg, trusting his recommendation, we headed for Cham’s. He was right. We were late for lunch for a change and the place was quiet. A table of Lebanese regulars, probably family and friends, were clustered around a table at the back of the long, narrow dining room that is a bit short on ambiance. The exception: a striking Mediterranean mural on the front wall. I had no idea that Lebanon looked a bit like the south of France. I checked with the owner and it is indeed a scene from his home country. Not only do they serve really good food, the prices are reasonable and the portions large. I ordered Sheik El Mishi, the daily special. It was baked eggplant in meat sauce. It was served with a salad, cracked wheat, hummus and pita bread. At $7.75, it was an amazing deal. Steve had the Shish Taouk, marinated grilled chicken breast served with rice. Both were redolent of spices and wonderful tasting. I liked the silky hummus so much I took an order to go. It made a great lunch on another day. At $3.50 it was a better deal than any of the commercial ones at the local supermarkets. Another day, passing through Parkersburg we stopped so I could get a portion of hummus to go. We’d definitely go back to Cham’s. It was a great meal and the owners are very welcoming.

Casa Nueva

Athens, Ohio, home to Ohio University is very much a college town and it’s loaded with restaurants. We took a road trip to Hocking Hills State Park on Steve’s birthday. We wanted to see a waterfall. Our son, who works in this bustling college town, highly recommended Casa Nueva to us. The busy eatery, run as a worker-owned coop, serves what they call “Mexican-inspried food.” They pride themselves on using locally grown and produced foods whenever they can, including local craft brews. We tried to eat here on a Friday night but the wait was over an hour and we really wanted to try it so lunch it was. This cooperative venture was started in 1985 by a group of unemployed restaurant workers. It kind of reminded us of the fabled Moosewood, a vegetarian restaurant run by a collective in Ithaca, New York, another college town, since 1973. It may seem a bit pricey to some but when you factor in the farm-fresh ingredients and the fact that prices include tips (to find out why, read this). The lunch menu offers platters, wraps and sandwiches as well as a seasonal menu as well. If eating sustainably speaks to you, check out the Mexican-inspired food here.

If you’re looking for interesting, off the beaten path dining options in the Marietta Ohio area, here are some to check out. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

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