Chef Paul Smith’s perfect day in Charleston, West Virginia

The James Beard Award–winning chef shares his favorite ways to spend time in the city

Chef Paul Smith

Courtesy of Paul Smith

After years of working in kitchens in Florida, New York, Asheville, and Napa Valley, Chef Paul Smith returned home to the hills of West Virginia in 2020. “I absolutely love it,” he says. “The people are fantastic. The hospitality is Appalachian. We’ve never met a stranger.” His elegant twists on regional classics at his fine dining restaurant, 1010 Bridge, earned him the 2024 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast. He also helms the Pitch, a family sports bar, and Ellen’s Ice Cream, all located in Charleston.

A Walk in the Woods
“I’m up at 5 a.m. to exercise, usually at the gym. Or I walk the historic Sunrise Carriage Trail that goes down to the bridge across the Kanawha River. It’s a winding trail that was once used by carriages through a very quiet, wooded area. There’s a creek that runs close to it so you can hear the babble of the water. I try to really be in the moment and get some exercise at the same time.”

Cup of Joe
“Coffee is my last vice. I put a cube of ice in the bottom, pour in the espresso, and shoot it. That and ice cream are my breakfast of champions. At 1010 Bridge, we do a coffee program every month with a different roaster from West Virginia—Mountain Table, Mea Cuppa, and Mountaineer Roasting Company are all great.”

Mea Cuppa

Courtesy of Mountaineer Roasting Company

Market Driven
“When I want to get out of the restaurant, I go to the Capitol Market downtown—it’s a permanent market open year round. It’s almost like a food hall; there’s meat and seafood and a coffee shop and lots of West Virginia products. When they’re in season, you can get ramps and pawpaws that only grow here. I get inspired by the passion the farmers have for what they’re doing. The vibrant colors, smells, and textures make me think about what I want to do next in the kitchen.”

Capitol Market

Courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Tourism

Quick Bite
Sam’s Uptown Cafe is a little hole in the wall, and they have a wonderful burger called the Samburger. It’s half beef and half Italian sausage, and it’s absolutely delicious.”

Capitol Street Stroll
“Near Ellen’s on Capitol Street is a great bookstore and coffee shop called Taylor Books that also has a little art gallery. Nearby there are also two breweries, Fife Street and Short Story. I try to collaborate with them whenever I can.”

Taylor Books

Courtesy of the Charleston CVB

Shop Local
“I like to support local businesses as much as possible. For men’s clothing, I go to Tony The Tailor downtown. If I’m looking for a candle or local items, I go to the Vandalia Co., a little spot that started as a doughnut shop and evolved into a mercantile. J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works sells natural, hand-finished salt harvested from the ancient ocean bed that’s beneath this region.”

Farm to Table
“If it’s a special occasion, I like to travel out to Lost Creek Farm for a farm-to-table dinner. Owners Mike Costello and Amy Dawson grow everything they cook from heritage seeds. They host six-course dinners called the Farm & Forage Supper Club. They sell out fast, so you have to book early.”

“My favorite vegetable is mushrooms, and at 1010 Bridge we have a cocktail called the Cordycep made from Hernshaw Farms mushrooms, which are grown in storage containers on former strip mines. We soak them in bourbon, macerate them, and then strain off the mushrooms.”

This article appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Southbound.