Thursday, July 31, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Overall North Central Region Hot Dog

2008 Weenie Award Winner for Best Overall North Central Region Hot Dog Haught Diggity DogzThe best overall award for the north central region presented a challenge in judging on account of there being so many worthy contenders. There was a serious late contender in the form of the Hot Dog Hut in Philippi, but we couldn't fairly give credit for consistency since they bounced from a three weenie rating to five weenies in the course of a few months just before the nominations for the Weenie Awards began. There were several other noteworthy HDJs such as Marties in Keyser, New York Hot Dogs in Wheeling, and Presto Lunch in New Martinsville. While I was fortunate enough to review these terrific hot dogs, I didn't get to review more nearby HDJs to confidently declare them the best in their respective counties. Hopefully in future editions of the awards, we'll include many more counties in the northern region.

Be that as it may, there were two hot dogs in this region that really stood out from all the others: Hank's Deli in Fairmont and Haught Diggity Dogz in Morgantown. Both have outstanding toppings that are made fresh all day long. Both are places you'd want to eat at over and over again with friends and family. Both have great service. Both are the best in their respective counties for the 2008 Weenie Awards. What can be the deciding factor?Haught Diggity Dogz 2008 Weenie Award Winning Hot Dogs for Best Monongalia County and Best North Central Region Overall Hot Dogs

Simple: price.

While Hank's is substantially higher in price than Haught's, both the taste and satisfaction factors make the money spent worthwhile. However, Haught's manages to keep one of the golden rules of a true West Virginia hot dog: making the best possible hot dog with the cheapest ingredients. Haught's dogs taste like a million bucks, but the price is more in keeping with what you would expect from a true WVHDJ.

For keeping the most stubborn of West Virginia hot dog fans satisfied with a tremendous hot dog and awesome service, Haught Diggity Dogz wins the 2008 Weenie Award for the Best Overall North Central Region Hot Dog. A hearty congratulations to the owners and crew. Keep up the great work!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Welcome My Z viewers and readers!

Welcome to all the folks who surfed over here via My Z's link to our Huntington review section. thanks Jessica Ralston and the rest of the gang at our favorite newscast, My Z's 10 PM news, for the coverage online and on last Friday's newscast.

I love the fact that Ralston and Co. weed through all of the boring stories that we can choose to read or not read online and stick to a concise report of the goin's on of the day. Stanton says that he enjoys not having to stay up til 11:35 to get the news.

My 2 year-old son just thinks that Jessica Ralston is "pretty like mommy."

Anyway, thanks again for think link. As Stanton says, you've made our year.

My Z 10 PM news can be seen on digital subchannel 3.2 in Advantage Valley; otherwise, check your local cable company's listings.

2008 Hot Dog Awards: Best Monongalia County Hot Dog

Haught Diggity Dogz, 2008 Weenie Award Winner for Best Monongalia County Hot DogMonongalia County may have presented the easiest decision when it came to the 2008 Weenie Awards. From the first time I stepped through the doors of Haught Diggity Dogz, I fell in love with the place. These were the hands down be-all, end-all of Mon County hot dogs for the past year.

The aroma of the fresh, homemade chili and steamed buns permeates the air just before you walk through the door. It beckons you to come in, take a load off, and enjoy some friendly conversation over the most satisfying West Virginia Hot Dogs around. Like magic, Haught's freshly made slaw has a blend that can seemingly do no wrong whether it is combined with the mild, medium, of hot variations of chili.

I'm always pleasantly surprised by the fact that no matter how busy it gets inside Haught's, there seems to be no shortage of time for the owners to make for a pleasant "hello" and "how do you do" with each and every customer that comes through the door. Service like this can't be bought these days.

A hearty congratulations to Haught Diggity Dogz for giving us THE Best Monongalia County Hot Dog! Here's too many more great years of success and fantastic hot dogs.

Monday, July 28, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Huntington Hot Dog (Suburban Division)

Good news, 'Peakers. M & M Dairy Bell has picked up a Weenie Award for the second year runnin'.

Last year, they won for the best joint in the Huntington area. This year, they take home the hardware for the best hot dog in the suburban and rural areas surrounding Huntington.

They have, hands down, the best atmosphere of any HDJ in Greater (or Lesser, if the new census data is to be believed) Huntington and are still serving up tasty dogs just the way any self-respecting West Virginian would want 'em (nevermind the minor technicality that they are a few hundred feet north of the river bank).

If you're in Huntington and stuck in a Stewarts/Sam's/Frostop/Hillbilly rut, head n over to Chesapeake and order two dogs with sauce, slaw, mustard, and onion and an order crinkle-cut fries (some of the best in the Tri State) or, better yet, a side of 'Peakes Pride bacon cheese fries.

You'll thank me later.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Marion County Hot Dog

Look up the word "finicky" in the dictionary and you will find a definition that best describes hot dog fans in Marion county. By and large, you'll find customers split each and every time over who has the best West Virginia Hot Dogs around. Most of the time, you'll hear Yann's mentioned. The problem with Yann's dogs as it pertains to Weenie Awards is that while they are legendary and phenomenal in their own right, they are not true West Virginia Hot Dogs due to the intentional omission of slaw.

So that brings us to the question: who has the best WVHD in Marion County? After thorough review, it doesn't seem like you can find a taste that tops Hank's Deli. Though the price is still a bit higher than most HDJs at $3.50 for one (or "double the dog" for an extra dog at $1.00 more), it does include a side of chips and pickle, for what it's worth. One bit tells the tale of just how worth it these hot dogs are.

These dogs are truly made with TLC and attention to detail. From the sweet and savory chili that has such a distictive, unique flavor to the sweet, creamy slaw that would make any hot dog into a masterpiece, Hank's makes it worth the effort to visit for just one hot dog alone.

Hank's is consistently good in terms of food quality and service. Like any good HDJ, it's a place I'm happy to go out of the way for and to bring my friends and family to over and over again. Congratulations once again to Hank's Deli! Well done and well deserved!

Friday, July 25, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Charleston's Best Hot Dog (Suburban)

There is no HDJ in or around Charleston that can match the quality, charm and longevity of Skeenie's Hot Dogs. Sitting on the side of Rt. 21 for 50 years just at the edge of Charleston city limits, this little gem of a HDJ is as close as it gets to being the original WVHDJ, and I mean that in a geographical sense as well as a philosophical sense. You see, tradition holds that the first place to ever serve coleslaw on a hot dog was The Stopette Drive In, which used to sit less than a half mile from where Skeenie's is today. And some people say that The Stopette recipe is still being used by Skeenie's. Now I don't know about that, but I do know that when I want an authentic WVHD and don't feel like taking a chance on getting a bad one, Skeenie's is the first place I think about going.

The chili at Skeenie's is always great: Spicy and perfect in texture. The slaw is wonderfully creamy and sweet. Skeenie's is never afraid of onions either and they load 'em up. Put it all together on the softest steamed bun and wrap it up in a wax paper sleeve and you have yourself a Five Weenie treat!

I hope Skeenie's is around for another fifty years!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Taylor County Hot Dog

Whether you are heading east or west along US Route 50 through Grafton, should definitely hope that you have the time to stop in for Taylor County's best version of the West Virginia Hot Dog at Hometown Hot Dogs.

What sets Hometown apart from the other HDJs in Grafton is the attention to detail that's put into the components, particularly the slaw. Hometown's Grafton location has one of the best slaws in the area, emphasizing a creaminess that nicely compliments the always enjoyable chili.

Another factor in naming this as Taylor County's best is that everything is kept simple, from the cool white interior, to the uncluttered menu, to the lack of a TV or radio blaring over top all of the friendly conversations that are always going on.

Congratulations to Hometown Hot Dogs for giving WVHD fans Taylor County's best hot dog. Keep up the good work!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Huntington Hot Dog (City Division)

Knuckle's Sandwich Co. is one of Huntington's newest hot dog joints and, thanks to a careful attention to detail, they are one of the best.

In terms of buns, they have skipped the debate altogether and allow Huntington's savvy hot dog connoisseurs the choice of a traditional or New England split-top bun. In an age where so many chain restaurants treat customers like animals at the feed lot, it is great to see a place give me just a little credit.

With weenies, though, they have made a choice for the customers. They serve a blended beef 'n pork dog that does not, like some fancier all-beef jobbies, butt its way to the front of the flavor profile.

The sauce is so delicious that it sails past "great" into the range of the sublime. They could get rich selling this stuff from Portsmouth to Webster Springs. When paired with their understated slaw, they manage to stay true to the concept of a West Virginia Hot Dog while also honoring the quirks of the local market (where it is all about the sauce).

Congratulations to Knuckle's Sandwich Company, makers of the best WV hot dog in the City of Huntington.

Hey, wait a minute...didn't owner Jarrod Queen's brother Teddy just win the same award for Chucktown?

Stanton has observed that the Queens might be the new first family of hot dogs in WV. I think he is right.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Web Site Update

Due to the slothful nature of the workforce (most likely due to eating too many hot dogs) the reviews on the website had not been updated since February. I am happy to report that they are now up to date.

We will now rejoin the 2008 Weenie Awards, already in progress.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Crinkle Cut Fries

I have been a lover of a good WV-style dog ever since I was a wee tot. Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a great hd with beefy sauce, creamy slaw, sweet onions, and tangy French's yellow.

Well, nothing 'cept one of those with some fresh-from-the-grease crinkle cut fries. Beyond mere shoe-string taters or seasonably-varying onion rings, crinkle fries capture the unpretentious essence of the WV hot dog like no other side.

And there is one WV HDJ that serves up up hot 'n tasty every single time.

Sam's Hot Dog Stand, a 5 weenie joint in its own right, uses clean, hot oil to produce crinklers that are crisp, but not greasy, and taste like potatoes, not yesterday's fish sandwich platter special. They'll even top them with Sam's special hot dog sauce, one of the best anywhere.

Congrats, Sam's of Lavalette and thanks for knowing how to make a great hot dog even better.

Friday, July 18, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Harrison County Hot Dog

T&L Hot Dogs, Old Bridgeport Hill, Clarksburg, WV 2008 Weenie Award Winner Best Hot Dogs in Harrison CountyIn the north central region, there are two hot dog chains which hold court over all smaller HDJs near them, Hometown Hot Dogs and T&L Hot Dogs. Ask any two WVHD fans in the area and you'll likely find yourself smack dab in the middle of a friendly debate over which one has the better dog.

Although there are some worthy hot dogs to consider in the area, none represented the total package of value, taste, consistency, and an enjoyable atmosphere better than the T&L Hot Dogs located on Old Bridgeport Hill in Clarksburg. The chili typifies what the northern style is all about: loaded with spicy goodness and seasoned to perfection. The slaw always seems to be just right. The ying and the yang (the sweet and the tang) always perform in unison. Simply put, these hot dogs never disappoint.

T&L has five locations in Harrison County alone, and are well known throughout the area. Understandably, they are the most well-known of any HDJ in this neck of the woods. I'll save "which T&L is the best" for another awards session. For now, T&L Hot Dogs' Old Bridgeport Hill location in Clarksburg wins the 2008 Weenie Award for the Best Harrison County Hot Dog.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Downtown Charleston Hot Dog

"Location, location, location" is the universally accepted paramount concern of business. Equally as important for a successful Hot Dog Joint is consistency, consistency, consistency. There is one downtown HDJ that has demonstrated a consistent commitment to excellence over the past couple of years that just begs to be rewarded, and I am happy to be the one to reward them.

Award for the best hot dog in downtown Charleston. Their hot dog is made with the highest quality ingredients, put together in a way that lets you know that this is a place that cares about its product and its customers. Using a premium weenie (Boar's Head) is a good start, but on top of that sits a really meaty and slightly spicy chili that The Swiftwater Cafe wins this year's Weeniealways tastes like it was made this morning, and a big helping of the some of the best slaw in West Virgina: It is sweet and tasty, and the perfect texture for a WVHD, and has a story to go with it: You see, a couple of years ago after reading Swiftwater's review on this blog, owner Teddy Queen made a decision to change his slaw. He sought out a new recipe, one that was sweeter and more compatible with his chili. After he had it right, he emailed me and asked me to come and try it. I did and as a result, Swiftwater earned the Weenie Award for best slaw last year.

The only knock I have is that "everything" includes ketchup. Oh well, nobody's perfect.

Teddy should be proud of what he has created there at Swiftwater. Not only is his food excellent but the people that work for him seem to really enjoy their jobs and treat customers like gold. It is a rare treat in this day of customer non-service to receive a sincere smile along with your food order, and I have never eaten at Swiftwater when I didn't feel welcomed and appreciated. Simply remarkable.

Congratulations, Teddy and staff, on your committment to hot dog excellence. Keep up the good work!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's Time for the 2008 Weenie Awards!

Pull up a seat and get your napkins ready! The 2008 Weenie Awards will be announced starting this week!

The 2008 edition of the awards will focus on the best hot dogs by geographical location. This is a change from the previous years when judging covered best slaw, best chili/sauce, best weenie, etc. A recent meeting by the awards committee found that it would be more meaningful if the awards were based on the "total package" of each respective nominee.

In the coming days, you will find announcements of the best hot dogs in the Charleston, Huntington, and North Central areas, and perhaps a few surprise categories along the way. Stay tuned for details.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Huntington Hot Dog Joint: Midway West

In order to assess the prodigal son of Huntington hot dogdom, Midway West, we've invited a guest reviewer and life-long Midway mark, Mrs. Film Geek, to giver us her take on the joint:

"Hey, how about we skip 4th period, and drive down to Midway for lunch?"

My friend, Teresa, would coax me into it now and again during my senior year in high school. Teresa and I had a bad case of senioritis in 1984. We'd sneak out of our senior study hall class, climb into my green 1976 Toyota Corolla and drive the short distance to the hot dog stand. It was worth the risk. Midway's hot dogs were the best in town, and their fries were tasty. Almost as good as the hot dogs--maybe on some days better--was the sweet Pepsi they served, from a fountain, and chilled with crushed ice.

Unfortunately, our occasional trips for dogs came to an abrupt end one summer day when, just after we'd placed our order, we spied Vinson High School teacher and coach Mr. Griffith enjoying his lunch two cars across the lot. He finished up his lunch, then walked over to ask us how we enjoyed ours.

We served detention each day the following week.

A regular since I was a toddler, Midway was really a significant part of my life. Better than Frost-Top and Stewarts, Midway was the place to go for curbside food that was consistently good. The hot dog sauce was the best in town--it was meaty, with a nice spicy (but not hot) flavor. The slaw was sweet and creamy. The slaw was so good, in fact, that it was the only place I ordered slaw on my hot dog. So, I was really saddened when my husband called one day to tell me Midway had been closed by the city because it's owners owed back taxes. It was like hearing that "The Sopranos" series was ending.

When I read recently that Midway was opening again, with new owners, I was excited to stop by and sample the food. Mostly I wanted to see if it was the same. The lot was full of cars--about 40 cars were crammed tightly onto the lot--and more than a dozen people were eating at the small bar inside. After finding a spot, I ordered my hot dog, fries and Diet Coke, sat back and crossed my fingers.

It was good. But, it wasn't the same.

The hot dog was fairly close to those served by the former owners. The slaw was sweet, chopped fine and there was plenty of it on the dog. The wiener tasted beefy, and sort of snapped when I bit into it. (I don't know much about wiener quality, but that seemed like a good thing.) The sauce was average. It didn't stand out as good or bad, really. It was just unremarkable. Add that the soda was less sweet and served over block ice rather than crushed, and the crinkle fries were sprinkled with steak fry seasoning (which was too spicy), and you realize the current Midway is something different than the previous Midway. My heart sank.

It was good, but not as good.

I am glad that in the Midway's absence, I discovered the perfect hot dog meal at the
Griffith and Feil Soda Fountain in Kenova. I'll be going there from now on.

Sadly for the new owners, I have to agree with Mrs. Film Geek. I have not heard so much buzz about a restaurant opening in town since, well, ever and the year-long torment of the "opening soon" sign sure didn't help. Midway has given itself, and ultimately suffers from, high expectations.

The slaw is tangy and had a dominant celery salt taste. Unfortunately, it is too dry and chunky.

The sauce is indeed pretty darn average and is quite similar to others based on ground beef that is browned rather than simmered. It is bit more sweet (ketchup?) that I like, but the sauce partially made up for a bit of the under-sweetened slaw. The taste of the two is more than the sum of its parts, but not by much.

The crinkle cut fries are a bit greasy, a sure-fire sign that the oil is not hot enough. They also taste like the oil had been in the vat for a few days.

I'm sure that Midway will find its niche of pedestrians in the area and nostalgic folk, but, in order to regain it's predecesor's place in Huntington's hot dog culture, Midway West needs to go back to the fundementals of what made Midway so great.

3 weenies.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Morgantown HDJ Review – Smitty’s Kountry Kreme

With the return of summer comes the reopening of more and more walk-up ice cream stands throughout the region. I decided that a recent jaunt through Morgantown after a business meeting was a perfect opportunity for me to begin exploring more of said stands in hope of finding a really good WVHD.

Smitty’s Kountry Kreme sits next to the exit from I-79 that starts into the Star City section of Morgantown. As I hunched over at the inexplicably small walk-up window, I noticed a listing on the menu for something called the “Hillbilly Mess”, which is apparently a bizarre ice cream dish that doesn't have a description listed (and I didn't take the time to ask). Perhaps one day in the future I’ll come back and find out what this is.

Once the cashier returned with my hot dog, I was thrilled to see that it was wrapped in foil. That’s an automatic bonus in my book. Although there’s something comforting and familiar about getting your hot dog served in a wax paper wrapper, I personally think that foil is superior when it comes to preserving the heat of the hot dog. But that’s just me and I'll leave it open for debate on the blog.

Though I was thrilled with the wrapping, I was less than enthused by the quality. For starters, the wiener had all the characteristics of having been boiled in sea water. It was just that salty. I’m not sure what those salt blocks they put out for cattle taste like --nor do I really want to know-- but I have little doubt this wasn’t that far off.

The chili was thick with a strong tomato flavored base. It seemed to lack any particular type of seasoning to differentiate it from any other chili, save for a trace of garlic powder. On top of that, it didn’t even taste warm. It seemed to be rather tepid.

The slaw was okay, but didn’t have any of the makings of being anything special. The cabbage was coarse with a little crunchiness in it, but seemed to be lacking a dressing with any discernable flavor. The onions were pretty coarse in their own right, but didn’t have any flavor in them either. It tasted as if they were left in the refrigerator for a day or two and lost their punch.

These hot dogs weren’t particularly good and didn’t really offer up any satisfaction. A WVHD fan can find better in Morgantown. I’d give Smitty’s Kountry Kreme hot dogs a weenie rating of two weenies. Hopefully, the “Hillbilly Mess” will make up for the disappointment of the hot dogs.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Requested Re-Review - The Hot Dog Hut, Philippi

The Hot Dog Hut in Philippi, WV When I originally reviewed The Hot Dog Hut in Philippi, I gave them a three weenie rating, stating that I found their hot dogs to be just "safe". The biggest problem I had with my hot dog at the time was that when I unwrapped it, the chili and slaw had mashed together into a rather ugly looking presentation. Consequently, the flavors of the chili, slaw, and mustard became indiscernible from one another. As a result, I stated that the chili tasted as though it had fillers in it.

Immediately thereafter, a response appeared on the blog from Angie, the owner of The Hot Dog Hut. She pointed out that since the photo of the hot dog was posted, Hot Dog Hut had changed the way the they prepare to-go hot dogs, favoring a paper boat and sleeve instead of wrapping up tightly. Another point she made was that the homemade chili did not contain any filler, and that the slaw was also made with TLC (as were soups and salad dressings). In addition, she pointed out that the restaurant was one of the best looking places to eat in town. Angie finalized that she believed The Hot Dog Hut was worthy of at least a four weenie rating.Philippi Hot Dog Hut hot dog Being as she was unbelievably polite, I agreed to a second chance review.

For my revisit I ordered WVHD by the numbers and ate in. I was greeted with a warm and enthusiastic smile, and had my order delivered to my table almost before I got fully seated. The statement about the appearance of the restaurant is definitely true. The place is spotless and appealing to the eye. The hot dog was certainly a major improvement from my last visit. The bun was the definition of "steamed to perfection". The chili and slaw were not blended together in a slurry, but rather sat majestically on top of one another in a fantastic presentation.

For taste, the chili had a rich and wonderful beef flavor. The beautiful brown coloring owed itself to how well prepared the mixture was. The texture was complex and satisfying. Each bite tasted like heaven. This was easily one of the best chilis I've had in this north central area. The slaw was seriously fresh, crunchy, and had a nice balance of sweet and tart. This slaw will certainly be in the running for the Weenie Awards.

Sorry folks, but I still can't bring myself to give The Hot Dog Hut four weenies. Nope...I have to say that I can give no less than a five weenie rating. It says much that The Hot Dog Hut picked up the game and hit one out of the park.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Don't Forget...July is National Hot Dog Month!

Just a reminder that July is National Hot Dog Month, and July 19th is designated National Hot Dog Day. Be sure to patronize your favorite HDJ this month.

In keeping with tradition, I'm reposting the rules of Hot Dog Etiquette from the newly redesigned National Hot Dog and Sausage Council website at called "Hot Dog City"
Hot Dog Etiquette
Everyday guidance for eating America's sacred food

Don't...Put hot dog toppings between the hot dog and the bun. Always "dress the dog," not the bun. 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, followed by shredded cheese, followed by spices, like celery salt or pepper.

Do...Serve sesame seed, poppy seed and plain buns with hot dogs. Sun-dried tomato buns or basil buns are considered gauche with franks.

Don't...Use a cloth napkin to wipe your mouth when eating a hot dog. Paper is always preferable.

Do...Eat hot dogs on buns with your hands. Utensils should not touch hot dogs on buns.

Do...Use paper plates to serve hot dogs. Every day dishes are acceptable; china is a no-no.

Don't...Take more than five bites to finish a hot dog. For foot-long wiener, seven bites are acceptable.

Don't...Leave bits of bun on your plate. Eat it all.

Don't...Fresh herbs on the same plate with hot dogs over-do the presentation.

Don't...Use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.

Do...Condiments remaining on the fingers after eating a hot dog should be licked away, not washed.

Do...Use multi-colored toothpicks to serve cocktail wieners. Cocktail forks are in poor taste.

Don't...Send a thank you note following a hot dog barbecue. It would not be in keeping with the unpretentious nature of hot dogs.

Don't...Bring wine to a hot dog barbecue. Beer, soda, lemonade and iced tea are preferable.

Don't...Ever think there is a wrong time to serve hot dogs.