Greatings to all...My name is Chris James and I am the new reviewer for Huntington area hot dog joints. I am a life-long West Virginian, a resident of Huntington, a hot dog fanatic, and a firm believer that the hot dogs found in the Huntington/Tri-State area are perhaps the perfect culinary creation. Let me break it down for my friend Stanton and his fellow Charlestonians:
- Chili comes in a bowl. In the Huntington area, if you want chili, go to Chili Willi's and order a bowl of either of their award-winning chilis: Original Red or Texas Red. You will be served a thick soup containing large chunks of meat and veggies which is topped with cheese and sour cream and served with a buttered and grilled tortilla. However, if you are in town and want a hot dog with the local topping of choice (note:with hot dogs, I follow the "When in Rome..." rule), you ask for "sauce" at one of our several hot dog joints. Huntington's s hot dog sauces vary from stand to stand (more on that in future posts) and can be dramatically different from one vendor to the next, but no one would ever confuse sauce with chili con carne.
- It's all about the sauce. Slaw is great. Whether it is tart, sweet, sweet 'n sour, chunky, finely chopped, or even that sugared mayo concoction with a light dusting of nearly-powdered cabbage that Stanton considers to be the one true slaw, cole slaw is more delicious than 99% of all other foods on the planet. I have relatives in Richwood that even spoon it on pizza (try it sometime, it really is great). Even moreso than diced onion, mustard, or ketchup, slaw is the most important (but still optional) accompaniment to Huntington's West Virginia-style hot dog, but should be taken as nothing more than a primary highlight to the main components of the bun, the wiener, and the sauce.
- Freshness matters. Huntington is blessed with a meat packing plant (SS Logan Packing Co., makers of Cavalier Meats) and a commercial bakery (Heiner's). The hot dog stands of Huntington, therefore, have some of the freshest product around (a fact that even Stanton has conceded in previous posts). No green weenies or rock-hard buns to be found here.
To a person from Chicago, New York, or Seattle, our differences may seem a tad bit like like splitting hairs. However, as I post more and more reviews of the various interpretations of the West Virginia-style hot dogs found in the Tr-State area and compare those to the dogs of the Metro Valley, it should shed light on the complexity of the West Virginia hot dog as a marker of culinary---and even cultural---sub-regions of the state (including a few surrounding exclaves that are culturally tied to WV, but not part of the state due to quirks of physical and political geography).
So kick back, grab a dog dressed the way you like it, watch this space and our friendly rivalry, and I'll set y'all right on what a real West Virginia hot dog is all about.
Weenie envy, pshhh.