Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joint: The Big Loafer--Huntington Mall

Regular shoppers of the Huntington Mall have seen tons of stores come and go over the years. I'm always boring my wife with by pointing out where the Pied Piper, Walden Books, and the Hickory Farms used to be. Some stores, however, have remained staples of West Virginia's largest shopping complex. Among restaurants, one that comes to mind is The Big Loafer. Folks in the Mountain State know The Loaf as a melding of Appalachian cuisine and fast food. Their signature item is called, um, the Big Loafer and is the best meatloaf sandwich on the planet. That is all well and good, but we at WVHotDogs.com are a few years and several licensing deals away from starting a meat loaf sam'mich blog. Fortunately for us, they also sell hot dogs.

I ordered mine with everything, which was sauce, slaw, mustard, and onions. The service was more than friendly and the turnaround was quick, which, combined with the +100 Big Loafers I've eaten in my life had my hopes set for a killer WV hot dog.

Boy, was I in for a letdown.
The first problem was with the bun. The bread was totally stale and they microwaved (?!?!) it in order to freshen it up. Such behavior in a hot dog joint is totally inexcusable anywhere west of Milton. If they are old, call Heiner's and get some more. Don't insult me with nuked, rock-hard buns.

Another problem was to be found with the weenies, which were laying in a pool of their own filth (ie a water bath). While I am more lenient on such dogs than anyone else here at WVHotDogs.com, I still don't want to see the warming pan. Do it in the back and not at the front counter, por favor. I was willing to forgive this spectacle if they tasted ok. They didn't. Cafeteria grade, all the way.

The sauce was ok. Not great, not bad, just ok. It was incredibly meaty with strong notes of chili powder, but the noticeable lack of any other spices and only the faintest hint of salt left it on the bland side of things.

The slaw was, much like the sauce, fair-to-middlin.' It was sweet, too sweet for my taste, but probably just right for a Charlestonian, and finely chopped. The downfall was the fact that it was bone-dry. I imagine that mayo or salad dressing was involved in the concoction at some point, but had drained to the bottom of the storage unit.

Overall, we are looking at a very, very average hot dog from a great fast food place. The finished product was just like how what I imagine the finest hot dog ever served at Barboursville Middle School tasted. 2.5 weenies.


The Film Geek said...

Good review of a poor HDJ. I gave up on The Big Loafer years ago, when they started serving up a heavy helping of the gospel with each combo meal.

crystal said...

OMG. Bville Middle school cafeteria hotdogs. That takes me back! Hmmm, tommorrow? rectangle hamburger pizza slices.
I agree with you whole heartedly on the Loaf's review except I think you were being a tad generous. My kids eat 'em but they'd eat pig swill. I stick with the pizza roll.
Hey, isn't Hillbilly hotdogs supposed to by on Diners Drive ins and Dives soon? Did I read that here?

Chris James said...

TFG: I hear ya, but I'd set through a Tom Cruise/Jenna Elfman lecture on the evils of Xenu in order to get one of those meatloaf sandwiched.

Crystal: HBHD will be on there at some point. Keep checking the listings. As for square cafeteria pizza, here is a trick that I learned from relatives in Richwood: pizza, much like hot dogs, tastes better topped with slaw.

Big Daddy Loafer said...

As the co-owner of Big Loafer, my wife and I would like to thank you for your review. We would have appreciated it more if you had taken the time to give it to us personally as we value this kind of feedback immensely. I only stumbled across your site by accident.

We are delighted that you love our other products. Our best hot dog is actually the pig-n-blanket which is made in our homemade yeast dough. We do, however, have a large following of customers who love our regular hot dogs and you have pointed out some valuable quality issues which we addressed immediately.

Hot dogs will no longer be soaking in water but will instead be placed in a container inside the steam table to be kept hot and fresh. I've had water-logged weenies before and they are not suitable for serving.

The coleslaw will be made with more mayo but as it is a topping for our meatloaf sandwich, it must remain a little dryer than the average slaw lest it soak that sandwich to the point of inedibility. It is also plainer in flavor because too many additional spices would create conflicting tastes on the other sandwiches.

The freshness of the buns will be monitored more carefully. Thanks to your review, we discovered that backup stock was not being rotated regularly. Also, getting the employees to keep the plastic bags closed over the buns when not in use is a constant battle. Additionally, buns were being overheated in the microwave. We use a microwave to warm them up, not steam them. I'm afraid we will have to loose points on that one because the steamer method is better used by restaurants whose primary menu item is hot dogs. Employees have, however, been instructed not to overheat the buns in the future.

Given the popularity of our sauce, we see no need to change the recipe as people frequently buy it by the quart. Again, its flavor is simple by design and customers prefer it that way.

I would imagine that the exacting detail you require to fulfill your idea of the perfect WV dog will limit the number of HD versions which can live up to your standards. Some things are, after all, a matter of personal taste. To this extent, I doubt we will ever be a 10 on your weenie scale. Thanks to your review, however, I do think if you try us again you will find we've gained a few points. If you do, please let us know you're there so we can address any quality issues you may discover immediately. Such things as this help us keep the employees on their toes and we are always looking to improve.

Finally, I regret The Film Geek finds the free expression of the Christian faith at our place of business to be intolerable. I've noted this isn't usually an issue when other groups seek to use every available method to promote their beliefs. Indeed, they are often applauded. It seems to me a double standard is being applied here, nevertheless, as we answer to God Almighty on that one, I'm afraid we will have to do without his business. I'd also like to mention that the numbers of people who rejoice at such an expression far outweigh those who promote the prejudice that it is inappropriate. We do not "serve it with every meal" but it is clearly available for those who are seeking it. We know we will not have the Big Loafer forever, but we will forever be with Him who blessed us with the Big Loafer. Thank you again for your review. I hope to hear from you soon.

Chris James said...

Thanks for your comment, Big Daddy Loafer and addressing some of the issues. I'll eventually get around to trying your new & improved weenie, but I just can't seem to go there without ordering a Big Loafer. It'd be like going to Idaho and getting carrots or turnips. :)

Oh, and don't beat yourself up too bad, as our weenie scale only goes to 5, not 10.

The Film Geek said...

Hiya, Big Daddy Loafer:

While I respect your belief--really, I do--I just don't cotton to being witnessed to while I'm ordering my hot dogs.

Your premise, that other faiths are often applauded for promoting their beliefs, seems a shallow argument to me. First, I wouldn't go to any eating establishment where the owners promoted their religious beliefs to a semi-captive audience. Nope, wouldn't set foot in the door. Second, I can't name another faith other than Christianity that is promoted at area restaurants. So, there's no applauding going on, because there is no resaurants doing that.

You seem like a good guy. Tell you what: give me a two-for-one hot dog deal (with a medium Coke) and no tract, and I'll stop in again.

Big Daddy Loafer said...

Chris. Thank you for your responses. I'm truly delighted. I hope the few changes we made will gain us a point or two but even if they don't your enjoyment in our other sandwiches pleases us greatly. Franchises are available!
Film Geek. Regarding your request, I’ll do you one better. How about a free meal on the house? (You too Chris) Not sure how to go about getting it to you through the Ethersphere but I think you’ve both earned it. Maybe we could all meet there at a certain time. I’d also like to thank you for your respect of our faith. Restaurants are generally considered to be "neutral turf" and I understand why you would think it is like pouring grape juice on chocolate cake to see pictures of Jesus and Christian literature displayed therein. But then, don’t other restaurants also carry a theme? How about Hooters? What is their message? True, it is a gimmick, but it still makes a statement. McDonalds, Pepsi, Wal-Mart and a host of other major corporations promote such issues as the radical homosexual agenda. While it is true they do not put it in your face when you come through the door, the goal is the same. Immorality, violence, secular humanism, global warming, evolution and a host of other points of view are promoted almost without restriction on TV and in the movies. So you see, you are being subjected to a world-view everywhere you go, 24/7, whether you realize it or not. The question is not “should this be happening” but, “which message is the truth?”
Lets look at this logically. If Jesus is who He said He is (and even His enemies in His day realized He was) then it is also true we need to receive Him as such and live accordingly. He has made it clear that when He returns, all we now exalt instead of Him will be destroyed and only what is faithfully done for Him and by Him in Gods love will remain. Is it not logical, therefore, to promote reality and the facts of future history accurately? We owe this present world system no allegiance because it is falling into dust before our eyes. We owe Him everything because He is saving us from its destruction and rewarding us when He returns for being faithful to Him. I don’t think that necessarily means we’ll run a Big Loafer during His millennial reign; but I do know as His servants, as those who love Him for what He as done for us, we cannot but proclaim His message—a message of love, forgiveness, hope, freedom, healing, peace and joy. These are things everybody needs and they are certainly more inviting to me than a big pair of hooters.
Finally, I’m not sure what experience you’ve had that leads you to believe we are going to preach at you before you get fed. My wife and I are really the only “outspoken” believers there and we aren’t there very often. When we are, we do not usually bring up the subject unless invited to do so. You’d be amazed at how many people have approached us for prayer and counsel. You’d be even more amazed at the answers God has given to those prayers and they way His loving wisdom has changed the lives of those who receive it. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion; and yet, the Christian faith has been systematically removed from major areas of the market place by those who despise the message. They hate it because they know they are ultimately being told they are accountable to God and they rebel at the idea of His rule in their lives. Its an age old battle that has been going on between light and darkness since the Garden of Eden and there is no neutral turf. Our little restaurant is but one more manifestation thereof.
We are fond of saying we serve two kinds of bread: The bread we bake, and The Bread of Life. I pray you think on these things wherever you eat. I pray you open your heart and seek Him about them. For while you can only receive the former at our restaurant, the latter is available for you at all times. Just remember that, like our coupons, salvation is a limited time offer. . . and no one is assured of tomorrow—or even their next meal.

The Film Geek said...

I'm always up for a free meal! See my blog (click on my name) and my email will be there. :)

Big Daddy Loafer said...

My computer wants to install outlook to email you. . .no can do. I'm available Friday and Saturday evenings. (except for this weekend due to the Hot Dog Fest at which we will have a booth)Maybe we can review a movie while we're there--have you seen Harry Potter yet?

The Film Geek said...

I don't watch the Potter movies because of their anti-Christian themes of wizardry!

Just kiddin'.

I'll stop in sometime and say hello. And I'll pay for the hot dogs! I'm always up for discussions about theology, religion and whether catsup belongs on a hot dog. I gotta warn ya, though, I'm one of those guys who thinks the homosexual "agenda," secular humanism and spicey hot dog chili are actually good things. So, we may not have a lot to talk about.

Because I don't want to hijack Stanton's and Chris' hot dog blog, I'll bow out of the conversation now.

Look for a geeky guy with thick framed glasses and a pocket protector to pop in and say hello soon.

Big Daddy Loafer said...

I'm genuinely looking forward to it! I just hope you can catch me there. Tell the girls (Betty, Diane, Verney or Mary) who you are and they'll call me.

Big Daddy Loafer said...

And, BTW, It sounds to me like we have a LOT to talk about--that is, if you think you can run with the Big Dogs! I, too, shall bow out for now. My emial is TSBC@zoominternet.net for all who wish further conversation.