photo by Shane Howell

Best Craft Cocktail Bartender

When we tallied the many thousands of votes for Best Craft Cocktail Bartender, two contenders came within a few votes of each other. We asked both to recommend cocktails for winter in Morgantown. They took it very different directions, Graham going with classics and Howell concocting. Try both and decide for yourself.

Josh Graham, Tin 202


Mix equal parts
The Botanist 22 gin
Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
Serve with an orange twist. Bitter and delicious.

Craft ingredients bring out much more flavor in cocktails, Graham says. To his taste, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth is by far the best available in West Virginia. Spending a little more on that bottle will significantly add flavor and quality to your cocktails at home. The same goes for the base spirit: spend a little more to ensure full, proper flavor.

Shane Howell, Morgantown Brewing Company

The elephant in the room—A DARK SPIRIT COCKTAIL

In a cocktail shaker, mix
1 oz. Smooth Ambler Contradiction whiskey
½ oz. Disaronno
Splash of Monin oak barrel concentrated flavor

Stir and pour over ice in a tumbler glass. Rim glass with flamed orange peel, add a splash of Sioux City Sarsaparilla and a splash of club soda, add five drops of Shrub & Co. blood orange shrub, and place flamed orange peel into the drink for garnish.
A well-rounded and aromatic sipper that will keep you warm and happy and “contradict” the cold West Virginia winter.

Best Bartender
Lucy Morrison

Lucy Morrison’s escape to the U.S. 22 years ago when a relationship went sour turned to citizenship and a new home in Morgantown. The shy Irish native took a chance on bartending and has now been at Gene’s Beer Garden for 18 years, where no one can believe she was ever shy. The friendly, homey environment at Gene’s reminds Morrison of her huge family, she says, and Morgantown and West Virginia remind her of Ireland. To what does she attribute her great popularity as a bartender? Not her sublime brogue, though surely that’s part of it. “I just say it the way it is,” she says. “I think people like that.” Catch her at Gene’s Thursday and Friday nights.  461 Wilson Avenue, 304.292.1147,, @genes1944

Best Politician
Tom Bloom

Long experience as a guidance counselor and a local office holder explains some of Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom’s popularity, but his persistent efforts on issues like recycling and hunger and his tendency to call it as he sees it contribute, too. He’s active and accessible on Facebook: find him at @wingsman1.

Best Media Personality
Tony Caridi

Caridi just has one of those voices. As a Mountaineers play-by-play announcer and host of the MetroNews Statewide Sportsline, he has kept West Virginians up-to-date on the latest of Mountain State sports for decades. @tony.caridi.7

Best Artist
Eddie “Spaghetti” Maier

Eddie Spaghetti’s woodcut prints share his gentle nature and skilled hands with us all. He makes frames for many of his prints from found wood. Find his works for sale in cafés, restaurants, and galleries around town and across the state—and treat a child or yourself to one of his many printmaking workshops., @eddiespaghettiart

CLOSE RUNNER-UP – Jamie Lester

Best Community Champion
Jamie Summerlin

Famous for his 2012 coast-to-coast Freedom Run that raised $50,000 for veterans, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jamie Summerlin then came to Morgantown and founded Operation Welcome Home to support armed forces veterans and help them re-enter the workforce. He created the Morgantown Marathon in 2015 to support the organization, and the marathon quickly became a major annual event showcasing veterans, personal effort, and Morgantown at its September best. Championing Morgantown through great events has become a specialty of his: Summerlin now serves as director of major events and destinations at the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he manages the Morgantown Marathon as well as the MountainFest Motorcycle Rally and other events. He also continues to serve Operation Welcome Home on its board of directors.

A junior political science major at WVU, Roark Sizemore started the nonprofit Pantry Plus More when he was a senior at Morgantown High; he and community partners have since spun it up to pantries in 10 schools and a growing list of side projects. This is just Sizemore’s most ambitious of numerous volunteer activities. He hopes to attend law school.

Best Pre-K–12 Principal
Dennis Gallon , Cheat Lake Elementary

As an elementary school teacher in the 1980s, Dennis Gallon taught through school consolidation and the county’s transition from junior highs to middle schools. He later moved into administration, spending 10 years as principal of South Middle School and eight so far at Cheat Lake Elementary. He loves it. “The staff, the teachers and the assistants, the custodians, secretaries, cooks—they’re just all so totally interested in what they’re doing and want to be there, and they’ve developed really nice relationships with kids,” Gallon says. “Because of that, the kids like being there.”
Cheat Lake Elementary tries to grow leaders one child at a time, he says. “Being responsible for who you are, making the best of the opportunities that you have, being a role model.” His part in it is to make sure the teachers have everything they need. Both parenting and teaching are harder than they used to be, he says. “But nothing is more satisfying than when you’re all on the same page and you all respect what you’re doing to make the children self-sufficient and successful and leaders.”

Best Pre-K–12 Teacher
Debbie Wise, Cheat Lake Elementary

Every child who walks through Cheat Lake Elementary teacher Debbie Wise’s door deserves an excellent education, in her mind. Wise grew up in a family and extended family of teachers and always wanted to be one. After studying at WVU, she taught in Pennsylvania and Virginia, then landed at Cheat Lake Elementary for the past 20 years of her 25-year career. She’s taught all of the elementary grades except fourth and currently teaches second grade.

Wise was surprised and humbled by the BOM win and attributes it to her genuine enthusiasm. “I love teaching and love to motivate my kids, and I think that comes across,” she says. She finds the rewards to teaching endless, but most rewarding has been the grown-up former students who tell her they went into education because of her. “If I can inspire a student in any way academically and then also personally in their life to go on into a career like teaching, that makes me feel pretty awesome.”

Best Chef

Morgantown loves its chefs. With more than 6,000 ballots cast in this category, our three finalist chefs ended within a couple dozen votes of each other. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise us each of them brings genuine passion to the kitchen.

Marion Ohlinger, Chef and owner at Hill & Hollow

As a 12th-generation West Virginian, Chef Ohlinger doesn’t incorporate “Appalachian” into his style—he incorporates “global” into his innate Appalachian sensibility. His 30-year career has carried him to more than 40 countries on five continents and to helm kitchens in places as diverse as the American southwest, Seattle, and backcountry Alaska. Over the past 15 years in Morgantown, he and his wife and business partner, Alegria, developed Solera Cafe, then Richwood Grill, and now Hill & Hollow, expressing a modern Appalachian vernacular that ranges from centuries-old regional dishes to the flavors of immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Hill & Hollow’s artistic and business aesthetic is defined by farm to table, Ohlinger says. He sees it as “aggressively progressive”: “We don’t do popular dishes, we invent our own.” 709 Beechurst Avenue, 304.241.4551, @hillandhollowwv

Thomas Metzler, Co-executive chef at Sargasso

Chef Metzler grew up in Austria, cooking with his grandparents. Apprenticing at a local restaurant, he fell in love with the art of cooking and went on to culinary school. He studied music in the U.K. before moving to the U.S. and joining the Sargasso team.
“I like putting contemporary touches on classic dishes, but also love dabbling in new flavor combinations,” Metzler says. Food is comfort, he says, and often brings back memories—especially for people like himself living outside their home countries. He loves seeing diners’ reactions to region-specific dishes they’ve never tried. “At the end of the day, I think that’s why we all do it—to make people happy. I can think of few industries where you can see such instant results of the hard work.” 215 Don Knotts Boulevard, 304.554.0100,

Mark Tasker, Chef and owner at Table 9

Chef Tasker once told Morgantown magazine that the clean, industrial lines and floor-to-ceiling windows of his riverside restaurant complement his menu. “It’s minimalist and raw. It isn’t fussy. I don’t like fussy food, so that goes hand in hand.”
Inspiration fueling the concept at Table 9 comes from both the chefs in the kitchen and the diners enjoying the plates they serve, Tasker says. He and his kitchen staff like to push their own limits and the limits of Morgantown’s culinary scene.
“I’m a chef driven by technique and the art of cooking,” Tasker says. “I don’t believe in shortcuts when cooking. Most of my inspiration comes from things I’ve eaten as a child, places I’ve visited, and the ever-evolving culinary world.” 40 Donley Street, 304.554.2050,, @table9morgantown



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