Thursday, June 29, 2006

New HDJ Review - Tamarack

See the complete review under "Elsewhere in West Virginia" at

"The Best of West Virginia" is the marketing slogan of Tamarack, a unique tourist destination along the West Virginia Turnpike near the Beckley. They sell various West Virgina made products: Arts and crafts, furniture, clothing, music recordings and food. If you ever pass through West Virginia on I64/I77 you really should stop and check it out.

I attended a meeting at Tamarack recently and was treated to lunch as part of the event. Since I wasn't buying, I was eyeing the Trout Almondine, Broiled Salmon and other pricey items on the already pricey menu (the food service is provided by The Greenbrier which is not exactly in the Motel 6 class of hotel). But when I saw a Hot Dog on the menu I knew I had to at least inquire, and when I found out that "everything" included chili, slaw, mustard and onions I knew I had to try one. The $2 price tag, while expensive for a hot dog, was a welcome sight for my host as it saved him at least five bucks on the lunch tab.

So, is this hot dog "the best of West Virginia"? No, but it's pretty good.

First, let me say how pleased I was to find that this place, that prides itself on presenting West Virginia culture to visitors, presented an authentic West Virginia Hot Dog. I was afraid I'd find some wierd hybrid dog with relish or saurkraut or some other foreign topping. Kudos to the Tamarack folks for keeping it real.

And real good, too. While the bun is basic, the weenie seemed to be a cut above average. But it's the chili that really makes this dog stand up and bark. It is nicely spicy, nicely runny and served unselfishly - a bun-ful of chili. Folks who value good chili most will like this dog. The slaw is OK, but it could be a bit finer and sweeter. It was piled high and, along with the runny chili, made a delightful mess of the bun in short order even though it wasn't wrapped up.

Overall it is a very good representation of a West Virginia Hot Dog, which is exactly what it should be at Tamarack, but it's certainly not the best our state has to offer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

2006 Weenie Awards Begin Next Week!

Beginning July 5th we will begin handing out the 2006 Weenie Awards. Since this is our first year and our list of reviewed Hot Dog Joints is limited outside the Charleston area, only Charleston Area HDJ's will be recognized this year. Awards will be given for the following categories:

  • Best Chili
  • Best Slaw
  • Best Weenie
  • Best Bun
  • Best Hot Dog
  • Best Hot Dog Joint
A new presentation will be posted every few days throughout July (National Hot Dog Month). Stay tuned to see how your favorite HDJ fares!

Friday, June 23, 2006

New HDJ Review - Timmy's Snack Shack

In 2003 a major flash flood covered Mill Creek with up to six feet of water. See some amazing video of the flood here. The flood took out several businesses including a car wash (which the video shows going under for the last time). In 2006 a tiny roadside stand popped up in the very spot where the car wash once stood: Timmy's Snack Shack. "Snack Shack" is an apt name for the place. A little hut with white vinyl siding, two service windows to satisfy the hordes (which were not in evidence when I was there) and two tables for al-fresco dining, one with an umbrella and one without. Not a lot on the menu, but fortunately hot dogs are one of the offerings. I was surprised to see a lack of ice cream treats since this is exactly the kind of place you'd expect to find a soft-serve cone or a milk shake. But no matter, I came for the hot dogs. Not exactly a basic WVHD, Timmy's starts with a New England Style bun perfectly grilled so it provides a slight crunchy exterior. The bun really adds a neat spin to the otherwise normal dog and while I prefer soft and gooey dogs, I still found this to be very satisfying. The chili is sweet with not much kick, but it is just about perfect in texture. The slaw is pretty darn good and the onions are so finely chopped that they are difficult to distinguish from the slaw; a really nice touch. I had two dogs and went away craving another. The only thing that could make it better for my taste buds would be a little more spiciness in the chili and perhaps a little larger helping of slaw. But that's just me being picky. I think that most people would really like Timmy's dogs just the way they are. To get to Timmy's Snack Shack, head out Greenbrier Street and go about a mile past Capitol High School. Timmy's will be on your left just across the street from the apartment complex. Five minutes or so from the I64 Greenbrier Street exit. See the full review and more photos under Charleston Area HDJ Reviews over at

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hot Dog Appliance

I don't know about you, but my kitchen is full of little appliances. I have a bread machine, George Foreman Grill, toaster and a coffee maker that have permanent residence on the counter top. Hidden away in cabinets are a deep fryer, food processor, smoothie machine, blender, electric skillet, ice cream maker, crock pot and a coffee grinder. I don't need anything else.

Except this!

Monday, June 19, 2006

New Hot Dog Review - Freeman's Family Restaurant

(Also posted at under Charleston Area Hot Dog Joint Reviews.)

Regular readers know how I love sweet finely chopped slaw, soft buns, and runny chili. Well, the hot dogs at Freeman's Restaurant have none of these and somehow still manage to please my pallette.

Freeman's sits caddy-corner across Washington Street West from Chris', which makes it a challenging place to sell hot dogs. They have a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the prices on everything seem extremely reasonable. The aroma of barbecue fills the air at lunchtime (sometimes they cook ribs on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and the whole block smells that way!). The menu consists of soul-food standards like chicken livers and catfish, but also has some surprises like a Rueben Sandwich and Shrimp Alfredo. OK, but how could anyone in their right mind try to sell hot dogs across from Chris'? I'll tell you: By making them look, taste and feel completely different from an ordinary WVHD.

Alright, so here's the thing: Like I already said, this hot dog violates all my rules. I shouldn't like it. The slaw is coarsely chopped and has a strong taste of vinegar along with the sweet taste. I can't imagine eating it as a side dish. The chili has the consistency of midwestern "loose meat" sandwich meat but with seasoning that has a vague Mexican flavor. It is dry and crumbly with no moisture to soak into the bun, which is probably a good thing since the bun is toasted and wouldn't get gooey anyway. Mustard, ketchup and mayo packets are offered but not included on a standard dog. I think there were onions on my dog, but they were slight and barely noticeable.

So, I shouldn't like it, but the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. The slaw and chili work perfectly together and I forgot to mention that the weenie is grilled - and I mean really cooked, not just heated - which brings everything together nicely. This is a very satisfying hot dog. Not a prototypical West Virginia Hot Dog, but a very good hot dog. I could definitely see myself, if I found myself on the 300 block of West Washington at lunch time, being torn between Freeman's and Chris'. It would all come down to the mood I might be in. Chris' has the spicy kick, but Freeman's has a real stick-to-your-ribs attitude.

For you weenie-and-a-bun fans (yes, Vince, this means you), the grilled weenies make Freeman's a necessary addition to your list of hot dog destinations. Heck, I'd say that everyone will find something about Freeman's hot dogs they like. And if not, there's always the liver & onions!

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Huntington Swing

My trip to Huntington wasn't as fruitful as I had hoped. I was able to get by Stewart's 4th Avenue stand and the review is now posted over at, but I found the Midway Drive In boarded up. I went to Jim's Spaghetti House because someone told me you could get hot dogs with their spaghetti sauce on them. The very nice waitress smiled sweetly and said I could get a pint of sauce to take home but they didn't have hot dogs. So I got one out of three, which would be good batting average but is kind of frustrating when searching for hot dogs.

I plan on going back for the July 29th West Virginia Hot Dog Festival and I plan a major post after that event.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Help Wanted

It's been quite a while since anyone has provided a guest review of a HDJ. Let me re-issue the invitation: If you would like to submit your thoughts about the quality of hot dogs from a W. Va. Hot Dog Joint feel free to email me at This goes double if you can provide reviews for HDJ's that aren't local in the Huntington/Charleston vicinity. I'd also appreciate scouting reports from outlying counties for the W. Va. Slaw Mapping Project over at . Same email address:

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sounds Like It's Time for a Road Trip to Hinton!

See the Daily Mail article about the Dairy Queen in Hinton. It's been many years since I have eaten there. Notice in the photo that they put the chili on top of the slaw. An interesting variation that I've only seen south of Beckley.

Charleston HDJ Review: Diana's Snack Bar

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I present you with the simple facts of the case:

  1. Diana's Snack Bar sits right next door to the Swiftwater Cafe on Washington Street in downtown Charleston.
  2. Swiftwater has some of the best dogs in town, especially if you are weenie fan.
  3. Swiftwater has arguably the best and friendliest service of any HDJ in town.
  4. At Diana's you get a mediocre microwaved hot dog that is obviously made with off the shelf pre-packaged coleslaw and probably canned chili as well.
  5. It's hard to eat only one Swiftwater hot dog. It's hard to eat a whole Diana's hot dog.
So the question before you today is, "Why on earth does Diana even serve hot dogs?"

If you can help solve this mystery then perhaps you can help find Jimmy Hoffa.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Blogger Strikes Again!

For some reason, a reason only known by the devilish soul of Blogger, last night while I slept peacefully the html code on this blog was apparently put into a blender mixed thoroughly. I've done a basic re-set but it will take me a while to recover all the links and descriptions. I'll try to have it back together in a day or two.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Huntington Here We Come!

I have to be in the River City next week for a couple of meetings and I plan on sampling as many dogs as I can while I am there. I'm definitely going to get reacquainted with Stewarts but in order to make the most of my trip I need suggestions for other HDJ's to try out. Leave your suggestions in a comment or send it via email

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

HDJ Review - Burger Carte in Smithers

A recent trip to Gauley Bridge enabled me to gather a few Hot Dog Joint reviews from the upper Kanawha Valley. The Burger Carte in Smithers is the first to be posted. Find the full review filed under "Elsewhere in WV" over at

Monday, June 05, 2006

W. Va. Hot Dogs' Weenie Awards

In recognition of National Hot Dog Month, our first annual Weenie Awards will be handed out in July. Awards categories include:

Best Chili
Best Slaw
Best Hot Dog Joint Atmosphere
Best Overall Hot Dog

Only HDJ's that have been reviewed by W. Va. Hot Dogs will be considered for a Weenie Award. If your favorite HDJ has not been reviewed feel free to make a suggestion via email or you can leave a comment here.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Blog Traffic Trends

It's interesting to watch traffic statistics for this blog and also for the website over at Here are a few things I find particulary interesting:

- Ten times more people visit the sites during weekdays than on weekends, but more comments are left on weekends. Perhaps it's because the weekend browser is more leisurely and has the time to post a comment, whereas the weekday reader is looking for information for food. Either that or a lot of people are reticent to post at work for fear of key-loggers.

- People often stumble onto the blog while searching for dachsunds, but they often stay and look around for while. I would think weiner dog owners wouldn't be hot dog eaters. Shows how much I know.

- A lot of people from out of state are searching for information on "West Virginia Hot Dogs." While this pleases me immensely, it also surprises me. Growing up here I never knew that we had peculiar hot dogs. I thought everybody everywhere ate chili and slaw on dogs. It was only when I was in my twenties and began meeting people who moved here from other places did I begin to understand that there are people that don't know how to make a proper hot dog.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Market Drive Bar & Grill

Another adventure in second-hand smoke, this tiny place sits near the confluence of Pennsylvania Avenue, Market Drive and Crescent Road. It is a delightful little beer joint in a small metal building that has a sign luring in seekers of hot dogs and hot bologna sandwiches. The crowd definitely qualifies as "old codgers". Service is friendly and quick, and the mid-day clientele is as lively as any place I've been.

The dogs are unremarkable, except for one thing: the chili is of the "boiled meat" style (where hamburger is boiled instead of browned in a frying pan) which gives it a distinctive texture. The taste a bit bland. The slaw seemed homemade but it too lacked any distinctive flavor.

Interesting little place, bit not worthy of any special effort to go for a hot dog.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

W. Va. Hot Dog Festival

Even thought the website is stuck on last year's event, I am told that the second annual W. Va. Hot Dog Festival is on for July 29th. I presume the location will be the same as last year, Pullman Square.

I'm going, how about you?