Monday, February 2, 2009

The Blossom Deli.

Sometimes, you find your favorite restaurant when you least expect it.

That's what happened to me a few years ago, when my husband and I were walking in downtown Charleston one summer night on Quarrier Street, and we decided to try dinner somewhere new. He mentioned that he had been to Blossom before for lunch years ago and liked it, but forgot about the location until we passed by. We decided to try it, and since then, I've been hooked!

I did not expect to walk in to a candlelit atmosphere, with white linens on the tables and place settings awaiting our arrival. Blossom looks like a diner/deli from the 1950s, because that is exactly what it used to be. Mirrors align one wall, with booths along the other. We were greeted by the staff and taken to our table, where they gave us an assortment of fresh rolls with a plate of oil and parmesan cheese for our bread. The rolls are fantastic (we typically get an assortment with white, wheat, and sometimes poppy seed), and I look forward to them each time we go. The salads are fresh and taste wonderful. We typically order the house salad with a vinaigrette, although there are many different dressing choices. While the dinner menu offers several gourmet style meals (Lamb Osso Bucco, etc.), we find ourselves typically ordering from the "Create Your Own Pasta" menu. It starts at $11.50 (the prices rise as you add options such as artichoke hearts, steak tips, etc.), with your choice of four different pastas and five sauces. I find myself ordering the Penne Alfredo with spinach and roasted red peppers each time we go, and I've never had a complaint. Be prepared, however, because the portions are huge-it easily appears to be three or four cups of pasta, so you'll take leftovers home with you. Everything is made fresh, and you can watch the chefs prepare your food behind the counter. That is definitely a highlight of the experience, and keeps me coming back hoping for a table with a view! I've had one special, which was the Redskin Potato and Leek Crusted Salmon. It came with marinated vegetables and shrimp, and was covered in a dill cream sauce. I was very happy with my dinner that evening, but would continue to recommend the pasta menu, as it gives you so many different options for your dinner. We've been back to Blossom many times since, and it is certainly one of the best places I have ever eaten. We can typically order our drinks, salads, and meals for $50-$60 for two, but the prices could be higher if you order the specials or featured entrees (mine was $22 for the Salmon, but well worth it). I highly recommend that you make reservations after 6pm, but if you go to Blossom at 5pm (when they open), you're likely able to be seated with only a short wait.

The penne alfredo with roasted red peppers and spinach: the portions are so big!

The Redskin Potato and Leek Crusted Salmon

Because my job is a short walk from Blossom, I began eating lunch there a few times a month last year. The lunch atmosphere is completely different than what we experience during dinner hours, as Blossom becomes very crowded and high-paced. The menu offers daily specials, along with several deli-style sandwiches, soups, and salads. I frequently order the egg salad or tuna salad sandwich to go, which are both part of the "build your own sandwich" menu. They are made fresh and served with chips. The prices for those sandwiches are comparable to fast-food restaurants (my order is only $4.00), and the portions are again larger than I can sometimes eat. Some of the other sandwiches and salads are a bit pricier, but the quality is worth much more than a greasy fast-food burger and fries.

Blossom is the type of restaurant we look for when traveling out of town, because it's not just your average eating experience.
I've been fortunate enough to travel and eat in Las Vegas, New York City, Boston, Atlanta, and other cities, but this gem in Charleston offers food that tastes better, prices that aren't outrageous, and excellent service.

The Blossom Deli is located at 904 Quarrier Street, and you'll need to park downtown on Capitol or another street close to the location. For more details, visit

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sitar of India

Mild, Medium, or Spicy?

Those are words that come to mind when I think of my eating experiences at the Sitar of India, an Indian restaurant in downtown Charleston, WV. We began eating there in the fall of 2006, when my husband came home from Iraq and began the adventure of finding food similar to the local fare he consumed during his trips to Northern Iraq. He had heard of Sitar but we had never been, so we decided to try something new.

I never thought I would enjoy Indian food so much, but it's possible!

Whether it's lunch or dinnertime, Sitar is usually packed. We've never had to wait for a table, but we've been fortunate during each trip. Sitar has a menu that features lamb, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian entrees, along with several appetizers. We typically begin with the pappadam, which tastes like a spicy black-bean cracker (it's described as a "spicy lentil wafer"). It's served for free during lunch, but you need to request it during dinner. The appetizers we've had have included vegetable samoas, which are Indian turnovers that are filled with peas and potatoes. It might not sound appetizing, but it's a good combination and keeps you full until your order arrives.

My typical order consists of Aloo Matter, which are peas and potatoes in a spiced sauce. The portion is much bigger than you might think, and it comes with basmati rice that my husband and I share (be prepared to share your rice with the table, depending on the size of your party). I've not attempted to try anything else, because this meal is cooked so well and is just spicy enough to make me take a few extra drinks of water. My husband typically orders Chicken Curry or Chicken Vindaloo, and has never had any complaints. Along with the meal (depending how hungry we are), we order Nan bread. It's unleavened bread that they bake in a tandoori clay oven, and if I could eat it everyday, I would. Yes, it's that good! It's about the size of a dinner plate, so one portion will be good for two.

Sitar was a welcome addition to our restaurant choices in Charleston, and we've taken friends and family there to try something new. They've all loved it, even if they may have been a little apprehensive to begin with. My sister requested that I bring home Chicken Curry, rice, and Nan as a Christmas gift, if that tells you anything. Needless to say, Sitar of India is a great place to go with excellent food. The prices are very reasonable, as we typically only pay $20 for two during dinner. Don't be afraid of the spice, but if you're cautious, just order the mild serving. Warning-you'll leave Sitar being very full, so park on Capitol or Summers Streets in order to ease the uncomfortable feeling!

One order of Nan, split for two.

My little cousins, who visit us every year in WV. You can see the restaurant in the background.