Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Teays Valley HDJ Review - L&R BBQ

This little restaurant, that has recently changed ownership (and its name) is hidden back in a little cove alongside Route 34 near Hurricane High School. You will probably smell it before you see it, because out front is a high-capacity smoker that seems to be always emitting a large quantity of delicious smelling hickory smoke.

Not knowing that hot dogs were on the menu when I stopped, I had set my taste buds for pulled-pork. But since I rarely get to Teays Valley at lunch time and didn't know when I'd be back this way to do a review, I thought I might as well get the hot dog special, especially since it was called the "WV Special" and the ingredients were listed correctly. At $2.25 a dog, these would be on the pricey side, but would they be worth it?

One very encouraging sign that the hot dogs might be good was that the menu offered their hot dog chili in take-home quantities.

So I ordered the special, straight up, and in a flash my hot dogs had been delivered to my table. Honestly, at first sight I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of slaw on top of the hot dogs, and a little turned off by the onions that were chopped a little too coarsely for my tastes. But all of that prejudice vanished when I took the first bite.

OK, first, the chili: Yes, I think I will take a tub of that to go. I will eat it on hot dogs, spaghetti, heck, on saltine crackers if I have to. This stuff is tasty. Rich, complex and perfect texture. A pronounced chili-powder taste, but not too spicy otherwise. Just delicious.

And the slaw? Heavenly. I was at first a little concerned by all of the green flecks, thinking they were grated bell peppers, but it didn't taste like it. This slaw goes perfectly with the complex chili and even though it was piled high on the bun, it did not overwhelm the chili. It is sweet and perfect in texture. The two were just great together.

The onions were mild enough that the large size didn't hurt, and the slaw was such a beautiful texture that they kind of sunk into it and didn't fall off like coarse onions are often wont to do.

And there was the weenie. OK, you know that we usually get all googly about weenies around here, but this weenie made the whole dog better because it had obviously spent some time hanging out in the smoke house out front. The smoky-grilled goodness took this hot dog from being really good to Five Weenie great.

These hot dogs are so good, it's probably a good thing that I don't get to Teays Valley at lunch time very often. But then again, there's always dinner...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Charleston Hot Dog Cart Review - Super Weenie

On a nice Spring day, there's nothing like a good hot dog served fresh from a cart along a tree-lined street.

That's why I was psyched to find this new hot dog cart sitting on the corner of Capitol and Lee Streets, just outside of Davis Park. How could there be a better location to enjoy a hot dog? Before I allowed myself, though, to get too excited, I recalled past hot dogs I had found at downtown Charleston street vendors. Many people have tried, and almost all have failed, to deliver a good WVHD from the challenging conditions posed by a cart. Would Super Weenie be different?

I had a good feeling when I noticed that the menu had "Chili - Slaw- Onions - Mustard" segregated in a special place at the top. When I asked what "everything" was, I was confidently told the proper ingredients for a true West Virginia Hot Dog. I also was really, really impressed that while Super Weenie had ketchup on its list of possible toppings, it was at the very bottom of the list and in a very small font. Excellent.

My optimism increased when I read that the weenies were Nathan's Famous, and it swelled again when I was asked if I would like my bun steamed! Oh, boy, would I ever! But how is that even possible on a cart? Ingenuity, that's how (I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to find out for yourself how they do it.)

As if I could get any more optimistic, I nevertheless was when the lid came off of the chili container and the rich and complex aroma met my olfactory organ. And seeing the texture of the chili as it was spooned onto the hot dog also added to to my ever-heightening expectations; it looked simply perfect.

Alas, the slaw's appearance did not inspire further confidence, being a little too chunky, But when the finished hot dog was finally delivered into my waiting hands, the heft, softness and aroma combined into a multi-sensory delight.

Tasting the hot dog did not disappoint. All of the visuals translated to taste as I expected, although the chili could stand a bit more spice. Perhaps the most remarkable thing for a cart hot dog was that everything was the perfect temperature: Each ingredient was exactly right, the weenie and chili were hot and the slaw was cold. The only part of this hot dog that needs improvement is the slaw: The texture is far too coarse and the flavor is a bit bland. This should be an easy fix, and for a five-day old business, we can only expect things to improve moving forward. Perhaps by the end of summer, Super Weenie will be truly super.

For now, we're still going to award Super Weenie a very good Four Weenie rating. Better slaw will definitely bump it a half-point.

 You will be able to find Super Weenie on the same corner on most nice days for the rest of the Summer and into the Fall, and you can follow them on Facebook here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Upper Kanawha Valley HDJ Review - Not Frank's Pizza

So we went to Not Frank's Pizza. Not "Frank's Pizza", "Not Frank's Pizza." And not for pizza, but for hot dogs.

If you found that sentence confusing, you can read about the way this restaurant got its unusual name here. And then come back here to find out about their hot dogs.

Now for the record, we did not go to Not Frank's original Montgomery location, but the new on that is located in the old Twin Hills Restaurant in Shrewsbury. To confuse matter more, the Twin Hills sign is still on the west side of the building, so perhaps this Not Frank's should be known as "Not Twin Hills,"  but that is a business decision they need to make. We're here to talk about hot dogs.

First, be advised that "everything" on a hot dog at Not Frank's will get you ketchup if you're not careful. I, being careful about such things, deleted that from my order. I was first a little dismayed when the waitress told me that she would get my hot dogs "as fast as we can," and I worried that I would be in for a long wait even though there wasn't another soul in the place. Thankfully the wait wasn't too long, and I was further encouraged by the look of my hot dogs when they arrived. Over the last several hot dog reviews I have done, IO have seen a disturbing trend toward coarse slaw that was made with large chucks of cabbage, but Not Frank's was exactly the opposite: Finely grated, but perhaps a bit too runny. It tasted fine, though, more sweet than tart and was applied in generous helpings.

The chili was decent, with a slightly spicy taste and a nice texture. The chili and slaw went together well. I could not detect any onions at all: either they were chopped as small as the cabbage, or they were hidden under another topping.

The bun was one of those Yankee New England Split Top Lobster Roll buns that have been invading West Virginia for some time now (and about which we are going to be having a conversation real soon because the WV Hot Dog Public needs educated - again). It was grilled and tasted OK, but as always added way too much bulk to the finished hot dog.

Overall, the hot dog was satisfying. Nothing to right home about, but certainly not disappointing. We'll award it a 3.5 Weenie rating. With better onions and bun it could be a 4.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Charleston HDJ Review - Big Joe's Bar & Grill

I've been trying to get to Big Joe's for a while, not for hot dogs but for their Pastrami on Rye; a sandwich I had heard about my whole life but have never tasted. As far as I know, Big Joe's is the only restaurant in Charleston - maybe in West Virginia - that serves this New York staple food, and furthermore, they make their own pastrami on the premises. I had to try it, and when I finally made it in I found that they also had hot dogs, so I had to try those too. I should have stopped with the pastrami.

So should Big Joe's. They should stop offering hot dogs. Never serve another one. Ever. Let me explain:

The first indication that this was not good to be a good hot dog experience was when I saw cheese as a standard topping. I of course, deleted the dairy and went ahead boldly, thinking that at least the rest of the standard ingredients were correct - chili, slaw, mustard and onions. But then...

My hot dogs arrived and I immediately recognized a few potential problems: First, the bun had been grilled to within and inch of its life, and was no longer able to hold the weenie and other toppings. When I picked up my first hot dog it fell apart on the way to my mouth, and the second one - still on my plate - fell over when the first one was moved spilling its toppings all over the plate. Easily the messiest two hot dogs I have ever eaten. And I will remind you, I have eaten a lot of hot dogs.

When the "chili" spilled out (and I use quotation marks to sarcastically point out that it was pseudo-chili), from the looks and taste of it, it was nothing more than slightly browned ground beef. Tasteless.

Then there is the "slaw" (yes, there are those sarcastic quotes again), that seemed to be the cabbage portion of sauerkraut with nothing else added to it. It was long, stringy threads of cabbage with hardly any flavor.

There were large hunks of red onions on top of the stringy slaw.

The mustard and weenie were fine.

Big Joe's gets 1 Weenie, and that might be generous.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Townsville HDJ Review - The Hot Dog Factory

The WV Hot Dog Blog has gone on record numerous times about the way weenies are prepared. While we prefer grilled weenies, we are not too awfully concerned when hot dog joints use other methods to heat their meat. We've had excellent hot dogs whose weenies just came out of a hot bath, and even the dreaded roller dogs can't hold an otherwise good hot dog down. Generally speaking, we take a "when in Rome" attitude about how weenies are cooked.

But hold the phone, we recently were told about a new hot dog joint in Townsville that did something completely out of the ordinary to their hot dogs: Chicken Fried Hot Dogs. We could not envision what a chicken-fried hot dog would look like, much less taste like, so we scheduled a road trip up Route 12 as soon as we could. Although we didn't have an address for The Hot Dog Factory, we went anyway, figuring that we'd ask around once we got there. It turned out we didn't have to ask, because as you probably know, Townsville has only one street that runs through the center of town and every business (I think there are three) is on this street, so we soon found ourselves in front of a very cool looking little hot dog joint. We hoped that they had normal hot dogs in case the chicken-fried version wasn't to our liking.

Chicken-Fried Hot Dog
Walking in to the Hot Dog Factory, we immediately spied the Chicken Fried Hot Dog on the menu, threw caution to the wind and ordered up. When asked what "everything" meant, I was please to hear that Chili, slaw, mustard and onion were the standard toppings. I didn't however, expect to be asked whether I wanted Original or Extra Crispy, but without thinking I went for original. 

Now I have certainly had chicken-fried steak, and even chicken-fried chicken and I thought I knew what to expect. I envisioned that my hot dog would have its weenie encrusted with a golden-brown crust, nestled inside a bun with the normal toppings applied. I was even a little concerned about my ability to take a good photo of the weenie, and I found myself kind of hoping that the toppings would be more sparsely applied that I usually like so I could get a better look. 

I completely misunderstood. 

When The Hot Dog Factory says "Chicken Fried Hot Dog" they aren't talking about the weenie. No, they take the entire hot dog, bun, toppings and all, and dip it into the chicken batter and then crispy fry the whole thing. So the finished product was a regular old West Virginia hot dog completely encased in a crust. Are you understanding this, dear reader? The Bun, weenie, chili, slaw, mustard and onions were on the inside! Astounding!

After getting over my initial shock, I finally bit into the hot dog and was amazed to find that it was absolutely delicious. The ingredients that we so love in their normal state, were somehow enhanced by the deep frying, and the salty chicken-crust made the whole thing an absolute symphony of flavor! I immediately ordered another one and forgot all about trying the other hot dogs on the menu (of which there are many, including a veggie dog that uses a steamed carrot in place of the weenie). It wouldn't be fair to rate this hot dog on the same Weenie Scale as more traditional hot dogs, but if we did it would surely be worthy of a 5 Weenie score.

We were so impressed by the Chicken-fried Hot Dog at the Hot Dog factory that we made plans for a return trip. We're thinking of going back again next year on the same day, because April 1 seems like the perfect day to have a foolish-sounding hot dog like this.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Charleston HDJ Review - Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill

Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill is one of the greatest culinary success stories ever in Charleston. Starting out with a smoker/grill along the sidewalk of one of Charleston's famous Five Corners where they developed a huge following, they eventually moved into an actual building on another of the corners. Then most recently moved across the street to yet another corner. But don't think that their largest claim to fame is dominating 3 out of 5 corners, or being the restaurant in town with the most slogans ("We be smokin'," "Home of Bay's Famous Ribs," "The best smelling corner in town"). No, D2B&AG has become the quintessential pulled-pork restaurant in town, and has been featured on a couple different nationwide TV shows to boot.

Having been to D2B&AG for pulled pork and other of their fantastic food, I was looking forward to checking out their hot dogs.

Although the lady behind the counter really had no idea of what "everything" meant ("I don't know what all they put on them back there," she said), I cut through the red tape and ordered mine with chili, slaw, mustard and onions. When they popped out of the kitchen, I was pleased to see they were tightly wrapped in aluminum foil, because I had planned on taking them for a short drive and eat the at home. I knew that the foil would keep them warm and give them a good steaming.

Upon arriving at home and unwrapping my lunch, I was a little dismayed to see the roughly chopped coleslaw that was piled on top of it. Now I should have known, since I had had their slaw with pulled pork, but then it was hidden under the bun. Here, exposed on top of the hot dog, it looked way too coarse. This, as it turned out, was the last complaint I would have about the hot dog.

The bun was very unusual because it was a standard hot dog bun, but it had been grilled; something usually reserved for New England Style buns. I'm not sure if I have ever - in over 10 years of hot dog reviewing - seen a standard bun grilled before. It was a great touch, providing that comfort-food toasted flavor and slight crunch without being overwhelming like those lobster buns.

Next was the split and grilled weenie. It was high-quality and expertly grilled. Covering the weenie was some delicious chili with just enough spice to make itself known. It paired well with the slaw.

This was a very good and satisfying hot dog, and if it weren't for the coarse slaw I would be tempted to award a strong 4.5 Weenie rating, but I have to deduct a half point, but still a strong 4 Weenie hot dog.

As good as it is, though, it's still my second favorite thing at Dem 2 Brothers. Next time I go back it will be for the pulled pork. Man cannot live by hot dogs alone; not even Weenie Wonks.