Thursday, July 30, 2009

2009 Weenie Awards - North Central Region Winners

The 2009 North Central Region winners for the Weenie Awards contains some returning faves and a couple of new entries, including a new winner for in the Best Overall.

Without further adieu:

Marion County - Hank's Deli, Fairmont
Marion County has improved by substantial leaps and bounds in shedding the stigma of being a "no slaw" zone. The crew at Hank's never paid attention to this fictional "rule" anyway. The result? Once again, some of the best WVHDs around.

Lewis County - Cindy's T&L Hot Dogs, Jane Lew
In the past year, Lewis County was added to the areas we reviewed, and Cindy's was the hand-down winner right off the bat. The service is terrific, and the dogs are worth making the quick jaunt off of Exit 105 of I-79 for.

Taylor County - Hometown Hot Dogs, Grafton
Too easy. The competition was minimal, at best. Beyond that, Hometown knows the value of consistency when it comes to a quality WVHD.

Wetzel County - Presto Lunch, New Martinsville
Wetzel County is also a new area for this past year. Focusing primarily on downtown New Martinsville proved to be enough of a challenge due to the quality of contenders, but Presto Lunch easily bested them all. The TLC they put into their entire menu is beyond description.

Harrison County - T&L Hot Dogs, Old Bridgeport Hill, Clarksburg
Although there are a couple of new contenders ready to emerge in Clarksburg in the near future, the Old Bridgeport Hill location of T&L Hot Dogs continues to be the superior outlet for WVHDs in the area, as well as in the T&L chain.

Monongahelia County - Haught Diggity Dogz, Morgantown
Morgantown remains a tough area to review since there are way more HDJs in the city than can be found via a singular internet search. Still, of those that have been reviewed nobody was able to top the homestyle goodness coming from Haught's. This is the second year for Haught Diggity Dogz to take the top title in Mon County, but they do not repeat as the Best Overall for the region.

And the winner for Best Overall North Central Region - Hot Dog Hut, Philippi
Hot Dog Hut was a late addition during last year's awards and unfortunately didn't make the cut for consideration. A re-review of this fine establishment turned out to be one of the highlights of my travels for wonk. Angie and her team have mastered the fundamentals of having a great "all-around" package when it comes to value for the dollar, quality ingredients and preparation, and service. Well done and congratulations to Hot Dog Hut!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

W.Va.'s Best HDJ? The Polls are Open

Due to severe budget cutbacks at, we have had to restrict the far-flung tasting junkets of our Weenie Wonks. Their loss is your gain: We have decided to allow our reader's voices to be heard in an unprecedented way as we open this important questions to the whims and prejudices of our readership.
You may post your vote for the state's best hot dog joint as a comment or email it to
Polls will be open through midnight on July 31 and results will be posted Monday, August 3.
May the best dog win.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2009 Weenie Awards - Charleston Area Winners

For the second year running, Swiftwater Cafe takes the prize for Best Downtown Hot Dog Joint in Charleston. The decision wasn't as easy this year, since a couple of new discoveries were making some serious challenges to Swiftwater's Genteel Dog offering. Honorable mention goes to The Blue Moon Cafe.

The main reason that Swiftwater was able to hold on to the trophy this year was because of their decision to officially remove ketchup from their list of standard toppings; proving that listening to us and responding to our suggestions pays big dividends. Congratulations, Teddy and crew, on the beginnings of a dynasty.

Outside the confines of the concrete jungle, there is still one place to go for the best hot dog within a short drive of the Capitol dome and that is Skeenies Hot Dogs on Sissonville Drive. After all these years they are still making awesome tasting hot dogs and stuffing them into wax paper sleeves for the eager hoards that await them every day at lunch and dinner times. The truest of the true Utilitarian Dogs has no equal in all of Charleston or Kanawha County. This is also the second straight year for Skeenie's to take the top prize in their category.
Next Up: The State's Best Hot Dog Joint?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Huntington Hot Dog Festival

Once again Huntington tried to play host to the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival. This year's event featured 9 hot dog joints, one wiener manufacturer and a whole bunch of various and sundry vendors, clubs, political action organizations and just general hawkers of meaningless crap.

Here are a few pictures:

This is the "Healthy Alternative" sold by Java Joint. It is a tofu weenie and served with vegetarian chili, er I mean sauce. It tasted like a vegetarian hot dog with about three times more mayonnaise than necessary in the slaw. But at least it had slaw: Many of the other HDJs didn't offer it at all.

I was pleased as punch to see at least one person who sported a t-shirt!

At about 2:30 a huge storm blew up and really put a damper on festivities. Many of the vendors packed it in after this.

The HDJs present were (in no particular order):

Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Java Joint
Stewarts Original Hot Dogs (two stands - I guess when your owner is the festival chairman you get such special treatment)
Cowboy BBQ
Big Loafer
Ramona's Market (From Proctorville, Ohio, for Pete's sake!)
Johnny Dogs
Sam's Hot Dog Stand
Midway Drive In

Other vendors/hawkers/propagandizers included:

Rick's Lemonade - 2 stands
Tri State Casino and Racetrack
Ohio Valley Camera Club
Animal Rescue
Temporry Airbrush Tatoos
Club Pet & numerous other pet related tents)
Huntington Harmonica Club
Right to Life (complete with a creepy dead baby display)
Colonial Lanes
Sponge Bob Paraphanalia
Hospice of Huntington

I'll say again what I have said for the past 3 years: Call it what you will, this is not a West Virginia Hot Dog Festival, but a Tri-State Hot Dog Festival. The hot dog vendors at this event in no way represent the hot dog culture of the state, and therefore I will waste no more of Blogger's data storage space with more words about it.

For our posts about past years festivals, follow this link.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2009 Weenie Awards: Huntington Area Hot Dog Joint of the Year

While Big Daddy in still recovering from el dio de los perros and Stanton is fighting a Kazakhstani spambot (apparently the blog "iss very nice" and Stanton should sign up for DirecTV through them), I'll go ahead and pull the trigger on the first award of the 2009 Weenie Award season for best HDJ in the Huntington area:

Sam's Hot Dog Stand of 8th Street.

If you want to get the same great utilitarian dog on January 23rd or July 23rd, this is the place to go. Consistency counts, especially when it is consistently great.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day of the Dog

1st annual Day of the DogOn July 18th downtown Clarksburg played host to the first annual "Day of the Dog", which was a fund raising event to benefit the Harrison County Humane Society. The event was sponsored by local radio stations and Heiner’s Bakery. For $5.00, you got three tickets and a ballot with which you could vote for your favorite hot dog. There were contests for root beer chugging and, or course, hot dog eating.

This was the first year for the event. Based on the sparse turnout early in the event, I assume that it wasn't advertised all that well I only found out about it a few weeks ago from a friend of mine who happens to listen to one of the sponsoring stations. On top of that, the Glen Elk Wine, Music, and Arts Festival was being held just a few blocks away, probably contributing to the low amount of spectators (at least during the time I was there). Still, those who turned out really seemed to enjoy themselves. There were five competing hot dog vendors. Hank's Deli from Fairmont and Hot Dog Hut from Philippi, both ofScooter Dawgs whom are previous 5-weenie winners were on hand. Clarksburg newcomer and lone cart representative Scooter Dawgs definitely impressed me. The other two entries, both from Clarksburg, were the 4th Street Grill, and June Bugs restaurant.

I figured I'd start off with something familiar to serve as a benchmark and had a sampling of both Hank's and Hot Dog Hut's offerings. No surprises here. Both of them bought their A-game. If you've read their reviews before, or perhaps partaken of their goodness yourself, you know how they can bring it.

I made my rounds with the newcomers starting with Scooter Dawgs. I have to remark that Scooter Dawgs seemed to be playing a high stakes poker game of taste with the other vendors. This was the first time I've had one of their dogs, and it was something to behold. They could've used the standard weenies since this was a fund raising event and all proceeds went to charity. But not in this case. They used a 1/4 all-beef frank that made each bite a meal in itself. The chili was off the charts. By far on par with --if not slightly better than-- Hank's and Hot Dog Hut. The menu wins the award for the most creative
4th Street Grill Pico Dog
I've ever seen. Anytime you can include peanut butter, raisins, 1000 Island dressing, wasabi, or Japanese hot sauce in a hot dog, you've GOT to know what you're doing. There will be a more in-depth review coming in the very near future. By the way, they did a great job picking out the name for their version of the WV hot dog: The West "By Gawd" Dog.

4th Street Grill offered a more "artisan" hot dog (see Stanton's terrific project covering the classification of the different dogs at this link). They offered up a "blackened" (their words, not mine) all-beef weenie with a pico de gallo and avacado sauce on a fresh Italian bun. It's the
4th Street Grill menu board
unwritten policy of the crew to limit our reviews to the traditional WV hot dog (slaw, chili, onions, mustard), but once in a while we have to deviate from our mission to keep things fresh. Well, not really. I just wanted to try this. I have to confess that this was a really good take on the hot dog, and I'd certainly consider getting another one in the future just for something different. Good flavor and fun to eat.

The final new entry was June Bugs. They had what was easily to best homemade flavor in their slaw. I wouldn't say they were having a good day with the chili how ever. I detected a heavy presence of spices and seasonings typically found in taco meat. Still, I enjoyed the friendliness of
June Bugs hot dog
the June Bugs crew. They seemed eager to get their product out as much as possible, so you've got to give them points for enthusiasm. Plus, they were giving away free keychains. What can I say? Freebies rock.

All in all, the whole thing went towards helping a good, worthwhile cause. I hope they give it another go next year with some more publicity beforehand. Likewise, I hope they are able to get some other vendors from around the state to participate. (Custard Stand, Haught's...I'm looking at you!)

By the way, I cast my two votes. One for Hot Dog Hut, one for Scooter Dawgs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Flatwoods HDJ Review - Custard Stand

Custard Stand Hot Dogs in Flatwoods, WV

I had been reminded that I was far behind on conducting a review for the blog, so I was eager to get on the road for an impromptu business trip to Flatwoods. I had recently heard that the Cowger family had opened a new shop just off exit 67 of I-79. It stands to reason the convenient location will serve this franchise well in the future. Ironically, the restaurant is located in what was briefly a Sam's Hot Dog Stand.

The interior is small, with enough seating for about 16 or 17 people. The outside features a covered patio area with a walk-up window. Custard Stand has a lot of variety on their menu, including several sandwiches, funnel cakes, ice cream treats, broccoli n' cheese poppers (!), chicken, fish, and something I would never expect to find at a hot dog joint...Buzz buttered steak. Very interesting. They also have prepackaged containers of their famous chili available for
purchase. You can get small, one-pound containers, or industrial sized five-pounders. This was also one of the few places that offers a chili dog...without the wiener.

Good service here. I got the eye contact, thank yous, quick prep and delivery of my meal, etc. As I've said time and time again, good service is key to making your HDJ worth coming back to.

When I got my order back to my car, I was pleased as punch to
Custard Stand menu
see that they didn't just wrap it up and toss it in a bag, like I've suffered with before. They carefully balanced the toppings around the weenie, placed it in a paper boat, and delicately wrapped it in wax paper (bonus points) so as not to crush it. When I unwrapped this little hand-held treasure trove, there was a waft of the freshly steamed bun that immediately let me know I was in for a treat.

Indeed, in the first bite I was impressed by how fresh and perfectly steamed the bun was. I took a look at the slaw and found that it was shredded extra fine. Fortunately, it was not doused in too much dressing so as to make the bun soggy. The slaw didn't suffer from an overdose of sweet or sour. It had the "just right" balance that made the perfect compliment to the dog.

I've had Custard Stand chili before, having picked some up at a local grocery store. My take on it is that is truly a southern West Virginia formula, favoring a good simmered beef flavor versus diverse spices, which are more typical of the
Custard Stand Hot Dog
northern formulas. There was a nice texture to the beef and just the right amount of sauce mixed in. Like the slaw, it doesn't go overboard in the liquid department, but emphasizes a nice, flowing consistency throughout the whole mixture. I found the whole concoction to be both savory and satisfying.

If I were forced (and I would have to be forced) to point out any flaw, it would only be that it was a little heavy on the mustard for my taste. Still, this was easy to overlook as it melded nicely with the chili. The onions were diced a little coarse as well, but again they only served to compliment the whole package.

I give Custard Stand five weenies. It seems as though the Cowger's have the art of the hot dog down to a science. The chili they serve has captured the essence of what homemade should taste like. In the future, a visit to the original Custard Stand in Webster Springs will be in order.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy July 4th!

Here's to Joey Chestnut for his third straight Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest title. 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes! It was an amazing performance; I hope you all got to see it.

In honor of Chestnut's achievement, and on the subject of eating a lot of hot dogs, here is a dramatic portrayal of my last medical check up:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

It's July and you know what that means...

Yes indeedy it's time for the 2009 Weenie Awards! Soon our wayward Weenie Wonks will be returning from their far-flung travels into the field and documenting for you, the West Virginia hot dog munching public, where the best WVHDs can be found throughout this wonderful land.

The competition is expected to be brutal this year, but there are some HDJs who are taking it seriously. For example, Swiftwater Cafe in Charleston has changed their definition of "everything" to more closely align with the accepted standard. They used to always include ketchup, but now...

...they have stricken the red stuff from their menu in hopes that we will see that they are serious about their committment. Will their efforts pay off? Will they win the Weenie Award for the best hot dog in downtown Charleston for the second year in a row? Stay tuned and find out.