Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Dairy Queen Code

With at least one location in virtually every town in West Virginia, Dairy Queen is easily the most ubiquitous of all hot dog joints in the state. I am forever getting emails from people who say that I should review this or that DQ because they have good hot dogs. Having tried a few of the local DQ's, I have found a great disparity in the kind and quality of hot dog toppings they sell. Some of them are pretty good and some are downright gross.

Now if you've traveled much at all, you know it's not normal to find a disparity in the taste of food in a chain restaurant. A McDonalds Hamburger in Glenville West Virginia (yes, they have a McDonalds) tastes EXACTLY like a McDonalds hamburger in Los Angeles California. But DQ hot dogs are different where ever you go. It got me thinking.

According to the DQ corporate website, Dairy Queen sells two hot dog products; a "Hot Dog" and a "Chili Cheese Dog." If you examine their nutritional information documents you can deduce that a "Hot Dog" includes mustard as the only topping. The Chili Cheese Dog adds, predictably enough, chili and cheese. It would seem, though, that DQ gives its franchises a lot more lattitude in customizing its menu than do most franchised chains. Even though the corporate literature and menu boards have only the basic two dogs pictured, individual restaurants seem to have the ability to offer whatever it feels is locally appropriate. If you call up a DQ in various locations and ask them "what's 'everything' on a hot dog?" you will get lots of answers. One could assume that each store owner would be acutely aware of the local hot dog culture and would be sure to offer what the people want. These franchisees are no dummies and market forces would insure that the hot dogs at the local DQ were reflective of what people expected their hot dogs to be.

So, here we have a national chain that doesn't know a West Virginia Hot Dog from Shinola that just might be the best indicator of where in the state eats what on their hot dogs. I find that interesting, ironic and worthy of further investigation.

Therefore, during the month of September I will be focusing on Dairy Queen hot dogs. I'm not sure how far I'll be able to travel from Charleston, but if you have a suggested DQ location please let me know so I can try to get to it.

Maybe we can get Chris to check out the DQs in the Huntington area. Of course we might have to wait until he gets his appetite back after the painful and embarassing football fiasco that will happen on Saturday.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joints - Family Restaurant - Wayne

While it might be seen as trespassing on Chris James' territory, I found myself in Wayne at lunchtime one day and stopped in this nice little roadside diner. The name seems to beg for another word, but on the sign and menu it says only "Family Restaurant." Inside is down-home small town charm complete with walls decorated with local high school uniforms and old newspaper clippings. A sign welcoming home the local war hero sits front and center and commands the attention of everyone who enters.

On the menu is a variety of things you would expect in a hometown diner, including hot dogs. "Everything" includes an all-beef weenie on a grilled bun, sauce, mustard, ketchup and onions with cole slaw as a 25 cent upgrade. It all adds up to a really good hot dog.

Breaking it down, we have a really excellent weenie. All-beef and grilled - it's about as good as a basic weenie gets. The grilled bun is also great and it adds both flavor and a bit of a crunch to the experience. The sauce (okay, I called it sauce - satisfied Chris?) is not at all spicy but it has a nice flavor and texture. The slaw, although served in a typical Huntington-sized stingy serving, has a great flavor and is finely chopped. If the portion size had been doubled it would have been better.

For my money this is the best hot dog I've had in the Huntington area, if it can be called that. Fourteen miles from Pullman Square might be considered out of the Huntington area but I've always thought of Wayne as a suburb of the River City, and it's my blog.

So there.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bridgeport Hot Dog Review - T&L Hot Dogs

T&L Hot Dogs is becoming a good sized chain in northern and central West Virginia and despite being located in the slaw-challenged north, they recognize their West Virginia roots on their menu by offering a "West Virginia Hot Dog" that comes standard with slaw. There were a few locations in the Charleston years ago and I remember them more for their onion rings than their hot dogs. While I was up north I decided to visit the original location in Bridgeport to to sample their current offerings. The motif is that of a 50's diner and it is bright, clean and comfortable. Pictures of Elvis, Marilyn and other cultural icons adorn the walls and a juke box in the corner has a collection of appropriately aged musical selections. There's not much inside seating but the drive-thru was hopping the whole time I was there.

I ordered a W.Va. Hot Dog and was given a choice between mild, medium or hot chili (OK, they call it sauce) and I chose medium. After one bite I was glad I didn't try "hot" because I was soon sweating from my eyesockets I could feel my sinuses clearing with every bite. Wow! This stuff makes its presence felt. Not just spicy, it has a great flavor and the texture is perfect as well. The burn was my traveling partner half way back to Charleston.

The slaw is OK, but not sweet enough to offset the chili's burn. I don't think that northern people understand that there is a direct relationship between the spicy and sweet, that they compliment each other in a very synergistic way. No wonder they think they don't like slaw on hot dogs, they don't seem to have the proper slaw for the job.

The bun and weenie are average. Overall a decent WVHD, mainly on the strength of the chili. They also have fries, lots of fries. A "Tub O Fries" to be exact (think of a medium size movie theater size popcorn container), and you can get those with chili and cheese on top (you might want to check with your cardiologist first).

T&L seems to have more locations than their website indicates (it must be out of date) and is, quite deservedly, one of the more widespread HDJ's in northern and central W.Va. If they only had better slaw then who knows? They might create a wave of acceptance in the slawless reaches of Marion, Mon, and perhaps even the panhandle. They could evangelize Northern West Virginia with the Gospel of Slaw!

Somebody say AMEN!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fairmont Hot Dog Joint - The Dog House

On my way into downtown Fairmont to find Yann's I drove past this little joint on East Park Avenue, and after I found Yann's closed I doubled back to sample their fare.

The atmosphere is typical roadside hot dog stand, except that there is a small eat-in area. The building looks like a walk-up but you actually order inside. Nothing fancy, nothing remarkable, just the usual ancillary offerings of a roadside stand, including canned soft drinks.

I found the dog to be a typical northern West Virginia hot dog with mustard, onions and chili. The chili is very meaty, has a very nice texture and is served in abundance but it really didn't have much kick. Slaw was not an option, apparently per Marion County law, and the weenie seemed undersized to me. What else can you say about a southern Pennsylvania hot dog?

With the demise of Yann's, maybe our kinfolk from the north country can join the rest of the state (well, MOST of the state) in a nice hot dog covered by a big mound of sweat, creamy coleslaw.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Slaw Mapping Expedition & Dairy Queen Hot Dog Theory

I was able to venture north this week and do some closer investigation of the "slaw line" phenomenon. I have virtually pinpointed where the line crosses the I79 corridor - more on that tomorrow. I also sampled a few hot dogs up north and have several interesting reviews to post over the weekend.

But I also noticed something very interesting about Dairy Queens. I am still researching this theory, but I am close to something big; almost cosmic. I'll call it the "DQ Indicator" and it might be the single best criterion on which to base future slaw mapping. I think I'll be able to flesh out the theory over the weekend and have a thesis posted early next week.

Sorry for the teasers but I'm a little road-weary and don't feel much like blogging tonight.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Appalachian Power Park

There's nothing in the world like a minor league ballpark on a nice summer evening. The sounds, the sights, the smells and, oh yeah, the game! And how can you be at the ballpark on a nice summer evening without a hot dog? Is there a more grand hot dog joint than this?

I've been kept away from Appalachian Power Park all summer long by this or that and here it is mid-August and I had yet to root, root, root for the home team even once. When I looked at the Power's remaining home schedule I realized that time was running out and I felt I owed it to the WVHD public to go have a hot dog for them. So I shelled out my $5 for a general admission ticket and headed straight for the concession stand, of which there are several around the park. But I soon realized that even though there were several stands, they all sold the same hot dogs. Whether you choose to eat at "The Coal Car Cafe", "The Mine Shaft" or one of the several free-standing vendors you still have a choice between a regular hot dog ($2.50) or a jumbo version for $3.75. If you want chili on either it costs an extra buck. The you take your hot dog to the condiment stand where you can load it up with slaw, mustard or alien toppings like ketchup and relish. And then you enjoy your hot dog, not.

"OK," you say, "everyone knows that ball park food is expensive, so what's the problem?" Well, I wouldn't mind paying $3 or $4 for a hot dog to enjoy in such a great setting if it were even marginally good, but these dogs aren't even marginal.

First, the basic dog is handed to you wrapped - actually, smashed - inside aluminum foil. It is stone cold on delivery. The bun is OK tasting but so mishapen that if it didn't have a weenie in it you wouldn't recognize it as a hot dog. The weenie is basic. The chili is gross. The self-serve slaw is the crappy lowest common denominator food service stuff. This is one of the worst hot dogs you can buy in Charleston. All the atmosphere in the world couldn't make it better.

I really think the Power is doing itself a great disservice by serving such a bad hot dog. Good food can bring in at least as many fans as the team. I know that I would drive to Cincinnati, buy a ticket for a team I don't like and fight the crowd at the concession stand for one the fantastic bratwursts they serve. I'll never again drive the five minutes to Appy Park for the hot dogs.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Oh yeah, sure. Next month they'll be saying hot dogs are the cure for polio.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Porker's BBQ & Hot Dogs

Sitting just a stone's throw from "the stoplight" in Cross Lanes is this nifty little BBQ joint that also boasts hot dogs on its large colorful sign out front. Outside the restaurant is very colorful in more ways than one, replete with pig statues and a sign that promises ribs that are "Bone Sucking Good." Inside is reminiscent of a fifties style diner with all the chrome, neon and black and white tile you'd expect.

The aroma in the place is definitely that of a BBQ joint. They seem to have all the BBQ bases covered offering pork, beef and chicken BBQ selections. The ribs looked very good, but that wasn't what I came for.

Everything, I was told, on a Porker's hot dog included chili, slaw, mustard, ketchup and relish. I ordered one relishless. This is only the second time I have encountered a slaw AND relish offering at a West Virginia HDJ. While I waited for my order I studied over the prospect of having slaw and relish together and how odd it seemed. Once I tasted the slaw, however, I understood why you might want to add a little sweet relish. The slaw had virtually no sweetness of its own. It was finely chopped and creamy and looked great, but when I bit into it I was surprised to find green peppers as the dominate flavor. It wasn't bad, just not what I expected.

The chili had a great texture and a very meaty flavor. It had a slight BBQ taste as you might expect of such a restaurant. Not very spicy but pretty good.

The bun was soft and tasty and it cradled an excellent all-beef and perfectly grilled weenie. The weenie is so good that it got me already thinking ahead to next year's Weenie Awards: Swiftwater might have a competitor at last.

Overall a pretty good hot dog in a nice little restaurant. Try the hot dog or go for the BBQ, but go.

To find it, take the Cross Lanes exit of I64 and turn right at the light toward "Little Tyler" (Rt 62) Porkers is about 100 yards on the right.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joints - Everything but at Frostop

For generations of Huntingtonians, the site of a ginourmous mug of root beer spinning about signaled that their long journey home was complete. Under the mug is Frostop, a drive-in restaurant where carhops still go to your car to take your order and serve your party on a tray that attatches to a car's window (or you can eat at an outdoor table, if you so wish, and enjoy the same level of service). Specializing in bbq sandwiches, ice cream, hot dogs, and (especially) its own recipe of root beer/root beer floats, the grub has coupled with the unique architecture to create one of Huntington's most well-known landmarks. But enough babble, let's get to the dogs...

As you can likely surmise from the lead, the first thing that hits you after pulling into "that place with the giant root beer mug" are the carhops (ok, not literally "hit" you, but you get the point). The service is a throw-back to the days of when fast service restaurants at least feigned giving a crap about how the customers are treated and is certainly a nice touch. Within seconds of arrival, your order is taken and rushed to the kitchen, where only a couple more minutes pass before you are brought your food. In terms of service, we are talking first class.

For the sake of this review, I ordered a dog with sauce, cole slaw, ketchup, mustard, and onion, while my wife ordered one with sauce and slaw. We split an order of crinkle cut fries and a quart of root beer served in an actual wax paper cup (not a frosted mug, but still a welcome bit of nostalgia).

Unfortunately for Frostop, the hot dog itself was the low point of the meal. Borrowing from Stewart's Original, the dogs were served rolled in paper napkins with the sauce, ketchup, mustard, and onions all being located on the underside of the wiener. I've never been a fan of the wrapped napkin approach, not so much for the lack of bun-steaming, but rather for the fact that I always manage to unroll the dog upside down. As far as the wet ingredients being served on the bottom, I have never gotten the point of doing so. At Stewart's, the technique sort of makes sense, as the sauce is more of a paste in texture, but Frostop's chili is more liquid in nature than their cross-town rival's, so it really just leads to a soggy bun.

As far as the individual quality of the hot dog components, The Frostop dog was a mixed bag. The buns were fresh (note that stale buns are a particular sin in Huntington, given that we have the Heiner's Bakery in town), although unsteamed (which means much less to me than to Stanton) and the weenie was of decent quality and boiled, which I prefer over grilled or fried (more on that in a future post). The sauce had a nice flavor, mainly of chili powder and onion, with ground beef as its primary ingredient. If anything, the sauce was a bit too runny, especially for a sauce that is spooned directly onto the bun. The diced onions were fresh, firm, and of a medium chunk size, which is spot-on in my book. The ketchup was applied much too liberally in my opinion, therefore overpowering the taste of the sauce in the dog.

It was the cole slaw, however, that was the most controversial portion of the meal. As one can see from the photo, the slaw is not exactly heaped upon the dog. My wife also found it to be too runny and speculated that we caught Frostop on the end of a slaw life cycle, as the cabbage seemed a bit wilted. I, on the other hand, actually enjoyed their slaw as a slaw, but was unsure if it was indeed the best fit for a hot dog with sauce. I found it to be a bit too tangy for a sauce dog on its own, although this was nicely balanced with the sweet and creamy root beer. Overall, this would be an excellent fit for a topping on their world-class bbq sandwiches, but not really for the dogs.

Sadly, when taken as a whole, I was thoroughly under-whelmed by the taste, texture, and overall quality of Frostop's hot dogs. This is why, at Hot Dog Fest, I skipped their dogs altogether and used their root beer to wash down their competitors' superior weenies.

In terms of accompaniments however, another bright side was found. The fries and root beer were excellent fits with just about any drive-in style dish and the retro atmosphere. The crinkle cut fries were served hot and crispy and their root beer is a perfect balance of sweet and vanilla that tastes as good in February as it does in August.

Now for the ratings:

  • Service: 5 weenies. Can't be beat.
  • Atmosphere: 5 weenies. Once again, truly unique, even compared to Stewart's drive-in location.
  • Sides: 4.5 weenies. Best. Root Beer. Ever. (and good fries).
  • Hot dogs: 2 weenies. The elephant in the living room in terms of this review. They were soggy and not particularly tasty.

Overall Score: 2.5 weenies. If I was reviewing anything but hot dogs, the score would be much, much higher. But hey, check the title, man...

That being said, I would recommend stopping by Frostop when in Huntington. Marvel at the service, savor the root beer, and taste what a great WV barbeque sam'mich is really all about.

Just skip the hot dogs.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Good News for Downtown Diners

OK, it's not hot dog news, but anyone who works or visits downtown Charleston at lunchtime should be excited that the sign is up at Cilantros, the new restaurant from Virgil Sadorra of Delish fame. Cilantros will open up in the space that was occupied by Delish before the fire. I peeked in the window and it looks like it's coming along nicely.

Delish will be opening up in a location on Virginia Street hopefully this fall. Virgil, if you are reading this I beg you to keep Delish Dogs on your new menu!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

New Hot Dog Product at Krogers

I've noticed a sharp uptick in the number of food products on the market that feature pre-assembled food elements. I guess they are supposed to save us busy Americans time and energy, and have an excuse to charge a heck of a lot more money for the same product ("value added" they call it - I call it "highway robbery"). The latest such product, and most appropriate for inclusion here, is Oscar Mayer Fast Franks.

OK, first, how hard is it to put together a hot dog and a bun? Does this product really save that much time? To be fair, though, it does solve the age old dilemna of 10 weenies and eight buns in a package (like George Carlin says, "You gotta buy a LOT of those things before it evens out!")

Second, look at the package: "America's favorite hot dog in a BAKERY FRESH BUN." How fresh can it be if it's baked, sent to the hot dog plant for weenie insertion, packaged in individual plastic wrappers and put in a cardboard carton and shipped in a refrigerator truck across the USA?

I was so amazed at the the discovery that I completely forgot to look at the price. If anyone can check the price before I get back to Krogers go ahead and post it in comments.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Old Daily Mail Article About Slaw

In July of 1992 the Charleston Daily Mail published this article by Becky Fleming. Hopefully they won't mind me reprinting it here as a public service.


TRAVEL north through West Virginia, and you cross a line invisible to the eye but vital to the stomach. South of that line you can walk into any local grill and get a hot dog or barbecue nicely sweetened with a spoonful of cole slaw. North of that line _ the Slaw Line, we'll call it _ they look at you in wonder when you place your order.

Cole slaw on a hot dog? That's a definite food faux pas north of the Slaw Line.

"We put it on, but it's usually for people from Charleston,' said Pete Mamakos, manager of Louis' Hot Dogs in downtown Wheeling. "Nobody up here likes it, maybe one in 1,000.
"Chili, onions and mustard _ that's "everything' to us,' he said.

But "everything' in Southern West Virginia almost always includes cole slaw. Hot dogs and barbecues have been topped that way for decades, slaw eaters say.

At The Grill in Charleston, almost every hot dog and barbecue ordered comes with cole slaw.
Dr. Charles Lowman, a Grill customer, always gets his hot dogs with cole slaw. He thought everyone ate them that way.

"It makes it taste better,' he said. "It adds flavor. I thought that was the only way to do it.'
For many West Virginians, it is the only way to do it: cole slaw plopped on hot dogs, barbecues and anything else that needs a little extra flavor.

At Gales Restaurant and Supperclub in Richwood (several counties south of the Slaw Line) customers put cole slaw on the pizza, as well as the hot dogs and barbecue, said owner Mary Fraley.

"Most customers get the cole slaw on the side and put it on when they eat it,' she said. "It's really good.'
Fraley said some customers like it so much that they will come to her for cole slaw after buying their pizza at the town's Pizza Hut. And some in Richwood don't limit themselves to pizza, Fraley said "Once in a while they'll get it on a hamburger but not too often,' she said.

The Slaw Line may run as far south as North Carolina. But going north, it stops midway in West Virginia just north of Wood, Wirt, Calhoun, Gilmer, Lewis, Upshur, and Randolph counties. That's not to say no one in Clarksburg can get cole slaw on a barbecue, but it's not as easy as in Charleston. And the line may
move north in time.

While Tucker County is officially north of the Slaw Line, cole slaw lovers can get it on their hot dogs at the Davis Inn. Ladd Jasper, owner of the Davis Inn, said he's trying to convert his customers to cole-slaw-as-condiment eaters. Although most in Tucker County don't like slaw on top of sandwiches yet, he serves them that way on request. He said most people like it once they try it.

"I'd say 60 percent of the people who try cole slaw on their hot dogs will come back and ask for another one with slaw,' he said.
No one is quite sure when the tradition of using cole slaw as a topping started or why it never caught on up north. Some say it's simply that residents of the northern counties are more like their neighbors in other states who don't eat cole slaw on top of sandwiches.

John Sheets, vice president of Gunnoe Farms, which sells cole slaw throughout West Virginia, said the company's biggest markets are Kanawha Valley, Princeton, Logan and Bluefield. He said southern West Virginia residents buy far more cole slaw than those in the north.

"Northern West Virginia people are considered northerners, and they just don't eat cole slaw on their hot dogs,' he said. "For as long as I can remember, it's been like that.'

Andi Lester, director of food services and catering for University of Charleston, said she believes the tradition originated with coal mining families in Southern West Virginia. She said many women kept gardens to supplement the family's diet. She said cabbage is easy to grow and inexpensive to prepare. Chopped cabbage can be mixed with several things, including mayonnaise, vinegar and apple cider.

"They had huge gardens, and what are they going to do with all that stuff?' she said. "I would say that would be an educated guess.'
Joe Campbell, a chef at the Ramada Inn in Morgantown and president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Culinary Federation, said he has seen visitors to Morgantown eat their hot dogs topped with cole slaw. But Campbell said he has never pondered why the tradition is so popular in the southern part of the state while Monongalia residents normally shun it.

"That's what makes it interesting in food service _ the imagination,' he said. "What's a delicacy to one person is not real appealing to others.'

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"The Best Hot Dogs in Town"

Every town in West Virginia seems to have at least one hot dog joint that has a sign posted with the claim that it has the best hot dogs in town. I have found that these signs are rarely correct, unless it's a town with only one HDJ. In larger towns there is often two or more HDJs with such a sign posted. Obviously someone is lying. it is not possible for more that one place to have "the best."

A warning to all WVHDJs who boast such a sign: You will be judged more harshly if you make false claims. Be careful. Don't lure me in with a promise of "Town's Best Hot Dogs" and then dash my hopes with lackluster weenies or mediocre toppings.

A reader recently emailed me and told me about a newly-opened HDJ in Charleston that makes the claim. I will be visiting them soon. If you see any such signs around please let me know so we can put a stop to this blatant false advertising.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - The Hottest Dog

A franchised location of a national chain, The Hottest Dog in Hurricane has a very large variety of very big hot dogs. These monstrous 1/4 pound weenies and 1/2 pound sausages sit inside an equally monstrous bun. They are topped with various regionally inspired fixin's with names like "The Chicago Dog", "Ball Park Special", "Coney Island Original", etc. The restaurant seems to take its name from the menu offering called "The Hottest Dog" which features a hot sausage topped with jalapenos, onions and hot sauce. The restaurant is located in a strip mall on Teays Valley Road across from the Hurricane City reservoir.

With all its variety I was pleased to see that they offerred a "West Virginia Dawg" that includes "Coney sauce and coleslaw." This is apparently something added only by the local franchise as it is not listed on the menu page of the corporate website. The price of the West Virginia Dog is $3.95, which is very pricey, but to be fair, this dog (er I mean dawg) does include a 1/4 pound weenie and your choice of sides. Well, I wasn't about to pay $3.95 for a dawg that was more than I could eat in one sitting and was just about to turn a leave when I saw a sign for a "WV Dawg Junior" for $2.75. Still more than I expected but tolerable, especially since this was not just lunch but also research.

The first thing I notice about the Junior Dawg is that it is a normal size weenie served on one of the monstrous buns that had been cut in half. It was piled high with chili and slaw and looked very nice. The bun seemed a little stiff - not quite stale but certainly not steamed. The chili tastes very much like Coney Island style sauce, just as advertised. It's not very spicey, but it has a nice texture and flavor. Not great WVHD chili, but OK. The slaw is a different matter.

To call this substance slaw is not fair. It seems to have very little in common with slaw other than the appearance. It tastes like bland mayonaisse potato salad; a little more finely chopped. It seems to have celery, carrots and some small tastless chunks of what is presumably cabbage. It is bound together with either very tasteless mayo or yogurt. It topped off a very unsatisfactory excuse for a West Virginia Hot Dog.
The Hottest Dog is a very nice place and the variety of hot dogs you will find there is without equal in this area. It is the only place where one can go to get a presumably authentic Chicago or other style hot dog in the Charleston/Huntington area. But if you are a fan of an authentic WVHD you might be disappointed.

Update 1/15/2007: The Hottest Dog management contacted to tell us that their slaw is under review. It seems they earnestly want to offer a more authentic WVHD. If anyone tries this new slaw and would like to comment on it, please email us at

It's all about the sauce...

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New Huntington Hot Dog Reviewer

As I said in my post on Saturday, I am done with Huntington Hot Dogs and their "sauce" and special request slaw. I have recruited Chris James, a Huntingtonian and a hot dog enthusiast, to to reviews of Huntington area HDJ's from now on. He'll be posting an introduction soon and then hopefully posting regular reviews. Make him welcome.

W. Va. Hot Dog Festival - The Other Dogs

It seems a little weird to me to have a Hot Dog Festival and have a bunch of events for the four-legged kind of dogs along with it. Think of it, if you didn't have a real understanding of our culture and looked at the meat on a hot dog then saw all the dogs running around, what would you think? Knowing that we call them both "dogs" wouldn't help matters. Wouldn't you think that the people were cold-blooded dog killers that could pet their dog and eat it too?

Maybe it's just me.

Here are some pictures that highlight the "other" dogs at Saturday's event:

With the incessant barking, yapping and butt-sniffing, violence was inevitable. I caught this shot just before the brown dog bit the head off the black dog. (OK, not really, but he tried.)

This lady obviously drew the short straw and had to hold this sign up while all the dogs lined up behind her and then she led the parade around the courtyard.

If this were video you would hear the inimitable strains of the Baja Men singing "Who Let the Dogs Out?" which played as the The Pooch Parade began. It was most embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as . . .

. . . This! I really felt bad for this little guy, er I mean girl. OK, I didn't check but either way . . . sheesh!