To find a good biscuit in West Virginia one must first drive through the impossible beauty of the state, winding through its lush mountains to reach the outdoor paradise of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Fayetteville is a small, but mighty, mountain-town filled with laid-back locals and a surplus of shaggy raft guides. Home to the New River Gorge, the locale teems with postcard-worthy views, world-class rafting, and stellar hikes.
Down Fayetteville’s charming main drag, in a big white house at the top of a hill, is Vandal’s Kitchen. The rustic cafe opened last summer by three friends who wanted to pay homage to the history of the town and one of its forefathers, Abraham Vandal. The site of the historic home in which Vandal’s Kitchen resides used to be a part of Abraham Vandal’s 200-acre farm plot. The townsman and farmer set up a stagecoach stop for weary travelers looking for a home-cooked meal and a welcome respite.
In that spirit, owner Elizabeth Morton aimed to serve up similar comfort to those passing through today. The white Victorian house, built in 1870, offers a stately welcome, but the feeling inside is all rustic comfort. Local art decorates the walls, but “darn good coffee” and fresh food, made-from-scratch, is the focus. Vandal’s sources goods from local farmers to support their breakfast and lunch menus. Simplicity and comfort guide the selections, from kale bowls and avocado toast to chicken and waffles, and of course, biscuits.
The biscuits at Vandal’s Kitchen are not a regular menu item. Look to the chalkboard hanging over the coffee bar for the specials of the day, which is whereyou’ll find them. They are used in special biscuit sandwiches filled with local sausage, sharp cheddar and farm eggs, or paired with comforting gravy and fried chicken. Resident baker, Jon Lester, is responsible for the baked goods at Vandal’s (think gooey cinnamon rolls, homemade “Clif” bars, and a decadent rotation of brownies), including his self-titled “Grandma-style biscuits.” When asked about ingredients, Lester says they are made with “buttermilk, lots of butter, a little salt, sugar, and some love.” The native West Virginian taps into the memories of his two grandmothers who kept him well-fed in his youth. “Both of them made biscuits,” he says. “That’s where the ‘lots of butter’ comes from.”
Lester, who is the head chef at a restaurant in Beckley, comes to Vandal’s Kitchen to bake for fun. Baking, to the lanky, bespectacled chef, is his moment of zen. He whips out a batch of buttermilk biscuits, gently coaxing the dough into form and then cutting out rounds with the lid of a mason jar. The secret to his tall, fluffy biscuits? “Patience and butter,” he says with a grin. “You have to let the dough rest before throwing it in the oven, that’s what makes it fluffy.”
At Vandals’s Kitchen, the biscuit scraps are rolled into doughnut holes which are then fried and tossed in cinnamon sugar. That spurred Lester’s foray into doughnut making which appear on the chalkboard at Vandal’s regularly. The day we met, he plated up a still-warm biscuit with two farm-fresh eggs, thick-cut bacon and sautéed kale–a welcome comfort to this weary traveler.
Vandal's Kitchen 129 S Court St Fayetteville, West Virginia 25840 Written by: Keia Mastrianni