Saturday, January 24, 2009

Romeo's Re-Opens, but not really


When a "closed" sign inexplicably went up on the door of Romeo's Grill in South Charleston last summer, it sent a shock wave through the WVHD world. You see, Romeo's is, in my opinion, THE measuring stick against which all other hot dogs are judged. When they closed their doors it was a horrible blow.

A month or so ago I started hearing rumors that Romeo's was re-opened under new management but I thought I would give the new owners a chance to get their stuff together. Time's up.

The new owners have spruced up the place a little and added some flat panel TVs along the wall. Other than that the place looks the same. Service seems friendlier than it was in the past and I was hopeful that the hot dogs would still be stellar.

Let me say this: I believe that the new owners must have gotten the recipe to the old Romeo's chili and slaw recipe, because the taste is very similar. But -- and this is a big but -- the execution is not the same. First of all, the old Romeo's grated their onions so fine you could barely see them on top of the finely grated slaw. Now they are chunky and sit on top of coarsely grated slaw. The taste, as I said, is pretty much the same, but I miss the creamy texture.

As for the chili, again I suspect it's the same recipe, but here's the difference: Old Romeo's chili was dark brown because it had been cooked long and hot. Cooking it long and hot caramelizes the sugars and enhances the taste more than any herb or spice ever could. This chili is barely cooked. It's not bad, but it's not Romeo's.

The buns are still steamed to order, which is great but it won't make up for the other shortcomings.

All in all I have to give Romeo's a 3 Weenie rating. Perhaps I am judging more harshly than I would another HDJ with the same hot dog, but it's hard to sit inside this once proud palace of hot dog royalty and dine on common food.

10 comments:

wvapoker said...

That is a shame. I see that some renovation is going on at the Gold Dome. We'll have to make it over there.

Not to go all Alton Brown on you, but the dark color of the chili is due to the Maillard reaction. ;)

Stanton said...

I don't know who Alton Brown is, but you are correct about the Maillard reaction; I suspect the taste that I like in dark chili is due to both that AND the caramelization of the sugars in the tomatoes. I say this because I have experienced the same comlex taste in meatless chili and I'm sure you are aware, poker, that caramelization is entirely pyrolysis, as opposed to the mostly chemical reaction that is Maillard. If the taste only resulted from the Maillard reaction then it seems it would be lacking from the meatless variety, unless there are sufficient amino acids in tomatoes to cause it. I'm sure a learned dietitian such as yourself knows far more about this than I do, so I defer to your expertise.

Jackie said...

Good review! But I gotta know, is the waitstaff still as uh, photogenic as it used to be? Because that kind of thing is important to hot dog aficionados like me ;)

Stanton said...

No Jackie, sad to say that those days are gone as well.

Jackie said...

Then forget about it.
Life is waaay too short to surround myself with unpleasantness :D

Chris James said...

Sad.

This review reminds me of when I saw the purdiest girl from my high school class a couple of years ago at a mall in Beckley. Life had been hard...

Chris James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SagaciousHillbilly said...

I'm sorry to hear that because it's true that Romeo's was the best place for HDs anywhere in WV that I knew of. I'd be interested to know how their hot bologna is these days. In the old days no one came close.

Mise En Place said...

@ Stanton: Gasps for not knowing who Alton Brown is!! He's just the most awesome TV cook... ever!

Anyway, I had a pretty awesome cheeseburger at this place. :)

Roger said...

Dang, I have come all the why up here from Florida to eat a hot dog from here and now I fine that they are no more. Also the next two are also gone, Central grocery and Dairy Bar. Well Dairy Bar says there open Sunday but I will be gone by then.