Fairmont hot dog fan Kevin Smith has been a regular reader and email commentator for a while now. He is a native of Fairmont and has the same innate fondness for the spicy hot dogs at Yann's that seemingly all Fairmontians have. He wrote me recently with his comments on my Yann's review:
As a follower of wvhotdogs.com for a while now, I have been eagerly awaiting the eventuality of your review of the Fairmont myth and legend that is Yann's. Certainly, my expectations of a favorable review were not particularly high considering the lack of availability of slaw within the confines of this Fairmont landmark. However, I was hopeful that you would at least be able to absorb some of the dynamics that exist in Yann's.
Watching the comers and goers and the multitude of hot dogs assembled (for lack of a better term) is dizzying to say the least. As you mentioned, some 100 hotdogs departed in the short period of time you were there. I would consider this a pretty reasonable average estimate for most of the lunchtime, probably hovering somewhere around the 4-6 per minute mark for most of the period between 11:30 and 1. If that were not evidence enough of the fervor that the townspeople have for these hot dogs, I recall when Yann's finally reopened this past fall; the lines were, quite literally around the corner at 2PM. While I didn't have the opportunity to visit at the prime lunch period in the first couple weeks, I must imagine the lines would have had those passing by wondering if Elvis was inside.
Certainly, though, there is nothing particularly unique about the dogs themselves. As you outlined in your review, the thing that keeps people coming back is, as we call it here, the 'sauce.' If you can get past the simple burn (I say simple but, in reality, even the 'heat' is complex; the intensity grows with good staying power) which will over power the unprepared, you can appreciate the work and time that must have gone into preparing it. The sauce is made up of a number of flavors that have been carefully crafted with the hamburger base which has been pulverized into tiny pieces. As you mention, the sauce is obviously cooked for a VERY long time, with a scant few hot pepper flakes and the little bits of meat remain as the only visually recognizable ingredients.
Obviously, the remainder of the hot dog is merely a shuttle for the sauce. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I can't help but think that the overall hot dog would be even better with either a toasted bun or a premium wiener (preferably grilled). Understandably, neither of these two changes is likely to ever happen; for a number of reasons, not the least of which are cost control and quantity served.
Yes, the simple wiener, freshly chopped onions basic yellow mustard and the unique to this world sauce makes for a distinctive experience. Couple to that the chance that you might get to witness some 'dynamic' conversations with out-of-towners asking for something on their dog other than the classics and you begin to see what makes this place more than just a simple hot dog joint.
As I mentioned, I was quite pleased to see a favorable review of what is almost certainly my favorite hot dog joint. Having grown up in Fairmont, I can't recall a time that I didn't know about Yann's. It was always just a hot dog joint to me as a child, going there because that was where you went to get hotdogs. Having had the opportunity to visit a number of different locales in the past few years, I've grown more appreciative of the uniqueness that exists in Fairmont. There's just something about the dogs and the place, such that when the mood strikes, you can search the world far and wide for curt service and tasty, fiery dogs, but there is quite simply no replacement for a couple of Yann's hot dogs and a chocolate milk.