Saturday, December 21, 2019

Charleston HDJ Review - Hot Dogs R Us

We've long maintained that the fancier the Hot Dog Joint, the worse the hot dogs will be. It's been a rule that has held up for the 13 years this blog has been around. Oh, of course, there has been the occasional exception to the rule and once in a while a nice bistro or sports bar will have a tasty WVHD, but those HDJs who consistently have great hot dogs are usually very basic and make hot dogs a real priority and not just an afterthought menu addition.

Given the durability of this rule, we were pretty encouraged last week when we saw just about the plainest sign ever that had popped up on the side of the convenience store at the corner of McCorkle Avenue and 50th Street in the Kanawha City neighborhood of Charleston. It was a white banner with bold black block letters hanging in the window with no further explanation than "Hot Dogs R Us." This spot recently held a sub shop that sold okay hot dogs and at first we thought it was just a promotional sign for that business, but then someone informed us that the sub shop had closed and that this new business was now occupying the adjacent space that formerly was a frozen yogurt store.

So we stopped in to check it out and found that the HDJ is even more basic than the sign would indicate. Hanging over the counter was another sign, equally as basic as the one in the window, except for the twin Pepsi logos that adorned it, and some hand-written signs with prices and available toppings. A pair of household crock pots were on the back counter keeping the weenies and chili hot and a a tray of condiments sat nearby. Since we were getting ours to go, we ordered two with chili, slaw, mustard and onions (as God intends hot dogs to be prepared) and two without onions. While we waited on our order, we noticed that Hot Dogs R Us really means what they say: Hot dogs R all they do. No BBQ, hamburgers, chicken nuggets or anything else to get in the way of their specialty. You can get a bag of chips, but nothing else is prepared here. That, our hot dog loving friends, is the kind of dedication to ones craft it takes to achieve greatness, 

Our order came to $10 even, and came quickly. Before we knew it we were out the door and on our way home with our delicious-smelling cargo

The first thing we noticed when we opened the lid of our to-go styrofoam box was the dark, dark brown chili. Almost black, this chili has been cooked for a long, long time and something magical happened while it cooked. It is delicious. It is more sweet than spicy, but wonderfully complex and hearty. It was applied in a generous amount and topped with some of the finest-grated slaw we've ever seen. The slaw's texture and taste was as near perfect as we've found in a long while.

The bun was wonderfully soft (probably helped by the steamy confines of the styrofoam container and the longish car ride home) and the weenie was plump and delicious. The onions were finely chopped and nicely applied.

Then there's the mustard. A nice little wavy line of mustard was artistically applied on top of the slaw.  This always causes a stir on our Facebook page because some purists want their mustard against the weenie and under the chili, but we like the topside application because it confirms that this very necessary condiment - the only acceptable condiment, really- has not been forgotten in the preparation process. You complainers, get over yourselves. It tastes the same regardless of where it located.

So we're going to give Hot Dogs R Us our highest rating of 5 Weenies, recommend it to everyone who live in the Kanawha Valley and to those passing through. This is a perfect example of why WVHDs are so great: It is simple, basic food that is best when it is made and served in completely unpretentious settings like this. 



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