Thursday, May 26, 2016

Charleston Hot Dog Cart Review - Super Weenie

On a nice Spring day, there's nothing like a good hot dog served fresh from a cart along a tree-lined street.

That's why I was psyched to find this new hot dog cart sitting on the corner of Capitol and Lee Streets, just outside of Davis Park. How could there be a better location to enjoy a hot dog? Before I allowed myself, though, to get too excited, I recalled past hot dogs I had found at downtown Charleston street vendors. Many people have tried, and almost all have failed, to deliver a good WVHD from the challenging conditions posed by a cart. Would Super Weenie be different?

I had a good feeling when I noticed that the menu had "Chili - Slaw- Onions - Mustard" segregated in a special place at the top. When I asked what "everything" was, I was confidently told the proper ingredients for a true West Virginia Hot Dog. I also was really, really impressed that while Super Weenie had ketchup on its list of possible toppings, it was at the very bottom of the list and in a very small font. Excellent.

My optimism increased when I read that the weenies were Nathan's Famous, and it swelled again when I was asked if I would like my bun steamed! Oh, boy, would I ever! But how is that even possible on a cart? Ingenuity, that's how (I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to find out for yourself how they do it.)

As if I could get any more optimistic, I nevertheless was when the lid came off of the chili container and the rich and complex aroma met my olfactory organ. And seeing the texture of the chili as it was spooned onto the hot dog also added to to my ever-heightening expectations; it looked simply perfect.

Alas, the slaw's appearance did not inspire further confidence, being a little too chunky, But when the finished hot dog was finally delivered into my waiting hands, the heft, softness and aroma combined into a multi-sensory delight.

Tasting the hot dog did not disappoint. All of the visuals translated to taste as I expected, although the chili could stand a bit more spice. Perhaps the most remarkable thing for a cart hot dog was that everything was the perfect temperature: Each ingredient was exactly right, the weenie and chili were hot and the slaw was cold. The only part of this hot dog that needs improvement is the slaw: The texture is far too coarse and the flavor is a bit bland. This should be an easy fix, and for a five-day old business, we can only expect things to improve moving forward. Perhaps by the end of summer, Super Weenie will be truly super.

For now, we're still going to award Super Weenie a very good Four Weenie rating. Better slaw will definitely bump it a half-point.

 You will be able to find Super Weenie on the same corner on most nice days for the rest of the Summer and into the Fall, and you can follow them on Facebook here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Upper Kanawha Valley HDJ Review - Not Frank's Pizza

So we went to Not Frank's Pizza. Not "Frank's Pizza", "Not Frank's Pizza." And not for pizza, but for hot dogs.

If you found that sentence confusing, you can read about the way this restaurant got its unusual name here. And then come back here to find out about their hot dogs.

Now for the record, we did not go to Not Frank's original Montgomery location, but the new on that is located in the old Twin Hills Restaurant in Shrewsbury. To confuse matter more, the Twin Hills sign is still on the west side of the building, so perhaps this Not Frank's should be known as "Not Twin Hills,"  but that is a business decision they need to make. We're here to talk about hot dogs.

First, be advised that "everything" on a hot dog at Not Frank's will get you ketchup if you're not careful. I, being careful about such things, deleted that from my order. I was first a little dismayed when the waitress told me that she would get my hot dogs "as fast as we can," and I worried that I would be in for a long wait even though there wasn't another soul in the place. Thankfully the wait wasn't too long, and I was further encouraged by the look of my hot dogs when they arrived. Over the last several hot dog reviews I have done, IO have seen a disturbing trend toward coarse slaw that was made with large chucks of cabbage, but Not Frank's was exactly the opposite: Finely grated, but perhaps a bit too runny. It tasted fine, though, more sweet than tart and was applied in generous helpings.

The chili was decent, with a slightly spicy taste and a nice texture. The chili and slaw went together well. I could not detect any onions at all: either they were chopped as small as the cabbage, or they were hidden under another topping.

The bun was one of those Yankee New England Split Top Lobster Roll buns that have been invading West Virginia for some time now (and about which we are going to be having a conversation real soon because the WV Hot Dog Public needs educated - again). It was grilled and tasted OK, but as always added way too much bulk to the finished hot dog.

Overall, the hot dog was satisfying. Nothing to right home about, but certainly not disappointing. We'll award it a 3.5 Weenie rating. With better onions and bun it could be a 4.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Charleston HDJ Review - Big Joe's Bar & Grill

I've been trying to get to Big Joe's for a while, not for hot dogs but for their Pastrami on Rye; a sandwich I had heard about my whole life but have never tasted. As far as I know, Big Joe's is the only restaurant in Charleston - maybe in West Virginia - that serves this New York staple food, and furthermore, they make their own pastrami on the premises. I had to try it, and when I finally made it in I found that they also had hot dogs, so I had to try those too. I should have stopped with the pastrami.

So should Big Joe's. They should stop offering hot dogs. Never serve another one. Ever. Let me explain:

The first indication that this was not good to be a good hot dog experience was when I saw cheese as a standard topping. I of course, deleted the dairy and went ahead boldly, thinking that at least the rest of the standard ingredients were correct - chili, slaw, mustard and onions. But then...

My hot dogs arrived and I immediately recognized a few potential problems: First, the bun had been grilled to within and inch of its life, and was no longer able to hold the weenie and other toppings. When I picked up my first hot dog it fell apart on the way to my mouth, and the second one - still on my plate - fell over when the first one was moved spilling its toppings all over the plate. Easily the messiest two hot dogs I have ever eaten. And I will remind you, I have eaten a lot of hot dogs.

When the "chili" spilled out (and I use quotation marks to sarcastically point out that it was pseudo-chili), from the looks and taste of it, it was nothing more than slightly browned ground beef. Tasteless.

Then there is the "slaw" (yes, there are those sarcastic quotes again), that seemed to be the cabbage portion of sauerkraut with nothing else added to it. It was long, stringy threads of cabbage with hardly any flavor.

There were large hunks of red onions on top of the stringy slaw.

The mustard and weenie were fine.

Big Joe's gets 1 Weenie, and that might be generous.