Thursday, August 02, 2007

It’s All About Chili at Grandma Cookie’s Hot Dog Express in Clarksburg

If there’s one constant in the hunt for a great hot dog, it should be that any claims of “our famous sauce” or “our famous chili” or the like should always be taken with a grain of salt. You’ll find chili/sauce that either lives up to the hype or would have been better served stored away in Al Capone’s vaults for Geraldo to dig up.

In Clarksburg, a little bit of positive press and some ideally placed radio ads have kept Grandma Cookie’s going since it opened in the spring of 2006. But it’s the word of mouth –the universally best form of advertising- about the chili (not “sauce”) that puts the customers in line here.

Grandma Cookie’s is ideally placed at the intersection of South Chestnut Street and Route 98, which makes for more customers from not only the downtown area, but the Rosebud and Adamston sections, and Nutter Fort. It’s a more modern HDJ built on the end of a recently renovated warehouse that houses a Dollar General, carpet store and a Curves.

The inside is one of the brightest HDJs I’ve ever stepped foot into. The recently paneled walls are white as white can be. Two tables to seat eight and four director-type chairs along the outer walls don’t make for much seating, but Grandma Cookie’s focuses on the carry-out crowd for the most part. One nifty item to look out for over the cash register: an autographed picture of Larry Thomas, a.k.a the Soup Nazi from ‘Seinfeld’. The picture reads: “To Grandma Cookie: NO HOT DOG FOR YOU! LARRY THOMAS. Sweet!

As for the dogs themselves, Grandma Cookie’s offers variations of dogs your may find elsewhere (cheese dog, tex-mex, kraut dog, and so on). Their standard dog is chili, mustard, and onion. The West Virginia hot dog version here goes by “Slaw Dog”, so that probably disqualifies it as an official WVHD. But as I mentioned before the homemade chili here is outstanding. It has a perfect consistency and texture, and the flavor emphasizes a beefy essence. There isn’t an emphasis on overdone spices, but chili powder and red pepper flakes are among the selections available at the counter if you wish to add them. I believe those who aren’t as well attuned to the spicier chili/sauce from the northern part of the state will really enjoy the chili here. The buns are just about right. The wieners are decent and prepped in a steam box. All of the dogs are available in foot long versions.

The only downsides: the take out versions of their dogs come in the dreaded Styro coffin (but the foot long versions all come in a cardboard dog “boat” inside a wax paper bag). The slaw is neutral in taste and has bits of carrot here and there. It does work consistency-wise with the chili, so it balances out quite well.

I can’t recall any other HDJ around offering a “buy 12 get 1 free” cards either…nice touch! The service is very friendly even during the lunch rush. I’d have to score Grandma Cookie’s four weenies on the strength of the chili, the a focus on creating a satisfying dog, and some of the friendliest service around these parts.

1 comment:

Chris James said...

No one in Huntington has a loyalty program like that.

That'd be a great idea for a place trying to get its name out there against the established HDJs like Frostop and Stewarts.