(Also posted at wvhotdogs.com under Charleston Area Hot Dog Joint Reviews.)
Regular readers know how I love sweet finely chopped slaw, soft buns, and runny chili. Well, the hot dogs at Freeman's Restaurant have none of these and somehow still manage to please my pallette.
Freeman's sits caddy-corner across Washington Street West from Chris', which makes it a challenging place to sell hot dogs. They have a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the prices on everything seem extremely reasonable. The aroma of barbecue fills the air at lunchtime (sometimes they cook ribs on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and the whole block smells that way!). The menu consists of soul-food standards like chicken livers and catfish, but also has some surprises like a Rueben Sandwich and Shrimp Alfredo. OK, but how could anyone in their right mind try to sell hot dogs across from Chris'? I'll tell you: By making them look, taste and feel completely different from an ordinary WVHD.
Alright, so here's the thing: Like I already said, this hot dog violates all my rules. I shouldn't like it. The slaw is coarsely chopped and has a strong taste of vinegar along with the sweet taste. I can't imagine eating it as a side dish. The chili has the consistency of midwestern "loose meat" sandwich meat but with seasoning that has a vague Mexican flavor. It is dry and crumbly with no moisture to soak into the bun, which is probably a good thing since the bun is toasted and wouldn't get gooey anyway. Mustard, ketchup and mayo packets are offered but not included on a standard dog. I think there were onions on my dog, but they were slight and barely noticeable.
So, I shouldn't like it, but the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. The slaw and chili work perfectly together and I forgot to mention that the weenie is grilled - and I mean really cooked, not just heated - which brings everything together nicely. This is a very satisfying hot dog. Not a prototypical West Virginia Hot Dog, but a very good hot dog. I could definitely see myself, if I found myself on the 300 block of West Washington at lunch time, being torn between Freeman's and Chris'. It would all come down to the mood I might be in. Chris' has the spicy kick, but Freeman's has a real stick-to-your-ribs attitude.
For you weenie-and-a-bun fans (yes, Vince, this means you), the grilled weenies make Freeman's a necessary addition to your list of hot dog destinations. Heck, I'd say that everyone will find something about Freeman's hot dogs they like. And if not, there's always the liver & onions!