Friday, March 31, 2006

Get Out the Vote!

Your support is needed to make the Hot Dog the champion of the world in Doutbuzz's Big Eats Tourney. The poll will close on Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 7:32 p.m. West Virginia time.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joints - Frostop

It's well known that there is a bit of animosity between Charleston and Huntington. In my experience Huntington folks are pretty sensitive about criticism from their neighbors to the east. I won't editorialize on why I think this is so. I usually try to stay out of such disputes and prefer not to add to any bad feelings that might already exist. But I can't be silent when it comes to an important issue like West Virginia Hot Dogs.

I have been told that Frostop on Hal Greer Boulevard is one of Huntington's premier hot dog joints, so as I was leaving town today from a meeting I thought I should stop by for a dog and a root beer. Let me count the ways I am disappointed:

1. The name "Frostop" along with the giant rotating root beer mug on the roof that is obviously topped off with a good head of frozen root beer implies that the root beer will be served with at least some frosty topping. I got root beer in a glass of ice cubes. It tasted pretty good, but I really was looking forward to an icy-cold root beer to ward off the sweltering 75 degree heat of the afternoon.

2. The first item on the menu is a "Hot Dog." The second item is a "Slaw Dog." What? You have to ask for a whole different species of hot dog to get a real WVHD? Now I know that Huntington is right on the tippy left edge of the West Virginia map, but for goodness sakes, this is still West Virginia! Slaw is a necessary ingredient for ALL hot dogs unless otherwise specified.

3. The hot dog , er, I mean slaw dog, is served with "sauce" instead of "chili". Same stuff, different name. I've noticed this about Huntington: All of their HDJs call it "sauce." This I can live with. Frostop's "sauce" was pretty good. A little bland and salty, but the right consistency.

4. The dog was wrapped in a paper napkin. This completely eliminates the sweating effect you get when the dog is wrapped in a more impervious material (like wax paper) that makes the bun gooey and good. The bun seemed to be toasted or at least kept in a warming tray where it got a little bit crusty.

5. The slaw was served way too sparingly, especially in light of the name of the dog.

Now to be fair, there are a few positives.

a. The atmoshpere and character of Frostop is second to none. Probably better than any existing Charleston HDJ. A curb service drive-in is always a great place to buy a hot dog, and Frostop even has a nice dining canopy that is very retro and very cool.

b. The weenie was excellent. I have heard that most Huntington HDJs use Cavalier weenies, which are locally made and therefore fresh.

c. Likewise on the bun. After I got past the crustiness, the flavor was very good. Also due, I've heard, to the local bakery - Heiner's I think.

I may not get back to Huntington for a few months, but when I do I will definitely leave some time in the schedule to search out a less disappointing HDJ.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Shaar's Barbershop and Bar & Grill

Shaar's is on the corner of Glenwood and Central Avenues on Charleston's West Side. It is one of those very typical little corner beer joints. Typical, that is, for most towns our size, but there are actually very few in Charleston. Shaar's has been there for as long as I can remember (on the next corner to the east there is a twin building that used to house "Abraham's" - now called "Park Place").

The atmosphere is full of character....and smoke. Another proud supporter of people's right to emphysema and lung cancer, they make no bones about having a place where smokers can feel at home. Warning signs on the door give you ample warning to proceed at your own risk.

Other than the smoke the real character of the place it in its old booths, lights and a vintage 1950's wooden phone booth in the rear. The sunlight streaming through the high windows into the relative gloom and ever-present smoke is reminicent of a Bogie movie. There are two TV's, and when I was there one was tuned to soap operas and the other to the TV guide channel. NASCAR posters and advertising props adorn the walls and ceilings. A billiard table in the back is lit by a classic green hanging lamp and a sign announcing Friday pool tournaments is conspicuously posted by the front door. As I said, the place is loaded with character, and while I was waiting on my to go order I had a chance to soak it all in. Cough.

I'm sad to report that the the hot dogs are pretty bad. For a dollar-fifty each you get chili that tastes like browned hamburger with ketchup on it, slaw that tastes like it was fresh-made last month, and a microwaved bun that is so tough you have to tear it, not so much bite it. I bought two and ate one - something that almost never happens to me.

I was very disappointed that a place with this much character had such horrid hot dogs. This completely blows my theory that the worse the place looks the better the dogs are. Nothing in my universe makes sense now. I have to start over from scratch.

PS: In case you are wondering, the barber shop is actually next door, but evidently it was cheaper to buy one sign with both businesses listed.

Head's up Rick Lee : This would be a great place to shoot some interior photos.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Real WV Hot Dog Chili Recipes

I haven't made this yet, but you can just tell by looking at it that this is pretty authentic.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

W. Va.'s Northern Panhandle - No Slaw Zone

In order to solve a long running border dispute between families in Pennsylvania and Virginia, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were brought from England to survey a new border between the two states. Encounters with hostile natives stopped their expedition short of the Ohio River, which would probably have become the physical feature that would have been used to mark the western boudary of Pennsylvania. Instead, a line that ran due north from the end of their survey became the line between Ohio County Virginia and Washington County PA. When West Virginia was formed in 1863 this area was broken into three counties that now make up our state's northern panhandle.

So, I will assert here, if Mason and Dixon had been a tad more courageous and continued their journey the entire northern panhandle would likely now be part of Pennsylvania. Which from my experience this weekend would be just fine with me since it is impossible to buy hot dog with slaw anywhere in Wheeling.

I might need to change the name of this blog to "WV Hot Dog Below the Latitude of 39 degrees, 43 minutes and 17.6 seconds Blog"

Kinda catchy, huh?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hot dogs Lose at the Buzzer

It's a sad Friday after a tough Thursday night. First the hot dog loses to, of all things, nachos. Then four hours later the Mountaineers go down to Texas, whose players most likely eat nachos.

Oh well. There's always next year.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Road Trip to Wheeling

I have to be in Wheeling this weekend and I am eager to see what kind of hot dog offerings are there. I have Holly as a guide, but if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Trivillian's Pharmacy

Quiz: Where in Charleston can you get a hot dog and a root beer float, while waiting for a prescription to be filled AND see paisley print deer in the parking lot?

Answer: Triviliian's Pharmacy in Kanawha City.

Many Charlestonians hurriedly pass by Trivillians every day as they speed off the southern ramp of the 35th Street bridge and never get to know this little treasure of a place. That is a shame because this is one of the last remaining places in Charleston where you can get a real glimpse and taste of true Americana. The look inside the store is ike an evolved version of that old classic 1940's drug store soda fountain (in fact the Saturday I was there, they even had a soda jerk complete with red hair and freckles). Still present are the red naugahide cushions on the bar stools and a good bit of chrome and stainless steel provides a visual connection to the past. Shakes, floats and sundaes are served in retro-looking glasses and dishes. The soda fountain and lunch counter dominates the space but the pharmacist is busy at work just steps away.

The hot dogs are pricey at a buck-fifty each and worth every penny. Trivillians makes their own chili and slaw, both of which are very good. I think this chili might be the perfect WVHD chili. It is not very spicy, has finely ground meat and an abundance of that wonderful chili flavor. They give you a hefty helping too. Slaw is very good: Creamy, sweet and piled high. Buns and weenies are both better than average. Onions and yellow mustard rounds out an "everything" dog that is very satisfying. I am thinking about having all of my prescriptions called into Trivillians to give me an excuse to stop in more often.

I would encourage everyone to patronize this unique little treasure of a drugstore so we can keep it around for a long time. The menu is quite varied with vegetarian offerings as well as a full breakfast. Prices, except for the hot dogs, are very reasonable. If nothing else, take your kids for ice cream. It's not 31 Flavors (in fact they have only vanilla) but hopefully the atmosphere will make them forget all about Cookie-dough or Rocky Road.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hot Dogs Roasting on an Open FIre

I ran across this post and it made me think back to the days of my youth when a hot dog meant a charred weenie from the end of a stick transferred to a cold, out of the bag bun with nothing else added. Man, they were great! At some point I discovered s'mores and I forgot all about weenie roasts, but when the weather gets warmer I think it's time to recapture this simple tradition!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Urgent Message - Your vote is needed to protect the honor of hot dogs everywhere!

From Concerned WV Hot Dog Citizen Wabi-Sabi:

There is a major controversy in the Donutbuzz Big Eats Tournament where Sunflower Seeds are tied or leading hot dogs in a battle of tastiest snacks.Hot dog fans need to act today as polls are closing soon. Don't let this March Madness happen! Vote now. WV hot dogs need our help.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Fresh Seafood Company at Capitol Market

This is another one of those places that you might not expect to find a hot dog. It is also one of those places you might not order a hot dog because of all the other good stuff on the menu. You will be rewarded, though, if you do.

Since Charleston is a "right fur piece" (that means "a long way" in West Virgineese) from any seaport where fresh fish can be found, we have only a few decent fish places in town. Fresh Seafood Company has two locations and both serve excellent seafood. The kiosk-like Capitol Market location also sells excellent hot dogs.

Some Assembly Required

This is a real negative for me, but I can see where it might be a positive for others who like customized dogs. You order your hot dog at the counter and you get a steamed bun, weenie and chili. You then get to dress your dog the way you want it with onions, mustard, ketchup and slaw. Personally, when I pay someone else to cook my food I like it to be assembled when I get it (I don't eat fajitas for the same reason).

But even with the extra labor involved I must confess that the hot dogs are excellent. The chili is just about perfect in consistency and taste. It's not too spicy and not too tame. The slaw is the standard slaw they sell as a side dish with their seafood dishes and it does excellent double-duty on the dogs. The onions were very sweet but I imagine this changes with the season. Overall I would have to rank them a top five in taste, but the inconvenience knocks them down a few notches. Still a top-ten.

It will be an interesting dilemna the next time I have lunch with someone at the market whether to get fish, chowder or hot dogs. How about two WVHD's with a side order of New England Clam Chowder?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hey, a book about WV Hot Dogs!

Well, sort of. Harry Lynch has published a little book that features our favorite tubular treat. It's actually a collection of different kinds of hot dogs, chilis, relish, etc., from all over the country but it does highlight WVHD's and even has two recipes for slaw. Taylor Books has autographed copies for $6.95.

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Sam's Hot Dog Stand

I'm not sure a real WV Hot Dog Joint should be allowed to have a website, but we'll await a ruling from the judges. In the meantime we'll look at the Sam's Hot Dog Stand's site and learn a little about the origin of this little regional chain:

"Frank Lucente grew up in a small town in West Virginia. Frank often enjoyed spicy chili dogs at the town hot dog stand. Frank would always stop for hot dogs on visits home. Years later the town stand closed and Frank was forced to look elsewhere to satisfy his craving. He went to see the owner of the stand to try to convince him to pass on the recipe. But the owner refused, saying he would "take it to the grave." Denied, Frank soon discovered that the recipe for the chili sauce belonged to an elderly woman still living in his hometown. For years she had been cooking up the sauce and selling it at her church bazaar. Accordning to her the stand had changed the recipe over the years but the woman gladly provided the original recipe. Frank however recruited his business partner and good friend Rocc Muriale to help invent an even better chili sauce recipe. The chef at the popular Rocco's Restaurante, Rocco spent several months cooking up batches of chili sauce. After six months he had the perfect recipe! In 1983, wanting to share this delicious invention with the public, Rocco and Frank opened the first Sam's Hot Dog Stand in Huntington West Virginia....ending the search for the perfect hot dog!"
OK, the first question is "who the heck is Sam?"

Second question: What happens to those perfect hot dogs by the time they travel 50 miles east to Charleston? Because the ones around here are far from perfect.

To be fair, I have noticed a difference between the two locations I have tried. The one on Hale Street downtown is terrible. The one on McCorkle Avenue in South Charleston is a cut above Hale Street, but still not a great quality WVHD. It stands to reason that the ones in Huntington might be truly excellent.

"Everything" means chili, slaw, mustard and onion. Choose spicy chili, even if you are a spice-wimp like me, because the regular is bland. One cool twist is a "healthy hot dog" which includes a "low-fat" weenie. It tastes just fine, and in light of my nutritional research, it might be smart choice. The Hale Street location's weenies always seem to be water-logged.

The slaw is OK and the rest of the dog is edible, but I wouldn't put Sam's in my top fifteen favorites.

What can you expect from a Hot Dog Stand with its own website?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Not Health Food

With all the dogs I've been consuming lately in the interest of reporting (the things I do for you people!) I thought a nutritional value analysis was in order. For those not good at denial you may prefer to not read this and put your fingers in your ears and go "la, la, la, I can't hear you."

One West Virginia Hot Dog with everything (chili, slaw, mustard and onions)-

Calories 379
Protien 21.83 grams
Total Fat 27.39 grams
Carbs 38.84 grams

Ouch, I think I just felt an artery occlude.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - The Smokehouse

I can't remember a time that I didn't know about The Smokehouse. This little place on the corner of West Washington and Stockton Streets has been selling great food for as long as I have been alive. My earliest remembrances are from the 1960's and the second-hand cigarette smoke that hung in the air so thick that I thought that was where the restaurant got its name. I shied away from eating there my whole adult life because of that negative memory (cough-cough). Imagine my surprise when I was driving by and saw the sign that said "Smoke Free Dining Room"! I just had to check it out.

As soon as I walked through the Washington Street entrance I realized this was not the old smoky place I remembered from my youth. The counter is still there, but much closer to the front door than I remember. And behind the counter is a glass wall that seperates the bar area and the accompanying cigarette smoke from the "smoke free dining room", which is stage left. It really is smoke free and it is really very nice. While the dinner menu looked quite intriguing, it was a West Virginia Hot Dog I came for and that was what I found. Actually, I found two.

If you like your dogs gooey, this is your place. The slaw and chili weren't particularly runny, but the bun was delightfully soft and sticky. "Everything" means chili, slaw, mustard and onions. The onions are chopped way too coarsely, as was the slaw, but it was still overall a pretty good dog. Not great, but pretty good. I'd say if you find yourself in need of a nice "smoke free" restaurant on the West Side where has some non-dog variety on the menu, this is your place.

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - South Charleston Dairy Bar

Have you noticed that Dairy Queens are disappearing around Charleston? Just a few years ago there were at least three DQ's in and around Charleston. They have all gone away. Most of the buildings now house something completely different, but the one in South Charleston has been reincarnated with a different name.

The South Charleston Dairy Bar, although it has a different paint scheme and a new menu, is for all intents and purposes a Dairy Queen. But the hot dogs might be a smidge better that a DQ dog.

Everything means chili, slaw, mustard and onions. On my dog this particular day the bun and chili were adequate, but the weenie was a cut above average. The slaw was a little dry, but very sweet and finely chopped like real WVHD slaw is supposed to be and it was served in a proper sized helping. The onions were barely noticeable. Overall, this was a very good WVHD, but being only three blocks from Romeo's means I probably won't be back unless I have a craving for a soft-serve cone on the side. Even then the walk to Romeo's would be worth it. I'll rate it a top ten overall, but a distant second in downtown South Charleston.

One other thing that deserves a mention is that they serve their soft drinks with crushed ice, which is becoming more and more rare these days. There's nothing better with a WVHD than a coke over crushed ice.