Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Eating dinner at a ballgame usually means nachos covered in crayon-colored cheese, hot dogs cooked on a roller and big bags of super-salty popcorn.
There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but Civic Center catering service Distinctive Gourmet is offering sports fans more palatable options at the West Virginia State Boys High School Basketball Championships, which runs through Saturday.
Although the operation now includes four food carts, Distinctive Gourmet started its tournament food service several years ago with just one cart, Black Bear Barbecue.
It remains the most popular with customers, serving up smoked turkey or pulled pork on Kaiser buns.
Distinctive Gourmet cook Cornell Johnson said the cart typically goes through five to seven pork shoulders per day during the tournament, plus about seven turkeys. The meat is tender and flavorful all by itself, but Distinctive Gourmet also provides customers with three different barbecue sauces, all mixed in-house: the mild "Little Bear, the traditional "Black Bear sauce and a vinegar-based Carolina-style "Jonesies sauce.
The sandwiches are $8 apiece, and are served with fresh-fried potato chips, along with Distinctive Gourmet's special coleslaw.
"It's like a southern coleslaw. It's made with corn, cabbage, peppers, onions and a little Italian dressing, Johnson said.
The vinegar-based dressing lends this coleslaw a lighter, tangier taste than traditional mayonnaise-based slaw. It's almost like a coarsely chopped sauerkraut that hasn't been pickled yet.
While Distinctive Gourmet serves the slaw on the side, Johnson said some customers put it on their barbecue sandwiches.
For those who prefer a more traditional ballgame treat, the catering crew also has a build-your-own hot dog bar, but with a gourmet twist.
For $6, customers can choose between Italian sausage, Polish sausage, kielbasa and all-beef hot dogs, plus a huge variety of toppings.
"We have anything you can imagine, Johnson said.
All the obligatory West Virginia hot dog toppings are available - chili, slaw, chopped onions and mustard - but the cart also offers sauerkraut, cheese, marinara sauce, peppers and onions.
Although Johnson said he thinks it's kind of strange, some people even put pepperoni and bacon on their dogs. But why not? It's right there on the bar.
Distinctive Gourmet has similar build-your-own bars for tacos, salads, gyros and chicken wraps, all for $8 apiece. Those also feature the typical taco and sandwich fixings, from fresh vegetables and condiments for the sandwiches to hot peppers, olives, cheese and sour cream for the tacos.
The cooks regularly work 12-hour shifts during the girls' and boys' basketball tournaments, feeding hundreds of hungry fans who come to see the teams play.
The cart will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. today through Saturday, when the championship ends.