Sunday, March 30, 2008

Charleston HDJ Re-Review - Galaxy Lanes

A couple of years ago I visited all of the local bowling alley snack bars trying to find which had the best hot dogs. I found that none of them had hot dogs that were up to snuff and most were below mediocre. I was probably the hardest on Galaxy Lanes in Kanawha City, whose dogs I found so lackluster that I didn't even give them a score.

Well, a recent flurry of comments on that old post by people who are most likely friends and family of the snack bar's proprietors caused me to pay another visit to see if the hot dogs had improved. One of the comments also said that they sold yellow slaw and since I had been stymied in my search lately for the yellow stuff I thought that would reason enough to give the Galaxy another shot.

When my dining companion and I walked into the place at lunchtime one Friday I was surprised to find that we were the only patrons there. I thought this would be good as it would would allow us to be served quicker, but boy was I wrong. Our four hot dogs and one order of fries took all of 15 minutes to get to us.

Once I finally had my hot dogs I found that the slaw was fairly good (sweet and well made - and white, not yellow), but that the chili had virtually no taste except that of the ground beef it contained. Not a trace of spice nor herb could be detected. The weenies were tasty and plump, but they could not overcome the lack of flavor from the chili.

It was better than it was last time, but Galaxy Lanes doesn't earn any more than a 3 Weenie rating on this trip. To all of those people who left comments arguing that Galaxy has great hot dogs, I would recommend that you get out to other restaurants, the kind that isn't located inside a bowling alley, to try a real hot dog once in a while.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Charleston HDJ Review - Sub Express - Lee St. West

Nearly Universal Hot Dog Rule #1: Hot Dogs served in a convenience store are bad.
Nearly Universal Hot Dog Rule #2: Hot dog buns heated in a microwave are a sign of a bad hot dog.
Nearly Universal Hot Dog Rule #3: Weenies heated on one of those perpetually rolling weenie heating devices are lackluster at best, disgusting at worst.

When I saw the changeable letter sign on the local One Stop convenience store on the corner of Lee and Tennesee advertising hot dogs for $1.49 each, I figured that I would find a mediocre or worse hot dog there, so I didn't exactly hurry in: I actually took several weeks to finally make a visit. When I did I found that the place embraced the premising scenarios of all three of the above mentioned rules and I very nearly turned-tail and skedaddled out of there. But I remembered that the rules are only "Nearly" universal, so I thought I'd take a chance and test their universality.

Now to be fair, this isn't just a convenience store. It has inside two honest to goodness food service joints. One of these is a former "Blimpies" that has been reincarnated as a "Sub Express". That is where the hot dogs are.

"Everything" includes ketchup, which of course I deleted from my order. I watched with disdain as the person behind the counter nuked the bun nearly into oblivion. Then I saw the dreaded hot dog roller. I had not confidence that this hot dog was going to anything close to edible. But when I saw the pot of pretty good looking chili and a bowl of really nice looking slaw I regained a glimmer of hope. And when they wrapped my hot dog in aluminum foil my hopes grew higher.

In a nutshell, this hot dog turned the above referenced Nearly Universal Rules on their heads. Not a great hot dog, but certainly good enough to prove the "Nearly" part of the rule's titles. The slaw carried the whole thing (nice texture and taste), but the chili wasn't half bad either (tame but nicely complex).

Let's give this dog a 3.5 Weenie rating just because it worked so hard to overcome the odds.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fairmont HDJ Review - Underdogs and More 2

What a difference five miles and twenty-four hours makes!

Just one day removed from raving about how much I enjoyed the hot dogs from Underdogs and More on Speedway Avenue in Fairmont, I took a short trip across town the next day to the sister location on Locust Avenue cleverly named (wait for it) Underdogs and More 2. The name is about the only thing in common with the Speedway location.

I had the onset of clausterphobia for the first time in years when I entered this little facility. I would swear this shop was at one time nothing more than an oversized tool shed. Although there were seats for eight undersized individuals, I would have to believe that anyone attempting to sit down for a meal would be hard pressed for any elbow room at all. I found my spine pressed up against a Pepsi cooler while I waited for the four other customers in front of me to get their orders filled.

I was hoping that I might get an upgrade to the version that I had sampled across town, if it were at all possible. Imagine my surprise when I was told that they didn't have slaw "yet". I didn't ask for an elaboration at this point, as I was just happy to get my order and be on my way. I went with the traditional Marion County version of a WVHD, which is simply chili, mustard, and onions. While everything seemed to be in place as would be expected from Underdogs -right down to the styrofoam coffin- there was one striking difference that can be summed up in one word: waterlogged.

In the short time I've been reviewing with, I haven't come across a weaker tasting weenie than this one. To boot, this weenie was just barely warm enough to meet the local health department food preparation laws.

I gotta say that the chili was still pretty good. Like its sister location, it had a good complex texture and lots of flavor that begged to be sampled further. Nonetheless it isn't enough to save the day on an otherwise lackluster dog.

I give Underdogs and More 2 a two-and-a-half weenie rating. Hopefully, that rating will be raised in the future if a little more attention is paid to the preparation and the addition of a good quality slaw. Alas, it would seem as it goes in movies, so it goes in hot dogs: more often than not, sequels are not as good as the originals.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Charleston Area HDJ Review - Mr. G's

Once upon a time there was a magical place called Mr. C's Hot Dogs. Actually there were several of these magical places around the Kanawha Valley. The magical thing about Mr. C's was the slaw they served: It was yellow. Not only was it yellow, it was sweet and wonderful. But a great evil came over the land and one by one, the magical Mr C's began to disappear. One day without much explanation, Mr. C's was simply no more and the magical yellow slaw was gone. There was much sadness throughout the valley.

But one day a rumor was heard that Mr. C's had been reborn. The place was said to be located in Cross Lanes and was not called "Mr. C's" but instead chose a new letter a few spaces up the alphabet array: Mr. G's, it was said, is the same wonderful, magical hot dog joint with the same, magical yellow slaw. As the rumor spread, hope too began to return to the land.

So, a Knight of the Weenie order went on a quest: A quest to discover the magical yellow slaw of yore.

Mr. G's was easy enough to find. Straight through the stoplight in the land where the Lanes Cross, toward the Big Mountain of Tyler. The intrepid Knight traveled just a few short miles and there was the shining temple of hot dog glory called Mr. G's. The Knight was beside himself with glee: Would he be the one to restore the people's hope by revealing the location of the magical yellow slaw?

No, he would not.

For it seems that the rumors of the yellow slaw, as is often the case with rumors, were untrue. The slaw served at Mr. G's was as white as snow, though it was quite tasty. Very sweet and finely made. It sits atop chili that has almost no taste other than that of the meat from which it is made; no spice, no herb, nothing but meat. Mustard and onions are properly served and the hot dog warrants a good rating of Four Weenies. More spice in the chili would be an improvement, but this hot dog was good enough to bring a momentary smile to the lips of the Knight.

The quest for the yellow slaw will continue another day.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fairmont HDJ Review - Underdogs and More

Underdogs and More on Speedway Avenue in Fairmont is one of those places where the M.O. is simpy hot dogs and hot dogs only. You won't find many other offerings on the menu (save for fries, bottled drinks, and pepperoni rolls), let alone any other frilly bells and whistles. I wouldn't recommend getting a sit-down meal here on account of the extreme lack of seating. Although there is plenty of floor space, I didn't count seating for any more than ten people at the most. Those seats were quickly occupied during the lunch rush from the employees of the Novelis plant across the street.

A hot dog with "everything" here will net you chili, mustard, and onions. In keeping with the slaw by-laws of Marion County, slaw is available as an optional topping for a little extra. I didn't see anyone walking away with wax paper or foil wrapped dogs, only a stream of styrofoam coffins. A little disappointing, but obviously the proprietors know what their regular customers want, need, and accept.

The hot dogs themselves were terrific. I was immediately taken by how fresh and perfectly steamed the bun was. It was one of those buns that melts in your mouth with every bite while still managing to soak in just enough of the flavors of the weenie, chili, and slaw to add to the whole experience. The weiner was cooked to jucy perfection. However, I thought that there was a bit of overload in the onion department. Needless to say a supply of breath mints was in order for me for the rest of the day.

I was struck by how complex the chili was. While I can't say it was the greatest I have ever had, it was nonetheless very flavorful and hearty. The seasoning of the ground beef was very pronounced, giving it more of a beefy texture than normal. At the same time, it had just the right amount of sauce to keep the overall mixture from coming off as clumpy. I detected a heavy amount of paprika and chili powder, but not enough to overwhelm the whole concoction. I went with the medium version (other choices are mild and hot), and found it to be more than adequate when it came to buzzing my taste buds. It wasn't enough to make my upper lip bead up with sweat, but it sure did make me think about it. I'd chalk that up to the red pepper flakes in the mix.

The slaw was clearly of the homemade variety, but not all that flavorful. Although the mix of the dressing seemed well balanced, the cabbage was watery enough that it made the other ingredients taste bland. After pulling some of the slaw off with a plastic fork to sample on its own, I determined that the taste was almost completely gone from this particular batch. Then again, a ho-hum slaw is usually better than no slaw at all. Remember, this is Marion County after all.
For keeping it simple and sticking to the game plan to put out quality hot dogs, Underdogs and More warrants a four weenie rating. This HDJ is a credit to the hot dog culture movement.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fairmont HDJ Review - Andy's Hot Dogs

One can certainly say this much about Andy's Hot Dogs in Fairmont: it gives a new meaning to "corner hot dog joint". This fine establishment is crammed into the smallest corner section of the Fairhill Plaza on the outskirts of Fairmont. And as we all know, good things sometimes come in small packages.

It took a little bit of doing to find Andy's, simply because there were no signs on the outside of the shopping center to indicate where it was. Luckily a steady stream of customers going in and out of the door gave away the location, not to mention finally catching a glimpse of the modestly decorated window.

Even though I'm not a regular here, I was treated like family. Andy's has a list of specialty dogs (including a take on a Chicago dog which includes Polish sausage, tomatoes, and lettuce) as well as fish, chicken, and other sandwiches, and hamburgers. But the specialty is the hot dogs, and the customers there on this particular visit were ordering up every which way.

Wanting to get all I could out of this for the $1 price, I opted for the hot chili on my WVHD. One bite made me rethink my ability (and willingness) to handle spicy foods. I will send fair warning to those of you who are fans of the far milder southern hot dog chili variations that this sauce packs a wallop on the tounge. I briefly had a vision pop in my head of Godzilla frying greater downtown Tokyo with his breath. It wouldn't have surprised me if this chili would've played a part in the great lizard's radioactive capabilities. Needless to say, the chili was both complex in consistency and loaded with flavor. I located a good deal of red pepper flakes throughout the sauce, and noticed that the jar of the aforementioned flamethrower material sitting behind the counter was nearly empty. Works for me on a cold and rainy day.

One the flip side, the slaw wasn't anything to get excited about. I didn't catch the exact name on the label, but it was some mass food service brand. It was a bit of a let down that the same effort that went into preparing the chili didn't go into the slaw. Nonetheless, it was passable and all of the other components of this WVHD (weenie, mustard, onions) were just fine. Besides, it's a bit of a stretch to imagine a high quality slaw can be found in the majority of Marion County HDJs.

I'm willing to forgive on the lack of quality slaw in this instance and give Andy's Hot Dogs a four weenie rating. Andy's typifies what makes a good WVHD: the best use of the ingredients on hand to make a great hot dog.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bridgeport HDJ Review - Tudor's Biscuit World

I won't bore you with the stats and facts about this particular Tudor's location in Bridgeport. Instead, I'd direct you to this entertaining and descriptive past review of the Tudor's in Teays Valley by Chris James. While there are, obviously, some differences here and there that make each location unique, I'll second the motion from Chris' review that Tudor's has crazy delicious biscuits...not to mention the majority of the rest of the breakfast menu.

While the items on the menu are more than worth going out of your way for, the hot dogs are ho-hum at best. Mercifully, I was able to order a WVHD to go without having to repeat the ingredients over and over (for a change). However, I had to take a close-up look at my order to ensure that there was actually any chili on mine. Although the chili "material" was there, the taste was nowhere to be found. This was easily the most vapid of any chili I had sampled in some time, completely lacking any trace of beef or spice.

The slaw wasn't half bad. It seemed a little on the thick side, but the flavor was just about right. The sweetness wasn't overpowering and had just the right amount of tang. The cabbage was fresh enough and had a nice, subtle crunchiness that made each bite enjoyable. I can't explain why the slaw was piled on in a lopsided manner, but that's the way things go at a convenience store restaurant now and then. The wiener was lightly grilled, but came across as excessively salty for my taste. The other ingredients held up well, with the exception of the bun, which needed a better steaming.

This Tudor's location has good service and a great menu (for anything other than hot dogs), but the hot dogs are just okay at best. This Tudor's gets a two and-a-half weenie rating.

Monday, March 03, 2008

With Apologies to The Film Geek...

... We present, Movie Scenes That Matter, WV Hot Dog style:

Give 'em hell, Harry.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Kingwood HDJ Review - The Dawg House

A last minute change in plans at work put me on the road to downtown Kingwood. It wasn't until I got into the downtown area where I finally spotted a sign for The Dawg House. Right off the bat I noticed two signs side by side above the door: one for The Dawg House and one for Fox's Pizza Den. The red lights started going off in my head that there existed the possibility that the hot dogs would take a culinary back seat to the other menu offerings here. After reading over the menu, I confirmed my fear: this was indeed a pizzaria that just happens to offer hot dogs...more or less as an afterthought. Still, you never know where the best hot dogs will turn up, so another gamble on the taste buds was in order.

"Everything" here will get you a ketchup, mustard, onions, and chili. Slaw goes for fifty cents extra. Even though I ordered by the numbers (that is, naming the ingredients one by one), I somehow still got ketchup on mine. I had to take this order to go, so I got a double-sized styrofoam coffin that seemed more suited for something like a wedgie sandwich.

The unheated and somewhat stale bun was a big disappointment. I'm spoiled by decently steamed or at least slightly warmed buns, so this was a bit of a shock to the system. The weenie was done just about to bare minimum temperature standard, but not more than that...absolutely no plumpness or juciness. I found the chili to be heavily on the thick side, and the sauce it was cooked had a rather pronounced tomato sauce taste. The slaw required a double-take, both in taste and appearance categories. It was a very, very bright green. At first I thought it might be some sort of reflection from my bottle of Mountain Dew against the white styrofoam, but that was not the case. Nonetheless, it had a most unique flavor; I found it to be rather sweet and quite delicious, but at the same time very crunchy. Although I didn't see any evidence, I suspected that there was a chance that relish had somehow been blended into the mix. It tasted incredibly fresh, and I would really like have to have had some of this slaw by itself, or on another quality hot dog.

The Dawg House gets two weenies. Slaw aside, these hot dogs were pretty sad. The prepartion and ingredients were sub-par at best.