You Really Can Get a Free Lunch – Billy’s

Billy’s – Southridge Center, Charleston, WV

Susan says…

Thanks to the twitteratti, we were alerted to a great dining opportunity: try out the food at the soon-to-be-open Billy’s Restaurant and the best part…it would be free!

I know, I was skeptical, too when I saw the tweet from @oncee, but he verified it was indeed true and emailed me a menu.   Billy’s is the latest venture by Chef Bill Sohovich of Blossom and Soho’s fame.  It is located in the former Smokey Bones building at Southridge off Corridor G.  Daniel & I were anxious to see (and taste) what Chef Sohovich had to offer from this menu that appeared to be vastly different from his other establishments.

Familiar Decor

Familiar Decor

The inside of the restaurant looks just as it did when the Smokey Bones sign hung outside – same tables and chairs, lots of televisions, same rustic bar.  The staff wear matching shirts with a small “Billy’s” logo.  They have these really cool gadgets procured from Austria that allow them to enter orders and process credit cards tableside.   Ribs are on the menu, so the familiar smell of smoky pork hung in the air as we walked to our table.

My synopsis of the menu: home-cooking.  I am not a fan.  I had already reviewed the menu @oncee sent me and knew I’d like to try the English-style fish & chips.  I certainly wouldn’t be chowing down on a cabbage roll or fried chicken livers.  My parents would love it, but that’s just not how I roll.  About a dozen side dishes are available, but most are full of starch.   Honestly, there are only a handful of items I would ever order.

Since the restaurant is open only sporadically this week for training and customer feedback, and let’s not forget that it’s FREE, they were out of several dishes.  Unfortunately, there was no fish for me.  I chose the burger with hand-cut fries.

The burger was large, presented on Texas toast and tasted just like the hamburgers mom would fry at home.  The fries had a good flavor, were presented in a nice cone-shaped basket lined with paper, but were limp.  I also tasted the homemade onion rings – they were large, had a nice beer batter and fried crispy.  The rings were great.  A very sweet, thick sauce coats the candied yams which could qualify them as a dessert.  Sinful!  The sweet potato fries, like the regular fries, were not crispy, and presented in the same manner.   Daniel’s chicken & dumplings did nothing for me.  I felt the dumplings seemed undercooked and there was a strange flavor I could not identify.  Personally, I like the Teays Valley dumpling and gravy mixes much better.

Dueling Fries

Dueling Fries

I cannot comment on pricing because the prices were not listed on the menu.

Ryan, obviously part of the management team, came around to each table to speak with the customers.  He asked how we liked the food and was genuinely interested in our comments.

Dan says…

I was excited when I found out that Chef Sohovich was adding another jewel to his restaurant crown.  Though Soho’s and Blossom are on both ends of our fork scale, you can get a good meal at both.  I knew from the beginning that this location and concept had great potential.  Susan kept on asking why he was going in this direction and I guessed he had been watching too much Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives.  I was thinking he wanted to do high brow home cooking.

Now I didn’t hobble my opinion of Billy’s before I even darken the door like Susan.  She can’t help herself.  I have been told by a good authority that she sneaks down to the kitchen in the middle of the night to fry a thick piece of hot bologna.  I was looking forward to what Chef S was going to dish out.

I think I was half right and half wrong.  He has upscaled some of the dishes, but it is far from high brow. He has collected some his favorite meals from across West Virginia and the bordering states. He has menued momma’s meat loaf and the Kentucky Hot Brown.  I think he figured out that he isn’t serving East Enders and Charleston business folk, but in fact he has aimed his sights on the Olive Garden crowd. I think they will be pleased with what he has to offer.

Onion Rings

Onion Rings

Susan’s comments about the food are right on target and kinks are still being ironed out. Thus there will be no forks awarded for this soft opening. I have never had a crisp sweet potato fry so they were as expected, but the fresh cut fries had been ready for more than a few minutes and had already given their best.  The onion rings are great and I wish I knew how much they cost, because my wallet has been getting gouged by onion rings and fountain drinks lately.

I ordered chicken and dumplings, which I consider next to the peperoni roll, a quintessential West Virginian meal.  I didn’t taste the seasoning that Susan referenced, and I think it needed a little more salt and pepper.  The real issue I have is: it isn’t West Virginian.  Colleagues and I nearly got run out of town 10 years ago when we tried to serve noodle type dumplings in this dish.  Billy’s does not use noodle type dumplings, but they have they same consistency.  The dumplings natives prefer is light and fluffy much like a steamed biscuit.  The kind you boil on top of your chicken ragu for 10 minutes and then you put the lid on and steam them for 10 more minutes. They should have air bubbles in them.  Billy’s chicken appeared to be fresh pulled and not frozen.  The sauce was under seasoned and contained carrots, which is OK. What I don’t understand is why there were sliced, skin on white potatoes in the sauce.  I think the potatoes should be saved for beef stew.

Chicken and Dumplings with a side of Yams

Chicken and Dumplings with a side of Yams

I too enjoyed the candied yams.  They may have been the best I have EVER had.  I think there may be enough things on the menu for “The Vegetarian Wife”, but I wish that the management team will go one more step and develop a children’s menu.  A good menu for the kids would make me a regular customer.

Susan and Dan agree that…

Based on our test run of Billy’s, here are our comments:

Things we liked

  • The dishes are modern, plain ivory and distinctive. The chicken and dumplings came in a bowl with a lid. Remember, you eat first with your eyes.
  • Service by Mimi was excellent. She was prompt, knowledgeable about the menu and friendly.
  • The onion rings are great.
  • Candied yams have a yummy thick sauce made with Bourbon.
  • There are menu items that you can’t get anywhere else in the area.

Things we didn’t like

  • Fries lacked crispness.
  • Potatoes don’t belong in chicken & dumplings.
  • Chicken & dumplings lacked seasoning.

Suggestions

  • How about a “head’s up” that the burger comes on Texas toast instead of a bun?
  • Offer a 50/50 mix on the fries: half regular, half sweet potato.
  • Indicate on the menu which items are vegetarian.
  • Consider another non-starchy side for people watching their carbs.
  • Develop a children’s menu.

Billy’s
121 Cross Terrace Blvd

South Charleston, WV 25309

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26 responses to “You Really Can Get a Free Lunch – Billy’s

  1. Thanks for the review guys. I wasn’t able to make it out there this week, but Blair and I hope to go soon.

  2. Sounds pretty good. I will definitely try it some day. I generally don’t eat that kind of food because it’s not healthy, but I still enjoy it. So for one of my “splurge” meals, I just might.

    Restaurant owners and chefs need to watch more of the Food Network. Maybe they’d learn how to make crispy fresh-cut fries. I’ve seen several of the celebrity chefs double fry the fries, by frying them once until they’re almost done, taking them out to cool a bit, then putting them back in for another few minutes, and they supposedly crisp nicely. I’ve not tried to do this myself, but I’ve had them done like this (I watched) at a bar-b-que joint at Myrtle Beach and the fries were crisp and delish!

  3. I don’t know what “authority” gave Dan that information but I assure you I have no bologna in my home. My children don’t even eat it. And as for getting up in the middle of the night…not even a decadent chocolate dessert would be able to entice my out of my slumber.

    This obvious slander must cease!

  4. We Love your comments & feed back!!! Thank You!

  5. demosthenes.or.locke

    At a risk of losing any culinary-blog-commenter credibility I might have, this unprovoked bologna bashing must stop.

    Hot bologna is the filet mignon of southern WV. It is not something to be embarassed of, it is our heritage.

    When does Billy’s open to the public?

  6. Mimi told us they would have their grand opening on Monday.

    I don’t deny anyone their right to enjoy a hot bologna sandwich, it’s just not my thing.

    I’m all for talking about my love of Kraft mac & cheese, fish sticks, and cottage cheese. As a kid, I used to eat Vienna Sausages and sardines with my Dad. Dad also enjoys brown beans & cornbread, S.O.S., buzz buttered steaks, and Treet. I come from a good upbringing!

  7. thanks for the comments,all were right on.anyone ever seen anybody cook on the food network for 1000 folks?

  8. demosthenes.or.locke

    Fried treet or spam sandwiches are another classic WV meal.

    When I heard they were discontinuing Buzz buttered steaks earlier this year, I shed a tear.

  9. I don’t know if Soho (Chef Bill S.?) or Amie will be back to check the comments, but I want to say we appreciate to free lunch. We are sure you know how to make fries. If you ever want us to pimp a promo you are running on this blog let us know. We will come by and give it a try and let our readers know about it.

  10. demosthenes.or.locke

    The location will get them a lot of business. There are a lot of times I want to go out to eat but don’t want to battle parking downtown or in south hills…. Billy’s might be the answer.

  11. Economic Friction

    Crisp sweet potato fries? Mojito or Havana Rumba in Louisville…..great Cuban, tapas or both.

  12. BTW… The Grand Opening is not Monday, it’s Tuesday Sept. 16.

  13. It’s pretty harsh to evaluate a restaurant before it officially opens to the public. Give them a chance to get rolling before you start slinging arrows.

  14. gremlinjen – Did you read the post? Did you read the comments? We did not rate Billy’s and we only told them what we liked and what we would like to see improved. I believe that a good business person would want an unbiased opinion especially during a soft opening. This post has had 215 views in four days. I think it will make people want to try Billy’s.

    But just like us your are entitled to your opinion.

  15. gremlinjen-
    we agree with you…that’s why we didn’t give them a fork rating. they were asking all customers for their feedback so that’s where we left it. we wanted to give them some publicity for offering the free trial and give people a sneak peek of what you can expect.

  16. Love Billy’s had little problem with long wait but well worth the wait. This is the best fried chicken I have ever taste and such large portions. Management kept coming to tables apoligizing for delay and wanted customers input on how make things run smoother. Hey, your’e new and I completely understand. Our waitress was awesome took very good care of us. Thanks will be back soon.

  17. hey folks,thanks for all the comments,we want them all,good & bad,so we can get it fixed.just a note with any new rest.there are going to be glitches, & we have a BIG ONE,the computer system is giving us fits,but we will get it worked out, thank you for your patience,s. thanks soHo

  18. I would like to know if this restaurant has a website or an e-mail address to contact Bill Sohovich…thanks so much!
    Billy Goldfeder

  19. I think the only restuarant of Chef Bill Sohovich that has a website is The Blossom. There is no email for him there. If I were you I would put your email here and ask him to contact you.

  20. My husband and I ate their on Wednesday (10/1) for dinner. Doubt that we will ever go back. We had the oyster short plate and they were small but good. The rest of the food was rather bland in taste and over-priced even though the portions are ample. (Green beans were cold and the meal wasn’t all that warm)
    Service by Tony was good, but twice we were brought trays meant for another table. Our initial check had items we had not ordered and was more than twice what it was supposed to be.
    The clincher to why I won’t give them another try is $6.00 for a draft beer. Would shudder to think what they charge for a glass of wine.

  21. (BOLD TYPE, FONT 64)

    !!!! $6.00 !!!! per beer???????

    (normal type, font 11)

    You have to be kidding me? What kind of beer? Great Lakes Brewing on tap maybe, something of the micro brew style???

    Surely not the American Staples of Budweiser, Sam Adams, Miller, or Coors????

    (unless it’s 66oz)

    I need to know more about this potential fleecing of the Charleston area?

  22. Ron,
    It was a 22 oz Coors. Price didn’t come out on food check, waiter added it on. Yep, we were charged $12 for 2 domestic draft beer.

  23. Ouch! That’s a pretty penny for a run-of-the-mill domestic draft. That’s more than we paid in Virginia Beach!

  24. I went to Billy’s on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t very crowded. I got the meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, onion rings, and a salad. The portion sizes were very large and the service was excellent.

    The salad just didn’t contain iceberg lettuce and the ranch dressing was really flavorful. For some reason, I really liked that dressing.

    I loved the macaroni and cheese- very cheesy, creamy with a slight crust on top. The meatloaf had a sweet tomato sauce (like the menu states). It tasted a little like marina sauce to me. It wasn’t what I expected…but I liked it.

    My only bad experience was the onion rings. They were luke-warm and kinda rubbery. But I really didn’t care as I had so much other tasty food and I still ended up taking food home for dinner the next night.

    It was a little pricy for meatloaf, but it was a nice change from the typical meatloaf that you usually receive from other restaurants.

    Oh…and the cheese fries were great, too!!

  25. I wish more places actually had a website with the menu. My wife and I get mostly take-out since we have four small kids, so having the menu in advance is a must.

    As for Billy’s, I can’t say the the items mentioned above suit my tastes either.

  26. Pingback: Third Time’s a Charmer - Billy’s « Fork You…

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