Friday, February 17, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - The Grill

The Grill, on Washington Street just west of the Interstate, is one of Charleston's most unique eateries. It is delightfully understated (even that might be an understatement!) decor-wise but the food is great and the service is like family. The menu is eclectic and regulars know what they are having before they walk through the doors. This week's and next week's specials can be read about in advance on the dry erase menu board behind the counter. I know people that plan their weeks around the specials, which it seems are the same 12 items recycled over and over again. I can personally attest that most of the specials are very good, and anecdotally that the rest of them are good as well.

In the back room you will often see some of the most influential politicos in Charleston having lunch together. Men in expensive business suits sit in old wobbly booths that looked like they were there before the building had a roof. The four TV's tuned to sports and news channels compete for wavelengths in the audible spectrum above the din of the diners. The walls are covered with 1970's wood paneling, Pepsi signs and the autographed pictures of celebrities both major and minor. The most recent major celebrity to dine there was Dick Cheney during the last election campaign.

"But", you ask, "what about the hot dogs?" Well, they are as interesting as the atmosphere of the restaurant.

First off, it must be said that hot dogs are not the specialty of the house but an obligatory item for any self-respecting West Virginian owned greasy spoon. This is good news because the dogs at The Grill leave something to be desired.

The cabbage in the slaw (the most important part of a real WVHD) was barely shredded and rather tough to chew. The chili, while it tastes pretty much like hot dog chili ought to taste, is very meaty and chunky. The wiener is a little tough and the buns seem to be toasted (or perhaps just kept in a dry warmer). Even after a five minute drive back to the office, even wrapped in wax paper, the buns were still a little crunchy in spots. The whole hot dog was an exercise in exercise to masticate.

Since The Grill is just down the block from Chris', it seems to be a shame to waste one's hot dog calorie budget on inferior specimens like these. If you are in the mood for liver and onions, hot bologna or a great bowl of pinto beans and cornbread The Grill is your place. But if you're in a WVHD mood keep on traveling west just a few doors down.

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