Monday, May 29, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - The Southern Kitchen

The Southern Kitchen on McCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City is nothing less than a Charleston landmark. It's been the favorite late-night/early morning breakfast spot for generations of Charlestonians. In spite of its small size and simple atmoshpere it has played host to dignitaries from John F. Kennedy to John F. Kerry. On a recent afternoon I stopped in for lunch thereby adding my name to the illustrious guest list.

On the menu is listed a "Hot Dawg", a term usually left to less formal greasy spoons and truck stops. "Everything", I was told, included chili, slaw, mustard and onions. I decided if they went to all the trouble of special spelling, then it must be a special dog, er I mean dawg. And it is.

The first thing that is special is the chili. This chili could be the one that brings balance to the Force. It is sweet AND spicy. Meaty AND runny. I think that anyone would like this chili.

The second thing that is special is the slaw. Sweet, creamy and I might be wrong about this but I swear I think it has apples in it. It is finely chopped and perfect texture for a WVHD. The onions were nice too: Sweet and chopped into just about the right size pieces.

I wish more attention were paid to the weenie and bun because both were a little lackluster (do the Cavalier Meats and Heiners Bakery trucks run past Hurricane?). If they had been on par with the chili and slaw this would be a five weenie dog. The atmoshpere almost makes up for it, what with all the chicken and W. Va. tourism themes that run through the restaurant, but it still falls a half-a-weenie shy of perfection.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Mayberry's in St. Albans

Mayberry's started out in a little storefront location along MacCorkle Avenue near the St. Albans Mall. It seemed very successful in this spot but about eight months ago it moved to a much more obscure location on Sixth Avenue. I'm not sure how well they are doing in the new spot, but the new building has the same old charm - and I mean old.

It's called Mayberry's, I presume, to evoke the image of the idyllic fictional town of the old Andy Griffith TV Show, which by the way plays continuously on the wall-mounted TV in the restaurant. Nostalgia reigns supreme with old fashioned ice-cream parlor equipment, signs and Coca-Cola logos on nearly everything in the place. It is a very nice, clean and friendly place.

The hot dogs are also a throwback to simpler times. The sweet chili is just like grandma used to make. The excellent sweet cole slaw has a slight yellow tint and is piled high and the sweet onions on top add up to a hot dog that is, well, sweet! The weenies are good and the buns are toasted. I uncharacteristically ate inside the restaurant, mainly because it is a very nice place to spend some time, so I can't report how the "to go" dogs are packaged.

In the new location Mayberry's seems to have graduated from an ice cream shop to a real restaurant. Now in addition to fast food and sandwiches they also offer such things as steak and chicken alfredo. I wouldn't be surprised if all of their food is excellent because they seem to really care about quality.

If you find yourself in St. Albans you should at least stop for an ice cream.

Chili & Slaw on a burger?

Wendy's has been advertising their new Carolina Burger. I had no idea what it was until I went in for a regular Ohio Burger. Here's the in-store advertisement:

Chili and slaw on a hamburger? Is that the way they do it in the Carolinas?

I couldn't bring myself to try it. If anyone has, feel free to leave a review in comments.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Changes in HDJ review posts

I've found it tedious posting reviews on both this blog and on, and since they are much easier to access over there I am going to change the way I post reviews starting in a week or two:

1. Most hot dog joint reviews will be lodged on the site.

2. Each new review will be accompanied by an announcement on this blog that will include a direct link to the review.

3. From time to time I will post reviews on this site when, for one reason or another, they don't deserve a permanent spot on

I'll begin this new practice once I have published all of the reviews currently in queue. Hopefully this will make things easier for everyone.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - The Farm Table Restaurant

Hot dogs are an obligitory item on locally owned eateries in southern West Virginia. So it didn't surprise me when I went in to The Farm Table on D Street in South Charleston for lunch the other day and found them on the menu. I went in with a whole head full of good intention to get a veggie plate to try to counteract the devastating effects of too many hot dogs eaten on your behalf, but alas, I succumbed to yet another temptation.

Obligitory often means done with less than a great effort, and I'm afraid that is the case here. Farm Table has such wonderful food that I thought even a half-hearted attempt would still be good. It's not quite. The chili is average, the slaw below average (and barely there) and the bun was crusty - probably from being heated up in an oven. It took me two bites to regret not ordering the veggies.

My wife had the steak hoagie and onion rings and I was able to sneak a few rings, which were very good and obviously fresh made. We shared a piece of lemon merangue pie which was very tasty and almost washed away the memory of the disappointing dog.

The Farm Table remains one of my favorite home-cookin' restaurants but it doesn't rank as a HDJ.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joints - Hillbilly Hot Dogs - Culloden

When I found out that Hillbilly Hot Dogs had a location in Culloden I was very happy because I had been trying to get to either the Lesage or Huntingon location for a long time but events had prevented me from sealing the deal time and time again. Since I get to Hurricane failry regularly, and since Culloden is just a stone's throw from Hurricane, I knew I could finally taste the delightfully unrefined offerings of this delightfully uncultured HDJ.

I expected to find a great WVHD. Heck, they even call it a "West Virginia Hot Dog" on the menu. It has chili, slaw, onions and mustard just like God intended. While they also have other variations on the menu like the namesake "Hillbilly Hot Dog" (they call it a "Hill") which features a deep-fried weenie, I figured if they were going to all the trouble of having a WVHD listed as a proper noun that they would go to great lengths to make it taste proper.

So I went to Culloden, ordered a "WVHD" and a "Hill" (I had to try it) fully expecting to have my socks knocked off. After all, they have a great website!

The decor is everything I hoped it would be. It draws on every "hillbilly" sterotype imaginable, including a hand-scrawled sign painted on corrorgated tin, toilet seats used as hanging signs inside the restaurant and mis-spelled wurds on all of the signs. No school bus dining rooms like the Lesage location, but pretty good.

But what about the hot dogs? Well, my socks are still on.

The first disappointment was with the slaw: big chunks of cabbage, carrots and something else I couldn't identify. Very bland.

The weenie on the WV was OK. The deep-fried version on the Hill was unremarkable. Chili was OK, buns were OK, everything else was OK.

Now when you go into a place expecting greatness and find mediocrity it is hard to then divorce yourself of the high expectations and grade on an even scale. Perhaps if I hadn't been seduced by the slick website and catchy jingle ("we got the weenies!") I would have though better of the hot dogs. I guess I will never know.

I am going to hold open the possibility that the Huntington or Lesage location will revive my hope, but I don't think I'll be making a special trip to put them to the test. Maybe some day.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joints - Farley's Famous Hot Dogs

Since they also have locations in Barboursville and Milton, I had already decided to lump the Hurricane location of Farley's Famous Hot Dogs in with Huntington HDJ's before I tasted the product. This proved to be wise choice since the hot dogs have a bit of a Huntington flavor, literally and figuratively.

First, the literal: The weenie tasted suspiciously like a Cavalier Meats product and the bun was most definitely fresh from the Heiner's factory.

The figurative: I was told "everything" included "sauce." This is Huntingtonese for chili. The only thing that wasn't like Huntington was that slaw was standard equipment.

Regardless of the geography, this is a very good WVHD. The slaw is fine but not quite sweet enough and the chili (sauce) is pretty good. The great weenie and bun provide the boost to elevate the overall score into the 4 out of 5 weenie range.

One big plus is the curb service. There's just something about a WVHD served by a carhop that makes it a bit better. There are precious few of these places left around. Kudos to Farley's for keeping the tradition alive.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Hilltop Market

At the top of Central Avenue in South Charleston is a unique little convenience store/restaurant. The uniqueness stems from the restaurant side of the business which offers ready-made dinners for on-the-go families to stop and pick up on the way home. At $6.00 a plate it is very affordable. No choices, whatever they cook is what you get and when it's gone, it's gone. Just like Mom's.

At lunch time they offer some basics, among them being hot dogs. Everything means ketchup, mustard, chili, slaw and - get this - relish! What is this, Pittsburgh? Obviously I had mine without relish and since I was custom ordering I also had them leave off the ketchup.

The hot dog was fair. Chili was good although a little chunky, slaw was the mediocre factory made stuff (here's a hint to those of you who insist on using this stuff: put in a food processor and get the chunks down to a manageable size!). The buns were steamed and the dogs were wrapped in aluminum foil which preserved the softness nicely.

Overall a nice little neighborhood place with decent dogs. If I lived closer I might try their take home dinner fare. If anyone has tried it let me know.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Mallory's Grocery

How can you pass up a place with a sign that says "Try our world famous Mud Suck Hot Dogs"? I couldn't.

For those who aren't saavy, "Mudsuck" is the informal name of a little community just over the hill from South Charleston. It gets its name from Mudsuck Branch, a tributary of Davis Creek. It gets it notoriety from Mallory Airport, a small private airstrip that sits atop the hill above Mudsuck. The airport has such a quirky reputation in the aviation community that is has become known as "Mudsuck International" by pilots who use it. Mallory's Grocery (I am sure it's owned by the same family) even sells "Mudsuck International Airport" t-shirts and caps. If you have ever landed at Mallory you will never forget it, and I'd imagine some people want a memento of the ocassion.

Well, when I was driving by and saw the "Mudsuck Dog" sign I knew it had to be included on this site so I stopped and had one. I was dissappointed that it was self-serve style. After I finished building it, the dog wasn't bad. Chili and slaw seemed to be homemade and the buns are kept nicely steamed. They even have wax paper sleeves for your "to go" order.

Overall an average dog with a great name.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 is up and running

The official West Virginia Hot Dog website is up and running!
Check it out and take it for a test drive. It has a few features that Blogger couldn't handle and it is much more browse-able than the Blog.

email me at and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Former Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Bowincals

While I was waiting to get around to a review of Bowincals, a once thriving little HDJ chain in and around the Charleston area, something funny happened. They closed.

The first one I went to, in what we used to call "Plaza East", was not open and looked like it wasn't like to be reopened anytime soon. A few days later I made the trip to Campbell's Creek to the only other remaining location. It is even more closed! Boarded up closed.

It's not surprising to me. Bowincals hot dogs were pretty bad, as I recall.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - DeliFresh - Bullitt Street

Right across from Joe Fazio's on Bullitt Street, as part of the BB&T operations center complex, sits a little lunch spot that is operated for the benefit of BB&T employees. I have found that anyone can patronize the place and since it is very close to my office I sometimes do. Much of the food they offer is best thought of as fuel, not entertainment. I'd imagine most of their business is from the captive audience that BB&T provides and so don't vote on the quality the way most restaurant patrons do (with their feet!).

But for you, the WV Hot Dog public, I sacrifice myself so you may know the truth. The truth is that the dogs at DeliFresh aren't bad at all.

The first thing you notice is the bun. Not your basic WVHD variety but at least twice as large in volume. Everything is chili, slaw and onions. You can get a pack of mustard from the condiment rack if you want it. The chili is meatier than most with a pretty good flavor. The weenie was strange - really dark in color and it tasted a lot better than it looked. The slaw was definitely factory made and way too coarse, but it was fairly tasty. Overall a decent, if not classic, WVHD.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New WV Hot Dog Web Site is Coming

Hey all you WV Hot Doggers, I've decided that it is impossible to make reviews decently browse-able by categories on Blogger so I'll soon be launching a new WV Hot Dogs website. If my posting is lax for the next couple of weeks it's because I'm spending all my time writing and de-bugging the site so it will work when it goes live.

The new site should be fun but I'll keep cross-posting reviews on this blog even after the launch. I'll also keep this blog for discussion and feedback.

I'll definitely post a notice when it's up. Probably about mid-May. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Dee's Delights - Pinch

Used to be that you could buy a hot dog at dozen different places on the old Rt. 119 between Charleston and Elkview. The Elk River area always had more than its fair share of roadside dairy bars, diners and drive-ins. With this historical perspective in mind I turned right off the Spring Street bridge and headed north figuring I would find somewhere to grab a dog for lunch. As I left Charleston city limits I began to wonder. Mink Shoals came and went and still no HDJ. Big Chimney offered nothing but Hardees and if they do have a hot dog on the menu I am sure it's not a real WVHD so I didn't even bother. I continued northward all the way to the Elk Shopping Plaza (as the Earl of Elkview pronounces it, "Plah-ZAH") figuring surely there must be WVHD's somewhere, but alas there were none. I made the turn across the bridge and headed south on the opposite side of the river. After a few miles I found myself in downtown Pinch and there I found Dee's Delights - as picture perfect a WVHDJ as you will find.

The hot dogs, while not perfect, were classic WVHDs in every respect. Good chili (not very spicy), very good slaw (sweet and very finely chopped), mustard, onions & bun were all great. Add in the benefit of a full wrapping of wax paper and it totals an exemplary West Virginia Hot Dog. As Dee's sign says "A Little Pinch of Heaven." At only one dollar each you can't go wrong.

I also noticed a sign for a "Hot Pinch Dog" inside: a mettwurst with spicy saurkraut and mustard. They also serve the basic DQ type deep-fried fast food and, as you might guess, they have several dessert-ish offerings as well.

If you're in the neighborhood you should definitely check out Dee's. I promise they are the best hot dogs you can find in the Elk river area.