Saturday, July 15, 2023

The Great Kanawha Valley Hot Dog Joint Tour of 2023

The Secret Ballot Form
Last week Stanton and three other hot dog enthusiasts decided to sample hot dogs from six different HDJs in one long lunch hour. Beginning in Nitro and ending in Marmet, they selected the six from a long list of potential targets, basing their selections on both quality and convenience: all HDJs had to have achieve at least a 4 Weenie score on their last review, and they had to be places you could be sure to get in and out quickly, because time is money. To make the trip go quicker, orders where placed to go and judged in the car. Not the most comfortable dining spot, but it proved efficient.  

Please note: No claim is being made that these six are the best in the Valley, but it was felt that they offered a good representation of the variations that exist in the Kanawha Valley hot dog culture, so spare us your flaming comments.

At each HDJ, two hot dogs were ordered with chili, slaw, mustard and onions. Each of the four reviewers were given a half to judge. They were asked to score on our official Weenie Scale, using a private ballot form as to ensure their review was not influenced by the others. At the end of the trip, scores were to be tallied and the six HDJs would be ranked. Reviewers were also instructed to take notes to be used as tie-breaking criteria. 

Nitro Dairy Queen

Nitro DQ
The tour began at the Nitro Dairy Queen, which is a locally owned "Treat" franchise that -- unlike "Chill & Grill" locations -- is not beholden to DQ Corporate on how to make its hot dogs which means that "everything" means chili, slaw, mustard and onions, just like God intended hot dogs to be dressed. Arriving at their opening time of 11:00, our reviewers were treated with a delicious Utilitarian Dog with perfect-looking slaw sitting atop equally perfect looking chili. Wrapped in wax paper, the hot dog had nicely steamed itself and was soft and warm. Three people said the hot dog seemed small, but everyone agreed that it was well-executed and tasty. 

Bammy's Chili Dogs

Jumping over the bridge to St. Albans, the tour continued with a stop at Bammy's Chili Dogs. When the cashier heard the order placed as "two hot dogs with chili, slaw, mustard and onions" she read it back as "two West Virginia Hot Dogs" which on this blog is worthy of extra consideration and should have scored Bammy's an extra point or two in their scoring. Turns out, they would need the extra points because our reviewers didn't like the too-large onion pieces and said the chili's taste was, in the words of one reviewer, "a little off." Kudos, though, for wrapping the hot dogs in both aluminum foil and wax paper to maintain their freshness. 

Next stop was supposed to be Hot Diggity Dogs in North Charleston, but as luck would have it, they picked this week to close for vacation, something our team didn't know until they drove up to the front door.  Faced with this dilemma, the team had to improvise quickly and choose an alternate HDJ, preferably one that wasn't far away.  After a brief conference they decided to visit the most recently reviewed HDJ on the blog, Dancing Dog Ice Cream on Charleston's West Side. Wimpy the Weenie Wonk had given this place a 4.5 Weenie score just last month so, it seemed promising.

Dancing Dog Ice Cream

Dancing Dog Ice Cream
At Dancing Dog in Elk City, our reviewers found it easier to get out of the car and do their judging inside, where they were greeted by a friendly staff and the only grilled bun of the day. The bun was grilled on top and bottom, but the sides were still soft and supple. The bun also held the snappiest weenie they found at any of the six HDJs. Reviewers mostly liked the chili and slaw combination and overall seemed impressed by the quality of the entire hot dog. One reviewer didn't care for the grilled bun, and another thought it made the hot dog better. If presentation mattered in the scoring, DD would have gotten some extra points, as it would have for friendly service. 

Super Weenie

Super Weenie

A quick trip across town found our group at Super Weenie on Quarrier Street. Here they only had to order a "West Virginia Hot Dog" because the well-trained staff knows what that means, and it is posted on a sign that lists several optional ways to get your WV Dog, including a "Polite WV Dog" which comes with no onions. We've always found that Super Weenie lives up to its motto "We're Serious About These Hot Dogs" but on this day the reviewers were a tad disappointed in the taste and texture of the weenie, and one felt the chili was too spicy. 

Of course there are several other options for good hot dogs in downtown Charleston, but time was short so the group headed across the bridge and up McCorkle Avenue to Kanawha City. 

The Pepperoni Grill 

Pepperoni Grill
When the team arrived at the Pepperoni Grill, they were thankful to have a covered picnic table where they could escape the car's lackluster dining ambiance while they waited on their order. Once it arrived they quickly noticed and remarked on the generous amounts of toppings piled high on the hot dogs. This had also been the slowest order of the day, and after one bite they understood that the delay was due to a well-grilled weenie that was still piping hot. Three out of four appreciated the extra effort and felt the grilling treatment made the weenie delectable. One reviewer found the chili and slaw to be too sweet, and one thought it was "too bready," but the overall consensus was that the hot dogs were filling and satisfying. 

Chum's Hot Dogs


Last stop of the tour was Chum's Hot Dogs in Marmet, the home of the yellow slaw. It might have been a little apples-and-oranges to include Chum's because when you're having yellow slaw it's recommended to leave the mustard off of your standard order, so they did. Also, being the last stop of the day with the remnants of five other hot dogs in your belly, it might be hard to judge fairly due to "Hot Dog Fatigue." Nevertheless, our team bravely faced the unique yellow slaw variation with as much objectivity as it could muster. Only one reviewer felt Chum's was up to snuff, with the others having complaints "too vinegary" or "a cheese-like flavor." One was disappointed because of his fond memories of yellow slaw at a HDJ of yesteryear that Chum's didn't measure up to. 


At the end of the tour, here's how these six ranked on this day:

1. Nitro Dairy Queen - Simply a great West Virginia Hot Dog.

2. Pepperoni Grill - Delicious and satisfying but the chili is a little too sweet.

3. Tie - Super Weenie & Dancing Dog Ice Cream - Our team couldn't break the tie, finding both of these HDJs a perfectly adequate for a lunchtime hot dog with nothing negative to say about either. 

5. Bammy's Chili Dogs - When four hot dog experts agree that the chili was a little off, it's probably a little off. 

6. Chum's - Unique doesn't mean it's better, just different. Too different from the others on this day. 

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Charleston HDJ Review - Dancing Dog Ice Cream

Dancing Dog Ice Cream Cafe is located at 201 Washington Street West, in the up-and-thriving, hip “Elk City District” near the mural on Charly Jupiter Way, a roadway named for the renowned local artist.

Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

Ice cream is served all day.

In fact, Dancing Dog deems itself, “The Sweetest Place in Town.”

While the emphasis is on dairy delights, including cones, shakes and smoothies, they sure put out a quality Dog!

It may even put you to dancin.’

Hot dogs are listed on the menu with available toppings chili sauce, “our own,” slaw, onion and relish. A mustard bottle is available beside the counter for a do-it-yourself squirt. They also come with a grilled bun. The weenie is a Nathan’s all beef. 

The components of this delicious hot dog are neatly applied and in near perfect proportion. The chili sauce is neither too spicy nor too mild, a pleasing flavor and texture. It blends well with the slaw, which wasn’t dry nor runny - perfect consistency.

4.5 Weenies

For the soft drink lovers, Coke products are served in cans.

Having savored two hot dogs, I was already looking forward to my next visit - or ordering a third. But I showed some restraint. I’ll be back, soon.

I highly recommend this tasty treat. Save room for dessert, because there’s plenty of options. 

- Wimpy

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Barboursville HDJ Review - Dog Haus Biergarten

Editor's note: This is Wimpy's second review this week. Not bad for a beginning Weenie Wonk! Keep it up, Wimpy!

Opening in December 2021, Dog Haus brought its 50th location, and its first one in West Virginia, to Barboursville in Cabell County.

They currently have restaurants in 10 states, primarily in Texas.

They’ve had success too, as Entrepreneur Magazine chose Dog Haus No. 2 on its Top Food Franchises: Hot Dogs list for 2021, up from No. 4 in 2020.

With a variety of other foods, one might be tempted to order chicken sandwiches or burgers, but the company calls itself a Dog Haus, right?

And perhaps in an effort to ingratiate itself to its new fan base and customers, they immediately put a “Almost Heaven” hot dog on the menu, with chili, slaw, mustard and onions when coming to West Virginia.

Someone did their homework.

Dog Haus’ bun is unique for hot dogs found in our state.

For starters, it’s three Kings Hawaiian Rolls that have not yet been pulled apart. So it makes a big hot dog bun. It’s toasted only along the top, remaining soft and fresh otherwise. Still, it merits a slight point deduction for a non-steamed bun.

Grab a lot of napkins, because they don’t skimp on the amount of toppings.

The chili/sauce is a slight bit spicy but not at all overpowering while the slaw is creamy and finely shredded.

They pair together nicely.

The yellow mustard is served on top of the slaw, along with finely shredded onions. This Weenie Wonk prefers mustard applied first, but it still works.

The star of Dog Haus’ Almost Heaven is the weenie, dense and packed with flavor. And pretty good size, filling the remarkable bun size appropriately.

Proud of the quality of its product, Dog Haus displays a framed motto on its wall:

“Our Haus dogs are made from beef that is raised without hormones and antibiotics. Our proprietary recipe includes a unique spice blend of brown sugar, bay leaves, garlic, salt, and black pepper.”

One can certainly discern Dog Haus’ difference in the quality of the weenie. It’s stellar.

The Almost Heaven Dogs earns 4 Weenies

For those who enjoy a “cold one” with their hot dogs, there’s plenty of options at this location, a Biergarten serving craft beers and cocktails. There’s ample indoor seating and an inviting outdoor patio as well.

Kids meals are offered, so bring the little ones if you wish. There’s also soft serve ice cream, shakes and floats if you still have room for dessert.

Dog Haus is open:

10A-10P Monday through Thursday, 9A-10P Friday & Saturday,

and Sunday 9A-9P.

Dog Haus Biergarten
6310 US Route 50
Barboursville, WV 25504

Monday, April 03, 2023

St. Albans HDJ Review - Butcher's Black Angus


Editor's Note: This is the first review from Wimpy, our newest Weenie Wonk. Welcome to the team, Wimpy!

The hot dogs at Butcher’s Black Angus are carry-out only, but chances are, they won’t make it past the parking lot.

Sure, you can do some shopping at this small, neighborhood market. But you’ll want to saunter over to the deli case and order a couple of hot dogs to take home (or to the car.)

They’re delicious.

Hot dogs are “made your way” with chili, ketchup (!), mustard, onion and slaw listed as options.

Slight score deduction for the ketchup hiccup and the added cheese offering.

Be sure to upgrade to the all beef weenie, because of course, we go premium.

It takes a few minutes, no matter how busy the store is. They take their time steaming the buns and applying the toppings neatly. It’s a generous portion of toppings, yet they hold their place. Save the napkin for your mouth afterwards.

The chili/sauce is meaty, finely ground beef with a good proportion of spice. It marries well with the slaw, perfectly blended between creaminess and its shredded cabbage.

(The in-house made chili/sauce and slaw are also available fresh made daily to purchase from the deli cooler.)

This hot dog seemingly melts in your melt, yet with a crisp snap of the beef weenie. The taste of summer, available 12 months a year in fact.

Butcher’s Black Angus is known for its quality meats and specialty item availability. And there’s plenty of lunch meats, salads and spreads to choose from.

If it seems like a blast from the past when you walk in, I’m sure that it is intentional. Good stuff, that will likely take you back a few years.

4 Weenies.

Butcher’s Black Angus

722 Kanawha Terrace

St. Albans, WV 25177


Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Charleston HDJ Review - The Daily Dose Cafe

This little coffee shop got its start a few years back peddling coffee with cannabidiol (CBD), trying to
capitalize on the CBD craze. Sitting in a less-than-ideal location along McCorkle Avenue, where you have to go around the block and halfway up the alley to find the parking lot and the main entry, it isn't subject to a lot of walk-in business. Nevertheless, it has survived two setbacks that might have sunk lesser businesses: a 2019 ruling from the FDA that CBD should not be ingested in food and drink (due more to lack of study than any hard evidence that it's harmful), and the COVID19 pandemic. They have succeeded by changing into more of a full-service cafe with delicious breakfast items, sandwiches and a mix of healthy foods and decadent baked treats that pair well with a cup of coffee, now CBD-free. They still sell CBD supplements if you swing that way. 

Over the past few years while they were navigating the tricky waters that life and the FDA created for them, they had some inconsistent hours, but recently they have made a new commitment to their customers by increasing their open days (now Monday-Saturday) and hours (now 7-3 weekedays and 8-2 Saturday). As a way to announce their new hours and attitude they have been running a social media campaign and - in a brilliant stroke of marketing genius - added hot dogs to the menu.

Boasting "homemade chili and slaw" they caught our eye and so we just had to drop in and check them out. Now long-time readers of this blog know that "homemade" doesn't hold any water with our Weenie Wonks (we prefer professionally produced hot dogs), but we know that some of you always seem to think your homemade is better than the rest so we figured we'd give it a shot.

We ordered up and had to wait quite a while for our hot dogs to be made. This is common with places who don't specialize in hot dogs. In skilled and practiced hands, a WV hot dog is a very quick thing to prepare; slop the chili and sling the slaw. But give a newbie the task and they primp and preen, trying to make it pretty and take way too long. We can't fault The Daily Dose for this since they are brand new in the hot dog biz. We can find fault, though, for having ketchup in the list of "everything" toppings. No thank you.

When we did finally get them, our hot dogs were pretty and well made with plenty of toppings. Now we know that you purists out there are going to complain about the two things you always complain about, carrots in the slaw and onions chopped too coarsely. Ya'll are as predictable as Fairmont folks complaining about slaw. We don't mind the carrots and if the onions are mild, we don't mind them being big either. But you do you.

So here's the thing about these hot dogs: While usually a good WV hot dog has to have sweet slaw to offset the spicy and savory chili, this slaw was rather bland but the chili was quite sweet. And it kind of worked. The weenie was obviously high quality and seemed lightly grilled which brought out some flavor and the whole hot dog was very good. The bun was soft and warm if not steamed and as we mentioned before, the onions were a bit large, but overall this was a very good hot dog. 

We're going to give The Daily Dose a strong 4 Weenie score and encourage them the make hot dogs a regular menu item. 

You can find The Daily Dose at 5206 1/2 McCorkle Ave SE, Charleston, WV

(681) 265-3943

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Charleston HDJ Review - Pepperoni Grill

Several years back, when politicians argued about things that mattered instead of making up lies about stolen elections and what not, a great debate brewed in the halls of the West Virginia state capitol. The issue at hand was one that many people cared passionately about, but try as they did they could not get certain elected leaders to state their position. Then Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was asked the question directly during a press conference and he hemmed and hawed and never really took a stance. The issue? What should be the official state food, the West Virginia Hot Dog or the Pepperoni Roll?

Now it might surprise you to know that this blog came down on the side of the pepperoni roll, since it is a truly West Virginia creation and not just a different version of something more universal. No, we bravely go where politicians fear to tread. Because here, right matters. And we love a good pepperoni roll as much as the next real West Virginian.

There are only a handful of places in West Virginia, though, that are truly serious about both of these quintessential West Virginia foods. Finding a place where you can get a good pepperoni roll AND a good hot dog is difficult no matter where you are in the state. One of them is Swiftwater General Store in Lansing, and the other is Kanawha City's Pepperoni Grill. Both of these purveyors make their own delicious pepperoni rolls, and -- we just found out -- both have excellent hot dogs. 

Pepperoni Grill is a tiny storefront on a side street in the Kanawha City section of Charleston. The ordering area is small and there are two small tables at which to dine. A larger dining area is just up the stairs and there is a small patio out front where you may dine alfresco when weather permits. The place is always hopping and parking spaces are in high demand between walk in customers and Door Dashers waiting to pick up orders. Service is reasonably quick, though. 

We arrived at the height of lunchtime but the line moved quickly and we were able to place our order for the hot dog special: Two hot dogs, chips and a drink for $7.99. Everything here sadly includes ketchup, so we had to delete that from our order, but everything else went smoothly. We grabbed one of the two nearby tables and soon we had our food. 

Interestingly enough, yellow slaw was listed as an option, but we declined. It seems that a lot of Kanawha City HDJs are now offering yellow slaw. 

The hot dogs were pleasing to the eye, with a large helping of just about everything and a plump bun to

hold it all. The bun was not steamed but was very soft. The all-beef Nathan's Famous weenie was perfectly grilled. The chili was good -- not great -- and not at all spicy. The chili paired well, though, with the very sweet and creamy slaw. While the onions were chopped on the coarse side, they were mild enough not to be overwhelming. The whole hot dog was delicious and well made. 

If the chili were a bit more spicy, and if the onions were chopped smaller, and we didn't have to specify "no ketchup" we might have given Pepperoni Grill a top score, but details matter and so we'll deduct a half-point and give it a 4.5 Weenie score. Still, one of Charleston's best hot dogs. 

The Pepperoni Grill is officially located at 4002 McCorkle Avenue in Charleston, but actually faces 40th Street a half-block off McCorkle. They are closed Sundays but open most days  till 8PM. 

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Ravenswood HDJ Review - The Dawg Pound

Sometimes the best hot dogs are found inside the most unlikely looking buildings, and it's hard to imagine a more unlikely looking building than Ravenswood's "The Dawg Pound." From the outside The Pound doesn't look like anything. It is in a very large and very old building that bears no resemblance to any restaurant we've ever been in. If we'd not have Google Maps guiding us we may well have driven right by. The tall pole sign confirmed we had found it, but then, after seeing the walk-up window, we almost drove on by since we really didn't want to dine ala-car-go. Another look at the Google listing, though, convinced us that there was inside dining somewhere in there. 

But even after we found the entrance (which is kind of hidden on the right-rear of the building and not well-labeled as the entrance), walking into the tiny space that it opened into was still not matching up with our expectations for the number one-rated local restaurant in Ravenswood according to Google reviews. It was only after we were greeted and invited to find a seat in the adjacent dining room did we finally feel like we'd arrived at a bonafide HDJ. 

I should say, we found a seat in one of the adjacent dining rooms. There are three. Two of them with bars. And they are comfortable and decorated with care. They are just hard to find for the first time visitor. 

But hey, we don't score on decor and ease of access here, we are only concerned with the hot dogs, so let's talk about those. 

First, this is the Ohio Valley, so we know that we have to say "sauce," which we hate, because "sauce, slaw, mustard and onions" just doesn't roll off the tongue as well a "chili, slaw..." does it? And since this is a full-service restaurant and -- despite the name -- does not specialize in hot dogs, we're going to have to ask for no ketchup. That's a given. 

But once we've cleared these two hurdles, all that's left is to wait on our order and look around at the myriad of stuff that adorns the walls of the three dining rooms. Mostly Ravenswood High School and WVU themed, but also lots of NASCAR and general sports stuff. There's a lot to look at, and we barely got started before our hot dogs arrived. 

First off, I have to say I was fooled by the words on the menu into thinking this was going to be a ginormous Genteel Dog. I don't recall the exact wording -- something like "overflowing with toppings" -- but it was sufficient to make me believe that one would be enough. In reality, the hot dog was just average sized. The toppings were applied generously though, so no foul.

The bun was not steamed, but soft. It was warm but a bit crusty on the outside, like it had been oven-warmed. Not crusty enough to be problematic, but enough to deduct a half-Weenie from it's score. 

The chili, I mean sauce, was tasty with not much spiciness outside a slight chili powder flavor. The slaw was creamy and very sweet. The two paired well. The onions were nicely chopped, but were red which for some purists is a no-no. They didn't hurt the flavor here. The weenie seemed basic and not waterlogged, so I guessed it was lightly grilled. The mustard was applied evenly and almost invisibly. 

Overall the hot dog was  very good. The lack of steamed bun hurts a little, but it was still soft and easy to handle. The pairing of the sauce and slaw was just right. We'll give The Dawg Pound a 4 1/2 Weenie score. Pretty good by Ohio Valley standards.

They have lots of other things on the menu, and the atmosphere seems like it would be a cheerful place for lunch or dinner even if you weren't in the mood for hot dogs. 

But who is ever not in the mood for hot dogs?