A November 2003 trip
to Morgantown by drhough
Quote: Quaint, yet cosmopolitan, Morgantown is West Virginia’s University city and my
favorite weekend destination for original dining and compelling theater.
This has always been West Virginia’s "city to watch" for many reasons: WVU Medical
Center, national energy research, downtown initiatives, restoration, river management,
engineering studies, and transportation solutions, such as the Personal Rapid Transit or
PRT, the first in the country, the pilot project for other municipal people movers. Only
20 miles away, I have watched all this for several decades, but what I like to watch most
is the theater stage (and good food on its way to my table).
Driving into Morgantown late Saturday afternoon, I was informed by the local radio
station that WVU played PITT at 7pm. Visions of nightmare traffic jams of the
1970s flashed through my mind as I recalled 45-minute glide-and-stop rides to work,
only a short distance. This decade, traffic was heavy on Don Knotts Boulevard, but it
moved well enough so that I was parking in the Walnut Avenue alleyway in just a few
minutes. We had wanted to walk around downtown before dinner at Maxwell’s, but
decided instead to ride to the stadium on the PRT. From its elevated position above the
Monongahela River, we could glimpse any new developments and take a look at the river
and the WVU Arboretum.
Returning to the Walnut Avenue Station, we walked a block up the alley to Maxwell’s,
one of our favorite downtown eateries since the 1970s. The beatnik cellar hadn’t
changed much. Stereo guitar, stained-glass prismed windows with plants, and cedar and
burlap-papered walls decorated with black-and-white prints attracted a baby-boomer
crowd interspersed with the children of boomers who like their music and food. The
menu still offered vegetarian sandwiches with avocado, sprouts, tofu, and the like, but the
great variety of burgers and steak and seafood dinners was more interesting to us in this
decade. We appreciated the nostalgic items, though, and were comforted by this culinary
"monument" to our generation. Morgantown is full of these.
Theater follows suit in its appeal to boomers and the generations who love us. I have followed WVU Drama Department for decades and
appreciate their selection of major plays. We were impressed by their recent production
of Anton in Show Biz and amazed by the strength of the acting, a confident
in-your-face force. The up-and-coming M. T. Pockets Theatre, the downtown alternative,
is equally impressive and professional, and WV Public Theater offers musicals, which I
haven’t sampled. Since I live nearby, I’m grateful for the little city’s big enterprising
spirit that makes possible great weekends with more than football. All Mountaineer fans
might want to plan an extra perfect night with dinner-and-a-play.
M. T. Pockets
Restaurant | "Three Decades of Maxwells"
Maxwell’s is on an alley off High Street, the main street downtown. Most locals can point to Wall Street or, more likely, "the alley for Maxwell’s." Several lightposts in the middle preclude vehicle traffic, so it’s strictly a well-lighted pedestrian walk. Down the stairs, the open kitchen in the large room is busy making everything from omelettes to almond-crusted seafood dinners all day long. The menu emphasizes healthy choices, but deviates from those to tantalize. The room was filled with aromas as we were lead to our copper-topped table on the would-be stage.
Our waiter was friendly and checked the price of whole New York cheesecakes. Starting at $26 for a plain one, anyone can take home several varieties. My partner walked to the blackboard to check the flavors for this night while the waiter got our drinks, and then she ordered "lemon-drop" cheesecake at the same time as her sandwich. (Other flavors included coconut creme and traditional with strawberries or cherries.) I considered dessert when I heard about the bread pudding with whiskey sauce, but I frequently have that at home.
Thursday is "pasta night," and Friday is seafood night, so Karen admired the variety of
salmon and other seafood dinners (7 choices on special for $13), but settled on a pocket
sandwich--to save room for cheesecake, of course! She liked her fish sandwich with homemade dressing. My steak sandwich was good as it gets, and homefries had
skins and great seasoning. The waiter brought two spoons with the huge chunk of
dessert, so I had my taste and had to admit it was the best I had ever tasted--and the
largest serving I have ever seen in public! I noticed many dishes with tofu, sprouts, and
avocado, and I’ll bet even those were followed by dessert. This puts to rest misconceptions that Maxwell’s is a health-food restaurant, although they do have a vegetarian menu. It’s more like an "anything you want" establishment with an astounding assortment of burgers. They do everything well and everything to please, and I’m wondering why I stayed away so long! They also have a good beer list, wines and mixed drinks. Fans have learned to disbelieve that old saying: "You can’t please all the people . . . ."
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 24, 2003
Three Decades of Maxwell's
1 Wall Street
Morgantown, West Virginia
Restaurant | "Garfield's Restaurant and Pub"
Even though it isn’t a Morgantown original, it’s a good choice for anyone in a hurry to
find a good place to dine on the way into town or through the area. We frequently make
it our stop on the way to downtown theaters because it’s so easy to get into and out of.
For out-of-town visitors, the Westover exit from I-79 is just down the slope from
Morgantown Mall driveway. Anyone visiting from a state where there is no Garfield’s
should relieve his deprived condition right here! This is a small chain always located at malls, and they have the stated goal of providing delightful food "in a fun atmosphere." From the violet neon to the Fiesta tableware, every Garfield's is colorful, right down to their large coral-and-turquoise-colored plates of brightly-hued food.
Garfield’s makes Southwest choices as tantalizing as they can possibly get. I’m a fan of
their veggie quesadillas, which are stuffed with yellow squash, among other goodies, and
I believe they are slightly superior to the chicken variety, also offered. When I’m really
famished, I order the Fiesta Platter, a combination with two chicken enchiladas, four
quesadillas, rice, and refried beans, plus a little salad and salsa. For dessert, I recommend
cheesecake or apple crunch with caramel sauce and ice cream. Their sinful brownie
concoctions would reawaken the child in the most serious adult. My partner is a fan of
their salads and pasta dishes, all of them Mexican or Southwest or blackened Cajun or
Italian in theme, and we agree that their burgers, Philly cheese steaks, and French dips are
among the best. I could go on for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t yet been introduced to
this American-ethnic feasting menu.
Good management (and many on hand at the Morgantown location) must ensure good
service, and the supply of alert help from the university community keeps tables turning
over smoothly and quality dependably consistent from the kitchen. One word of warning,
though, should suffice: one evening last Christmas, we encountered a 45-minute
wait time for a table and were forced to go to the food court or be late for the theater.
Garfield's Restaurant Pub
Morgantown, West Virginia 26501
The evening was perfect, as all theater evenings seem to be. Just a block from the
Creative Arts Center (CAC), Pargo’s Restaurant was the right place for dinner, so close to
the theater that we didn’t have to worry about the drive before curtain time. The Paterson
Drive entrance to the CAC was just meters away. One can ride the PRT from downtown and get off at the first Evansdale stop, but we were driving this time. We were early enough to read the
program and observe the 20-year-olds’ fashions--hats were particularly interesting. The
program told us about the playwright, Jane Martin, probably a pseudonym, probably from
Louisville, Kentucky, but nobody knows who she (or he?) is. She is referred to as
"America’s best known, unknown playwright" and prefers to remain unidentified. (Her
plays have been nominated for Pulitzers and have won other awards.)
After the lights dimmed, a strong female voice began to call out "airport messages" and
then background information pertinent to the story, and one-by-one we were introduced to
the all-female cast. The tall, sexy movie star character was skimpily dressed, but
unabashed in her self-absorbed egocentricity. The Russian director was equally strong as
he (she) hurled insults, and then we met the overbearing Texas crew with their obscenity
and misogynistic, materialistic, crass attitudes that these fine actresses had no problem
communicating. There was a laugh every minute, and some 19-year-old boys in front of
us found even more--they laughed at every four-letter word, even in the middle of a
serious line! (We weren’t irritated, just amused by their incredible lack of
The standing ovation was genuine and extended. Some of these girls will be stars
someday, as several past graduates have found their places on television and in movies. I
have special hopes for the girl with the impatient, stomping walk and the thick Russian "augh-zent."
Outside, the brisk October air was biting on top of the hill that is Evansdale Campus. I
reflected on how appropriate a warm, modern theater is for a perfect autumn evening fantasy.
Looking back at the round white architecture of the CAC with lights all around, I was
Candide, and this was the most perfect of worlds, all analyzed, categorized, and set in
Gladys Davis Theater, WVU Creative Arts Center
Paterson Drive and Beechurst Ave.
Morgantown, West Virginia
Attraction | "M. T. Pockets Theatre Company"
Speaking of their theater, I imagine they wouldn’t say "no" to a new one, but we’ve
grown accustomed to the large stark room above the pool hall. (It’s above a
pool hall at the back alley, but beneath Morgantown Florist at the Spruce Street
entrance.) The location is perfectly adequate, with air-conditioning and stepped-up
seating. The experimental space--call it theater in the making--seems more exciting to us
than other, more polished locations. Here, the suicidal teen in The Deer and the
Antelope Play seemed more lost. The women whose men were off to war in
Waiting for the Parade seemed more desperate, and all sexy characters seemed
more honest under low lights against dark walls and black curtains all around.
Acting and directing are always superb, and the company is growing. We’ve seen seven of
their productions, almost all of them with totally different casts, so we are aware of how
much talent has remained in this university town after graduation. They work in
conjunction with WVU Division of Theatre on some productions, but the ones we’ve
seen have been mostly more mature casts.
Teen suicide, the death of a woman coal miner, prejudice, and war--these are topics I’ve
seen M. T. Pockets handle with ease and with such talent that audiences were
mesmerized, not grumbling about the heaviness of the content--audiences at the
company’s theater are mostly mature. This doesn’t mean they don’t perform comedy just
as well, but a significant percentage of their selections are serious sociological or
intellectual drama--a welcome alternative when most theaters won’t take a chance on
anything but comedy.
Their location on Spruce or at the Mountainlair makes it possible for us to plan full
evenings out downtown amid a myriad interesting, unique restaurants, cafes, and pubs,
and for visitors staying at the Hotel Morgan (a Clarion) or at the new Radisson on the
Riverfront, walking to the theater is easy. For those driving to Morgantown, parking isn’t
difficult on side streets.
M T Pockets Theatre Company
233 Spruce Street
Morgantown, West Virginia 26505
West Virginia, United States