Friday, January 15, 2016

Charleston Area HDJ Review - One Stop Sub Express

I was in a hurry and had to stop for a quick lunch, so I thought I would drop in at the Sub Express inside the One Stop on Lee Street West. I was thinking turkey sub, but then I saw a sign advertising a hot dog special, so I figured I'd take a chance. Almost immediately after ordering, regrets started creeping into my brain.

First of all, I should have known better than to order a hot dog at a place where the toppings are completely undefined. Asking what "everything" meant was met with a blank stare, and a gesture toward the myriad of toppings available for all subs: Anything from lettuce to tomatoes to olives, to jalapenos and more are all considered fair game for these hot dogs. Thankfully among the cornucopia was chili, slaw, mustard and onions, so that's what I ordered.

The next regret came when I saw the weenies getting warmed up on a roller machine: Never a good sign.

The third regret was when I was asked if I wanted my bun steamed and when I said "yes" they were plopped into the microwave for a good nuking.

So by the time my hot dogs arrived at the register I had very low expectations that they were going to be good, I was just hoping for edible.

And I was surprised.

Despite the problematic beginning, these hot dogs were actually very good. The slaw was sweet, creamy and fresh. The chili was flavorful, if not spicy, and the roller-dog actually tasted more like a grilled weenie. The microwaved bun - usually a sure-fire way to make one tough and chewy - survived its torture and after being double wrapped in wax paper and aluminum foil, actually was soft and delightful. A completely surprising hot dog which earns a solid Four Weenie score.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Charleston Area HDJ Review - Trivillian's Pharmacy & Soda Fountain

It is almost impossible to believe, but in just a few days this blog will be 10 years old, and one of the first hot dog joints we reviewed way back when was Trivillian's Pharmacy (you can read that review here). Trivillian's has been through a lot since then and has seen a lot of changes (you can read more about that here), but we're happy to report that the soda fountain as largely stayed the same through all of the tumult that the pharmacy experienced. Now that the dust has settled we decided to make another visit to see if the hot dogs were still as good as before.

If you read the 2006 review, then really there's not much else to know about the physical attributes of the business. The deer in the parking lot that used to be paisley are now painted in sort of a cow print black and white motif, and the soda fountain now takes up a little more space inside than it did before. Other than that, the place is pretty much the same as it was ten years ago, which is a good thing for a place that is trying to preserve a bit of true Americana like an old-timey soda fountain. Trivillian's is doing a stellar job of this, and the timeless look of the interior from the red Naugahyde bar stools and the chrome fixtures to the black and white checkerboard floor still look great. The hot dogs, however, are different.

The 2006 Trivillian's hot dog had slaw that was nearly perfect in texture and was quite sweet. This slaw is much drier and has a milder flavor. The chili was still just a touch spicy, but where the 2006 version had a pronounced chili powder flavor, the 2016 chili's spice seemed a bit more exotic - sort of Asian flavored. Not bad, just different. The chili and slaw were good together, and the mild onions did not detract from the synergy.

The one thing that was exactly the same was the heavenly soft buns, thanks to the shvitz that each bun enjoys in the vintage steamer that sits prominently alongside the grill. Every hot dog bun should get such treatment.

In 2006 we gave Trivillian's a 4 Weenie rating, and even though the 2016 hot dog is different, we're going to hold that score.

Lastly, we don't give bonus points for non-hot dog criteria, but if we did we would certainly give them to Trivillian's for including on the back page of their menu a printout of our review from our now-defunct website Good on you, Trivillian's folks!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Charleston Area HDJ Review - Dairy Winkle

Sitting near the mouth of Campbells Creek, just a stone's throw from Route 60, is this venerable old building that has been home to many hot dog joints over the years. Dairy Winkle is the latest incarnation, but perhaps its best-known occupant was Bowincal's, from which - obviously - the current name is somewhat derived.

Dairy Winkle is run by colorful local businessman Kerry "Paco" Ellison. For more about what makes Paco such a colorful character, read here, here and here.

The hot dogs at Dairy Winkle are served by a polite and friendly staff who obviously take pride in their little establishment. The hot dogs are passable but lack any real pizzaz to make Dairy Winkle a destination, or to really even lay a claim to the best hot dogs on Campbells Creek. The slaw is good in texture but lacking much flavor, and you can say pretty much the same thing about the chili. They work together pretty well, though, so we're going to give it a 3.5 Weenie score.

Sorry but a camera malfunction rendered the photo of the hot dog unusable, but trust me when I say it was a fine looking specimen, just wasn't anything to write home about taste-wise.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Charleston HDJ Review - Zippy's Hot Dogs and Ice Cream

We watched all summer long as this new HDJ was being built near Southridge off of Corridor G in Charleston. We figured a standalone HDJ that wasn't a front for a gambling parlor had to be serious about hot dogs and would no doubt be great. We figured wrong.

I really don't wish to waste as many words as it would take to accurately describe how disappointing my Zippy's visit was. It started as soon as I walked through the door and saw a whole host of different kind of hot dog pictures on the menu board and none of them looked familiar. The photo beside the name "WV Dog" was of a New England Style bun with a weenie hanging out of the end so far that it looked almost pornographic, and on top of the whole thing were a few unrecognizable toppings. When I asked what was on the WV Dog, the young lady said "anything you want." Strike two.

Since it was obviously ala carte ordering, I ordered a standard hot dog with chili, slaw, mustard and onions. After not much wait I got my hot dog and went to my car, since there are no provisions for inside dining - only picnic tables, which on this day were windswept and chilly.

Everything about the hot dog was unremarkable, except the weenie: Zippy's has what they call and "spiral grilled" weenie, which might be interesting if it were not covered by toppings, but really didn't add anything to the aesthetics of the hot dogs. The weenie was way overcooked (perhaps that is endemic with "spiral grilling") and was tough and chewy. Topped with tasteless slaw and even less tasty chili. Bad hot dog. Bad, bad hot dog.

I'll give it a one-half Weenie rating, since I was hungry and it filled my stomach.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Summersville Area HDJ Review - Long Point Grille and Bar

I'd been looking forward to this for a long time since we've received several emails and Facebook recommendations about the place for the past couple of years. Long Point Grille and Bar sits just across the road from its namesake Long Point Overlook, which provides one of the best possible views of Summersville Lake. The motif is mostly sports bar and it is much smaller than it appears from the road, with seating for probably 20-30 people, with a few more at the bar. We stopped on a cool, late fall afternoon and it was a pleasantly warm inside, both in terms of the temperature and the service. A nice place, with nice people in a nice atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the hot dogs are not so nice.

Starting off with the news that "everything" included ketchup, it went downhill from there. A grilled New England Lobster Roll bun provided the foundation for a way too much stuff including some of the largest chunks of onions that I've ever seen; about the size of large salad croutons. The slaw was a decent texture but had no discernible taste, nor did the chili. Down underneath there was a weenie that snapped when I bit it, meaning that it was probably grilled, but there was no way to see it under the pile of toppings. The taste of the weenie did stand out, however, since there was no other flavors to mask it. 2 Weenies.

With 5 Weenie Fat Eddies just around the bend from Long Point Grille, our recommendation is to wait for Spring before heading to the area for hot dogs


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wardensville HDJ Review - KAC-KA-PON Restaurant

The proximity of the Cacapon River to Wardensville makes one think that the name of this venerable old restaurant would be "KA-KAY-PON" which is more in keeping with the local (and therefore correct) pronunciation of "Cacapon." But no, the sign clearly implies that the pronunciation is more like "Kak-upon", which depending on the region you from which you hail, means something different, but equally disgusting. I won't go into it, but you may Google the slang word "Kak" and see for yourself.

I understand that it is distracting to begin a review with a discussion of the odd name of the restaurant, but in this case it is a perfectly fitting way to illustrate my experience there. I never quite got past the distraction of the name and I'm sure that my confusion affected the way I experience my hot dog.

Which was just as odd as the restaurant's name.

Now I know that Wardensville lies on the fringes of West Virginia, and I know that it is influenced by the food culture of the Other Virginia, but if you have a hot dog on the menu - on the adult menu right there next to other sandwiches - maybe you should make an effort.  When I order food in a full-service restaurant, I expect it to be complete when I get it. When I order a hot dog with chili, slaw, mustard and onions please do not bring a hot dog covered with so much chili that there is no room for anything else, and please do not bring the slaw and onions in specimen cups. And oh, by the way, please don't make me get up and go to the counter to ask for mustard.

And just for good measure, please use a bun that was delivered this week and hasn't been sitting out on the counter since yesterday afternoon.

Lest you think that I am being totally negative in this review, allow my to interject some kind words. The recent opening of a new section of Corridor H from Mount Storm to Moorefield makes the trip from Charleston to the DC area delightful. I highly recommend the route over the standard I64/I81 or I79/I68 alternatives. And Wardensville is a lovely little town and I recommend stopping. And KAC-KA-PON Restaurant is an otherwise good eating establishment, but just not for hot dogs.

1 Weenie

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cairo HDJ Review - Shemp's Ice Cream Parlor

Cairo (the one in Ritchie County, not the one in Egypt) is a little town primarily known for its proximity to North Bend State Park and for being a stop on the 72 mile long North Bend Rail Trail. There area couple of general stores, a diner, a bike shop and Shemp's Ice Cream Parlor. Shemp's might not be named for that famous (and some may say, lesser) Stooge, of The Three Stooges fame, but he gets his share of homage in the decor of the cute little shop that looks legitimately like it is from the 1950s, not in the fake knock-off way, but things inside Shemp's look like they were there in 1958 and haven't been moved much since.

Fortunately Shemp's sells more than just ice cream, because we were hankering for hot dogs when we rolled in off of the trail on our bikes. We hoped that they were good ones, but when the waitress included ketchup in her list of toppings on an everything dog, we were a bit concerned about the quality. Thankfully our concerns were unfounded. We did notice that chili is called "sauce" here, which is understandable given Cairo's proximity to the Ohio River.

Shemp's hot dog is complex. It tries very hard to be a Genteel Dog, with its split and grilled weenie and giant helping of toppings, but is far too messy to rise above the Utilitarian Dog category. Not that this is a bad thing, not at all: In a small trailside town like Cairo, nobody s going to judge you if you have chili and slaw stains on your shirt and really, there is something magical about a hot dog that takes three or four paper napkins to get through, isn't there?

No, there's really nothing bad about Shemp's hot dogs. The bun was a little crusty, seemingly warmed in dry heat instead of steamed, but the chili/sauce and slaw were applied so heavily that a steamed bun might not have been up to the task anyway. The chili/sauce lacks much spice, but it is perfectly textured, as is the slaw. And speaking of slaw, purists will no doubt object to the orange flecks of carrots, but you won't catch this weenie wonk complaining - it tasted wonderful and was piled on in massive quantities. And most importantly, the Chili/sauce and slaw work together beautifully - the sign of a great WV hot dog. The hot dogs are very satisfying, both in quantity and in quality.

We're going to give Shemp's a Four Weenie ranking and recommend it to not only hungry trail riders, but anyone who finds themselves in the Mid Ohio Valley and in the mood for a great hot dog. But fair warning to you tie-wearing types: If you are going to be heading back to the office after lunch, bring a bib.