Sunday, August 13, 2006

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joints - Everything but at Frostop

For generations of Huntingtonians, the site of a ginourmous mug of root beer spinning about signaled that their long journey home was complete. Under the mug is Frostop, a drive-in restaurant where carhops still go to your car to take your order and serve your party on a tray that attatches to a car's window (or you can eat at an outdoor table, if you so wish, and enjoy the same level of service). Specializing in bbq sandwiches, ice cream, hot dogs, and (especially) its own recipe of root beer/root beer floats, the grub has coupled with the unique architecture to create one of Huntington's most well-known landmarks. But enough babble, let's get to the dogs...

As you can likely surmise from the lead, the first thing that hits you after pulling into "that place with the giant root beer mug" are the carhops (ok, not literally "hit" you, but you get the point). The service is a throw-back to the days of when fast service restaurants at least feigned giving a crap about how the customers are treated and is certainly a nice touch. Within seconds of arrival, your order is taken and rushed to the kitchen, where only a couple more minutes pass before you are brought your food. In terms of service, we are talking first class.

For the sake of this review, I ordered a dog with sauce, cole slaw, ketchup, mustard, and onion, while my wife ordered one with sauce and slaw. We split an order of crinkle cut fries and a quart of root beer served in an actual wax paper cup (not a frosted mug, but still a welcome bit of nostalgia).

Unfortunately for Frostop, the hot dog itself was the low point of the meal. Borrowing from Stewart's Original, the dogs were served rolled in paper napkins with the sauce, ketchup, mustard, and onions all being located on the underside of the wiener. I've never been a fan of the wrapped napkin approach, not so much for the lack of bun-steaming, but rather for the fact that I always manage to unroll the dog upside down. As far as the wet ingredients being served on the bottom, I have never gotten the point of doing so. At Stewart's, the technique sort of makes sense, as the sauce is more of a paste in texture, but Frostop's chili is more liquid in nature than their cross-town rival's, so it really just leads to a soggy bun.

As far as the individual quality of the hot dog components, The Frostop dog was a mixed bag. The buns were fresh (note that stale buns are a particular sin in Huntington, given that we have the Heiner's Bakery in town), although unsteamed (which means much less to me than to Stanton) and the weenie was of decent quality and boiled, which I prefer over grilled or fried (more on that in a future post). The sauce had a nice flavor, mainly of chili powder and onion, with ground beef as its primary ingredient. If anything, the sauce was a bit too runny, especially for a sauce that is spooned directly onto the bun. The diced onions were fresh, firm, and of a medium chunk size, which is spot-on in my book. The ketchup was applied much too liberally in my opinion, therefore overpowering the taste of the sauce in the dog.

It was the cole slaw, however, that was the most controversial portion of the meal. As one can see from the photo, the slaw is not exactly heaped upon the dog. My wife also found it to be too runny and speculated that we caught Frostop on the end of a slaw life cycle, as the cabbage seemed a bit wilted. I, on the other hand, actually enjoyed their slaw as a slaw, but was unsure if it was indeed the best fit for a hot dog with sauce. I found it to be a bit too tangy for a sauce dog on its own, although this was nicely balanced with the sweet and creamy root beer. Overall, this would be an excellent fit for a topping on their world-class bbq sandwiches, but not really for the dogs.

Sadly, when taken as a whole, I was thoroughly under-whelmed by the taste, texture, and overall quality of Frostop's hot dogs. This is why, at Hot Dog Fest, I skipped their dogs altogether and used their root beer to wash down their competitors' superior weenies.

In terms of accompaniments however, another bright side was found. The fries and root beer were excellent fits with just about any drive-in style dish and the retro atmosphere. The crinkle cut fries were served hot and crispy and their root beer is a perfect balance of sweet and vanilla that tastes as good in February as it does in August.

Now for the ratings:

  • Service: 5 weenies. Can't be beat.
  • Atmosphere: 5 weenies. Once again, truly unique, even compared to Stewart's drive-in location.
  • Sides: 4.5 weenies. Best. Root Beer. Ever. (and good fries).
  • Hot dogs: 2 weenies. The elephant in the living room in terms of this review. They were soggy and not particularly tasty.

Overall Score: 2.5 weenies. If I was reviewing anything but hot dogs, the score would be much, much higher. But hey, check the title, man...

That being said, I would recommend stopping by Frostop when in Huntington. Marvel at the service, savor the root beer, and taste what a great WV barbeque sam'mich is really all about.

Just skip the hot dogs.


larryosaurus said...

How does "chili" turn into "sauce" in the span of a 45 minute drive?

I tolerated those napkin-wrapped upside down dogs for three years. Give me a hot dog coffin anyday.

Enough of my complaining, that there is a great review!!!

Christopher Scott Jones said...

Some quick minor notes that are worth mentioning but not quite worth editing the posr over: 1)They take debit/credit cards, which is a plus if you are on an expense account an in town for business or just don't trust yourself with cash and use your debit for everything. 2) You can buy a gallon jug of the root beer. 3) If you like plain-jane hot dogs with just mustard and ketchup, this probably wouldn't be a bad bet.