How To Explore Fairmont’s University District

We are exploring (blog by blog) the individual towns and areas that make Marion County what it is. Today, we’re driving to the University District. This encompasses all the wonderful places in, on and around Fairmont State University’s indeterminate campus. I say indeterminate because you really can’t control where college kids will gather, form or take over.

Although this blog is well suited to those newbies in the dorms (sorry, residence halls), all visitors are welcome to eat, shop and enjoy.

Let’s begin at the end of the downtown Historic District. (Its areas are also a bit ambiguous. I guess Marion County really knows how to transition well from one area to another. Either that or I’m just bad at geography. Who knows?)

sports bar featuring wings

Hoops Cafe

For our purposes,  University District begins at Hoops (maybe). What a perfect beginning! (Again – maybe.) This is the ultimate place in Fairmont to get wings (not maybe). The sauces are not only varied and numerous, but creative, too. Enjoy ‘Tears and Snot,’ ‘Jamaica Me Sweat’ and ‘Fire Breathing Dragon’ to name a few. If, for some strange reason, you’re not into wings, try the fried mac & cheese, jerk salmon or one of the specialty burgers. Their signature Hoops Burger is topped with barbeque, provolone, and onions.

Just a little up and over is the College Lunch. It’s what I like to call the Classic College Lunch because this is classic college. It is practically a must-try for your college years. It’s not proximity to the college so much as it is tradition that makes it a college classic. Aspiring academics have been going to the College Lunch for 43 years. Good thing the food is classic, too or this tradition would be hard to stomach (Get it?). With beer battered french fries, breaded mushrooms and cauliflower, DeMary’s Italian Sausage Hoagie and the Big Dawg Bacon Burger, the College Lunch really understands the classic college palate.

Now, cross the street and walk until you see it: the beautiful entrance to knowledge and promise. Fairmont State’s campus is a hamlet in and of itself. But, we can’t fail to mention the fact that it’s more than what it seems. It is both the home of the Fighting Falcons and Pierpont Community & Technical College.

One room schoolhouse

One room schoolhouse on the campus of FSU

Past the entrance, the first thing you’ll see is the one-room schoolhouse. This room was the institution’s first foray into teacher training in 1865. Today FSU offers more than 80 programs of study (nursing, business, engineering and technology, education, etc., plus graduate programs.) It’s a good thing they decided to expand the campus, am I right?

About that campus, it’s fully walk-able and beautiful. (So it’s also enjoyably walkable, too.) From the beautiful landscaping to the statues and architecture, it’s education is inescapable.

But if you’re in need of a break, you’ve got a choice between Chick-fil-A and Starbucks. But why choose? Both are fully equipped to handle any and all orders just like any other location. So go ahead, get both a grande quad, nonfat, one-pump, no-whip mocha and tons of Chick-fil-A sauce (and maybe a sandwich to go with it).

To, through and beyond Starbucks is swag. Bound for Success Bookstore is where you can get all your Fairmont State and Pierpont swag plus gifts for family. The sweatshirts are comfortable, the toddler t-shirts are adorable and the school supplies are helpful for obvious reasons.

Now for Wallman Hall, the epicenter of culture and expression, where the education isn’t so much in lecture as it is in lyrics and lines. The Fine Arts program is more than talented students entertaining the masses. It gives the community a way to support arts, culture, and diversity of thought while simultaneously taking in a show.

(Right across from the library is the campus Starbucks. Grab a muffin and a latte and you’re on your way.)


Frank and Jane Gabor WV Folklife Center

On the other side of campus is the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center. This building embodies the past, the tales and the spirit of Appalachia. Using history, geography and ethnicity, Fairmont State and its folklife program are attempting to better understand the components of Appalachian culture. Enjoy the libraries, exhibits, festivals, and performances.

This is where campus ends but where college life continues. Ironically, as you leave campus, there’s still so much of University District to be explored.

McAteers is the Irish Pride of Fairmont, but it’s an all American diner. Well, it’s all American 364 days of the year. (They serve some pretty delicious corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day.) Regardless, Irish roots plus great diner food is an unknown yet incredibly necessary combination.

Now, head to the flower bar at Perennial Floral. Seriously, you don’t even understand how necessary the flower bar is to your life. One bouquet of flowers changes an entire room. And one bouquet from Perennial Floral changes everything. (You’ll also find decor, jewelry and soon-to-come high-end wine like Duckhorn and Hess.)

Down the road is Wings Olé, another college mainstay. It’s where Mexican and American combine to create something truly amazing. Hombre chips, potato skins, tacos locos, bay fries, buffalo chicken burritos, fries & bleu – what more could you want?

Happy Garden is down, up and around the bend just waiting for you with mountains of Chinese food. Aside from being a very popular take-out place for the vast majority of FSU/PCTC residents, it’s just good food. And that makes people very happy … garden.

Say-Boy Restaurant is the perfect place for the homesick college kid to get some delicious home cooking. (But I’d say it’s even better than that. Sorry, ma!) Meals like meatloaf, pasta bake, and cream chicken are perfect comfort foods. But who could forget the candy yams, pierogies, fried green tomatoes, chicken Parmesan and chopped sirloin burger? And if you’re at home, there’s always dessert. Pick a cupcake, any cupcake:  lemon, strawberry, chocolate, Oreo. Have some ice cream with your pie or cobbler. And after all that, maybe take a pecan roll to go.

This next eatery might just be the most historic place in the whole county: Country Club Bakery. As we all well know (or should!), the pepperoni roll is the state food. Picture it: soft, warm bread filled with spicy sticks of pepperoni. All that spice, all that bread joining together so effortlessly, so perfectly – it didn’t just happen. Someone had to think it, make it and try it. And that someone was who else but Giuseppe Argiro. (You better not be asking who that is. …. No. I’m not mad, just disappointed.)

A quick history lesson: Argiro was an Italian immigrant who worked in the coal mines. The common lunch to take was bread and pepperoni. One day, he just decided on a whim to bake the two together. And that was it. He loved it. His friends loved it. He quit the mines and opened, you guessed it, Country Club Bakery.

So I say to all of West Virginia, on behalf of Marion County, you’re welcome.

And that is the end of University District (maybe). Conclusively (as is the proper end to many literary pieces #fairmontstate), University District seems to be filled with diversity of food and education (plus some swag). What a combination! So here’s to learning. Here’s to eating. And here’s to Marion County and many more discoveries!

What was your favorite hang-out when you attended Fairmont State?