Von Blaze is heating up downtown Morgantown.
Chris McDonald spent more than 25 years on the restaurant scene in Morgantown, cooking at such mainstays as the old Glasshouse Grille and Stefano’s, before rolling out his own food truck, Von Blaze, in the summer of 2021.
He learned a lot along the way, not only about recipes and cooking, but also about service and hospitality. A great dining experience, after all, is not just about the food you enjoy. It’s also about how that food—and the surroundings you enjoy it in—makes you feel. It’s that philosophy that led the longtime chef and his wife and business partner, April Passaro, to turn the success of that food truck into a brick-and-mortar location where they could not only turn out a higher volume of scratch-made creations, but offer a robust dining atmosphere as well.
They found that at the former Maxwell’s location on Wall Street downtown. They transformed it into Von Blaze’s new permanent home, where they serve elevated eats in a casually upscale setting that instantly makes you feel at home.
“April and I wanted to open something comfortable and welcoming with food for everyone, made to the best of our ability,” McDonald says, adding that they also wanted that food to offer something decidedly different. “Basically, we wanted to take classic sandwiches and other traditional items and put our own spin on them.”
And spin they did.
Start off with a selection of Drummies—frenched and crispy fried chicken drumsticks—tossed in sauces like Buffalo, Garlic Parm, Old Bay Buttermilk Ranch, or Japanese Tabasaki-style (think sweet, salty, and a little spicy) with kimchi furikake and chives.
Soups and salad offer the same intriguing combinations of flavors and textures. Try the caramelized onion soup with Gruyere, Parmesan, and sourdough croutons or the San Marzano tomato bisque with basil, roasted garlic butter, and grilled cheese croutons. The Green Goddess Caesar salad tops chopped romaine with fresh herbs, anchovies, green goddess dressing, and parmesan chicharron.
Indulge yourself with a Hand-Cut Fry Plate featuring fresh fried Chipperbec potatoes. Get it seasoned Neat—salt, pepper, and a dipping sauce—or ramp it up in a variety of ways. Short Rib Poutine–style is topped with braised short ribs, bordelaise sauce, white cheese sauce, and crispy onions, for example. Cubano-style features seasoned smoked pork and ham with pickles, white cheese sauce, and brown mustard. Or the BCBB hits you with blue cheese crumbles, house-smoked bacon, and house-made buffalo sauce.
Sandwiches may be where Von Blaze’s “spin” hits full speed. The smashed Angus burger comes with braised short ribs, Cooper’s sharp white American, crispy onions, horseradish aioli, and bordelaise sauce. The Snowshoe is not your mama’s bologna sandwich: a smoked and seared house-made country bologna is topped with nacho chips, shredded lettuce, American cheese, whole-grain honey mustard, and garlic mayo. The Lobster Dog is a “hot dog” with fresh lobster and shrimp sausage, Napa cabbage slaw, and brown butter mayo;.
The “new take on an old favorite” approach seems to be serving them well. Von Blaze continues to draw rave reviews—and crowds—for its buzzy food and vibe, leading already to plans to expand the new digs.
“We will have outdoor seating in the form of a deck at the front of the building, which should be up and running by spring,” McDonald says, adding that new food specials and events are also in the works. “We’re planning some fun pop-up ideas to explore in the future as well, but we really are extremely happy with where we have gotten in a year.”
It’s a success, he reiterates, that’s built on quality in both food and service.
“My kitchen staff—Steven Sturms, Andrew Passaro, and Boobie McDougall—have really made our food what it is. And April works with Noah Jones, Abby Mullens, Daniel Passaro, and Brandon Hause to create a really familiar and welcoming feel to our service. Our food is good, but our service is equally special.” 1 Wall Street, Morgantown, 304.212.5588, vonblaze.com, @vonblazesandwiches on FB