Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Belle HDJ Review - The Lunch Box

Located in a space formerly occupied by a HDJ known by the strange name of Wal Rocks, this little hole in the wall came highly recommended by facebook fan Carol Johnson. In fact, she repeatedly nagged me until I finally made the trip to the mouth of Witcher Creek just to get her to hush up.

Really, she wasn't that bad, but she was persistent. And I know from experience that when someone is that persistent with a HDJ recommendation, it means one of two things: A) the place has really good hot dogs, or B) the nagger is the owner, or a relative of the owner.

This time it was "A".

To say that The Lunch Box is nothing fancy is an understatement. A few tables reside inside a low wall that separates the dining area from the billiard and video game area. Lots of American flags but little else the way of decor; but the service was very friendly and prompt.

When the waitress (whom I believe was the proprietor) asked for my order, I asked her what "everything" was; her reply unfortunately included ketchup among the proper ingredients of chili, slaw, mustard and onions. I asked for two with no red stuff, and in a jiffy I had my order in front of me.

I visually surveyed my dogs for a moment and noticed that the bun looked like they had been steamed and the slaw seemed to be shredded - not chopped - very finely. One quick taste of the slaw and its sweetness was evident. A second bite revealed it's nearly perfect texture and provided me with a more full understanding of its goodness. This is Blue Ribbon slaw, folks. Seriously.

The chili was fairly typical Upper Kanawha Valley tasting - a little chili powder and very meaty- but its texture was better than most with the beef ground finely. It went perfectly with the slaw.

The weenie and onions were both up to par, so this hot dog deserves a high score. If ketchup weren't standard, and if the chili was a touch more spicy, this could well be perfect 5, but as it is I have to deduct a half-point and officially give the Lunch Box a 4.5 Weenie ranking.

Thank you for nagging me, Carol.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Letters. We get letters...

And comments on old blog posts, too.

The way that Blogger structures itself, some of the best and most entertaining comments are on old, archived blog posts. The blog owner is notified of their existence but for the mos most part regular readers never see them. Once in a while a comment or series of comments is worthy of more attention, and this past week two such comments showed up one of our old posts.

The first was on our review of "Crabby Patti's" in Ripley. I made the trip from Charleston for the crab cakes, but when I saw a hot dog on the menu, well, I had to. I immediately wished I hadn't: That hot dog was so bad that it scored a .5 out of 5 Weenies.

"Jimmyshooter," whom we will assume is the owner of Crabby Patti's posted these comments earlier in the week:

OK, as for Stanton the self proclaimed pork scrap molded in a skin connoisseur.The write ups in the Daily Mail,WV Living Magazine and 101 most unique places to eat were for our MD. Crab Cakes and soups. Crabby Patti`s has never marketed,wanted or wished to sell weiners.We do, for adventurers like yourself who drive many miles,use much gas and valuable time to eat off the dollar menu.

And as for beans,we like em like that in MD.

As for the presentation of the weiner they like it loaded around here,broaden your horizons,pick up a fork.

Well then, Jimmyshooter, if you "never marketed,wanted or wished to sell weiners" then why, pray tell, do you? I sure didn't expect to find a hot dog on the menu when I went to your establishment. I would not have turned and walked out if I hadn't seen a hot dog on your menu. I would have, quite frankly, been much happier if there were no hot dogs on your menu. So, what part of that makes it a service to adventurers like me? I don't get it.

You say that in Maryland you like your hot dogs with beans in your chili; Why then are you selling them in Ripley? I would imagine that your neighbors over at Big Pete's sell hundreds more hot dogs and have many more satisfied customers - all without beans!  And thank you again, but my horizons are quite broad enough without resorting to a fork to eat a hot dog! Sheeesh!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Charleston HDJ Review - The Village of Otto

I have been driving past this little place on Pennsylvania Avenue for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember I have wondered why it was named "The Village of Otto." I also wondered exactly what it was: It looks like a bar, but who ever heard of a bar named "Village of" anything?" People have told me that, yes, it is a bar, but those same people confessed to having never been there. So still I wondered.

On a recent trip up I79, I looked over and saw a new sign on the building that said "Hot Dogs $2.00." "Finally," I thought, "an excuse to go inside the bar." Now in the interest of full editorial disclosure, there was a time in my life that I needed no excuse to go into a bar, but these days I am a teetotalling goody-two-shoes who requires further inducement. Hot dogs - even expensive ones - will usually do the trick.

So I rolled into The Village of Otto late on a recent afternoon and apparently had missed the lunch crowd. When my dining companion and I walked into the bar the only people we saw were the bartender/cook and a woman who was waiting on her car to be repaired at the garage next door. After we ordered $8.00 worth of hot dogs with everything (onions, chil and slaw) plus mustard and two cokes, we settled into place and became familiar with our surroundings. Two pool tables dominate the room and generations worth of liquor and beer mirrors and posters cover the walls. The bar is well stocked and a smokers cage out back overlooks the Elk River.
The hot dogs took a while to get to us, but once they did I immediately noticed that they were on grilled New England Style buns. The chili was tasty enough (not spicy) but the slaw was way over mayoed. It was as if someone dropped a few pieces of cabbage into a jar of Hellmans. OK, not really that extreme but seriously too much mayo. The taste, despite the mayo overload wasn't so bad. Deducting a half-point for the NES bun, I'll give The Village of Otto an average 3 Weenie rating.

Oh, and about the name: According to the bartender, there are two stories about the name: One was that the little section of Pennsylvania Avenue where it is located was in the 1940's a heavily German community, and the bar name is a tribute to that ethnicity. The other story is that it is named after Beetle Bailey's dog.

The mystery continues...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Best baseball stadium dogs?

Clubhouse Cancer has an excellent round-up of the best hot dogs found at Major League Baseball stadiums.

The ones that look really good to me:

1. Atlanta's Georgia Dog with slaw & Vidalia onions. Closest to the real thing (as defined by us).
2. Cincinnati's Cheese Coney. The "when in Rome..." approach to hot dogs that we espouse is perhaps easiest when we're down the river in Cincy.
3. Houston's Most Wanted Dog with beef brisket. Chopped brisket. Pickles. BBQ Sauce. 'Nuff said.

and the one that gets a big WVHDB "no thanks:"

Seattle's Sea Dog (a glorified fish stick). Probably a pretty good West Coast snack, but not a hot dog by any stretch of the imagination.

Check out the full list here.

(Via SI.com's Extra Mustard)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hometown Hot Dogs in Clarksburg is No More (sort of...)

A mid-morning business trip took me back through the Stealey section of Clarksburg, and I was shocked to find out that one of the better HDJs in the area had closed up shop. Hometown Hot Dogs' building had been renovated into a new Allstate office.

I was a little down about this fact, but I only had to tell one associate who was quick to tell me not to worry: this same crew had apparently set up shop a few miles away in the East View section between Clarksburg and Anmoore. However, they no longer go by the "Hometown" moniker. Instead, the new establishment is known as Smiley's Hot Dogs.

I now have a new mission to find this new hot dog haven and see if they can match or surpass the previously awarded 4.5 weenie rating that they had earned in the past. Be on the lookout for a forthcoming review of Smiley's.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Monongah HDJ Review - Dairy Kone

Ever since I was invited to contribute to the WVHD blog, I had made a mental note that at some point I would travel out of my way along U.S. Route 19 to pay a visit to the Dairy Kone, a quaint looking little red building that sits dangerously close to the roadway but at the same time beckons you to stop for a refreshment of some sort. I had always known that they had hot dogs available, along with other goodies like chicken sandwiches and their newest feature, ground chuck hoagies. Of course, they also had enough varieties of ice cream goodies to feed a small third-world country.

There is absolutely no substitute for friendly service, and fortunately the folks at Dairy Kone made sure I felt welcome, despite the fact that I was starving, had just endured several minutes of traffic stoppage, and probably had the look of a serial killer on loose in my eyes at that point. I was more than pleased that not only was slaw on the toppings list for their hot dogs, it was actually a standard ingredient. This is indeed a rarity for this area. While it's not hard to find places that offer slaw for hot dogs, it's extremely rare that it comes as standard equipment.

I give credit to Dairy Kone for not coping out and going the standard styro-coffin route. Nope. In fact, they took the time to neatly wrap my dogs in wax paper, which is almost always an automatic half-weenie bonus in my book. Wrapping hot dogs in wax paper or foil is a sign of attention to detail and genuine concern for the quality of a hot dog.

The hot dog was about average size, but it was definitely loaded to the hilt with chili and slaw. The chili had a nice but not overbearing quality about it. It carried a good meaty flavor, but the didn't appear to be overloaded with spices or other hot flavorings. The slaw itself was fresh with crisp cabbage and carrots about it, but perhaps a bit drenched as far as the dressing was concerned. It had a pleasing taste to it that wasn't vinegary or sugary, but rather represented a comfortable balance between the two. I was very surprised by the quality of the otherwise tiny frank. It had the distinct taste of being grilled, but carried more of a smoky quality than you might expect from typical flat top grilling. I wasn't took excited about the buns themselves. They probably need a bit more steaming, but were still warm enough to make things enjoyable.

All in all, Dairy Kone is simply a nice family style ice cream parlor/stand that makes a good hot dog. I really feel that if that these hot dogs have the potential to hit the five weenie mark if given better ingredients, but they are still simply right up the alley for any self-respecting WVHD connoisseur. I give Dairy Kone a solid four weenie rating.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Lewisville HDJ Review - Scruples Restaurant

As everyone in West Virginia knows, Lewisville has become home to hard-left leaning democrats and pagans (the religion, not the motorcycle gang). With a demographic that could be best described as "Aging Hippies" there are probably more people who voted for George McGovern in this town than anyplace in the state. Lewisville prides itself on being progressive and seems to attract like-minded people. To further this identity the town council recently voted to add a motto to the "Welcome to Lewsiville" signs: Beginning July 1st, the town will be officially known as "The Little Town with the Big Conscience."

Scruples Restaurant, coincidentally owned by one of the town council members, also has a motto: "Serving Socially Responsibly Meals with a Sustainable Attitude." The menu is chock full of "fair trade" goods, locally produced organic foods and other things you would expect to find in the commissary at an ACLU convention in Oregon. They have the trendiest coffee, the hippest teas and are always at the cutting edge of the latest food health warnings and admonitions. You can get your Acai Berry & Pomegranate juice cocktail with a side order of wheat grass if you like.

On the surface, Scruples might not sound like a likely candidate for a hot dog review, but this is West Virginia - where Mountaineers are always free and hot dogs are obligatory.

Now unless you have been under a rock for the past month or so, you have heard about the hot dog choking controversy: the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a redesign of the shape of hot dogs as to eliminate the possibility of choking small children. You can read about it here.

So Scruples Restaurant, home of all things knee-jerk, has joined the fight against tubular hot dogs. They are now offering their "Hot Dog Safety Wraps" as an alternative to the standard hot dog that they served until just recently. The process begins by grilling paper-thin slices of an organic weenie (a veggie version is also available with sliced tofu franks) and placing them on a fair-trade flour tortilla. A meatless sauce that is reminiscent of DQ Coney Sauce is spread over top and then a dollop of runny and coarsely chopped coleslaw is added. Mustard and ketchup are included on the everything version. Curiously, onions are not an option.

I was prepared to be totally grossed out by this odd little sandwich, but to be honest it tasted pretty good. The individual slices of weenie are grilled and it seems to unlock some extra flavor. The sauce was kind of tasty and the slaw, while I wouldn't want it on a regular hot dog because of its coarseness, was actually very good tasting. The whole thing was crunchy, which adds an unusual sensation to the hot dog experience. It was so surprisingly good, that I changed my plans on how I would write this review. I had first planned to ridicule the wrap and the whole idea of slicing weenies in the name of food safety. but I had to rethink my position after tasting how good it really was. Perhaps I have pigeonholed myself by my dogmatic insistence that hot dogs be made on a soft bun with the toppings applied in a certain way. Maybe I am missing out on a whole new way to do hot dogs. I think that I will use this experience to turn over a new leaf and become more accepting - more tolerant, if you will - the way the good citizens of Lewisville are tolerant and accepting.

So I give Scruples' safety dogs a nice 4 Weenie rank. I think that is a fitting score and nice tribute to celebrate this very special Holiday.