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Taste Buds: Top Ten, Part 2

December 27, 2012

Welcome back! You are tuning in to part two of the Buds' coveted year-end top ten list. Last week the Buds recounted five of their top picks from all the restaurants they visited during the past year. This week, Nos. 5 through 1 are revealed.

No. 5: Belmonte's Pizza, Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton

Located on Pennsylvania Ave. in Weirton, Belmonte's Pizza offers patrons a whopping variety of Italian specialties of the most delicious persuasion every day for pick up or delivery. They have pizza by the tray as well as white pizzas, specialty pizzas and Thinsations, and all are made on homemade crust with their own sauce. Belmonte's also makes 8 inch subs on homemade panini featuring roasted chicken, Italian, steak, and homemade sausage or meatball. Folks may also order fresh salads, calzones, pepperoni rolls and pastas.

Bud Em opted to get the order of stuffed rigatoni with cheesy bread as the side. A healthy portion of cheese-stuffed rigatoni was topped with Belmonte's own marinara sauce and sprinkled with shredded Provolone cheese. The lunch, which rang in at just $4.99, was an incredible bargain. An incredibly TASTY bargain! The sauce just may have been Bud Em's favorite marinara yet - the perfect blend of sweetness and spices. The side of garlic bread was also delicious, and there was plenty of it. Bud Em would definitely order one of these pastas again.

Bud Shaunna, knowing she had a hungry Bud Hubby at home who would help her sample, ordered a small buffalo chicken pizza but got it as a "take and bake" - meaning Belmonte's prepares it but doesn't bake it and they send you home with heating instructions. The first thing Bud Shaunna and Bud Hubby realized was it was so good that we should have ordered a larger pizza! The crust was crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside, and was some of the best tasting crust we ever ate. Bud Hubby lamented that he wished it had more sauce, but Bud Shaunna thought it was a perfect combination of chicken, cheese and sauce.

Bud Shaunna also ordered a calzone with cheese, red and green peppers, onions and mushrooms and a pepperoni roll. The calzone was MASSIVE. It was made with that same delicious crust, and the filling was quite good. Bud Hubby enjoyed his pepperoni roll, as it was chock full of slices of spicy pepperoni.

As the Buds were gathering up their boxes, the friendly lady behind the counter informed them that Belmonte's now makes homemade soup. In fact, she made us wait while she scooped samples into large carryout containers for each of us to try. This was a wedding soup without noodles, filled with mini meatballs and shredded chicken - what a tasty combo! The spinach was also fresh and plentiful. We highly recommend the soup!

No. 4: Johnny and Shar's Big Dipper, Lafayette Ave., Moundsville

Before even getting into the front door, patrons are sure to get an overwhelming sense of nostalgia as the outside features an old telephone booth and a gasoline pump on the sidewalk, an elephant on the front of the building and an amusement park train on the roof. And oh, the fun that awaits on the inside!

Just inside the front door is a train of six cars that came from a roller coaster in Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh. The attraction has become a popular spot for photo op's. The interior is also decked out in old amusement park signs, bumper cars, a juke box, an oldtime gasoline pump, two carnival fun house mirrors and of all things ... a penny-farthing. For those without immediate access to Google, that would be the antique bicycle with a giant wheel in front and small wheel in back.

The Big Dipper offers thirty-two flavors of delicious hand-dipped Hershey's ice cream. Shakes, banana splits and sundaes are also an option. The Buds each enjoyed a large waffle cone. Bud Em went with a scoop of chocolate and peanut butter and a scoop of Play Dough, the former being her all-time favorite flavor (it's the frozen hunks of peanut butter - YUM!) and the latter because the atmosphere put her in a playful mood. The bright yellow ice cream with colored hunks of sugar cookie dough was delish, even if she felt a little silly eating it.

Bud Shaunna opted for a scoop of Coconut Chocolate Almond and a scoop of Muddy Sneakers. What are muddy sneakers? Just a white chocolate ice cream blended with a caramel fudge ripple and crunchy chocolate peanutty nuggets of goodness, that's all. Oh, and it was also delicious, with a capital D! And as if that flavor wasn't enough, the smoothness of the coconut ice cream with slivers of almonds made a nice bottom layer inside the waffle cone. These wonderful indulgences were only $3.49 for a large cone, and totally worth it!

Aside from ice cream, the Big Dipper also offers Sarris Candies, Nathan's hot dogs, pepperoni rolls, an assortment of chips and even a selection of novelty items and candies. The Yeaters have also opened a museum upstairs that includes amusement park memorabilia from Kennywood, Coney Island, White Swan and West View Amusement Parks and a larger number of carnival items.

No. 3: Jeanne's Bourbon Street BBQ

Jeanne's Bourbon Street BBQ's most distinctive feature may very well be the massive, 50-foot red trailer dubbed "The Big Pig Rig." The trailer contains a custom designed commercial grade kitchen, a wood pellet fired cooker that can prepare hundreds of pounds of meat simultaneously, and the capability to serve groups of customers from 50 up through more than 800 per hour in an emergency response scenario.

Because the restaurant is on wheels, Jeanne's Bourbon Street BBQ does not have a permanent location. But luckily for us, Ken and Jeanne said that they plan on doing at least one major event in the area each month.

Not only is the "Rig" impressive, the food they offer is quite amazing in its own right. The menu was pretty extensive and offered festival goers choices of rib samplers, including full and half racks, rib tips, half or whole grilled chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket and a "Big Mike" which for 12 bucks featured pulled pork, beef brisket and cole slaw served on an open face bun. In addition, you could choose cole slaw, BBQ beans, sweet tea or lemonade on the side. And as if that isn't enough, Jeanne's Bourbon Street BBQ also had for sale their special recipe sauces, rubs and pickles. Sounds mouth-watering!

Bud Em decided to try the pulled pork sandwich with slaw. The succulent pork was topped with a sweet onion barbecue sauce and served open-face on a bun with a generous mound of cole slaw. The pork was out of this world! It had the right combination of sweet and spice, and the sweetness of the cole slaw added an extra zing. This meal, which was so big you had to eat it with a fork, rang in at a very reasonable 6 bucks.

Bud Shaunna opted for the beef brisket sandwich with slaw and a side of the BBQ beans. A smokey sweet and spicy barbecue sauce added just the right amount of smokey flavor to the tender meat. It was phenomenal! The cole slaw also met Bud Shaunna's approval, as it was crisp with just the right amount of liquid. The beans offered a surprise ingredient - pineapple chunks! They provided interesting bursts of flavor to regular baked beans. Her meal, ringing in at 11 bucks, was extremely filling.

No 2: The Bear's Den, East Pike Road, Cambridge

The Bear's Den is a lodge-type structure with exposed timber walls and ceilings which give off a delightful woodsy smell upon entering. The inside is very clean and cozy with plenty of rustic charm. To make things even more interesting, patrons are greeted by plenty of stuffed regional wildlife, i.e. bears, deer, elk, bobcats and more. Should diners wish to eat without all the animals looking, there is additional seating on the large front porch area. It has become known for using only locally raised, grain-fed, all natural USDA choice beef.

Hungry from the trip, the Buds each started with an appetizer. Bud Shaunna's cup of spicy potato soup was loaded with chunks of potatoes, veggies, and a yummy thick broth with a nice zig. The potatoes were cooked perfectly - still firm but not too hard and definitely not mushy. This was a winner!

Bud Em couldn't resist a small order of corn nuggets, described as sweet corn fritters deep fried to a golden brown and served with melted butter. They had her at melted butter. Both Buds agreed that the crispy nuggets were amazing. The warm melted butter added a salty edge to the sweet corn. A delicious indulgence indeed.

Bud Shaunna ordered the Den Melt with a side of coleslaw. Because she is carb-conscious, Bud Shaunna asked for the burger sans bun, and what a great idea, because that bread just would have obstructed the taste of this amazing burger. Covered with a whiskey onion and mushroom saute and melted swiss cheese, the beef patty was thick, juicy and wonderfully flavorful. Bud Shaunna couldn't shovel the bites into her mouth fast enough. This was, quite possibly, the best tasting burger she'd ever eaten. Really! The crisp, zesty coleslaw provided a cool, fresh compliment to the burger, and at only 9 bucks, Bud Shaunna wished she'd ordered an extra burger to take home and eat later.

Bud Em, originally planning to go with the steak salad, made a last minute switcheroo and ordered the Mediterranean Chicken wrap. Stuffed with grilled chicken, roasted tomato, lettuce, kalamata olives, feta cheese and roasted garlic aioli and served with a side of hand-cut fries, the $7 selection was easily enough for two meals - especially after the corn nuggets. And two meals it would become, as half of the large wrap was plenty for lunch. The roasted tomatoes, olives and feta cheese created a tasty medley with the special aioli adding a pleasant zing.

No. 1: The Yorkville Bakery, Public Rd., Yorkville

The Yorkville Bakery makes a wide variety of fresh breads, pepperoni rolls and pastries every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The bread list at the bakery includes Italian, rye, seven grain, focaccia, anchovy, apple crisp, raspberry, cinnamon and sweet bread. The Buds were intrigued by the raspberry bread, which resembled a thick pizza crust with a raspberry topping and tons of chopped nuts. It looked delicious!

Pastries at the bakery include all the favorites: glazed donuts, nut rolls, turnovers, smear faces, sticky buns, cream puffs, bear claws, turnovers, danishes, cinnamon rolls and more, many at just $1! That price is hard to beat.

But, trying to be at least a little bit good, the Buds picked up loaves of rye and seven grain bread to take with them. These came in quite handy when they got back to the office to complement their lunches of salad and soup. Bud Em's pumpernickel rye was soft and delicious.The texture was perfect - not too heavy, not too light. And at just $2.50, it was a terrific bargain, as she has previously purchased the same type of loaf for nearly six dollars.

Bud Shaunna's seven grain bread was deliciously light with a hint of sweetness. It made extremely tasty garlic bread, peanut butter sandwiches and jelly toast-and it's great the plain way too! Not to mention the friendly gentleman behind the counter who offered to slice our bread loaves for us, $2.50 was almost a steal!

Bud Em, whose teenaged daughter LOVES pepperoni rolls, picked up a few of those to take home. Made with their Italian bread dough and loaded with pepperoni, they were a huge hit. At the price of $1.50 each, Bud Em will definitely be making more trips to the bakery to stock up on pep rolls!

When they reached the pastry case, the Buds' willpower dissolved and each picked up a treat for later. Bud Em snagged a chocolate cream puff. The baked delight was quite large. The pastry perfect and the chocolate filling was a pleasant change from the usual. This was surely one of the best dollars Bud Em ever spent!

Bud Shaunna chose a gigantic cinnamon roll. It was only $1 for a homemade cinnamon roll the size of my face! This was a perfect size for sharing, and Bud Shaunna and her hubby enjoyed every bite (even if Bud Hubby's half was slightly larger). Cinnabon had nothing on this roll-it tasted like a fresh donut with light, sweet icing. At a single buck, this is something Bud Shaunna wished she'd bought in multiples!

So there you have it! Be sure to keep up on the Taste Buds as we begin another year of tasty adventures.



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