Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Marmet HDJ Review - Chum's

I had heard that there was a new HDJ in Marmet that serves yellow slaw. After making one or two fruitless trips (once I couldn't find it and once they were closed) I finally made it to this little HDJ in the little town. Even though it sits right beside Rt. 61, it is so small and drab colored that it's easy to miss, but I will pass on the same directions I received: It's just before you get to the ball field on the opposite side of the street. Worked for me.

I was please to see the menu did indeed proudly proclaim that they had yellow slaw, but was surprised to find out "everything" doesn't include mustard. I had to order mine with the extra yellow stuff (maybe they think that too much yellow is too much).

The service was fast - too fast aparently to allow time for steaming or heating the bun because mine were hardish and stone cold. The gorgeous yellow slaw, upon closer inspection, had the texture of sauerkraut and nearly the same vinegary taste, except that it had been sweetened a great deal. Whatever makes it yellow dripped on to my trousers and left cute little yellow bullseyes after it dried.

The chili was basic: meaty but not spicy, and was served in a proper portion. Onions were chopped fairly large and the mustard could well have been missing; I couldn't tell.

Overall Chum's hot dogs are tasty, primarily because of the complex slaw taste, but have nothing else distinctive other than the color to set them apart. Let's give them a 3.5 Weenie score, mostly on the strength of the novelty of yellow slaw.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Jane Lew HDJ Review - Cindy's T&L Hot Dogs

Cindy's T&L Hot Dogs, Jane Lew, WV

I ran across this charming old building while cruising on Route 19 one day while killing some time between meetings. Ironically, it's located not far from the fabled Slaw Line point. One of the first things that I noticed about the T&L Hot Dogs in Jane Lew was the name painted above the entrance. The word "Cindy's" was emblazoned next to the "T&L Hot Dogs". The distribution of T&L stores has become somewhat of a mystery in and of itself. The Jane Lew location, much like the stores in Shinnston and Weston, are not mentioned on the company website, nor are they listed in the spiffy new color brochure/menu that T&L now offers at its key locations (Morgantown Mall, two Bridgeport locations, Grafton, and two locations in Clarksburg). I don't recall T&L offering franchises, but then again there haven't been any replies coming at me after requesting information through the "Contact Us" link on their website. At any rate, I'll save the enigma of the T&L namesake licensing for another post some other day.

While placing my order, I did inquire if this location was part of the normal chain, but nobody seemed to understand my question. I guess the key person (Cindy, perhaps?) was not around to be bothered with such matters. At any rate, I have to comment that this was by far one of the friendlier wait staffs I've encountered in some time. Not only did they cheerfully take my order with a smile and the all-important eye contact, I was even offered a freshly baked brownie while I waited (for a small extra charge, of course). Looking around, I found the place adorned with Coca-Cola collectibles and memorabilia versus the retro 50's and 60's decor found in the majority of T&L's. It works really well for the dining area and makes it a tad more warm and inviting to relax in.

Thankfully, they have mastered the traditional WVHD here just as good as some of the better T&L spots. Nicely steamed bun? Check. Weenie cooked just right? Check. Onions and mustard placed just right and in proper portions for taste? Check and check.

One of Cindy's T&L Hot Dogs better offerings.Oddly, I didn't get the usual question of what kind of chili I wanted (mild, medium, or hot). I'm certain that I was eating the mild variety, which is good enough even if you live and die by the hot version like myself. Nicely ground meat seasoned to perfection and cooked just right. Yup, they've got the chili covered. Check.

Slaw? Check. I was really impressed by how fresh the ingredients were in this particular batch. However, there seemed to be a little bit of an unbalance between the sweetness of the dressing and the vinegar that was mixed in it. Almost like it wasn't stirred up enough. Hopefully this was just an anomaly, but I did have to do a double-take when I 
bit into it the first time.

All in all, I really liked this location and I think it suits the area it serves well. The hot dogs are just as good as you can get from T&L, but I think the issue with the slaw was a bit of drawback. The bitterness, albeit likely unintentional, kept it from having that little "umph" factor that puts it over the top. On the other hand, I give kudos to the staff for the terrific and friendly service.  Four-and-a-half weenies for Cindy's T&L Hot Dogs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Charleston HDJ Review - Whitey's

Three years ago, before the Weenie Rating System had even been invented, I reviewed Whitey's Sandwich Shop in North Charleston. I reprint the review here in its entirety:

"Whitey's is an unassuming little place that is easy to miss even if you know where you are going. The building is plain and the only sign identifying it as a restaurant is a carved in wood and hangs inside the plate glass window. The neon "OPEN" sign is the only other clue. But the search is worth it, because at the end you will find some of the very best hot dogs Charleston has to offer.

"What makes Whitey's dogs so good? I really can't put my finger on it. Every part of the dog is good and the sauce is about the meatiest in town, but it's pretty mild. The slaw is awesome and the weenies are very good. Put it all together with rock-steady dependability (I've never had a bad hot dog from Whitey's) and you get a great, great WVHD.

"The only negative for me about Whitey's is that it is a proud supporter of smoker's rights and has a warning sign on the front window that lets you know that you will surely die of second-hand smoke if you enter. As much as I hate smoke filled rooms, it is worth it to get to the dogs. "
But now, since the Kanawha County smoking ban is in effect, I can now strike the last paragraph. Pretty much everything else remains true, except maybe I understated just how good these hot dogs are.

This trip to Whitey's allowed me the luxury of ordering in. Since I wasn't holding my breath to protect against second-hand cancer, I had an opportunity to watch the hot dogs being made.

What I saw was very interesting: First, they steam the buns with one of those old Sunbeam style electric steamers that not only steam what's inside but it also sends a beautiful, rolling cloud of steam into the air when the lever is pressed. The hot dogs are unbelievably soft as a result.
The other interesting thing that I have never seen anywhere else is that the weenies were kept warming in the same pot with the chili! Amazing! Why doesn't everybody do this? It keeps the weenies from drying out, yet doesn't allow them to get waterlogged, and it has to impart some extra flavor to both the weenie and the chili, wouldn't you think? Brilliant!

But what needs stated again with further emphasis is just how freakin' awesome this slaw is! This might be the One True Slaw. I'm serious. It's that good. Perfect texture (smooth, cool and creamy), perfect taste (perfect mixture of sweet & sour). The problem is that it is so good that the chili suffers a little from comparison. It's meaty and flavorful, but it can't stand up to the challenge that the slaw presents. I found myself wishing for some more spiciness to balance it all out.

But that is a mild criticism: This is an awesome hot dog and deserves a Five Weenie score.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Re-Review Month & HDJ News

In April we will be revisiting some HDJs that have already been reviewed. The reason for the revisit might be that we felt they could do better, have heard from others that they are doing better, or maybe because since the Kanawha County smoking ban took effect we can finally go into some of them without risking our life (yeah, yeah, I know: eating hot dogs can kill you too). Two of these will definitely be The Gold Dome in Kanawha City and Whitey's Sandwich Shop in North Charleston.

In addition to these re-reviews, the smoking ban expands my horizons to include a few other bar and grill type places around town that I shied away from in the past.

New HDJs

There's a new HDJ in Marmet called Chums. I've not made it by when they have been open yet, but soon I will. I hear they have yellow slaw!

Big Daddy reports from the North Country that The Custard Stand (the one from Webster Springs that sells the chili in Wal Mart and other retailers) has opened a location at Flatwoods. I'm looking forward to checking that out soon.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Charleston HDJ Review - Donut Connection

While you might expect a donut place to sell this kind of hot dogs, I assure you that the hot dogs they are selling now at Donut Connection in Kanawha City are the real deal.

Other than serving them up in a coffin, I can't say anything negative about these dogs. They have a good amount of nice tasting chili (about average spiciness and texture for Charleston) and a huge helping of really good slaw (that has a slight yellow tint to it that makes me wonder if it's not influenced by KC hot dog joints past). It lacks a steamed bun, but it was fresh and soft enough to do without. The onions were about right in size and taste.

While nothing special was present that made Donut Connection a hot dog destination, I think they still earn a solid 4 Weenie rating. Surprising place to find hot dogs, especially good ones; but then again, there is a precedent for such things in the immediate vicinty.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Tudorville HDJ Review - Hot Dog World

I thought they were joking, mistaken or insane when I received the emails about Hot Dog World. "You have to try the Hot Dog Shake" they all said. The first time I simply thought the writer had meant the hot dog and shake, but after about the third or fourth email that said "hot dog shake" I thought I should check it out.

At the end of State Route 41, just before it crosses the Virginia border, sits this little gem of a town that boasts, among other things, the only sanctioned cockroach races in the state (held each year in September in the town fire station). Tudorville is one of those places that isn't on the way to anywhere and Hot Dog World is the only restaurant in town and so it was easy to find.

OK, so here's the thing about Hot Dog World: It really should get a special award for its commitment to hot dogs. They serve nothing but hot dogs and in many varieties and odd configurations. Their sign advertises "Great Hot Dogs" but it also lists "Burgers, Shakes and More" But if you order a "burger" you actually get a hot dog that has a "weenie" made out of an elongated roll of ground beef, fried and topped with lettuce, pickles and mayonnaise! And just like the emailers said, when you order a "Hot Dogs Shake", you get a cup full of a concoction that started out as a regular hot dog until it met its fate in a blender. You pick the liquid that gets put in (I chose Pepsi, but you can also get milk or water) and after a few seconds in the blender it is poured out into a Styrofoam up with a lid. The server recommended that I not remove the lid: "Just just drink it," he said, "it's not pretty."

Honestly, if I had not had so many recommendations I could not have brought myself to drink it, but I trust my readers, so...

After you get past the initial shock of the lukewarm temperature, the flavor that comes into your mouth through the slightly over sized straw that HDW provides is actually very tasty. The chili (I assume it was the chili) was quite spicy and the slaw - or the bun or something white in color - was creamy and nicely sweet. After I was out of the view of the server, I couldn't resist pulling off the lid for a peek at the hot dog puree. I was surprised to see mustard and ketchup (I completely forgot to ask them to leave out the red stuff!) floating to the surface of the sludge like substance.

Overall I have to give Hot Dog World Hot Dog Shake a nice 4 Weenie score. It's unusual, to be sure, but after all, when you eat a hot dog and down it in three bites it turns into essentially the same thing as they are selling. I would imagine that dentally challenged senior citizens would enjoy this hot dog very much.

Hot Dog World is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 364 days per year; closed only on April 1.