Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hinton Hot Dog Joint Review - Kirk's


I have eaten in this restaurant maybe six times over the years and each time it seems to have a different name. So when I got an email recently that suggested Kirk's for a review, I didn't know where I was going until I got there. But after getting there I realized this was same neat little riverside restaurant I had taken my kids to when they were small. I remember them feeding the ducks by dropping scraps of bread over the edge of the covered deck that extends out over the water's edge. This time, though, we were greeted by a sign that warned diners not to feed the ducks. No matter, because I didn't see any ducks this trip.

To eat on the deck, you must first go inside and place your order at the counter with one of the delightful order-takers and then they deliver your order to your table. The service we had on the evening we were there was just over-the-top friendly and attentive.

Obviously it is a Hinton thing to pile chili on top of the coleslaw, because Kirk's hot dogs look just just like the ones down the street at the DQ (see that review for reasons why this is wrong). Kirk's, however, tastes a little saltier and zingier than DQ, but still very tame as hot dog goes.

The slaw was sweet and tasty. I only know this because my wife got a side order with her meal and I tasted a fork full. It was very good and went well with the tame chili.

If Kirk's has a downfall it is the weenie which was small caliber and grilled too long. I know it was grilled because it had marks where it was nearly burned in places. The over-cooking made the weenie tough and chewy.

Overall Kirk's hot dog is virtually the same as DQ - A little better chili and a little lesser weenie, but it nets out the same. Kirk's has as nice a dining area, at least during warmer weather. With this kind of parity I have no choice but to award the same score to Kirk's as I gave DQ. 4 Weenies.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lavalette Hot Dog Joint: Hazlett's Triple H Drive Inn

Hazlett's Triple H Drive Inn is a roadside diner located just north of Lavalette on WV 152 (formerly US 52) and is a survivor of the days when restaurants were Mom 'n Pop joints owned by families and not by an MNC located in Columbus, Louisville, or Dubai. Everything about the place, from the architecture to the swinging doors (with a cash-only sign) to the lunch counter to the "no profanity" sign screams of authenticity. While I did get some dagger-stares from the locals, they were more of the "who the hell (oops, no profanity) heck is this?" variety than the "the sun better not set on your head here, buddy" sort and the service was fast and courteous.

I wish I could brag on the hot dogs from this greasy spoon as much as I can on the charming diner. I will say this, however: the cole slaw is nothing short of fantastic. It is creamy (but not running), sweet (but not sickeningly), finely chopped (but not over-diced), and had just the right touch of tang. I think it is already an early contender for a 08 Weenie Award for Huntington's Best Slaw (watch out, Austin's).


As for the rest of the dog, there is nothing terrible, but nothing special, either. They use a low grade weenie, even by the forgiving logic of WVHotDogs.com. The sauce is bland and served under the weenie (argh, again with this). The bun was fresh, but this is the expected default in these parts, so that doesn't earn them a cookie.

Basically, I ended up with a Frostop hot dog with really good slaw.
I would recommend Hazlett's to those that love Frostop dawgs but don't care for their slaw or for folks that want a slaw dog with no sauce, but for true WV hot dog sauce/chili connoisseurs, there are much better options.

Since their stellar slaw is on par with the 'Top's killer root beer, the atmosphere is equally neat as Frostop (although I suspect that, if the name is a clue, Hazlett's used to be a drive-in, too), and the hot dogs are equally so-so. I therefore am going to give Hazlett's the same score as Frostop: 3.5 weenies.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Martinsville HDJ – Knowlton’s Chill ‘n Grill

On a recent trip to New Martinsville, I asked an old colleague where I could find some good hot dogs in the area. My colleague isn’t really a big fan of hot dogs like I am, but he mentioned a place he’d heard of from some of his buddies called Knowlton’s Chill ‘n Grill.

First, I'd like to give a little background history on Knowlton's, as given to WVHD.com by one of our readers who I will identify as "Mr. R". The Knowlton's family reportedly ran a Tasty Freeze in Friendly, WV for several years, offering up some tasty hot dogs featuring a "secret" hot dog sauce that was prepared by Mrs. Knowlton. Somewhere in the 70's or 80's, the place suddenly shut down. Rumor has it that at one point a famous ketchup manufacturer offered a large sum of money for the recipe, which was declined by Mrs. Knowlton.

Knowlton’s is easy to find, as it sits right along State Route 2 going through town. It is a remodeled building with a nice deck sporting several umbrella-covered tables for enjoying lunch or ice cream outside. The inside has a few small tables scattered about. The menu offers standard short-order items and Hershey’s brand ice cream.

The prices of the dogs are a little steep as a dog with chili, onions, mustard, and slaw going for $1.95. The service wasn’t overly friendly –though not rude- and I didn’t feel welcomed. I’m not saying I have to be personally greeted every time I hit the door, but at no time did the clerk taking my order make eye contact or thank me for my order (note: this also happened on a follow-up visit). Just one of those details I’m a stickler about when doing a review.

I ordered up two dogs with the standard WVHD contents and an order of fries…which turned out to be plain old store-bought crinkle cuts. I found the hot dogs themselves to be much too sweet for my spice-calloused taste buds. My friend commented first, saying he found them somewhat inedible due sweetness. (I didn’t pinpoint the base of the seemingly meatless sauce until a day or two later when I was in the grocery store and walked past cans of Manwich sauce. Yup, Manwich sauce.) I dissected my hot dog so I could try to get a visual on what else was in the sauce. I found a couple of kidney beans and bits of pickle relish.

The cabbage in the slaw was coarsely chopped while the dressing had a smooth, creamy consistency. It had a markedly sweet taste as well. I thought it was good enough that it would undoubtedly go well with a medium or hot chili/sauce. However, the sweetness of the slaw dressing is just too much to bear when combined with the sweet chili sauce. The buns had potential as they seemed to be warmed well enough, but a hint of staleness quickly squashed any hopes of salvaging something positive out of this experience.

I don’t think many -if any- WVHD fans will be happy with these dogs. This might be a good place to take the kids, but that’s where I’d draw the line. Based on the overly-sweet sauce/slaw combination and not-as-friendly-as-could-be service, I have to give Knowlton’s two-and-a-half weenies.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Charleston HDJ No Review - The Salty Weiner

It's not fair to review a HDJ before it has its sea legs, and so I won't be providing a review right now for Charleston's newest mobile hot dog stand, The Salty Weiner. I found their cart set up in Davis Park next to the band stand and had a couple of their hot dogs. I think they will do better with experience, but today they were struggling with the heat and the newness (this is their first week). The owners said they plan on staying put but they might move if business dictates. They sell BBQ on a bun, hot dogs and hope to offer hamburgers in the future.

I'll offer this advice to the new entrepreneurs:

1) Go for excellent ingredients. There is too much competition downtown to expect to make it on a decent hot dog, you need a great one.

2) Be dependable. Be where we can find you when we want you.

Good luck Salty Weiner dudes! The next time we visit will be for keeps, so be ready!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fairmont HDJ Review - Mikey’s Snack Bar

Surprise! There’s more slaw in Marion County. Yes, there are some stones still left unturned in Fairmont, and Mikey’s Snack Bar is one of them.

Mikey’s is a small mom-and-pop sandwich shop nestled in the shopping plaza located on Country Club Road in Fairmont. The shop itself is actually part of a larger front split with the hair salon next door. Seven stools surround a small counter, and a couple of tables crammed in the far corner offer seating for about six more people. A menu of different sandwich items is offered in addition to hot dogs, and bottled drinks are the standard beverage choices.

The folks running the place are friendly enough and seemed happy that I asked for the slaw along with the customary WVHD toppings of mustard, chili, and onions. Peculiar (at least for HDJs north of Hinton) but in the preparation I observed that the chili was placed on top of the slaw. This was my first time seeing it prepared that way. My order was done up quickly and wrapped in a wax paper bag stuffed inside a brown paper bag. The price was more than fair at $1 even (including tax).

I guess one advantage to the having chili on top, particularly when it's as thick as it is at Mikey's, is that there is less spillage of the slaw. That worked out pretty well in this case. Still, I personally prefer the traditional preparation of slaw on top. I’d be willing to bet that it’s the lack of experience of putting any slaw at all on the dog that’s got Fairmont HDJs confused. But I digress.

The bun was warm, but needed to be steamed more. The wiener did not seem to completely fill the bun, but it was cooked well otherwise. The slaw was fresh and didn't have a overly-sweet taste. The dressing used in the slaw bought out the taste of the carrots that were scattered about. Overall, this slaw tasted fine, but did not do much to help the essence of the dog itself. The chili itself was quite underwhelming. It had absolutely no flavor to it at all, yet there was a noticeable watery taste in the ground beef. Mind you, the chili was thick enough and in no way runny. I didn’t see any chili powder or red pepper available at the counter to add to it, but it definitely needed some help.

Mikey’s isn’t bad at all. The hot dog quality here balances out as far as positives and negatives go, but a bit more emphasis on the chili and slaw ingredients would make for a better WVHD. The service is fast and friendly, and small size of the shop is an inviting place to enjoy lunch. Three weenies for Mikey's Snack Bar.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let's Talk Buns, Shall We?

Huntington Weenie Wonk Chris James made the observation in one of his reviews that the essence of a West Virginia Hot Dog is taking really cheap ingredients and making them taste great. I couldn't agree more. And although he was writing about weenies when he said that, I think the same thing applies to the bun the weenie sits in.

Lately we have had a run of HDJs that serve their hot dogs on so-called "English Buns"; those split-top buns that are grilled in butter or toasted until they have a crunchy crust. These buns are especially prevalent in Dairy Queens in our area.

These buns add a lot of bulk to a hot dog, and a lot of calories. When they are grilled in butter they take on a "comfort food" feel usually reserved for Blue Plate Special meat and potato entrees. The bun by itself could be a small meal.

But is an "English Bun" a fitting vessel for real West Virginia Hot Dog? I don't think so, and here's why:

Hello!? It's called an "English" Bun - How can something that claims to be authentically Appalachian have a major component that is completely foreign? But let's be technically correct, though, the English Bun is not English at all. How do I know? I asked the foremost authority on hot dogs in England, Scoffer, who runs the "Sausage and Bread Blog" based in London (not the one just downstream from Montgomery). I sent Scoffer a photo of hot dogs on what we call and English Bun and he said he'd never seen anything that looked like that in jolly old England.

OK, you say, then if it's not from England then it's not foreign. But wait! The crack research team here at WVHotDogs.com has found that "English Bun" is just a corruption of the actual name, "New England Split Top Bun." Trust me, New England is just as foreign to Appalachia as is Old England.

Additionally, we found out that New England Split Top Buns were first made not for hot dogs, but for lobster roll sandwiches. Apparently, that is still their major use in New England. In fact I couldn't find a single hot dog joint web site in New England that uses these buns for hot dogs!

So why, then, should we accept them on a real West Virginia Hot Dog? We shouldn't.

A "real" WVHD is made on what is technically called a "Frankfurter Bun." These buns were made for exactly the purpose we use them for when we put a frankfurter, aka "weenie", on them.

It is standard practice here at WVHotDogs.com to deduct a half point from the Weenie Rating for any hot dog reviewed that is presented on a New England Lobster Roll Bun.

Just because.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hinton Hot Dog Joint Review - Dairy Queen

We've been getting email from people who love the hot dogs at the Hinton Dairy Queen practically since WVHotDogs.com has been in existence. I've heard about the grilled English buns and the crazy way they put the chili on top of the slaw. I've heard about the dining room with the great view of the New River and I've heard about the hordes of people who show up there for hot dogs. And after hearing this for so long, I finally got a chance to see for myself.

Now, it's not that I haven't eaten at this Dairy Queen before; I have. I have spent quite a bit of time in Hinton over the years beginning in about 1970 when Pipestem State Park was under construction and my dad's company was a sub-contractor on the project. I actually stayed for weeks on end at the Sandman Motel which sits right next door to the DQ. So I have eaten there many times, but not in the past few years and certainly not since I've been doing hot dog reviews.

But for those who haven't been there, let me tell you a little about it: The major feature of this DQ is the really nice two-tier dining room that looks out over the New River. The lower level is not more that ten feet above the water's surface and faces what could either be called a small rapid or a large riffle. Whatever it is, it gives diners a little bit of white water to look at while they eat (incidentally, just a few yards down the river is raft company outpost where you can embark on a pretty tame whitewater adventure on a stretch of river suitable for smaller kids). Upstream you can see the confluence of the New and the Greenbrier River, and just up the stream from there is the massive Bluestone Dam which holds back the waters of Bluestone Lake.

The New, in Hinton, is wide and shallow. It is not unusual to see hip-wader clad anglers in the middle of the river hunting smallmouth bass. The view across the river from the DQ is one of complete natural Wild Wonderful West Virginia, except for the McDonald's golden arches sign protruding up obscenely from behind the tree line and a lone cell phone tower on top of the high ridge beyond the riverbank.

With its view of the river, trees and mountains this little dining room rivals any I have seen for sheer atmosphere. A full size fireplace at one end of the room belies the fact that this is a fast-food joint. You might expect to be served by a tuxedo-clad waiter in such a aesthetically pleasing place as this.

Ordering your food, though, will quickly bring you back to reality. One must speak one's order through a window to one of about five or six cute teenage girls who busily scurry about the back and call the order numbers out to the waiting patrons. Mine was number 171.

The first thing I noticed as soon as I pulled the dog out of it's wrapping was the aforementioned upside-down chili presentation. I had been warned, but seeing it in real life was a bit disturbing. I quote from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council's Hot Dog Ettiquette web page:

Condiments should be applied in the following order: wet condiments like mustard and chili are applied first, followed by chunky condiments like relish, onions and sauerkraut...
...and I will add, coleslaw.

Putting hot chili on top of cool slaw means you have cool chili and hot coleslaw. This is an abomination.

But I got over it.

One good thing that comes of the upside down presentation is it gave me a chance to really taste the chili with no interference from mustard or slaw. So I can tell you exactly what it tastes like. It tastes exactly like ground beef. Exactly. Nothing else, just ground beef. My wife said she tasted a hint of chili powder, but I'm not so sure that wasn't just the power of suggestion: It is called "chili" after all. The texture of the chili was nearly perfect, but the taste was simply beefy. Not that it wasn't good, mind you, but it lacked flavors you'd expect to find in hot dog chili.

But as accessible as was the chili, the hidden slaw was as difficult to isolate for a proper taste sampling. What I could taste seemed very good, but a little chunky maybe.

The grilled English bun was tasty and satisfying, but we know the place of English buns in the West Virginia hot dog world, don't we? They're kind of like Grandma's good china: a good change of pace, but not for everyday use.

Coming up with a Weenie Rating for this HDJ was not easy. I had the whole drive back to Charleston to mull it over and still am not completely satisfied, but here it is: Starting with 3 Weenies, just on the merits of the dog, and adding a half point for atmosphere isn't quite enough. At least a quarter point is demanded by the overwhelming support of its fans. We'll round it up to 4 Weenies.

I know this is going to disappoint a bunch of loyal supporters who have repeatedly emailed trying to get us to Hinton. But this hot dog lacks anything really special like over the top great chili or amazing slaw that would put it into the upper echelon of WVHDs. Except for the upside down presentation there is nothing extraordinary about this hot dog.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Clarksburg HDJ Review - Worlds Collide at A&W

The A&W at the Eastpointe shopping center in Clarksburg is actually a combination A&W and Long John Silver’s restaurant. Both are brands of Yum! Brands Incorporated, the company that also owns the KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. Yes, this is a review of a corporate chain. No, this isn’t going to be pretty for a lot of reasons.

To put it simply: don’t expect the soul you’d get from the better reviewed HDJs on WVHotDogs.com. If you can’t figure that out before you get there, take one look at the menu board and you’ll know that if you’re after hot dogs you’re in the wrong place. Chicken planks? Fish fillets? Crappy fries with vinegar? ‘Nuff said.

Just like a bad one night stand, the review of the hot dog offering is something I’ll long regret. Not actually writing the review, mind you, but rather the suffering that had to be endured for the case study. The “Coney Dog”, as it’s called, is the closest you’ll get to a WVHD. I was asked if I wanted it “as it comes”, which was with chili, onions, and mustard. I went along, and scanned the board for some cole slaw which I found listed on the Long John Silver’s side of the menu. At $1.09 for a small helping, it was too steep for some really crappy slaw. More on that shortly.

When my order was delivered by a rather confused teen who looked like he couldn’t tell if my order number was 98 or 86, it came in the dreaded stryo coffin. The slaw was leaking over the edges of its little container. I opened up the coffin and was promptly under whelmed by the barely warm bun. I reckon the bun was actually warmed by heat of the wiener itself rather than having been in a warmer of any kind. The wiener had a passable beefy flavor, but not much more than that. The onions were transparent, which tells me they were in no way freshly cut. The chili had a meaty flavor, but was otherwise very bland. Its dark brown color doesn’t speak of being overcooked, but rather of artificial color.

As for the slaw, like I mentioned before it's actually Long John Silver's slaw. LJS slaw is runny, runny, and more runny. It's way too sweet for any hot dog, and loaded with carrots. Nothing redeeming about it.

I noticed that on the styro coffin there was a slogan reading “The Coney Dog Preservation Society”. Typically corporate….selling out the legend of a wonderful hot dog. It’s safe to bet the originators of the Coney Dog are rolling over in their graves.

If I can give one bright spot to this place, it would only be the frosty mugs that are offered up for all the A&W root beer you can drink. Sadly, even their namesake beverage cannot make their hot dogs bearable. One weenie.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

2007 Weenie Awards Huntington Winners Gallery

Here are photos of all four winners of 2007 Weenie Awards in the Huntington area accepting their awards:

Austin's Home-Made Ice-Cream (Ceredo), Best Slaw




M and M Dairy Bell (Chesapeake), Best Hot Dog Joint



Sam's Hot Dog Stand (8th St.), Best Hot Dog


Congratulations again to all Tri State Winners.

Monday, August 13, 2007

HDJ Review - DQ = Disqualified at the Shinnston Dairy Queen

I don’t know of many people who don’t like the ice cream at their local Dairy Queen. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I know of any people that like the hot dogs at the DQ in Shinnston.

Easily one of the most recognizable landmarks in this area of Harrison County, the “barn” is always busy year round. They offer the standard corporate menu and don’t deviate from it at all. When I went for an order of hot dogs, I was taken aback that the only other toppings offered (other than ketchup, mustard, onions, chili, and cheese) were the exact same offerings for the hamburgers. No slaw here.

These dogs are an abomination to all that is right and good to connoisseurs of WV hot dogs. Murphy’s Law was in full effect here: all that could go wrong did go wrong. The bun was stale and barely warm. The onions were flavorless, rough cut pieces. The wiener –what a devastating disappointment—was almost rubbery. The flavor was that of an over processed, brine saturated, festival of fillers. It says 100% beef on the sign, but I don’t know if we’re talking synthesized beef or what. The casing of the wiener had a strange --dare I say “chewy”-- consistency.

But the final nail in the coffin was the chili. Clearly, it’s a variation of Hormel’s canned chili. I don’t know who decided this was a good idea, but I’m willing to bet they had a half-dozen 9-volt batteries attached to their tongue before trying this. Numbed may be the only way one could tolerate it.

Bottom line: if you want ice cream, milkshakes, Blizzards, etc., then this is your place. If you want hot dogs, avoid at all costs. Rating: one weenie, and that’s being generous.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Beckley HDJ Review - Berkshire's Old Fashioned Frozen Custard

Just because you say it doesn't make it true. And if you say it, you'd better be able to back it up.

Not only does Berkshire's Frozen Custard brag that they have the best hot dogs in town, but the sign claims they have the "World's Greatest Grilled Hotdogs." Quite a claim. I only visited the Eisenhower Drive location, but I presume all the Berkshire locations in (there is one in Princeton and another in Beckley) make the same claim. As of this writing I haven't visited any HDJs in Princeton so I can't be sure that Berkshire's isn't the best hot dog in that City, but I am quite certain there is at least one place in Beckley that has better dogs even if you don't count Tamarack.

The menu lists "Regular Hot Dog" and "Ballpark Hot Dog" for ten cents more. I didn't ask what the difference was and just ordered a regular. Using the language of the menu I ordered a "chili and slaw" dog and had to specify mustard and onions - a good sign that this wasn't going to be a "best in town" kind of hot dog. And it wasn't.

Berkshire's chili tastes more like good and meaty spaghetti sauce than hot dog chili, but with the proper slaw it could work. Unfortunately the slaw they serve is coarse, tough and tasteless food service slaw. It didn't suit the chili at all. The grilled English bun was tasty and the all-beef weenie was nicely grilled, but this was not a great hot dog worth bragging about.

Berkshire's gets 3 Weenies out of five.

Berkshire's does, however, have great, great frozen custard. The cone was dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts. The presentation of the ice cream in the cone was artistic and the taste was better. And the vibe of the place is much more suited to ice cream than it is to hot dogs.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Nutter Fort HDJ Review - Thelma’s Lunch

Thelma’s Lunch is one of those places that never seem to either stand out or fade away. You just know it’s there and that it’s always been there. It’s an old house that was built on the bank of the Elk Creek and connected via a footbridge to the old industrial park area nearby. Decades ago, the industrial park was a bustling hive of activity. Thelma’s served up “working man” type lunches like sandwiches (try the fried bologna!), soup, burgers, and of course hot dogs. By all accounts, Thelma’s Lunch should have gone away as well as the businesses around it in the eighties. But the humble building still stands nestled in its little corner of the world….literally…next to the recently restored foot bridge.

By literally, if you’re heading south on route 20 through Nutter Fort you won’t even see the place without crashing your car by craning your neck backwards ala ‘Exorcist’ style. Even if you’re heading north bound, you’ll need to slow down to find it crammed beside the Subway and Sandy Dandy’s Diner.

The owners have peppered the walls with photos and mounted wildlife trophies from various hunting and fishing trips. The aroma permeating throughout is the first thing that hits you. And it does hit you. Something’s always cooking…namely onions and peppers for the Billy Dogs, but more about those later.

Take heed that upon my initial visit here, I asked for slaw on the dog and seemed to have set off a reaction in the style of Yann’s or the Soup Nazi. I quote: “I absolutely refuse to put slaw on my hot dogs!” Ooookay! No problem. Please don’t kill me. I went for a standard chili, onions, and mustard. I couldn’t believe it, but I was asked if I wanted ketchup. In fact, on every visit I’ve made since I’m asked if I want ketchup. I always give a roaring “Oh no way!” What I really want to say is, “Oh no you DIDN’T just ask me that!” Canned and bottled drinks are offered up so I elected for a Coke. I should’ve got two.

The first bite of the dog was a serious sinus opener. Strong onions permeate every single bite. The wiener itself isn’t anything special, but it certainly had been in the steam bin long enough to make every bite juicy. Maybe it’s a bit too juicy. I noticed that the well steamed bun quickly absorbed the juices of the meat and began to go soggy. Not bad really, but just a bit over done for my tastes. One thing that worked my taste buds over was the mustard. I’ve not had another hot dog anywhere that has as much mustard. The word “slathered” is well used for the description.

Those of you not as accustomed to the spicy chili/sauces of the northern areas are in for a jolt. The chili is a beautiful brown color with fine texture. The flavor is magnificently meaty, but somewhat overrun by the chili powder and onions cooked into it. You WILL have a tingle in your mouth, so don’t say you weren’t warned.

About those Billy Dogs…if you’re feeling lucky then take a gamble on one of these. Not much different than the aforementioned variation of the dog ordered, but these include fried hot peppers and fried onions. Dang good and wicked hot! Good luck if you dare.

Thelma’s Lunch earns itself a three and a half weenie rating. The restaurant itself doesn’t stand out as much more than a good ol’ boys hangout, but the hot dogs themselves are unique and flavorful. I’d be curious to see what a decent slaw would do for them.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Huntington Hot Dog Joint: Johnny Dog is in his element at WV Hot Dog Festival

Due to the nature of the event, I have refrained from reviewing HDJs at the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival both this year and last. For the most part, the outdoor catering incarnations of popular local HDJs pale in comparison to their permanent home. Last year, Sam's caused a minor international incident by neglecting to bring any slaw to the event. This year it was Bowinkle who "screwed the pooch," so to speak. Their offering was a over-sized bun topped with a teeny weenie, bland sauce, and so-so slaw (with a big squirt of mustard on, not beside and under, the slaw).

Some joints do indeed excel at the event. Stewarts has years of experience in catering local sporting events and can reproduce its 5th Ave. dog just about anywhere on the planet. Hillbilly Hot Dog brings its kitsch with it on the road and was under the close supervision of Sonny, The Weenie Man. M & M's stand was manned with two of their regular employees, so they were also able to dish out perfect duplicates of the dogs that made Chesapeake famous.

Even with he success of these joints at the Fest, you could still tell that they were all out of their element somewhat. Part of the charm of these places is their respective atmosphere, be they drive-ins, dairy bars, or converted school buses.

Johnny Dogs, on the other hand, was exactly in his element and was one of the points of light for the festival. For him, it was just like finals day at Huntington Junior College or any other event that has folks in downtown crowding around his stand for a hot dog. Therefore, this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to give Johnny Dogs a proper review (see South Side Chevron for more).

Johnny uses Cavalier's jumbo-sized frank and the standard Huntington-fresh buns, which is a sturdy foundation for any WV hot dog. He then brings it home with a Manwich-y sauce that is rich in beef, green pepper, and sweetness.


JD would probably be a 4.5 if he had a way to keep slaw fresh and cold, but, as it stands now, he still gets a 4 weenie rating for Having an outstanding sauce that, while unique, still fits well into the local hot dog culture nicely.

Monday, August 06, 2007

WV Hot Dog News

Dateline Charleston - We have another Sam's Hot Dog Stand closing to report. This time it's the one in the Patrick Street Plaza, and this time it's for real: An angry letter from the landlord on the front door tells the whole world that the proprietors of this ex-hot dog stand owes a bunch of money ($4,500 as of June 28th) and the premises have been locked up tight Inside the soda fountain lights are still on and there are still products chilling in the beverage cooler. I'd imagine there is a bunch of weenies still sitting in a pot of water.

Also of note to Charleston and Huntington area hot dog fans, the PBS special "A Hot Dog Program" will be shown on Channel 33 Wednesday at 9:00PM. The show highlights hot dog culture around the US. No WVHDs are featured, but slaw is discussed during visits to a couple of hot dog joints in Georgia (including The Varsity).

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Beckley HDJ Review - King Tut Drive In

I've been getting email about King Tut Drive In practically since I began this blog. Interestingly enough, many people told me that King Tut was the best place in Beckley to get a hot dog, but not many claimed that it was the best hot dog they'd ever eaten, or the best in West Virginia or any outlandish claims like that. All of this lukewarm praise didn't exactly make me want to rush down to Beckley, pay $6 in turnpike tolls and who knows how much in gas to sample lesser dogs. So I waited until I had other business in the Beckley area before trying it out. It took longer than I thought it would to get there, but I finally made it.

King Tut is a classic drive in restaurant with a larger than average canopy that covers an area large enough for 20 cars or so. The menu is much larger than you might expect with items that seem ill-suited to in-car dining like ribs, beans, salads and stuffed baked potatoes. They also have pizza and lots more. The carhops are courteous and the service is quick.

"Everything" hot dogs at King Tut include chili, slaw, mustard and onions. The chili had a complex taste, but was more bitter than spicy. It was also nearly absent. Only because my wife had ordered a "chili bun" (no weenie, just chili and slaw) was I able to taste enough of it to really make a judgment. The slaw was very good, nearly a dead-ringer for that award winning stuff they sell at The Swiftwater Grill; very tasty and prepared with care. The English bun is grilled (although mine was nearly burnt) and the weenie is big and seemed to be all-beef.

Ranking this dog is difficult: I always award an extra half point to drive-ins, but the overdone English bun renders that bonus moot. The good slaw was rendered moot by the mediocre and lightly served chili. So, standing on its own merits this dog only deserves a 3.5 Weenie rank.

I really wanted to love King Tut's hot dogs because it's such a cool little place. I found myself
wishing, however, that I had ordered something else off the menu. The large crowd that was there the evening I went testifies to the fact that there is good food here, just not great hot dogs.

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.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Big Daddy: Reviewer At Large

I’d like to bid you all greetings from the North Central region of our beloved Mountain State. I hope this introduction of me finds all of my fellow WVHD fans happy and healthy.

A little bit about myself for those of you currently battling insomnia at this moment: I’m a thirty-something resident of the area that’s lived around these parts for the majority of my life, save for a few trips around the country and other parts of the world (on Uncle Sam’s dime). I can say in complete confidence that there’s no other place like West Virginia to be found anywhere. Likewise, there are no other delicacies anywhere close to the glorious West Virginia Hot Dogs.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of my educational background, political interests (which are zero), or the like. I’ll stick to the important stuff like:

Favorite music: 80’s rock for the most part, but I’ll listen to just about anything.
Favorite movies (no particular order): The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spider-Man, Tombstone, The Blues Brothers

Favorite TV shows: Sports Center, MMA (UFC, Pride, WEC), Mythbusters, just about anything on Food Network

Favorite food: Look at where you’re at. Do you really have to ask?

I’m honored to have the opportunity to hunt down the best HDJs in the region and bring them to you. The thrill is in the hunt, and I look forward to giving you the best possible review that I can. Please bear in mind that I’ll strive to be fair and impartial to the utmost. As always, you should take the opportunity to patronize your favorite HDJ and spread the word by testifying to friends and family alike.
Take care and remember: “Indecision may or may not by my problem.” – Jimmy Buffett

New North-Central Weenie Wonk

With the advent of August and the beginning of a new Weenie Awards voting year, this is the perfect opportunity to introduce our newest Weenie Wonk. Using an even less believable psuedonym than Chris and I, Big Daddy will be taking over the reviewing duties for not only North Central West Virginia, but also supplementing our research in other parts of West Virginia since he frequently travels through the state (BTW, Big Daddy - don't say anything to Chris about the WVHD company car).


The next words you read on this blog will be those of Big Daddy himself. Take it away BD!