Saturday, May 05, 2007

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joint: Hillbilly Hot Dogs-Lesage

While most of the co-eds at Marshall probably think of Hillbilly Hot Dogs as that kitschy place near campus on 3rd Ave.; most local folk, however, point to HBHD's Lesage branch as the original and superior location. My recent visit up Route 2, however, revealed that the downtown location may indeed have surpassed the original in overall quality.

The zany, soft hixploitation of Lesage gets points for being the more authentic incarnation in terms of decor and wackiness.

All was not perfect in eastern Cabell County, however. The first problem was the service. At the 3rd Ave. location, servers are friendly and chatty. Here, however, the window guy was somewhat curt and dismissive. Not that he was a jerk or anything, but it certainly wasn't the level of service that I'm used to from HBHD.

As for the dog, it was fairly similar to a dog purchased at the downtown location. The sauce was beefy and thick (if slightly too mild) and topped liberally. The onions were neither too strong nor too weak and mingled well with the sauce. The weenie was top notch and tasted like a quality sausage.

The slaw, of course, was sub-par. My wife, a native of Seattle, commented that the slaw reminded her of cole slaw from the west coast. It was very pretty, with large chunks of cabbage and carrots and visible pepper specks. However the taste---like the slaws of the Pacific Rim---was where it fell flat. Honestly, the slaw tastes more like a dry cabbage salad. There is very little mayo in there and I doubt that there is any celery salt or sugar in it at all. If they are really serious about expanding the HBHD brand, they need to ditch the slaw. It really isn't very good at all in terms of hot dog slaw (but it is pretty good on other sandwiches, for what it is worth).

But, I digress. Enough people must disagree with me, as the joint is doing well. Maybe I can smuggle some slaw in from Austin's next time.

While I did take up quite a bit of ink to complain about the slaw just now, that was not the main problem with the dog (I've come to accept that HBHD's bad slaw is part of the natural order of things), not by far. You see, everyone that knows their hot dogs in the Tri-State and Advantage Valley knows that a Huntington hot dog will and should always have the freshest of buns. In Huntington there is usually no need to steam the oven-fresh buns that were just loaded off of the Heiners truck, unlike in other parts of the state where steaming is a necessary step to turn their hard-as-stone buns into something palatable. These buns, however, more that failed the test. You could tell the bun was not only from an older shipment but also from a bag that had been left untied for sometime. Seriously, this was about like that "hard tack" stuff you read about in Civil War novels. Blech.

This is probably the most heart-wrenching review that I've had to write. I love Hillbilly (despite my objection to their interpretation of proper HD slaw) and the owners are two of the coolest human beings who you'd ever hope to meet. For the time being, I have to give Hillbilly Hot Dogs-Lesage a provisional 3 weenie rating. This still rewards them for great sauce 'n weenies and a cool atmosphere but also serves to put them on notice that I expect better buns and hope for better service next time. If everything is up-to-snuff by then, this score should climb into the 4-4.5 range.

I'm rootin' for ya.


The Film Geek said...

I hate to read this too. The owners are cool people, and they read this blog. I've talked to them about it last Fall, and they were eager to get another review. Too bad this one spot has gone a bit sour.

Chris James said...

They'll get another crack in a few weeks.

The owners are awesome people and are great examples of what local business people should be like.