Every state has its quirks. Kool-Aid pickles and boiled peanuts are two of the most popular snacks in Alabama. Meanwhile, Hawaiians chow down on poke and loco moco, and we all know that in Pennsylvania, the cheesesteak reigns king.
For locals in the coal mining state of West Virginia, it’s the pepperoni roll. The state’s most popular snack and official state food is akin to a modern day version of a pocket-sized pepperoni calzone, only without the mozzarella and with a slightly sweeter, denser bread surrounding spicy sticks of meat.
You could say it’s the original “grab and go” snack for several reasons.
The roll is great warm but is also perfectly fine for leftovers a day later. About the size of your palm, miners in particular liked it because they could get a full meal without having to lug around multiple lunch items.
And the secret to the taste that everyone loves? The slabs of pepperoni — usually large, multiple sticks — that are placed within the sweet dough and baked together. The tantalizing juices mix right into the bread so every bite is packed with flavor.
Simple, delicious, and just the right amount of grease to leave you satisfied without feeling stuffed — it’s hard not to get hooked.
With the hay days of mining long gone, variations on the pepperoni roll have taken shape over the years. Some restaurants add a little mozzarella cheese to the mix; while others treat it more like a calzone and serve it with marinara on the side. More often than not though, the size remains true to its origin.
For a first time visitor to West Virginia, it doesn’t get much better than making your way down to Fairmont for a fresh batch. An old mining town just past Baltimore — it’s supposedly where the pepperoni roll originated. So much so that locals call it the Pepperoni Roll Capital of the World.
It’s within Fairmont that locals and visitors agree: the Country Club Bakery has the best pepperoni rolls in the state. One of the original purveyors, the bakery doesn’t try to distract diners with fancy dipping sauces and they’re not asking you to try it with a bunch of cheese stuffed inside either. The Country Club Bakery makes them like they have been since the 30s. Simple and straightforward.
If you can’t make it to Fairmont, you can still try the snack at bakeries throughout the state. You can also pick up a few from the local gas station, but the journey to the source is well worth it if you’re into food history.