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.