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Dinin' Fine

West Virginia Wild & Wonderful - 2004 State Travel Guide

Dinin' Fine

We've become the kitchen of central West Virginia," Melody Urbanic says. It's true. Connoisseurs from all over the state and beyond its borders find their way to Cafe Cimino in Sutton.

Tim Urbanic's Italian grandparents gave the restaurant its name, taught Tim his cooking skills and fostered his passion for fresh, organic ingredients.

The Urbanics say their children are equally important to their success. All four have worded at Cafe Cimino. Indirectly, one daughter led them to its current location. "Jessie was interested in acting," Melody says. "Sutton's community theater was the initial attraction.

Renovating the 100-year-old Lee Hardware Store, which stands directly across the street from Sutton's Landmark Studio for the Arts, gave them more than a beautiful restaurant. With its wood floors and ornate, original metal ceiling, the cafe became another excellent arts venue and live music is standard fare on weekends.

A telling detail: the Urbanics have been known to cook for their performers at midnight, long after the guitar chords have faded. "They're like family," Melody says. "If our kids came in at midnight, we'd feed them."

Sweet and Simple

Cafe Cimino's casual elegance embodies the Mountain Lakes region. This is the peaceful part of the state, where the quality of life is defined by what's not here. No big cities. No traffic jams.

What is here is simple and straightforward. Fertile farmland and forests. Down-home values and deep roots. Long, lazy days and long, starry nights. Old-time music and old-fashioned fun.

Water, Water Everywhere

This is one of the most abundant wildlife regions in West Virginia. Five major lakes - Stonewall Jackson, Stonecoal, Burnsville, Sutton and Summersville - comprise more than 8,400 acres for fishing. Wildlife management areas occupy more than 60,000 acres.

One of the region's lakes, Summersville, rests behind a huge earthen dam that holds back the mighty Gauley River. Unleashed in the fall, it creates one of the world's most exciting whitewater runs.

Water-skiing, windsurfing, sailing and scuba diving are popular lake sports. A national hunting and fishing festival takes place in September at Stonewall Jackson Resort State Park, but the Mountain Lakes region is a year-round sportsman's paradise.

"Watchable" is the word for the wild things that live in the West Virginia State Wildlife Center at French Creek. Among other animals, the 300 acre sanctuary protects bison, bears, mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, wolves, birds, reptiles and a community of playful otters.

What's In a Name?

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson grew up in this neighborhood. Jackson's Mill, his boyhood home near Weston, is on the Civil War Discovery Trail. Jackson's Mill is also a popular site for conferences and festivals, including the Stonewall Jackson Heritage Arts & Crafts Jubilee and the Voices from the Mountains storytelling festival.

Stone Jackson Lake State Park, a few miles to the south, is home to West Virginia's newest four-season attraction, Stonewall Resort. For overnight lodging, choose the 198-room Adirondack-style lodge, a cozy lakeside cabin or even your own private houseboat. Among many other amenities, the nationally acclaimed Arnold Palmer 18-hole championship golf course makes it a must-play destination.

Festival Feeling

Sutton's Landmark Studio for the Arts, a converted 1896 Victorian church, offers theater and live music on weekends. Every June, the West Virginia State Folk Festival turns Glenville - including parking lots and tree-lined streets - into one big old-time jam.

Sharpen your axe for the Webster County Woodchopping Festival in May. At Weston's Gold Dollar Days in June, witness a Civil War-era re-enactment of the robbery of $27,000 in gold from the Weston Exchange Bank. Sip and savor at the Lewis County Wine Festival over Labor Day Weekend.

Bygone Battlefields

Where tradition is part of everyday life, Civil War memories linger in the landscape and in local memory. In September 1861, Union General William S. Rosencrans chased Confederate General John B. Floyd's troops across the Gauley River Gorge near Summersville. Each fall, a re-enactment at Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park fills the air with smoke and thunder.

Bulltown, a historic district near Sutton, was the site for a Native American settlement and an 1863 Civil War battle. From May through mid-October, living history demonstrations revive 19th-Centry life at the complex.

Both Bulltown and Carnifex Ferry are Civil War Discovery Trail stops.

Mountain Memories

The Mountain Lakes region specializes in family camping. State parks with campsites include Holly River, Cedar Cree, Stonewall Jackson and Audra. There are very good privately owned campgrounds, too. Holly River also offers summer nature programs for park guests.

If you want to take home a memento, you'll find that some of West Virginia's most talented artisans live and work here.

Look for high-quality handcrafts at Poplar Forest in the Flatwoods Factory Outlets. Several glass studios and outlets are in the Weston area.

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Rest easy in the Mountain Lakes - you won't find a more appealing array of country inns, B&Bs and restored mansions. Spend some time in this region that calls to you with a soft voice, feeds you with old-fashioned goodness and sings you to sleep with a lullaby.