A few months ago, in this very booth (see photo), a lunchtime meeting was held at the Dairy Queen in Teays Valley. Not since the agreement between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown was made at the Granita restaurant in Islington, London has a meal so shaped the future of the world...
Ok, the hyperbole is about to make me gag, but still, this place holds a special place in the lore of WVhotdogs.com, as it was where Stanton offered me a position with the site as the Huntington-area reviewer and first taught me how to properly taste the ingredients of a WV hot dog (and warned me about the strange looks that I would receive).
Like most cities/town/census designated places/clumps of population in West Virginia, Teays Valley has long had a Dairy Queen. As subdivisions and McMansions have sprung up in the former farm lands along Teays Valley Road (county route 33), the Dairy Queen has gained a sense of specialness and timelessness in an increasingly architecturally uniform area. They use the sign to congratulate local folk on birthdays, anniversaries, etc and have made themselves a popular part of the community.
Foodwise, they offer the standard Dairy Queen selection: dogs, burgers, fries, Chicken Strip Baskets, etc and all of the ice cream treats that have made DQ famous.
As for their weenies, the Teays Valley Dairy Queen's hot dog is a figurative essay on highs and lows. The bun and slaw rock. The sauce (erm, chili, I forgot that I am east of Hurricane city limits) and weenie are not so good.
When I ordered my dawg, I asked for sauce (then quickly blurted out chili), slaw, onions, and mustard, to which the guy responded "a hot dog with everything." He then asked "Would you like your bun toasted?" I'm not usually a big fan of toasted buns, but I suspected that this was par for the course and I went with my when in Rome mentality that guides my way through the world of hot dog toppings and nodded my head in the affirmative.
As I drove back to work, I was quite glad that I had the bun toasted. The smell of the freshly toasted bread made me at least 70% more hungry and nearly tempted to pull over and eat it alongside the busy road.
When i first inspected the dawg, the toasted New England Split-top bun was indeed impressive. I tore off a bit and tasted it on its own. Nice, very nice.
The weenie, on the other hand, was as blah as blah can be. It was the standard deep-frozen weenie that you get at every DQ. Remember the wieners that they served in grade school? It was about like that. I will give them style points, however, for grilling the sausage.
The sauce was your standard DQ coney sauce that Stanton has described in depth many times over. I think they added some spice to liven it up, but I still cannot stand the spongey, Chef Boyardee-esque beef (?) product that they use in their sauce.
Since the sauce wasn't notable, its a good thing that they came through on the slaw. It was sweet (but still with a lil' bit of zing), finely chopped, and piled high. This is exactly the kind of slaw that Hillbilly Hot Dogs needs to make the perfect dog. Too bad it is wasted on such a sub-par weenie-chili combo.
Now to the ratings:
Bun: 4 weenies. It has made me rethink the way I look at toasted split-tops.
Wiener: 1.5 weenies. And it only gets that for the effort that they put into grilling it.
Chili (sauce to normal folk): 2 weenies. DQ coney sauce bites. Hard.
Slaw: 4.5 weenies. One of the best.
Overall: 3 weenies. The bun and the slaw save the day and make it worthy of buying if you are hungry and in the area.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
A few months ago, in this very booth (see photo), a lunchtime meeting was held at the Dairy Queen in Teays Valley. Not since the agreement between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown was made at the Granita restaurant in Islington, London has a meal so shaped the future of the world...
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Located in the former Carbon Fuel Building, (now called Boulevard Towers) this little restaurant location has seen many different tenants over the years. Most have had very good food but the parking and other traffic limitations have caused them to go belly up, one by one. The latest incarnation seems to have a better toe-hold than some of the others and here's hoping they stay around a good long time because they offer a good hot dog to office workers on a side of town that has not many other options.
The decor of the place is Coca-Cola Americana, with more Coke trinkets per square inch than most any other place I've seen.
The menu lists a regular hot dog and an all-beef version for a few pennies more. I tried the all-beef and it was a good choice. The weenie was very good indeed. The bun seemed to be pretty much out of the bag and could have used a good steaming but it tasted OK.
The slaw was finely chopped and had a nice flavor but not terribly sweet. It was served in an adequate sized portion but it was just a touch too dry to be perfect. The onions were coarsely chopped.
The chili was remarkable because it had a strong beefy flavor but not much else. It had the midwestern loose-meat texture and I coudn't detect a trace of spice. With the slaw, though, it worked.
Overall Chaser's serves a pretty good hot dog, but not a great one.
Posted by Stanton at 7:51 PM
Monday, November 27, 2006
Located just off the main drag through Sabraton, this little hot dog joint has big surprises for WVHD lovers.
Suprise #1 - Even in this far northern location slaw is listed as an optional topping on the menu. Chili, onions and mustard are standard but when I ordered mine with slaw I didn't even get a funny look. This, in a location that is even north of slawless Marion County!
Surprise #2 - The slaw is served in a heaping-helping! I was astounded when I saw the how they piled it on.
Surprise #3 - The slaw is just excellent! It tastes nearly perfect and is a perfect texture. It is as creamy and sweet as any slaw you would find at even a southern W. Va. HDJ.
Surprise #4 - The chili is great. It is just spicy enough to make its presence felt and it is meaty and has enough liquid in it to give it a really good texture.
Surprise # 5 - The bun was steamed to absolute perfection! Even though the dog was served in a coffin it was delightfully gooey and had excellent weight to it.
Surprise # 6 - This hot dog is simply one of the best hot dogs I have found in all of West Virginia!
On the downside, The Hot Dog Barn is one of those little roadside places that is difficult to know when they are open. This is the third time I've stopped and the first time the lights have been on. But I'm very glad I kept trying! This is a great hot dog joint with great hot West Virginia hot dogs!
Since I'm not very familiar with the area I can't give you great directions, but if you get off I68 at the Sabraton exit and head toward town, keep looking to the right and you'll see the Hot Dog Barn just before you get to the Hero Hut. Just look for the six-foot tall hot dog squirting ketchup on his head.
Posted by Stanton at 9:27 PM
Saturday, November 25, 2006
A few months ago, Huntington hosted the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival (Stanton posted his unenthused review here). I, too, attended the event and was particularly taken aback by one entry, M & M Dairy Bell. One minor problem, they are not, technically speaking, located in West Virginia but rather Chesapeake, Ohio. This was the one dawg that Stanton refrained from sampling, but boy, did he miss out.
While the business is located on the wrong side of the river, their hot dogs are all-West Virginia. The sauce. The slaw. The people. They all have a lot more in common with West By God than with the flatlanders of Akron, Columbus, and Toledo.
M & M Dairy Bell is from the old school. It is a small mom 'n pop business located on the main drag in Chesapeake (a suburb of Huntington, located just across the Robert C. Byrd Bridge).
It appears that their specialty (along with ice cream) are foot long dogs, but my appetite was limited when I dropped by, so I stuck with a traditional size weenie.
I ordered a dog with sauce, slaw, onions, and mustard and, upon the dog's arrival to my table, I knew that I was in for a treat.
The bun/weenie were standard Huntington issue. Fresh and tasty.
The sauce (chili to those east of Hurricane) was first-rate. There was lots of loose ground beef in a tomato/chili powder base. It was the right balance of liquid and thick to bathe the weenie in deliciousness. The sauce was on the mild end of things, but much how a veggie korma is the mildest dish at an Indian restaurant, not hot but full of flavor. I would most certainly buy it if it was available at Julian's or Kroger.
The slaw was nicely chopped, creamy, and just sweet enough. There was plenty of it spooned on the sauce and the two interacted quite well.
The atmosphere was what put it over the top. It was small, friendly, and oozing with the charm that one would expect in an old-timey drive-in in Appalachia. The service was top-notch and wait staff was helpful and courteous.
As far as side dishes/non-hot dog options go, the menu looked like pretty much what you would expect for a dairy bar. My wife had a corn dog and crinkle cut fries that she reports were quite tasty and perfectly fried. The ice cream selection seemed diverse and the menu featured local favorites such as a Panther Paw (double cheeseburger with pepper jack) and 'Peakes Pride (bacon cheese fries).
Overall, this is a place that knows exactly what it is and is comfortable with its spot in the Huntington-area food chain and it excels in its niche. In fact, I would say that M & M Dairy Bell is better at what it does than Arthur's or Savannah's and is on par with Rocco's and Jim's (speaking relatively, of course).
I'm not even going to bother to break it down. This is my first (and likely only) 5 weenie review. Now this leads to a dilemma...
This would mean that the best West Virginia hot dog in Huntington is not in West Virginia at all. Now granted, Chesapeake, Ohio is just as West Virginian in character as any other of Huntington's 'burbs. But still, Ohio.
This means one of several things...
1) I should be tried for treason against the state of West Virginia.
2) Some places in Huntington (and yes, even Charleston) need to shape up and restore our pride with some better sauce ASAP.
3) We should ignore arbitrary, artificial political boundaries that were drawn by British and French peers 240 years ago and instead focus on socio-cultural demarcations instead (ie trade the northern panhandle to Ohio in exchange for Lawrence, Gallia, Meigs, and Athens counties).
Whatever the solution may be, you'll find Chris James & family pondering it and many other questions on the wrong side of the river a lot more.
Posted by Chris James at 5:48 PM
Friday, November 24, 2006
I have been overwhelmed by the response to the article in the Daily Mail! The traffic on this blog and wvhotdogs.com has far exceeded what could be reasonably expected to be generated by an article in a paper with the circulation of the Daily Mail. On Wednesday, the day the article was published, traffic on wvhotdogs.com went through the roof: over ten times the traffic of any other day in its history. This blog's traffic was about double, but most of the referrals came from wvhotdogs.com. Even yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, traffic was still off the charts.
The best part is that I received more than a dozen new recommendations. This will help get me through the winter without having to search too hard for lunch.
The downside is that I have been so busy answering email that I haven't had time to post anything new. Hopefully things will get back to normal soon and I'll get back to the business of reviews.
Posted by Stanton at 11:13 PM
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I began to recieve a ton of hot dog email this afternoon and had no idea why. The I opened the Daily Mail and found out. Read the article here.
I was interviewed weeks ago and had pretty much given up on the idea that it would be published. I guess it was a slow news day.
Posted by Stanton at 11:55 PM
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I have finally nailed down the precise point of where I79 crosses the slaw line. Before I divulge the location, let's review for the sake of newcomers:
The majority hot dog culture in West Virginia dictates that "everything" on a hot dog includes mustard, onions, chili AND coleslaw (some individual hot dog joints include ketchup but they are mostly misguided souls that just don't know any better). This culture exists virtually everywhere throughout the southern two-thirds of the state except for Huntington (which seems to think that slaw is optional) and is completely perverted in the Northern Panhandle where slaw can't be found in any hot dog joint known to us. It has been postulated that there must be a point along Interstate 79, the main artery for north-south traffic through the state, where the slaw culture is lost into the unfortunate void of a no-slaw zone. After a great deal of research, this point has been found.
At the risk of over-simplification and dishonoring the work that had been done to begin to narrow down the slaw line crossing, the big break came when I visited Ritzy Lunch and found out that Clarksburg is in the fringe area, where slaw can be obtained without restaurant staff giving you the strange look that they do in Fairmont. So my search moved to the south of Clarksburg. The Nutter Fort Dairy Queen has chili and onions standard, but that is to be expected since Nutter Fort is esentially Clarksburg even though it lies a few miles to the south.
Since there are no Dairy Queens between the no slaw Nutter Fort location and the yes slaw Flatwoods store, I have to rely on locally owned hot dog joints. T&L Hot Dogs is a fly in the ointment since it is a regional chain based in Clarksburg but are spread throughout the slaw line border zone. I realized this might bend the slaw line artificially south if there are no local joints to offset its influence, so I set off on a research path that sought out locally owned restaurants that served hot dogs. This was harder than it sounds since this area is some of the most sparsely populated territory in the state and restaurants are few and far betweeen.
Heading north from Flatwoods, I found no hot dog joints in Burnsville, but Glenville is just a few miles away and I know of at least one HDJ there that has slaw on a standard everything dog, so we'll put Gilmer County in the slaw column.
Jane Lew, even though it's a few miles south of Clarksburg and in a different county (Lewis) I nevertheless have always felt that people there identify with Clarksburg. So I was quite surprised to find that The Jane Lew Restaurant, which sits right off of exit 105, has slaw on its everything dog. So Lewis County lies south of the slaw line.
This leaves us with Lost Creek, which has no restaurants that I could find. The closest is at West Milford. There, the Dairy King Restaurant does not include slaw on their dogs except by special request. Presuming the slaw line lies between West Milford and Jane Lew, I put a pin in the map near the southern border of Watters Smith Memorial Park which is exactly half way between the two.
Now I needed a reference point to the east. Phillipi lies due east of Lost Creek, but it's in a completely different county. Barbour County, it seems to me, has its own identity which could be a plus or a minus when it comes to the task at hand. I checked with City Restaurant in Phillipi and they said they do include slaw on their "everything" dogs. Now I needed one more point from which I could triangulate and located the precise I79 crossing of the slaw line. Grafton, I know from previous experience, is a slaw optional city and since it sits 13 miles due north of Phillipi that would put the eastern reference point near Clemtown. Drawing a straight line from my two reference points I find that the line crosses Interstate 79 at mile marker 111.
So I stopped at milepost 111 today on my northward trip and was surprised to find that someone had apparently beaten me to the punch! (click on picture to enlarge)
Posted by Stanton at 11:00 AM
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
You know, all of us want to think we make a difference in the world. Even a lowly hot dog blogger wants to think he's changing the world, one weenie at a time, by highlighting the best hot dog joints and hoping that market forces or natural selection will create a better grade hot dog for us all. Alas, all my ramblings seem to amuse a few folks but no lasting change seemed to be happening because of this blog. Until now.
I got an email from Teddy at Swiftwater Cafe the other day and in it he told me that he had found a new slaw recipe and thought I should come by and try it. Now you might recall that while they have the best weenie in town, their slaw was lacking. Imagine, a business that really wants to have a quality product and listens to customers. In this day and age? Unheard of! But thankfully Swiftwater has always been a cut above the average hot dog joint. Now they are two cuts above.
The new slaw is southern style: Sweet and finely chopped. The color is greener than most (I think because the greenest leaves of the cabbage were included instead of discarded - which also makes it wonderfully tender to chew). The taste is nearly perfect for hot dogs. The texture isn't as creamy as I normally like, but changing that might change the taste. Leave well enough alone. It is very, very good the way it is.
Put this stuff on a hot dog with Swiftwater's chili and their amazing Boar's Head weenie and you have yourself a mighty fine WVHD. One of the best in town.
Swiftwater is located in the 405 Capitol Street building on the Washington Street side. It's on the block between Kinko's and Park Place Cinemas. They are open for lunch (Hot Dog Special - 2 dogs, chips and a fountain drink for $4.00) and breakfast Monday-Friday.
And when you go, make sure to thank them for being conscientious about the quality of their hot dogs!
Posted by Stanton at 10:30 PM
Sunday, November 12, 2006
About two miles up Campbell's Creek Road sits this little piece of nostagia that has everything you might expect from something called "Peggy's Dairy Treat", and a few things you wouldn't expect.
First, there's Peggy. She's been there for decades and still greets customers with a smile as she takes their order. Then there are the dairy treats: A whole compliment of ice cream dishes and milk shakes adorn the menu and they all look pretty tasty. The building is also what you'd expect in a roadside dairy bar except that it has been modified from its former walk-up only status to include a small dining room whose walls are painted purple for no apparent reason.
What you might not expect is that Peggy's has things on the menu like baked steak and gravy and a full line of scrumptious home made cakes and pies in addition to the ice cream.
But you would expect hot dogs in a place like this and you will definitely find them.
Peggy's hot dogs are true West Virginia Hot Dogs. Not the best, but perhaps the most typical specimen you are apt to find in the Charleston area. The chili, while meaty and tasty, tastes of no spice other than chili powder. It is served somewhat sparingly. The slaw is coarse but nicely sweet and great tasting. The bun was steamed and onions were sweet. Not much to say, just a good hot dog in a sweet little roadside stand. The atmosphere is made more authentically West Virginian by the rumble of coal trucks that zip up and down Campbell's Creek Drive incessantly. One even stopped there to pick up lunch while I was there.
Peggy's is open daily from 10 AM - 8 PM.
Posted by Stanton at 9:12 PM
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
In honor of today's big adios, I thought I'd post a picture of Don Rumsfeld's favorite hot dog joint in Washington; Ben's Chili Bowl. I'm not sure how often he eats there but I have it on good authority that he's insane for their chili dogs.
I hear that he's a pretty good racquetball player, too. He supposedly has a great backhand, is pretty quick for an old guy and never knows when to quit.
I guess he'll have more time to work on his game now. And maybe more time to eat hot dogs, too.
Posted by Stanton at 9:50 PM
Monday, November 06, 2006
Located about a mile up Campbell's Creek, this little establishment feeds the body and the mind that is hungry for entertainment. Here, you can sit down to nice little informal family dinner and then rent and take home the latest horror flick on DVD. The decor of the little place is "Coca Cola Americana" with Coke themed everything, save the movie posters hanging on the walls. A great deal of care has been taken to make the place visually interesting on the inside, including a model train that circles the room on a track atop the walls. It is clean, neat and comfortable. The exterior, though, is plain and ordinary.
I stopped in for a hot dog on a recent afternoon and the place was completely empty, but the person behind the counter said he usually has a good lunch crowd. Since it was such a nice fall day I ordered my one hot dog with everything (which means chili, slaw, mustard and onions) to go and went to Daniel Boone Park to feast al fresco. I peaked into the bag as I left the restaurant and was pleased to see that the dog was wrapped in wax paper, so I knew that by the time I made the five-minute trip to the park the dog would be nicely steamed.
When I got to the park and opened the wrapper, the first thing I noticed was the color of the slaw. Most slaw in these parts is basically white, but this was an interesting green color. I couldn't tell what it was that gave it its color, but the slaw was finely chopped and looked great. It tasted great too; sweet and quite tasty. The chili was also pretty good; meaty and served liberally but not much spice at all. With the heavy servings of toppings the hot dog had great weight to it and was very satisfying for a 99 cent dog. As I expected the bun had acheived a near perfect texture on the trip.
Pretty darn good hot dog, overall. It could definitely benefit from a spicier chili, but that's about the only knock I can give it.
To get to there head east on Route 60 out of Charleston and turn left on Campbell's Creek Drive (this is the first traffic light on 60). The Movie House Cafe is about a mile ahead on your left.
Posted by Stanton at 9:19 PM
Sunday, November 05, 2006
After marking out big time for the Manwich-esque sauce on the Johnny Dog that I had at Southside Chevron, I was inspired to go back to the kitchen and try to make another great WV dawg.
I followed the directions on the can of Manwich sauce (easy enough) and stuck it in the fridge for a couple days to allow the flavor to soak into the meat. I then heated it up, topped it on an all-beef Cavalier, which was itself on a superfresh Sunny Bun. On top of the sauce I put some Gunnoe's slaw (Ballard's was still of the shelves when I bought it), diced sweet onion, and French's yellow.
Overall, a pretty good dog for the time put into its creation. Cavalier and Heiner's are always tops on my list, so no problem there. I used the butcher's trimmings from Kroger's for the ground beef, which I would highly recommend. It's basically the trimmings from the roasts and steaks, so there is no mystery meat like there is in the regular ground beef. Plus, its only $2 a pound (you have to buy four or five pounds, however) so it is a perfect combination of price and quality. The onions were the basic fall sweet onions they have at stores now. Not Vidalias, but not bad. The Gunnoe's slaw is far from my favorite and did hurt the overall quality with its general blandness.
I'd give this dog 3.5 weenies as is (4 with better slaw). I've gotten burnt out on Custard Stand sauce and it was nice to have a change. The Manwich was not as good as Johnny Dog sauce, so its not a substitution or anything, but its a great way to use up leftover Manwich
Posted by Chris James at 2:01 PM
Friday, November 03, 2006
I got an email from a reader that said that the Power Alley Grill now has a hot dog on the menu. Good news since I always thought it very odd that a baseball themed restaurant wouldn't have hot dogs on their menu, but that's exactly what I found when I first visited the Power Alley Grill. I was glad to hear that they were making amends for that oversight.
Named "The Power Dog", the only hot dog offering on the menu comes with an equally powerful price: $7.95 including fries. A Power Dog has a quarter pound Cavalier weenie on an oversize bun. The menu listed the standard dog toppings as Custard Stand Chili, cheese and onions with coleslaw on the side. I substituted onion rings for the fries. I wasn't happy about paying eight bucks for a hot dog, even a big one, but I didn't want to let you people down.
Posted by Stanton at 8:00 PM
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Right off of Interstate 79 Exit 133 near Farimont sits D.J.'s 50's and 60's Diner. For years I have seen this little retro looking diner while on trips north and always thought it looked nice. I finally had the chance to stop and see what kind of hot dogs they had to offer. Being in Fairmont, home of Yann's, I figured I'd be lucky to find any coleslaw but figured I'd take my lead from Chris James and do the "when in Rome" thing.
As is the custom in this kind of retro diner, the menu items have names that are supposed to be reminiscent of early rock and roll, so a hot dog is called a "Hound Dog". There were two Hound Dog options on the list, one was just the dog and the other was a dog with fries and a side order of slaw. Slaw on the side? "Better than no slaw at all" I thought and ordered the combo, substituting onion rings for fries.
There is a lot to look at inside D.J.'s while you wait on your order. Pictures of Elvis, Bobby Darrin and Fabian along with other rock and roll icons line the walls. The place is bigger than it looks from the outside, I'd estimate it would hold 150 easily, and there is lots of room to wander around looking at the old stuff on the walls. The place itself is just very cool and well done. Every detail is covered, right down to the juke box and pinball machine. The decor is all black and white checkerboard floors, red and silver naugahyde and chrome everything else. The whole restaurant sparkles.
When my order came I was glad to see the hot dog, er I mean Hound Dog was served on a grilled English bun. A good start. A nice helping of chili was topped off with curls of shaved onions - a very nice touch. I tried a bite of the dog in its natural state and found it to be pretty good. The chili tasted exactly like the kind of chili you eat in a bowl with crackers. It was hearty, meaty and a little bit spicy. I didn't see any kidney beans but it certainly tasted like they were there somewhere. Before I took the second bite I layed on the coleslaw from my side dish, and when I did the Hound Dog really came to life. The slaw, while being a little coarser than I normally like, was out of this world good! It was sweet and creamy and even though the cabbage was a little too chunky, it seemed to be very tender so it worked. Even though there was some assembly required, this was a great West Virginia Hot Dog! I sat there savoring the slaw topped creation and I felt like other diners and the waitstaff were giving me funny looks and whispering about the guy that had put slaw on his Hound Dog. I didn't care, I was sitting there in the glorious manifestation of a genuine WVHD high!
As I finished eating I wanted to find D.J. and tell him what a gold mine he was sitting on. Here was this excellent chili and a good hot dog sitting there on a plate side by side. If D.J. could just see the possibilities and make the leap from having this heavenly creation sitting on the side to including it as an active partner in the main course, he could quite possibly help to move the slaw line north a few miles and get us closer to the glorious day when all of God's children enjoy slaw on their hot dogs! I had to do something, I had to say something!
But, alas, all I said was "check please." And I headed southward on I79. There will be no revolution this day.
But every mile of the drive back to Charleston I kept thinking, "maybe someday." Maybe someday.
Posted by Stanton at 8:30 PM