On a trip up Interstate 79 several years ago, my traveling companion suggested we stop at a restaurant I had never heard of despite many trips up that road.
The Wonder Bar on a hilltop off the U.S. 50 exit in Clarksburg is close to the interstate but not visible from there. You have to know about it, and somehow I didn't.
The name gave me no clue, but my buddy was confident we would have a good meal.
Did we ever.
It's an old-fashioned Italian steakhouse that has been in operation since 1946. When we were there, old black-and-white photos lined the walls, and the décor was hardly trendy.
I recall a crisp salad, perfectly cooked steak, baked potato and sautéed mushrooms. It was basic stuff satisfyingly well done.
But there was another dimension to this hidden gem.
It was immaculate. As I commented about that, my foodie friend said something that has stuck with me.
Diners concerned about the cleanliness of a restaurant kitchen should visit the restroom. Tidy bathrooms usually indicate tidy kitchens, he said.
The Wonder Bar passed that test with flying colors. The place is still open, by the way, and a recent online review gave it five stars.
His theory came to mind as I thought about the ongoing furor over Kanawha County restaurant inspections.
The saga started when a new inspector, freshly schooled in the rules and intent on doing her job well, started marking up score sheets left and right.
Restaurant operators howled. Officialdom weighed in.
They're rethinking the system. The Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health is stewing over better ways to notify the public of inspection results without damaging businesses and wreaking havoc with its own budget.
The scenario is not hard to envision.
A restaurant gets a bad inspection that is posted — possibly in bright colors — in prominent view of patrons. It's not a stretch to imagine some people turning around and walking out.
So the operator hustles to correct the problems. This is a good thing and the main point of the exercise.
But next comes the rub.
That restaurant is going to want a re-inspection right away, before the business suffers.