Monday, April 28, 2008

Philippi HDJ Review – The Hot Dog Hut

Right next to the famous Philippi covered bridge rests a simple and unassuming brick building where The Hot Dog Hut serves up some halfway decent dogs. There's nothing flashy about the place, but the interior is spacious, clean, and comfortable.

One of the things I liked best about this place is that there is one flat price for hot dogs with whatever toppings you desire. This is a change from the standard menu offerings in this region of the state, which is usually chili, mustard, and onions (and ketchup if you're not careful), with slaw running extra. The list of toppings available at no extra cost, runs the whole gamut: the aforementioned ingredients as well as cheese, jalapeños, and sauerkraut.

As far as preparation goes, I was a bit amused by the attempt to place the chili and slaw side-by-side on the bun. It was a nice try, but after I unwrapped the wax paper, it looked like something of a car wreck. Looks aside, the overall product tasted good enough to just get by.

The bun was slightly warm yet stale, like it had been tossed in a toaster oven for a minute. This took away from the taste more than I anticipated, but not enough to make me give up on the dog. The beef in the chili was ground far too fine for a passable WVHD mix. There didn't seem to be a lot of liquid in the sauce, which would normally be a welcome thing. In this case it gave the chili a mealy texture, like you would find in a cheap chili that had cracker meal mixed into it. I didn't really find any of the said filler, but I also noticed that the spices were on the weak side. A little more chili powder or pepper flakes would've been a welcomed addition. In the end, the chili came through as more of a “safe” recipe in that it had a minimal beef flavor but not enough spice to cause any upset stomachs.

I couldn't really pick up anything notable about the slaw. It was cool and slightly sweet, but not over the top. In other words, they played it safe with the slaw (like the chili). The wiener and onions were adequate as well.

In the end, there's not a lot wrong with The Hot Dog Hut's version of a WVHD, but it's not necessarily great either. I don't know if I'd go out of the way to go get one, however. The Hot Dog Hut gets a “safe” three weenies.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Looking for Hillbilly Hot Dogs?

With last night's premiere of the Food Network's piece on Hillbilly Hot Dogs, this blog has seen a huge number of referrals from search engine queries looking for info on the place, Here are a few links to make your search easier:

Hillbilly Hot Dogs Web Site review of the original Lesage location review of the Huntington location
A local (Huntington, WV) newspaper article about last night's premier party

For those of you not familiar with West Virginia style hot dogs, you might be interested in this FAQ page that will clue you in on the reasons West Virginia hot dogs are the best hot dogs in the universe. Of course I should point out that most of the hot dogs that Hillbilly Hot Dogs sells are not typical West Virginia style hot dogs. They specialize more in the bizarre. While they do have a "West Virginia Hot Dog" on the menu, it is a rather inferior specimen since they refuse to have decent slaw, the main ingredient of a proper WVHD.

But hey, they do have the atmosphere, gotta give 'em that.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Charleston HDJ Review - Tricky Fish

This little restaurant, a spin-off of the Bluegrass Kitchen, has been rumored to be opening any day now for the better part of a year. Since it was also rumored to have hot dogs on its menu, I was particularly interested in seeing the "open" sign pop up. It finally did.

Tricky Fish sits in an little old house on Washington Street East just a block or so from the State Capitol building. Inside it is has been remodeled nicely with some interestingly constructed holes in the interior walls to give the place a more open feel. There are a couple of cool concrete counter tops with exposed glass aggregrate that are obviously new but most everything in the place looks like it's been there for years. It reminded me of a little restaurant one might find a few blocks from the ocean in any number of beach communities in the Carolinas or Virginia.

At the top of the menu at Tricky Fish are its hot dogs. a "House Dog" (all beef, nitrate free, no hormones antibotics or steroids), WV Produced Italian Sausage, and a Veggie Dog. I opted for a House Dog with chili, slaw and onions. Mustard (four different kinds) are available from the condiment stand. My hot dog had a base sticker price of $4 and chili & slaw added 90 cents to the bottom line. A canned Coke cost $1.25. Pricey, yes, but I hoped it would make up for it in volume and taste.

It half did: This is big hot dog. Meal sized, for sure. But the flavor was nothing like I hoped for. It was OK, but not a WVHD. The huge weenie was very flavorful, so much so that it shouted down the toppings. The chili seemed good but was served very sparingly so I couldn't get an adequate taste. The slaw was the same way. The onions were strong. The bun was huge, proportioned to hold the giant weenie, and the taste was pretty good.

The whole hot dog was flavorful, but not the kind of flavor I was looking for in a WVHD. It's difficult to give it a fair rank. In fact, the hot dog reminded me very much of the one I got at Barnyard in Buckhannon and I didn't give it a rank either. This site is about West Virginia Hot Dogs. I know West Viginia Hot Dogs. West Virginia Hot Dogs are a friend of mine. And this is no West Virginia Hot Dog.
PS: I will, though, go back to Tricky Fish to try an Oyster Po' Boy. It looked yum.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

WV Hot Dog Festival video.

From the youth group of Lewis Memorical Baptist Church and posted to YouTube.

They manage to show video what seems to be all of the booths at last year's festival. In the comments on the video, the uploader calls Stewart's the best, which obviously means that he or she did not stop by M & M Dairy Bell's stall. :)

Great job, you guys.

PS - Mark your calenday, this year's fesitval will be on July 26.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hot Dogs: It's What's For Dinner, Dammit!

A 28-year-old woman in Orange County stabbed her husband during a fight that sparked over having hot dogs for dinner, according to a sheriff's office report. Officers said Alfreda Van Bladel apparently had prepared a dinner for her husband, Anton, that consisted of hot dogs. At some point, the man snatched the plate of hot dogs from his wife's hands, the report said. The action prompted the woman to stab her husband in the shoulder with a steak knife, according to authorities. Anton Van Bladel then alleged grabbed a handgun and pointed it at the woman's head and said he was going to kill her. Both a knife and a handgun were recovered from the couple's home. The husband and wife were arrested and face several charges in connection with the incident, including aggravated battery and aggravated assault.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Oak Hill HDJ Review - Tom's Carry Out

I can safely say that I have received more email about Tom's Carry Out in Oak Hill than any other HDJ in the state. It took me a while to get there, but I had a little extra time on a recent trip to Beckley and was able to travel the extra 10 miles or so to Oak Hill. I didn't have any way of knowing where Tom's was located because no phone book or directory assistance service could provide a phone number or address. I figured though, with all of the love that readers had shown for Tom's, it wouldn't be hard to find someone to tell me. Sure enough, the very first person I asked, a lady walking along side the road, gave me impeccable directions. Soon I was heading down Jones Avenue and before long I saw the red and yellow sign that screamed "Hot Dog Joint." And let me tell you, Tom's is a real Hot Dog Joint: The kind that Weenie Wonks dream about.

The ambiance begins on the outside, with the aforementioned sign and the classic square cinder block structure with wide overhangs, and once inside the bright yellow paint and bare florescent tubes practically screams HDJ: I mean really, what other food could you possibly sell in a place like this? (The menu has hamburgers and a few other items, but every person that ordered while I was there ordered hot dogs.) Tom's is a no smoking establishment, but interestingly enough you can buy cigarettes there. A jar of pickled eggs sits on the counter, further enhancing the atmosphere of unrefined unpretentiousness. No less than a dozen hungry looking people waited on their orders as I came in, and another dozen came through before I left. Most got bags full of hot dogs to go.

One has a choice at Tom's between regular and foot long hot dogs. Regular are $1.09 each and foot longs are $1.99. "Everything" I was told, includes chili, slaw, mustard and onions: Music to my ears. I ordered two because I was pretty sure at this point that one wasn't going to be enough. I was right.

The first thing I noticed when I got my order was that the hot dogs were wrapped in wax paper, which meant they were really steamed nicely in their own moisture by the time I unwrapped them. But then I saw something somewhat disturbing: The chili was on top of the slaw! Wait a minute, I know what the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says about this: Chili ALWAYS goes on the bottom. Now I have run into this disturbing upside-down presentation before, mostly down in Hinton, and whenever I do I struggle with the temptation to deduct a half-point just because it's weird, but more about that later.

One thing about having that chili right there on top, it gives a Weenie Wonk easy access to do the taste test. I was able to get a good taste, and it really tasted good. I mean really good. This is hot dog chili that is good on purpose. It is meaty, but fine textured; spicy and complex. Even the color is right: Dark brown and obviously prepared with care. They sell the chili in pints, quarts and gallons and I'll bet they sell a ton of it.

But the upside-down presentation completely hides the slaw and prevented a thorough tasting, which readers of this site knows is a bad thing: After all, it's all about the slaw, isn't it?

But it's also about the whole hot dog, too, and this whole hot dog is nothing but great. Tom's knows hot dogs. They care about hot dogs and it shows: It shows in the way they carefully spread the mustard on the bun instead of squirting it on like most HDJs; it shows in the way they mix up small batches of slaw when needed instead of having a monster-sized container of stuff that was made yesterday or last week. It shows in the way people flock to Tom's and write emails to hot dog blogs. It's inspiring.

But is it inspiring enough to offset the upside-down-ness? Can we award our highest honor, a Five Weenie rating, to a hot dog that is put together upside down? How can this be a real statewide treasure when it looks so wrong? Isn't it worthy of more than a merely mortal Four and a Half Weenies? What would Joe Manchin do?

Well, when the Gov and his administration was faced recently with the unsavory choice between labeling some less than pristine waterways as "Tier 2 Streams" because they didn't qualify as "Tier 3", why they just created a brand new level: Tier 2.5. Now West Virginia boasts the only Tier 2.5 streams in the whole USA. Now that's something to be proud of, huh?

So it would be completely reasonable to create a brand new 4.75 Weenie rank just for Tom's, right? Reasonable maybe, but too much work making a new graphic. Sorry Tom's, upside-down presentation gets a half-point deduction in these parts. So 4.5 Weenies it is.

But it might be the best tasting 4.5 in the whole state.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Barkersville HDJ Review - Lil' Pups Hot Dogs

I've always been fascinated by the popularity of White Castle Hamburgers. For those of you not savvy, White Castles are little hamburgers that people up north buy by the bag full when they are drunk. In my humble opinion you have to be drunk to eat them because they taste disgusting, and therein lies the fascination for me: I know people who eat them when they are sober and profess to think they are the best thing in the world. There is no adequate explanation for this. I'll just leave it as one of the unsolved mysteries of the universe.

I hadn't thought of White Castles in a long time, but when I ran across Lil' Pups Hot Dogs in Barkersville it all came back to me.

Lil's Pups sits right alongside Surveyor Drive in downtown Barkersville. I was intrigued by the sign that promised 4 hot dogs for a dollar, and a dozen for $2! How could I not stop and check it out? You're right, I couldn't!

I immediately discovered two things about Lil' Pups: They sell tiny hot dogs and the hot dogs they sell are not WVHDs at all (which is surprising since Barkersville is the quintessential southern West Virginia small town). "Everything" on a Lil' Pups hot dog includes mustard and ketchup. And the weenie on a Lil' Pup hot dog is basically a cocktail weenie without the yummy BBQ sauce that is typically served on these little hors d'oeuvres. Of course I could not bring myself to order ketchup on any hot dog, even a micro-dog, and so I got mine with just mustard. There really wasn't much room for anything else in the little bun anyway. Hard to complain about value, though, as two dogs, chips and a couple of pickle slices only rang in at 75 cents.

Of course a hot dog this size is a one-bite affair, and since I only got two I could barely even tell what they tasted like. I noticed, though, that other customers were getting them by the dozen and so I asked some of them what they thought (I immediately noticed that most of the clientèle were large, burly men who looked like they were not too discriminating about what went into their stomachs as long as it was voluminous). Most of the answers to my questions about why they liked Lil' Pups had their reasons based in quantitative terms, not qualitative. And most of Lil' Pups' customers probably would not understand that last sentence.

Large quantities of beer would no doubt help make Lil' Pups more palatable, and like White Castles I'm sure you could get used to the taste to the point it would grow on you and you might even begin to like them when sober. I decided quickly that I don't want to get that familiar with these hot dogs, regardless of how cheap they are.

Since Lil' Pups had neither chili or slaw they don't get a weenie rating, but if they did it would probably be a very low number: Maybe a 1.

As in April 1.