Friday, November 1, 2013

Hellbender Burritos - a Gem in the Boonies

Small town food is not known for its originality or quality. The paradigmatic Kamas Drug (Utah) of my youth comes to mind: a plastic basket holding French fries and a hamburger with one all-beef patty, mustard, catsup, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onion on a store-bought bun. 

Which is why Hellbender Burritos is so amazing. It is located in a far, forgotten-corner of back-woods West Virginia, home of the Hatfields and McCoys. When I heard the name, "Hellbenders," I thought of a bearded burly tattoo'd man in a black leather jacket, German helmet, silver chain dangling between belt and pocket,  seated on a Harley with handle-bars three feet in the air. So, what a surprise to see a salamander, yes a salamander, burrito in hand, over the front door. 
In the menu under, "What the heck is a hellbender?" (cute huh?), there is an explanation that the hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, growing up to 27 inches in length. Hellbender populations have plummeted due to poor stream quality. Today they are only found in mountainous areas in small pockets of habitat where stream quality is still good. Places such as this, Davis, the highest incorporated town in the state, just two miles outside Blackwater Falls State Park.
With West Virginia in mind, you would think 'possum, 'coon and squirrel would be on the menu. Only in my dreams. No, just burritos. But not "just" any burritos, friggin' amazing, creative, tasty burritos. For example, the hoodoo voodoo burrito: New Orleans-inspired, with the owners home-made olive tapenade, shredded carrots (who would even think of putting carrots on a burrito), lettuce, tomatoes, garlic mayonnaise and feta (as in Greek) cheese. And the taste is more than the sum of its ingredients, it conjures a spell upon the taste-buds, a hex on the idea that creative, captivating food can't be found where your parents are cousins and the huntin' dawg, not the wife, is still man's best friend.
Voodoo hoodoo and lost hiker burritos.

Voodoo hoodoo: olive tapenade, carrots, feta, tomato, lettuc.
The lost hiker burrito seems a little more in tune with the rural setting. It has guacamole, sauteed mushrooms, cheddar jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and house-made bleu cheese (as in French) dressing. The taste of this pearl surpasses even the voodoo hoodoo. I would get lost for this burrito, or better yet, would want this burrito if I was lost on a hike. We cut the two burritos in half and alternated with a taste of one, then the other.
Lost hiker: bleu cheese dressing, lettuce, sauteed onions, cheddar jack cheese.
Other burritos on the menu include the hellbender, goofy foot, shovelhead, gravity check, gendarme, admiral, treehugger and face plant. They even have one on the kids menu called the pb&j with peanut butter and grape jam. If I lived closer, I would have to check each one of them out (except perhaps the pb&j). 

Another creative menu item is the smoked fish dip: tilapia smoked with Tucker County applewood and other secret ingredients. But we did try a cup of green chili which was virtually all pulled pork and Anaheim chili. Excellent. We also tried their homemade key lime pie which I thought was even better than the key lime pie at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach.
Green chili

Hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream.
Key lime pie
Hellbender caters to the young, outdoorsy, health conscious crowd, but they did not throw us out. It is a place I wish I thought of. I would love to visit again.  


  1. How could a burrito with a name like Hellbender not be delicious? I am a little concerned about the part where one's hunting dog replaces one's wife as best friend.....

  2. That lost hiker burrito was one of the best fusion burritos I have ever eaten. It would be enough to be me out on a hike if I knew it were waiting for me at the end of the trail. Great stuff.

  3. That looks like some great food. Too bad it is so far away. :(

  4. I love coming back to the town in which I was born. This trip was so much more special because we discovered Hellbenders. And yes, many years ago, my.mother said that my father loved his hunting dog more than he loved her. Not sure about that but it made a good story. Hellbenders, please stay in Davis.

  5. Just as a correction, the Hatfield and McCoys are from the far opposite end of the state from Davis...