Dwight Garner, a book critic for The New York Times, was born in Fairmont but spent many of his early years in Charleston. He gets back whenever he can, so we caught up with Garner to ask about his favorite hometown haunts.
“This is one of America’s genuinely great independent bookstores. Taylor Books has a carefully curated selection of titles and a big, globe-spanning magazine rack. It respects and hand-sells the work of West Virginia’s writers. Its coffee and baked goods are first-rate. The chairs are comfy as hell. And its attached art gallery goes for incisiveness, not soft-focus nonsense. One recent show featured drawings from the Don Blankenship trial. It’s a state treasure.”
The Red Carpet Lounge
“Cheap drinks, dim lights, gruff staff, well-stocked jukebox: This is my platonic ideal of a dive bar. The mix of clientele, though, is the real attraction. Because it’s the closest bar to the state Capitol, a lot of politicians and media types come in, as well as barflies. In the summertime, you can sit outside and smoke on the patio. If you’re hungry, you can order up a hot dog. Inside or outside, you’re sure to overhear some fine and funny conversation.”
The Bluegrass Kitchen
“The pepperoni roll aside, West Virginia isn’t especially known for its contributions to American cuisine. The Bluegrass Kitchen makes you see the state’s food in an expansive new context. This unpretentious restaurant (paper menus, no tablecloths) does farm-to-table with a lot of grace and wit and know-how. Trout and grits, pickle-brined fried chicken—this is the food your grandparents would have cooked, if they’d had tattoos of beets on their forearms. On weekends, don’t miss the Bloody Marys.”