Von Blaze has made the former Wall Street home of Maxwell’s a destination.
Located in the heart of downtown Morgantown, Von Blaze is anything but down-home.
Sure, it’s family-owned, with husband–wife team Chris McDonald and April Passaro leading a brigade of talented cooks and servers. Yes, its recipes are made-from-scratch creations that sizzle the taste buds and excite the senses.
But the restaurant is unmistakably modern—an oh-so-trendy spot offering elevated eats in casually upscale surroundings. And these aren’t your grandmother’s recipes. The classic sandwiches, soups, and salads here are presented with a twist.
We’re talking treats like hand-cut fries topped with braised short rib poutine and bordelaise sauce and a smoked and seared house-made country bologna sandwich stuffed with nacho chips, cheese, whole-grain honey mustard, and garlic mayo.
“When April and I started Von Blaze, we wanted to create menu items that would be accessible to a wide range of customers—taking some classic sandwiches and putting our touches on them,” McDonald explains.
One of those is a sloppy joe made of tempeh and chickpeas that you’d never guess was a meat-free meal. “We wanted to take a classic carnivore-esque sandwich and make it vegan,” McDonald says. “The sloppy joe is what we landed on, but the sauce can be used for any ground meats, beef, turkey, or anything. We use it often with ground bacon we smoke in-house for one of our burger specials.”
McDonald says some of his personal favorites on the menu are the Pot Liquor Pork Sandwich with smoked pork and collard greens and also the Drummies.
Wait, what? Drummies?
These Frenched and crispy-fried chicken drumsticks—tossed in sauces like Buffalo, Garlic Parm, Old Bay Buttermilk Ranch, or sweet-salty-spicy Japanese Tabasaki with Kimchi furikake and chives—are sure to become your new obsession.
And then there’s the Lobster Dog. Yes, you heard that right. “It’s our change-up of a New England lobster roll, and I think it really embodies what we try to do here—taking a classic sandwich as inspiration and making it our own.”
McDonald does that by making his own lobster and shrimp sausages, then adding toppings like Napa slaw, house-made potato chips, and a healthy squirt of brown butter mayo.
Just as those toppings add a triumphant finish to Von Blaze’s lobster dog, so do the restaurant’s current successes cap off quite a journey—from a startup food truck to a bustling spot offering some of the city’s hottest tables.
A 25-year veteran on the Morgantown restaurant scene, McDonald dreamed of opening his own place since he started his first real cooking job at Morgantown’s longtime Glasshouse Grille back in 1999. After honing his skills there and in North Carolina, he returned to Morgantown so he and Passaro—a Fairmont native with years of hospitality experience—could finally make his dreams come true.
Their quest started in the summer of 2021, when they rolled out the Von Blaze food truck and it became a hit on the local food scene. That initial taste of success got them hooked, so they set out to find a permanent space Von Blaze could call home. They found that in the Wall Street location downtown that formerly housed the beloved Maxwell’s, putting in lots of work to create the place you see today.
“We wanted to open a place that was comfortable and welcoming,” McDonald says, “with food for everyone made to the best of our ability.”
That, they did.
Tempeh Sloppy Joe
- 8 oz. pack of tempeh fermented soybeans
- 1 can garbanzo beans rinsed
- 1 tablespoon
- olive oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic chopped
- 1 teaspoon
- ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon
- chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 2 teaspoons
- Dijon mustard
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 1 small sweet yellow onion diced
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Pickled jalapenos and crispy onions for garnish optional
- Buns sprouted oat potato, or brioche bun are especially good choices.
- Grind tempeh and garbanzo beans in a food processor or chop by hand to the consistency of cooked ground beef. Set aside.
- In small sauce pot, heat olive oil and add garlic, cooking over medium-low until fragrant. Add remaining dry ingredients and stir until fragrant. Add remaining wet ingredients and bring to a simmer. Set aside.
- In a skillet, brown bell pepper and onion lightly. Add tempeh mixture and warm through. Add sauce to coat and cook 1 more minute until hot. Salt and pepper as needed.
- Scoop onto your favorite bun and garnish if desired.
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