This is a cool place. I mean cool. The type of place where I survey the other diners and feel itchy in my clothes because I’m not clad in well-worn North Face paraphernalia, my hair has never been in dreads (unless you count those early days postpartum when I became a stranger to my shower), and I couldn’t even begin to tell you what to do with a carabiner (maybe use it as a poser key chain?). Cathedral Café is the heart—the cool, thrumming, humming heart—of Fayetteville, West Virginia, named as one of the “Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America” in 2006 by Budget Travel Magazine.
Prior to a friend’s recommendation, Fayetteville, West Virginia to me was a non-descript country road dilly-dallying away from Route 19 South just past the New River Gorge bridge. I’d never entertained a thought of turning left at the light to explore what lay between Tudor’s Biscuit World and the Exxon gas station. Then a friend (someone cool who does actually have dread locks, wears North Face threads, and knows that only idiots or newbies refer to a ‘biner as a “carabiner”) raved about the atmosphere and food at Fayetteville’s Cathedral Café. Just like that, I had a new watering hole four hours into my journeys south from Pittsburgh.
Cathedral Café’s name aspires to greatness that falls a bit short of reality. Yes, it’s housed in a converted church, but a cathedral? Perhaps a bit of a stretch. Yet inside the yellow brick walls, basted in a muted rainbow filtering through stained glass, the echoing church cavern holds smells and tastes that certainly lift my spirits to the pinnacle of any European cathedral’s nave. We always begin our beach road trips early in the morning. At 7:30 this morning, we slipped under the belly of a fog bank in the West Virginia mountains and began working up an appetite and thirst for the food waiting in this Cathedral’s hall.
At this point, after repeated trips and meals, I don’t really need to look at the menu to make my selection. The vanilla croissant French toast is my stand by. On the rare occasions when my sweet tooth isn’t needling to be pacified, I’m also happy to order the breakfast burrito or the quesadilla. A side of hash browns and a café au lait of ecologically-grown, fair trade coffee, and my breakfast is complete. Actually, if I allow myself to peruse the menu, I often create trouble for myself. I read the description of the whole grain pancakes or the sweet potato pancakes (sprinkled with pecans), and I waver. I consider the healthy (and unique) tofu scramble with its sweet peppers and spinach, and I hesitate. I glance at the daily special (mozzarella and tomato with sausage frittata), and I vacillate. Then I remember that I WILL be back again, and solve my ordering dilemma by planning my meal selection for the next trip.
And don’t get me started on the lunch and dinner menus. Or the hand-dipped milkshakes. Or the homemade desserts. I mean it. You’ll be stuck here for another five paragraphs.
With most menu items under $10, most, even, under $6, it really is plausible to try multiple meals on each visit. Carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans can all graze equally well in Cathedral Café’s pastures. If the service isn’t always spot on? Well, we have grown accustomed to the (ahem) laidback service and find delays in our orders to be part of the local culture. Yes, that same local culture dragged in by all those disturbingly fit, rugged, tanned cool people who have also discovered that Cathedral Café is the place to come for post-climb/post-kayak/post-rafting refreshment.
Worshipping food is easy in Cathedral Café. The combination of devoted congregants, coffee-spirit filled air, and hymns to outdoors ruggedness makes for one holy place. The scrape of well-used wooden chairs is a melody accompanied by the harmony of voices joined in leisurely conversation. A wall of used books (free for the taking) invites readers to commune with a wide range of subjects (from Abnormal Child Psychology to Zoe’s First Plane Ride). Of course, don’t forget to contribute to your waitress’s collection plate before leaving. Wandering just a smidge off of the beaten path to Cathedral Café in Fayetteville, WV will reward the adventurous and unadventurous traveler alike with a meal and respite worthy of praise.
I’ll next worship at Cathedral Café a week from today, as I plan my road trip home according to a convenient meal time at C.C. If you’d like to make Fayetteville, WV your final destination, plan to journey over the weekend of October 16th for “Bridge Day.” This is the day when all those rugged Cathedral Café patrons show they’ve really earned the right to wear their well-used North Face gear by actually BASE jumping off the New River Gorge Bridge. That’s a plunge of 876 feet, folks. You’ll find me applauding far from the rim, but I’ll gladly knock back a few bowls of chili at Fayetteville’s 2nd Annual “Bridge Day” Chili Cookoff & Oktoberfest.