Friday, May 17, 2019

Charleston HDJ Review- Super Weenie

Super Weenie began life as a hot dog cart that sold pretty good hot dogs on the corner of Lee & Capitol Streets in downtown Charleston. You can read our review from 2016 here. About a year ago, it graduated to a bricks and mortar location a block and a half away on Quarrier Street. We didn't mean to wait a whole year to do a review, but time happens and here it is.

With a slogan like "I'm serious about these hot dogs," we expected a great hot dog. HDJs that truly are serious about hot dogs are hard to find (even though many claim to be) but when you find one you know it because it shows in the care given to the various elements that make up a true WV Hot Dog. A HDJ that uses food service slaw, for example, can say they are serious, but any true WVHD fan can see right through their ruse.

We heard through the grapevine that since moving indoors, Super Weenie was making their own slaw, which was a good thing since the last time we reviewed them (while they were still a cart) their slaw was found wanting. So we went in, expecting and hoping that we would find that Super Weenie had found the missing ingredient to make their hot dogs truly super. 

They have.

Slaw purists, note the absence of carrots.
Every part of this hot dog is super indeed. The weenie was perfectly cooked, the chili deliciously complex (if not terribly spicy) and the slaw paired with it perfectly. The new slaw is perfect in texture and in taste: finely chopped cabbage sans core and just a touch of sweet. Onions & mustard did nothing to detract. The only possible thing over which we could quibble is that to get a steamed steamed bun you have to request it, but my bun was warm, soft, fresh and delicious so maybe it doesn't really need it because even without a steamed bun this is a Five Weenie superstar West Virginia Hot Dog . 

Congrats to the Super Weenie team on having a hot dog worthy of your name and your slogan. Arguably, the best hot dog in downtown Charleston. 

Friday, May 03, 2019

North Charleston HDJ Review - Huskey's Dairy Bar

After a bit of a dustup over on the  West Virginia Hot Dogs Facebook page a few weeks ago. we decided to go re-review Huskey's Dairy Bar in North Charleston. The reason for this re-review -- in addition to the fact that it’s been many years since we’ve reviewed Huskey's --was that several people took exception with our statement that another nearby HDJ was not as good as Huskey's. Several people chimed in on that discussion and said that Huskey's was not good anymore since the owners had changed.

This is a claim we hear often about HDJs that change ownership, and sometimes it is accurate. So just in case it was true, we decided to pay another visit to Huskey's to find out for ourselves.

Bottom line up front, those people who said Huskey's was not as good as it used to be are dead wrong. In fact, it might even be better.

The first thing that Huskey's gets points for is the proper toppings listed on their menu for what everything on a hot dog means: Chili, slaw, mustard & onions, just like God intended. The next thing for which we'll give them giant kudos is the perfectly steamed bun on which they laid the rest of their toppings.

Next let’s talk weenie; Huskey's is unafraid to use a smaller diameter weenie to allow more room for their other toppings. We have found over the years this is often the mark of a HDJ that is serious about its hot dogs. Some lesser HDJs put too much emphasis on the weenie and leave no room for toppings, which is usually a sign that those toppings don’t deserve the room anyway. Not so with Huskey's; these toppings are nearly perfect. The chili, while not terribly spicy, is perfect in texture and deliciously complex in taste. The slaw was great and a perfect complement to the chili, and it was lovingly applied in a perfect quantity. Lastly the onions were chopped well: Not too fine to be runny, not too large to be obnoxious. They stayed put when taking a bite out of the dog and were aromatic and delicious.

The only negative thing that I can say about Huskey's hot dog is their use of the dreaded Styrofoam coffin. We would prefer our dogs wrapped tightly in wax paper or plastic so it continues to steam the bun and keep it soft, but given that the bun was so perfectly steamed, the coffin did no harm this time.

We're going to give Huskey's a 4.5 Weenie rank and reaffirm our statement that it is definitely the best hot dog in North Charleston.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Pendleton County HDJ Review - Top Dog

Top Dog can be found in the Spruce Knob parking lot.
Perhaps the most aptly-named HDJ we've ever seen, Top Dog, situated near the summit of Spruce Knob, is unarguably above all other WV Hot Dog Joints. While a few feet lower that the 4,863 feet knob itself (the highest point in the state of West Virginia), Top Dog still must have an elevation of over 4,850, making it even higher than Cheat Mountain Dogs, one county over in Pocahontas.

But altitude aside, we wondered how Top Dog could serve a quality hot dog in such rare air and in such a remote location. One could argue that being the only food concession within a 40 minute drive (the closest being The Front Porch Restaurant at Mouth of Seneca) would be prime real estate, but the low volume of travelers that actually make the dusty 21 mile ascent up Forest Road 112 to the top of Spruce Mountain would seem to be a significant offset. Indeed the afternoon we were there, there were no other customers to be seen.
A Hot Dog with a View

Top Dog's menu offerings are obviously meant to ingratiate them to travelers from other places, with such specialty hot dogs as Chicago Dog, Classic Coney and two different kinds of Bratwursts. But we were pleased to find a WV Hot Dog with chili, slaw, mustard and onions placed in proud prominence at the very top of the menu, and fittingly called "West Virginia's Top Dog." Interestingly enough,  four spaces down the menu was a "Fairmont Dog" which was described as "A simple hot dog for the simple-minded, including overly spicy sauce, mustard and onions."

While we have to admit, finding a WVHD in such a remote spot was a real treat for us, the hot dog was just so-so. Apparently the altitude affects the slaw in negative ways. While I'm no scientist, I suspect that the lack of oxygen inhibits the uptake of complex sugars necessary for really creamy slaw, so the result was a little too sweet and a bit runny. The dry air also made the bun a little too stiff for our tastes. The chili was good. The view, however, couldn't be beat.

We'll give Top Dog a 4 Weenie score. It's hard to get to but worth the drive. Get an early start because you know how bad traffic can get on holidays like April Fools Day.

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.