Friday, March 22, 2019

Charleston HDJ Review - Faithy's Corner Cafe

"Location, location, location" is the most common advice given to businesses. A great location can definitely help a restaurant overcome shortcomings, especially in a downtown business district. Faithy's has an ideal location, sitting on the corner of Summers Street and Brawley Walkway, halfway between downtown and the Town Center Mall. Serving basic lunch fare, it's been there for many years and has stood the test of time. With all of the hot dog competition it faces in the downtown area - most notably from Swiftwater Cafe and Super Weenie - one would think it's hot dogs must be at least passable.

We decided to find out.

 First, kudos to Faithy for wrapping up her hot dogs in wax paper. By the time I carried them back to my office they were soft and supple, just like a WV hot dog should be. Opening up the paper, it was clear that these were Utilitarian Dogs through and through: Built for taste, not for show. The heft of the dog was nice and all of the ingredients were wonderfully combined.

Sadly, "everything" on a hot dog at Faithy's includes ketchup. I didn't realize this and didn't ask them to delete it from my hot dog, so I tried my best to ignore the sugary tomato past taste and ate around it where I could. I found that Faithy's chili is fairly decent, with a strong chili powder flavor but not much spice. The slaw was too chunky, but the taste was OK, and it went well with the chili. The weenie was fine and the onions were reasonably chopped, but could have been a little smaller.

Overall,we can't say anything bad (except the ketchup) about Faithy's hot dogs. Clearly they are "also rans" to the two aforementioned HDJs, but nothing to apologize for. We'll give them 3.5 Weenies.

Friday, March 08, 2019

HDJ Re-Review - Griffith & Feil - Kenova

Consistency is the hallmark of a great Hot Dog Joint, and something we value at the WV Hot Dog Blog, because when we give a place a good review and our readers go and have a bad hot dog, it reflects poorly on us. So we celebrate consistency whenever possible.

It could be argued that Griffith & Feil Pharmacy is the King of consistency in the WV Hot Dog world. After visiting last week I went back and read the original review we did 12 years ago and I really don't need to alter a single word. Still great chili, better slaw and fantastic atmosphere in which to enjoy a hot dog. Still 4 1/2 Weenies, mainly due to the weenie size to bun ratio that limits the amount of toppings that the dog can hold. We also wish they'd steam their buns.

So rather than write another review, we'll just link to the one from January 2007 and tell you  that it's still great and still worth a visit.

PS: Also, the best onion rings I have had in many, many years.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Summersville HDJ Review - Fran's Restaurant

Fran's Restaurant and Coffee House, a Summersville Tradition
Fran's is one of those places about which  we've had dozens of emails claiming it is the best hot dogs in town over the years, but until recently, the stars never aligned for us to do a review. Perhaps it was this week's close approach of Comet 46P/Wirtanen, or simply the fact that I needed to make a rare mid-week trip through Summersville at lunchtime, but I finally made it.

Fran's has been a fixture in downtown Summersville for as long as I can remember. Offering lots of home-cooking options and just generally being the place to go for a hot meal or a cool piece of pie. In West Virginia, these kinds of places usually have hot dogs on the menu, so even if I hadn't receive lots of emails telling me so, I would have known that Fran's was a review target even before I walked in. The description on the menu gave no clues about how Fran's prepared an "everything" dog, so I had to asked the server: "Chili, slaw, mustard, onions...." she said, and then after a moment's hesitation she added "...and ketchup." I told her to keep the ketchup in the kitchen and just bring me two with the first four toppings.
Oops, no slaw.

When my hot dogs arrived, I first noticed the grilled split-top buns. Not a good start for a traditional WVHD, but it is a sit-down restaurant, so I can live with it. The grilling was well executed and the cook did a good job of not soaking the buns with butter which sometimes happens when West Virginians try to use New England buns. As a piece of bread, it was tasty.

I guess it was the combination of the dim lighting in the room, couple with the bright sunshine outside coupled with the me not wearing my reading glasses that made me take a bite of the hot dog before I realized that it had no slaw on it. I quickly brought this to the attention of the server, and she quickly brought me a bowl of slaw that I could apply myself, but before I did I had the opportunity to taste the chili alone. In typical Southern WV fashion, the chili had good texture, but was pretty bland. It could stand a doubling of the chili powder and maybe a dash of Cayenne.

A liberal slathering of slaw, self-applied.
Before I applied it, I had a few tasting bites of the slaw. Sweet, creamy and fine texture. It deserves better chili. Since I was applying it myself, and I had plenty to spare, I decided to really lay it on heavy to cover up the blandness of the chili.

Overall, the hot dogs at Fran's are underwhelming. Even if it had come properly dressed, the lack of synergy of the chili and slaw combination would make this an average hot dog at best. If you are a fan of grilled Lobster Roll buns you will probably like the bread, but didn't someone once say that man cannot live by bread alone?

We're giving Fran's a 3 Weenie rating. If they'd spice up the chili to better pair with the delicious slaw, it could be a 4. Could be the best in town, but with Fat Eddie's a short drive away, certainly not the best in the area. Of course, Eddie's is closed in the winter, so maybe Fran's is the best in town in the winter.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Marmet HDJ Review - Chum's Yellow Slaw Hot Dogs

While we consider creamy mayonnaise-based coleslaw with a slight sweetness to be standard issue for West Virginia Hot Dogs, we do allow for one micro-regionalized variation. In the little town of Marmet, just a few miles outside of the Capitol City, there is a long-standing tradition of Yellow Slaw on hot dogs. According to readers of this blog, Donald "Goat" Kinder was the person who originally developed the yellow variety, which he sold at The Dairy Post, located across the street from the old Marmet Junior High School. Now according to some people, The Dairy Post relocated to another part of town and changed its name to "The Canary Cottage." This is a matter of some dispute, however, because some folks have argued that the Canary Cottage was around before the Dairy Post. I'm certain that some Marmet folks will chime in here with their opinions.

Anyway, the Yellow Slaw tradition is now being carried on by one unique little HDJ called Chum's. We were there in 2009 right after they opened and found it to be just OK. But for the past few years we've heard that they had upped their game and have been trying to get back for a review, but they are not open on the weekends. Weenie Wonking is a part-time job, so HDJs that aren't open Saturdays or Sundays sometimes don't get a visit from us. Recently, though, Google erroneously reported that Chum's had Saturday hours, which got us obsessing about yellow slaw. By the time we found out that Google was wrong, well, we simply couldn't resist the obsession so we played hooky from work and made the trip. 

Chum's is a 12' x 20' roadside box that could be easily missed except for the line of hungry hot dog fans out front. A sign on the box displays a surprisingly long list of menu items, but the priority is clear with hot dogs at the very top. Regular readers will know that we are always impressed when a HDJ knows what "everything" means and is unequivocal. Chum's splits the vote here, though, as their menu confidently states it (Chili, Yellow Slaw & Onions), but the order taker was a little bit wishy-washy on whether everything included ketchup and mustard. I'm sure this is because the yellow slaw contains mustard already, and so many uninformed people order ketchup just because they don't know better. Bless their hearts.

Of course, I got mine with the true "everything" which meant adding a little mustard. 

It's been several years since I had partaken of  Yellow Slaw. The last time was at the bowling alley snack bar inside Galaxy Lanes, which being just a couple of miles from the Marmet line, had yellow slaw as an offering years ago (I'm not sure if it still does).  Before that, it was at Mr. C's, a small regional chain that had a location not far from Galaxy Lanes. The yellow slaw at Chum's was every bit as good as my previous tastings, and the chili underneath was far superior. 

Yellow slaw is sweeter that the white kind. That sweetness means that it needs a spicier chili to really bring out the flavor. Chum's accomplishes this well. Upper Kanawha Valley chili is typically very tame, but I was able to feel a little burn from the Chum's chili. Couple this synergy with a soft, steamed bun and a perfectly acceptable weenie, and you have a great hot dog. As I said, not completely standard by our normal measures, but it perfectly accomplishes what it's trying to do. It simply could not be any tastier, therefore earns a full Five Weenie rating.

Oh, and about the hours. Chum's is definitely not open on weekends but will soon be moving to their winter hours, which means they will close at 5:30 each weekday.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Gifts for the WV Hot Dog Lover from Liz Pavlovic Designs

Morgantown artist Liz Pavlovic has come up with another great gift for the WV Hot Dog lover in your life. "Slaw Thing" prints are available now in her Etsy Shop. 

Also look for the WV Hot Dog Pin but don't miss the other great WV themed art like pepporoni rolls, Mothman & more!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Jane Lew HDJ Review - Flying Dogs

Look at the picture on the left. I ask you, does this look like a flying dog? Is it just me or would it be more aptly described as a flying pig?

This seemingly obvious detail doesn't seem to bother the owners of Flying Dogs, a nice little eatery in Jane Lew (I assume that this animal ambiguity is also evident at the Weston location), but it kind of bothered me when I happened upon it. Was I walking into a BBQ joint or a HDJ? Do the owners not see the ambiguity, or are they intentionally playing a joke? Or is the pig some sort of emoji that is supposed to represent a word, so the name of the business is actually "Flying Pig Dogs"? I wonder about things like this.

Ah well, we'll save those musings for another time. Let's talk hot dogs, shall we?

Located just a few miles south of the Slaw Line, I was not completely surprised that an "everything"dog does not include slaw, but that slaw is available. This is pretty normal for what I think of as kind of the Slaw Line DMZ - that gray area that extends for a few miles in each direction where slaw availability is unpredictable. Thankful that slaw was listed as an option, I opted in, and once I got my hot dogs I was thankful again. This is a great hot dog.

There is really nothing but good to say about this hot dog. The bun was soft and steamy, the chili/sauce was delicious and just a little spicy, the onions and mustard were high quality and the slaw was nearly perfect in texture and in taste. Just fantastic. 4 1/2 Weenies.

One last comment about the town of Jane Lew: This is a very small town and yet it boasts - by my count - 5 locally owned restaurants. None of them look fancy, but the quality of Flying Dogs makes me want to try some of the others. Maybe some of them have hot dogs? A return visit is definitely in the cards.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Charleston HDJ Review - Hot Diggity Dogs

We've been getting messages about this new HDJ on Seventh Avenue in North Charleston for a few weeks. After waiting for the new business to get its sea legs, we decided to stop in for lunch today.

First, I have to say that I found it impossible to believe that the trade name "Hot Diggity Dogs" wasn't already taken in West Virginia. We have reviewed "Haught Diggity Dogz" in Morgantown (now defunct), "Mr Diggity" in Vienna, and a little stand inside a Nitro flea market called "Linda's Hot Diggity Dogs," but I was shocked to find out that nobody had thought to use the name "Hot Diggity Dogs" for a hot dog joint before; it seems so obvious. A quick review of the WV Secretary of State's site reveals that someone in Culloden had registered the name "Hot Diggity Dog" (singular) in 2013, but it wasn't until this year that anyone used the plural. Kudos to them. It's a great name.

I wish the hot dogs were as good as the name. They're not. They could be, though, with more attention to one key element.

The buns are soft, the weenie is perfectly grilled and tasty and the mustard is yellow. Check, check and check.

The chili: Hot Diggity Dogs has two kinds - regular and spicy. We got one of each. They should ditch the regular. It is virtually tasteless. The spicy is good, very good. It reminded me of Chris' Hot Dogs chili. It's not so overly spicy that it would be uncomfortable for anyone, especially if the slaw is right -  a nice sweet creamy slaw could really work with this chili.

Unfortunately, the slaw is where Hot Diggity Dogs fails completely. They have two kinds - regular and yellow. The regular tastes like small cabbage chunks in mayonnaise.  Not a good texture or taste, and it does nothing for the chili. The yellow slaw tastes like small chunks of yellow cabbage. It has virtually no other flavor. I don't even understand why it's yellow.

So even with a good bun, weenie and chili, given the importance of a proper chili/slaw synergy to West Virginia Hot Dogs, we can't give this hot dog more than a 3 Weenie score. With the Five Weenie Huskey's Dairy Bar just a short walk away, we would be hard pressed to give anything close to a recommendation. If Hot Diggity Dogs can up its slaw game, though, it could be a contender.