Thu, 12/28/06 4:24 PM
After seeing the glowing review from Jane & Michael about Hocutt's, I took the 1 1/2 hour drive from the north Pittsburgh suburbs down to Moundsville. Actually, I have done it twice in the last month. I had to see if it was just as amazingly good the second time as it was the first time. And it was! This place is a real Roadfood gem.
The setting itself is a little bizarre, considering it sits right next to the now closed West Virginia State Penitentiary (still open for tours, though). The building is very old and used to be a dairy. The place is mostly decorated with Hot Wheels toy cars. The atmosphere is pure Roadfood.
But the reason you drive this far is for the food and it is fantastic! The hushpuppies, which come with every meal are out of this world. I have never been a hushpuppy fan, but I could eat these all day. They are very crunchy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. They come with butter, but for an extra quarter each, you can also get molasses butter or honey butter. I highly recommend dipping the hushpuppies into the honey butter.
Two other items I have had here that are as good as I have had anywhere are the creamy homemade cole slaw and the tangy Brunswick stew. For the main entrees, my friends and I have sampled the pulled pork bbq (Travis is originally from Raleigh, so expect eastern NC style), baby back ribs, catfish and the country ham. All of these have been well above average. The one item in which I didn't particularly like was the mac & cheese, which is spicy. I can tell you that both of my friends really liked it, though.
For dessert, they carry Velvet ice cream, a brand I had never heard of before. But, I tried a scoop of the peppermint stick and it was delicious.
Another reason to go to Hocutt's is to meet the owner and cook Travis Hocutt himself. On both visits, he took time out to come chat with us and he is an extremely interesting guy, who has led quite a life. Among the many topics we discussed the last time I was there is that he used to play piano in a backup band for Percy Sledge. Moundsville is lucky to have him.
Obviously, word about this place has started to get around. He now has a guest book which he asked us to sign and earlier that day he had visitors from Los Angeles. The day before, people from Minnesota stopped in. Needless to say, he credits Jane & Michael for this.
One bit of warning before you go. You HAVE to call ahead to make sure that they will be open. The first time I called, they said they would be closed for a couple of weeks to do festivals and some renovations. And as I was leaving the second time, he said he was going to close for a little while in the middle of the afternoon, since he had to run to the store to buy ingredients for the hushpuppies.
So, anyone in the Wheeling area or driving between Pittsburgh and Columbus, this place is well worth the stop and is no more than 15 minutes straight south off of I-470.