Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Home Made Hot Dog Slaw

I made some dogs at home this weekend, mainly because all the decent hot dog joints in town are closed on Sunday and I didn't feel like driving to Lesage.

Home made dogs, no matter how good, just don't satisfy like those from a decent hot dog joint. I can't explain it. It might be the excessive amount of time it takes when you have to prepare the chili and slaw yourself. This is not fast food. It took me a good 30 minutes to make the slaw, and my wife made her special BBQ chili which took an hour. She won't divulge her recipe but I will:

Pretty Decent WV Hot Dog Slaw


2 cups grated cabbage
1/4 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (bottled is OK)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
salt & pepper to taste

After the cabbage and carrots are grated, put them the food processor and chop 'em up really fine. Mix remaining ingredients by hand.

Put heaping mounds of this on top of your Heiner Buns and your Armour Franks and your (yecch) Vietti Hot Dog Chili, top it with some chopped onions and it will taste like a WVHD ought to.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - WV Capitol, West Wing Snack Bar

MShane has contribued this new review of the WV Capitol, West Wing Snack Bar's hot dog offerings.

"So, the location for some hidden treasures for hot dog lovers is in the basement of the WV Capitol, West Wing Snack Bar. Don't let my photo scare you off, I was interrupted during the hotdog photo shoot and before I could get back to them, I had eaten them! These hotdogs are awesomely delicious.

The Snack bar is independently run I believe and all the food is home cooked goodness. A hotdog with everything comes with: Ketchup, Mustard, Chili, Slaw and Onions. The chili is mild yet flavorful and the slaw is top notch with a hint of sweetness. The buns are steamed and they are served to go in styrofoam boxes so they can get quite messy if you have a long haul back to your office. Take some napkins with you.

As for price, they can't be beat. The meal you see above (2 Hotdogs with everything and a bag of chips) costs a mere $3.50!!!!!! You'll have to get your own drink, they do have bottled soda for sale and there are vending machines fairly close by.

I live within a mile and half of Skeenies on Route 21 and I have eaten Skeenies Dogs all my life. I think these beat Skeenies hands down, and that's saying something I think! If you find yourself in the Capitol and hungry, stop in and give them a try."

What is it with photographers and hot dogs?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Romeo's

O Romeo's, my Romeo's, wherefore art thou Romeo's? (Hot dogs this good make me wax poetic.)

Easy to find - right behind the mound in South Charleston.

Would a dog by another name still have slaw so sweet?

It's the slaw that keeps me coming back. It is simply perfect hot dog slaw. It is creamy rather than chunky, has a faint black pepper taste with a perfect sweet to sour ratio.

O, for the softness of your...buns!

Romeo's steams their buns which is always a positive. If you get your dogs to go and have to take them very far, expect to eat them with a fork because they get wonderfully messy.

What spice through yonder chili breaks?

For my tastes the chili is perfectly seasoned. Just enough to let you know it's there, but not a bit of burn. I certainly understand why Chris' fans might think Romeo's chili is weak, but to each his own.

As noted elsewhere in this blog, Romeo's fries are excellent considering they are simply frozen crinkle-cut fries.

As far as the atmosphere, it is a classic bar and grill looking building on the outside and out. The booths, tables, chairs and grill look like they are much older than the 1977 date the front window claims as the establishment date. Make sure you look up and notice the cool tin ceiling.

The only negative about Romeo's is the ever-present greasy smell in the air (and on your clothes when you leave). I nearly always get mine to go.

Thanks to Rick Lee for the photos. He also weighs in on the dogs: "The dogs were very good. They have a distinctive taste that I can't pinpoint. I could be the chili or it could be the slaw... I couldn't tell."

I think it is all of the above. In my opinion this is the definitive West Virginia Hot Dog. It is the standard to which I compare every other hot dog I try. I have not found its equal.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Tudor's Biscuit World

Tudor's Biscuit World is a Charleston classic. Ever since Bill and Mae Tudor opened their first store on the West Side Charlestonians have been in love with their biscuit creations like The Tootie, Mickey, Mountaineer and Thundering Herd. I love the reaction of visitors to our fair city when they first hear of the unique offerings of Tudor's. That Tudor's is the only restaurant that greets travelers at Yeager Airport speaks volumes about how authentically West Virginian this franchise is.

At some point Tudor's decided to offer more traditional lunch fare and hot dogs were added to their menu along with other home-cooked dishes. I'd love to report that their dogs are as awesome as their biscuits but, alas, the tuth is they are most ordinary. The bun is ordinary, the chili is ordinary, the slaw is ordinary and the weiner is ordinary. It doesn't seem to vary by location, either. Every Tudors where I have sampled the hot dogs they have been remarkably consistent. Consistently ordinary.

Frankly, I have a hard time walking into Tudor's and ordering anything but a biscuit with egg, sausage, a hash-brown potato and cheese and that is probably best. When you have a specialty and you are the king of that specialty why dabble in other areas? If my heart could take it I think I could eat a dozen of their fanatastic biscuit creations a week and never get tired of them, but leave the hot dogs to the experts, please.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Word About Fries

Rick Lee is so enthusiastic in his praise of Chris' fries that I thought I should briefly comment on these, the natural companion of a real WV Hot Dog.

I gave up fries completely a few years ago as a dietary decision. I couldn't give up hot dogs and hamburgers so I reasoned that if I could cut out the fries I could cut enough calories out of a typical fast food meal to make it somewhat healthier. I miss them, I really do. There is nothing better with a dog and a root beer. Good onion rings are great, but onion rings are too unpredictable to order just anywhere. Fries, on the other hand, are like sex: When they are good, they are very good, and when they are bad, they're still pretty good.

Even though I don't eat them anymore, my memories linger and I have to say that Romeo's has the fries that please my palate most. They are standard crinkle cut frozen fries, but the way they cook them they turn out crip and delicious. My mouth is watering just writing about them.

Feel free to post a comment about your favorite fries.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Charleston Hot Dog Joints - Swiftwater Cafe

Swiftwater is located on the Washington Street side of the 405 Capitol Street building. As you might guess from the name the motif is whitewater rafting and kayaking and it seats maybe 20 people but most of its business seems to be take out anyway (or maybe consequently). The walls are adorned with beautiful Ron Snow photographs and two TV's - one tuned to CNN and the other with whitewater videos always playing. The service is as friendly as it gets and I've never had to wait long on my food, even when they are very busy (which is about every day at lunch time).

The hot dogs are pretty ordinary except that they use exclusively Boar's Head brand franks. This takes the quality level up a notch over virtually every other hot dog joint in town. For those uninitiated, Boar's Head makes a really good weenie (along with about everything else they make) that is a bit larger and very tasty. I don't know of any other place in town that serves Boar's Head franks, although there are at least two places where you can get their cold cuts on a sandwich - Johnnie's Meats at Capitol Market and M&M Deli in Kanawha City.

As for Swiftwater dogs, the bun is basic, the chili is tame and the slaw is good but lightly applied. Next time I am going to ask for extra slaw.

Swiftwater is also a good place to go for hot bologna and they have one of the best barbecue sandwiches downtown.

Update: Photo courtesy of Rick Lee

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Snack Bar at the Kanawha County Courthouse - Updated

Update: Thanks to Rick Lee for photos. He says "Here are some shots from the KC Courthouse. The dogs are good. Not much to say... much like Skeenies they are simply straight-ahead WV hot dogs. Very tasty. Say what you will about the dogs, it wins in the category of "Best Romanesque Architecture in a Hot Dog Stand". "

Original Post: I went looking for a decent dog in downtown Charleston one day and was quite surprised at this find. I've bought a lot of candy bars and soft drinks from the snack bar at the Courthouse over the years, but one day as I walked past I smelled the unmistakable aroma of hot dog chili wafting its way through the hallowed halls. I thought I'd chance it and got a couple with everything to take back to the office. I'm glad I did, because I found them to be about the best dog I've ever tasted in downtown Charleston. (Caveat: This was a one-time sampling a couple of months ago and I haven't been back to verify the consistency of the product.)

Every part of these dogs was excellent. The weiners were very meaty, the chili was just spicy enough to make its presence felt, and the sweet slaw was just about perfect in texture and taste. If this quality proves to be consistent it will defintely end up on my top-five list. Update: 1/24/2006 - The dogs are still good! I noticed this trip that they microwave the buns. I don't really like this because it makes them chewier as they cool down. Steaming is much better. Still a top-five contender, though, especially if limited to the downtown Charleston area.

Marc E. Williams reports that the second floor snack bar across the street at the Judicial Annex has great dogs, too.

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Skeenies

Update! See Rick Lee's photos of Skeenie's and his review below: Skeenie's is found about two miles out Sissonville Drive. It has been there as long as I can remember and it has always had a sign that advertises "West Virginia Style Hot Dogs." Someone told me once that Skeenies had locations in Florida and they were very successful in the early 70's due to all the homesick West Virginians who had rode the Hillbilly Highway to the Sunshine State. They also had a Kanawha City location for several years but it was never as good as the original.

Skeenie's is a classic road side hotdog joint/dairy bar with a walk-up window and no inside seating. "Everything" means chili, slaw, chopped onions, mustard and ketchup. They steam their buns and wrap the dogs in wax paper so they are plenty gooey by the time you get them home. They used to offer a foot-long dog but it was missing from the menu when I made my last visit.

Skeenie's chili is disctinctive, but their slaw is average. Skeenie's dogs are in my top ten list, but probably not top five.

Update - Rick Lee visited Skeenie's today and has this to say:

"I just got back from Skeenies up Sissonville Road. Boy howdy, I smell like onions now. I usually get a dog with no onions, but in order to be fair I just ordered two dogs with everything. There's not much to say about Skeenie's hot dogs. They really are the quintessential West Virginia hot dogs. Just exactly what you'd expect and nothing more or less. The fries were awful. Frozen krinkle-cut fries which were soggy and nasty by the time I had finished my two dogs. The service was totally excellent. Very friendly and quick. "

The "Restaurants"

Here, in no particular order, is a list to begin the discussion of our favorite hot dog joints. I'm thinking locally owned businesses, but some chains might have a decent dog on their menu. Please add your comments.

Skeenie's - Sissonville Drive
Chris's Hot Dogs - Washington St. West
Romeo's Grill - Near the Mound in So. Charleston
Sam's Hot Dog Stand - Hale Street
Whitey's Sandwhich Shop - North Charleston
Towne & Country Lanes - Nitro
Galaxy Lanes - Kanawha City
Snack Bar - Kanawha County Courthouse

The Bun

Buns need attention, too. Steamed and soft, or toasted and hard?

My mother always liked her dogs so soft and messy that she ate them with a fork. A steamed bun is a must for this kind of dog. Toasted buns have their strong points when eating your dog on the way to an appointment and don't desire chili stains on your tie. I detest a room-temperature bun straight from the plastic wrapper, don't you?

So, where are the best buns?

Weiners or Weenies?

Whatever it is called, the real meat of a hot dog is, well, the meat! Bad weenies can make a bad dog. And let's keep the discussion to real weiners aka franks. It matters not if they are beef, chicken or pork as long as they are just plain old weenies.

Now I like a good bratwurst as much as anyone but no self-respecting WV hot dog would ever have anything like a sausage on it.

I have to confess that the weenie is the least important part of the dog for me, but there is one hot dog joint in town that I steer away from because their weiners are so overcooked.

OK weenie men and women, let us hear your preferences.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Mustard & Ketchup

OK, I guess there might be some folks who are finicky about their mustard and ketchup. So here's the place to discuss these two lesser condiments.

I will say that I have found the best ketchup for home use is Kurtz, available only at Save-a-Lot. Beats the name brands going away.

And while I'm at it, I will put forth the proposition that yellow is the only proper color for hot dog mustard. Grey Poupon? I think not!


Overheard cell phone conversation in a West-side restaurant: "I'm in Charleston West Virginia. I'm eating a hot dog and you won't believe this...it has cole slaw on it. No, really, cole slaw. I'm not kidding!"

Perhaps the most unique feature of a real WV hot dog is a heaping helping of slaw. I like slaw. Good slaw is what makes a good hot dog for me. Bad slaw completely ruins the dining experience.

I have my favorite hot dog joints in Charleston and my decision is based almost solely on the quality of the slaw. Romeo's is excellent, so is Whitey's in North Charleston. Mr. C's (are they still around?) had a great yellow slaw.

Let us hear your favorite slaw-based picks.


OK, first of all we understand that WV Hot Dog chili isn't chili. It is a chili-like substance that includes ground beef, chili powder, and something to give it a reddish-brown hue (usually a tomato product).

Chili can make a big difference in the character of the dog. Chris's chili has a distinctive slow-burn that makes it a favorite of fans of spicy hot dogs. Romeo's has a much tamer chili and I once took a Chris's fan there and he left his dog half-eaten in protest. Some of the best chili I have tasted comes from church-run hot dog sale fundraisers. Church chili is typically much meatier and served in larger quanity.

So all you chili-centric hot dog fans, chime in on your favorite hot-dog joints in the Charleston area.

What is a WV Hot Dog?

Charlestonians think a real hot dog includes a wiener on a bun topped with chili, slaw, onions, and mustard. Ketchup is sometimes standard. I prefer mine with all of these but if ketchup is missing I am just fine with it.

My wife orders her dogs without weiner. Actually, she makes me order them because she doesn't like the curious looks she gets. She gets everything else, like me, that comes standard.

My co-worker Tim is a relative minimalist who likes only mustard and chili.

Now I know there are many variations of hot dogs sold in the Charleston area, and Hillbilly Hotdogs in Huntington take variety to a new level, but for the sake of our discussion we're going to stick to the above definition of a WV Hot Dog. It's my blog, so there.

WV Hot Dogs - A Unique Treat

I've been toying with this idea for a while, and since Rick Lee has some nice photos of Chris' Hot Dogs posted this seems like a pefect time to proceed (especially since an apparent catastrophic data loss has rendered my other blog silent). Here's the deal:

A couple of us got together a while back and began to critique the hot dogs produced by local Charleston restaurants (we will use this term loosely). We realized that our individual preferences were very subjective since we liked different stuff on our dogs (I'm an everything guy and my other evaluators are more selective in their choice of condiments). So, we thought, why not get a wider base of opinions and judge our our local hot dog fare allowing for the "different strokes for different folks" factor?

We need lots of input from lots of hot dog enthusiasts with lots of different tastes, so what are you waiting for?