Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Good News for Fairmont Hot Dog Enthusiasts

A reader from Fairmont reports that the beloved Yann's Hot Dogs is open once again. He writes:

As you have already learned from someone else. Yann's was closed for repairs "on him". All of Fairmont (well those of us who are addicted to his devil dogs) rejoiced as he reopened his door this past week. Currently, people are lining up around midnight for service at noon (OK its not quite that bad, but I went around 2 one day and the line was around the corner, can't imagine what lunch must be like right now) I noticed a sign on the wall, I believe it said he was open Tues-Fri's "for now."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sausage and Bread Blog

A fellow from London (not this one) who travels extensively has started a neat blog that deals with the world-wide phenomenon of sausage sandwiches. He has published an interview with yours truly here.

Definitely a good read, especially if you want to find out what they eat on hot dogs in Nambia (what, no slaw?) I look forward to his travels and further postings.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joints - South Side Chevron

As the closest locally-owned Chevron station to my house, I try to buy my gas at South Side Chevron (even if it always a penny or two more per gallon and the last station to lower its prices at any given time). At least I know that some of my gas money is sloshing back into the local economy. Anyways, a couple of years ago the owner tore down the old service station and built a modern convenience store where it once stood. In addition to beer, pop, snacks, etc., the new store also sells a product called Broaster Chicken , which is no KFC or Lee's Famous Recipe, but not too bad when you get it hot (they use heat lamps). Hold on, don't go back to Myspace or WoW or your fantasy football team just yet, I'm going somewhere with this.

One day as I was paying for my gas, I noticed that a sign proclaimed that they now had "Johnny Dogs" for $2.25. I've gotten to know the clerks fairly well, so I had no problem asking them what was so special about this hot dog that made it cost that much and sat under a heat lamp. I was told that the dogs were delivered fresh every few hours had an extra thick weenie and a "special sauce" that was made every few days by this Johnny fellow.

"Everyone has a special sauce" I thought as I turned down the chance at a trying this particular dawg.

A month or so passed, and I had noticed that they never seemed to have Johnny Dogs when I was there. One of the clerks told me that they only had them for weekday lunches, which meant I was S.O.L. on getting to try one for the time being.

Another month passed and I finally saw something hot dog shaped wrapped in aluminum foil. The guy at the counter said that Johnny had dropped of the dogs late that day. I thought "what the heck" and ponied up the $2.25 to get a Johnny Dog. I asked for slaw, but they said that they don't have slaw and that if I got them off of Johnny's hot dog cart (which I have never seen to my knowledge) I could get slaw. It seems like a good idea that Johnny doesn't put slaw on dogs destined for a heat lamp, so its understandable, if not a bit disappointing. This might not have been an issue had there not been the Ballard's recall, as I would have then had slaw in the fridge. Maybe next time.

Ok, so to the dog. As it had been wrapped in foil for a while, the bun was steamed and a bit gooey. Honestly, it was less soggy than those upside down dogs at Frostop. The uber-thick wiener (one inch in diameter) was hot and topped with the special sauce, chopped onion, and a fair amount of mustard.

The sauce, which was the selling point of this pricey dog, lived up for the most part to the hype. Upon first sight I noticed that it seemed like a thick sloppy joe. You could even see green pepper in the mixture. It tasted sweet, spicy, and meaty. It was not at all what I had expected but was everything that I had hoped for in such a gourmet-priced weenie.

Now to the ratings:

Sauce: 5 weenies. This is like some of the best homemade WV sauces. There is nothing to criticize about it at all. While I do not know if it the sauce that I would want on a dog all of the time or even most of the time, it is something special. Wow.

Weenie: 4 weenies. The weenie alone, if cut up, would make enough beanie weenies to feed the 3rd grade class at Meadows Elementary School for a month.

Everything else: 1 weenie. It was a gas station with heat lamps and no slaw. 'Nuff said.

Overall: 3.5 weenies. Damn, I need to find Johnny's stand. This could be a multiple Weenie Award winner. If coming to Huntington and you only have time for one dog, this might not be the place to go, but I strongly urge anyone that lives or works in Moneyton to grab one of these at least once for lunch.

Next time, I'll make sure I have slaw in the fridge.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Clarksburg Hot Dog Review - Ritzy Lunch

This Hot Dog Joint has been on my "must visit" list ever since Epicurious placed it on its list of the ten best hot dogs in America. According to Epicurious, the standard hot dog includes sweet coleslaw. If that is true, I thought, then the slaw line must run through or north of Clarksburg. Since I had already found that T&L Hot Dogs has slaw optional dogs I was eager to find a HDJ in Harrison County that served slaw standard so we could claim the county as part of the state's majority hot dog culture. Obviously I also wanted to avail my tastebuds to any hot dog that had been ranked as one of the top ten in entire country. I was really looking forward to it.

So I took a little side trip from my northern excursion this week and traveled across Rt. 50 to downtown Clarksburg. Once I found W. Pike Street it was easy to find Ritzy Lunch. I got there just as the lunch rush began and felt fortunate to find a booth for me and my daughter. The old wooden booths are reminiscent of those at Chris' in Charleston and the rest of the decor was basic bar and grill. Beer mirrors and ads adorned the walls and smoking is permitted and practiced with gusto by the clientele. My daughter called the equipment behind the bar "retro" but I had to correct her and tell her it was simply "old". Not the prettiest place in the world, although it does have a quaint charm of its own. Clearly, the moniker "Ritzy Lunch", while it might have fit when the restaurant was new in the 1930's, does not adequately describe the atmosphere of the place today.

The service is fast and friendly. When I asked what was included on an "everything" dog, I was crestfallen to hear that only chili, mustard and onions came standard. Slaw was a stated option, so of course I added it to my order.

In a flash my hot dogs were delivered to my table. I was very pleased to see the huge mound of beautiful looking slaw sitting atop my dogs. The weight and tactile makeup of the dogs seemed just about perfect. They smelled great, too. I couldn't wait to find out what these, one of the top ten hot dogs in America would taste like.

But I was distracted. I noticed something on the table that I had never seen before in any restaurant. It was a salt shaker full of a red powdery substance. I sprinkled a little in the palm of my hand and sniffed it. No conclusive smell that I could detect. Then, I tasted it. Not much flavo...oh, wait, OH MY, THERE IT IS! It was chili powder! Chili powder, I assumed, to add to your hot dog in case it wasn't spicy enough for you. Hmmm.

Curious, I dug a small amount of chili out from under the generous helping of slaw and tasted it. Oh, this is good stuff. It is spicy (not overly so) and has a really meaty texture and flavor. I could detect not a trace of any tomato product in the chili. It was very good, but not as spicy as most northern W.Va. chili that I have sampled. Hence (I guess) the chili powder.

So I got back to the business of eating. From the first full bite of the hot dog I could tell that this is a pretty darn good hot dog. It is hearty and spicy. It has good volume and weight. The chili was not as good as Chris', the slaw was not as good as Romeo's, the bun was not as good as virtually any Huntington HDJ has. The weenie was very good, but not that different from many other HDJs. Overall it rates a strong 4.5 Weenie score.

I was thinking while I was eating these hot dogs: "How can these be one of the ten best dogs in the U.S. when there are three or four better hot dogs just in Charleston? Obviously the writers at Epicurious have limitations, but why the fuss over this HDJ in little ol' Clarksburg?

Please don't get me wrong: Ritzy Lunch has a great hot dog. The fact that they even offer slaw so far up north is worthy of a few style points. I don't doubt that this is the very best hot dog that Clarksburg has to offer. If your travels take you there, you should make it a point to try Ritzy Lunch.

Just don't go overboard on your ratings like Epicurious did.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

wvhotdogs.com Site Redesign

I've retooled the main site over at wvhotdogs.com. Some of the changes include:

  • Frames are out.
  • Advertisements are in.
  • A Google search of the site is now an option.
  • Reviews are completely updated as of today.
  • "Recent Reviews" are posted on the main page so you can check to see what's new.
  • New colors and graphics.
There are still a few subtle changes I need to make, but it's ready for a test drive.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ripley Hot Dog Joint Review - Dairy Queen


Go to Pete's instead. It's just down and across the street.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ripley Hot Dog Joint Review - Pete's Hot Dogs

Ripley is a typical West Virginia small town. It has a Main Street, a Church Street, a Maple Street and a WalMart. It has a beautiful courthouse that dominates the downtown business district and several stately churches whose steeples are visible above the tops of the majestic old oak trees that line the streets. The sidewalks are rolled up early most evenings, but during the day Main Street is a flurry of activity as people with courthouse business run errands around town. A seemingly never-ending parade of cars stream through town on their way to or from I77. Yes, it is typical in many ways.

Just about every small town worth its salt has a unique little hole-in-the-wall dining spot where people know they can find cheap and dependably tasty food. Ripley is no exception. Happily, the dining spot in Ripley is a hot dog joint.

I have received a bunch of email urging me to try Pete's Hot Dogs ever since I started this site, but this weekend was the first time I'd had the opportunity to be in Ripley during Pete's business hours. I had to bend my schedule a little but I got there Saturday evening just an hour or so before they closed. The place was abustle, both drive-thru and walk-in, but my hot dog with everything was still served lighting fast. I didn't even have time to take pictures or look around much. The walls, I did notice, where adorned with dozens of photographs of kid's sports teams presumably those sponsored by the restaurant. A couple of articles about the restaurant clipped from local newspapers were also framed and on display. I wish I'd had time to read them because that is usually how I get historical information about hot dog joints.

As soon as I pulled my dog from the paper bag I knew it was going to be a good one. It was wrapped in wax paper and was already wonderfully soft and gooey; obviously a well-steamed bun was the reason. Upon unwrapping I noticed immediately that Pete's takes the Huntington approach and puts the toppings on the bottoms. Not only is this bad hot dog ettiquette, it also somewhat limits the amount of chili, slaw and onions that can be used on a hot dog. And, sure enough, there was a very small amount of everything on my "everything" dog. Surprisingly, though, it was still very tasty and satisfying.

There really wasn't enough chili to get a taste of it independently of the slaw, onions and mustard. There really wasn't enough slaw to get a taste of it independently of the chili. But I confess, the whole dog was just excellent. I can only guess that the flavors of both the slaw and chili are very concentrated and potent enough to overcome the small quantity. It left me wanting more. In fact I felt like I could have eaten all of the "10 for $8.99" special advertised out front.

In spite of the upside-down dressing of the dog, and in spite of the miniscule amount of chili and slaw I am going to give Pete's a 4.5 out of 5.0 on the Weenie Scale. Just a great little hot dog in a great little hot dog joint in a great little town.

The next time you're near Ripley, try one, for Pete's sake!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Quick Hot Dog Review - Mollohan's Family Restaurant

Now I bet you saw the title of this post and thought this was going to be a brief little post. No, it is a rather long post about a hot dog joint in the town of Quick, West Virginia.

Quick is just a hoot and a holler from Pinch. Pinch is between Miliken and Elkview. So even if you're not from around here you can see that getting to Quick is, well, not quick. It's not on the way to anywhere. If you lived in Quick and someone told you they just dropped by because they were in the neighborhood, they would be lying.

And that is apparently the reason that Dorsey Mollohan decided to open up a restaurant in the old Quick post office building. Before Mollohan's Family Restaurant the nearest sit down restaurant was 13 miles away. Open seven days a week, they seem to sincerely want to serve this little community. The interior walls of the restaurant serves as a bulletin board with flyers pinned up for every flea market and community gathering around.

The restaurant has been open since last December and it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast menu has all the basics and lunch is the usual family restaurant fare. They have a daily special dinner (I assume you can get it for lunch too) like chicken & dumplings or roast beef and gravy. Pizza and calzones take up the back page of the menu. They also had an absolutely scrumptious assortment of desserts listed on the menu board. All home made, I was assured by the very sweet waitress.

But I didn't drive all this way for desserts or dinner specials, did I? No, I didn't (and thanks for asking).

Hot dogs are $1.10 each and at that price I figured I'd have two. Everything, I was told, included chili, slaw, mustard, ketchup and onions. I asked the waitress to leave off the ketchup. I nearly gave her a lecture about the impropriety of ketchup on hot dogs but I decided against it.

While I waited on my order I walked around and marveled at the quaint decor and the cleanliness of the place. I think you really could eat off the floors. I read all the flyers hanging around that told about community events. I looked at the framed newspaper articles about the restaurant that were hanging on the walls. I read the entire menu cover to cover. I picked up a Gazette someone had left behind and read it - all of it. And still I waited. I walked over to the wall that held the menu board and saw this sign posted there:

Oh, that explains it.

Two hotdogs. Thirty-two minutes. Patience redefined.

But they did finally arrive. And they were almost worth the wait.

My Huntington operative, Chris James, told me that the highest praise he could give a hot dog would be to say it tasted like someone's mom made it. He would love this hot dog. It is made with care and is topped with chili that tastes like grandma just whipped it up. Meaty and delicious, but not a bit spicy. The slaw was obviously freshly made and was finely chopped and very creamy. A little sweeter would have been nice, but most HDJs could learn from Mollohan's slaw chef. Both toppings were served in huge amounts - so much that one dog would have filled me up nicely. They were beautiful to look at and presented on a quaint Currier and Ives-esque platter. Nice touch for a down home place. The bun was oven warmed and the weenie was just excellent. All-beef, I was told.

If not for the long wait I would give these dogs a four-and-a-half weenie rating, but knock off a half point for the delay. If I wanted a nice relaxing family and friends meal then the wait would be a plus, but hot dogs are a grab and go food and there's really no fun in waiting that long for them. I fully intend to go back sometime for one of their dinner specials and then I will make no bones about the laid back pace. And you might say that I shouldn't complain because I was warned, but the warning wasn't posted in a spot where you would see it easily. Maybe it should be printed on the menu.

Mollohan's is open 11AM - 8PM Monday thru Friday, 10AM - 8PM Saturday and 10AM-6PM Sunday. It is located right on Pinch-Quick Road just as you come in to Quick.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Quest For Fish

Circleville, Ohio is the home of the annual "Pumpkin Show" which is hands-down the greatest festival I have ever visited. I had family connections in Circleville and every October we would make the trek to this quaint little town just south of Columbus just to view the giant pumpkins awaiting judging on Main Street, see again the world's largest pumpkin pie in the window of Lindsey's Bakery, ride the rides and watch the two parades that happened each of the festival's four days. It is a place and time full of fond memories. This year's festival starts tomorrow (Jackie, you should definitely take the little Lanterns). It is magnitudes beyond Milton's little wing ding in scope and coolness.

Okay, okay, but where's the hot dog relevance? Well, it's a stretch, but before I found that I had been liberated from my allergy to coleslaw I had another obsession that took me to odd little restaurants looking for the perfect specimen. It started when I was about 14 years old in a bar in Circleville.

The bar was (and still is) called "Shifty's" and it was (and I assume still is) the most perfect example of a small town watering hole that I have ever seen or even heard of. From the outside it's nothing special but walk through the creaky red door and you immediately know that this place is very special. To a fourteen year old boy it was more than special: It was positively magical. Pictures of local celebrities with autographs wishing the owners good luck in future endeavors lined the walls. A TV hanging in one corner was always on and always seemed to have an Ohio State football game on whenever I was there - which I'm sure was impossible because it was long before ESPN and VCRs. In two of the other corners were screens for what would best be described as a video game, but it wasn't. It was a dart throwing game where a cartoonish character did the throwing, controlled by a bar-goer holding a remote that controlled when the dart was released. The dart would go from one screen and seemingly through the ether to the other screen that held the image of the dart board. Depending on at what point in the throwing motion of the cartoon dart thrower the button was pressed, the dart would hit the edge of the target or a bullseye with varying point levels for each zone. The game kept score and two or four players could play against each other. Since this was perhaps a year before I saw "Pong" for the first time it was mesmerizing, as you can imagine. I played for hours.

My uncle, who lived in Circleville, and my stepfather were the adults that were responsible for my presence in the bar, and while it might seem unimaginable in this day and time, it was quite normal for a young man to be in a bar in those days. I'm not sure it was legal at all, but it was fairly common for a man to take his son into bars to show him off to his drinking buddies. My uncle and stepdad would sometimes take me to play golf with them at my uncle's club and they never played golf without stopping off at Shifty's for a "snort" on the way home. So I went to Shifty's, but no snorts for me.

Sometimes we would eat at Shifty's and that is when I fell completely in love with the fish sandwich they served there. It was the tastiest and most satisfying sandwich I had ever eaten and to this day I have never found one as good. And I have tried. I can't tell you a single detail about it after all these years except that it was majorly awesome.

I made it my hobby for many years to find a fish sandwich in Charleston as good as Shifty's. I have to tell you that I never found one that was as good, but the closest I ever found was at the drive in that used to be located on Kanawha Boulevard where the Moose Lodge is today (I think it was called the "Tip Top Drive In"). Of course there was no Blogger in those days so I never documented my quest for fish but I assure you it was every bit as involved as my search for hot dogs.

Well, the reason I bring this up is because I was thinking about Shifty's and the Circleville Pumpkin Show recently and I did a little Googling. Lo and behold I found this little ukulele music video that was shot outside and inside Shifty's! As I watched it I laughed, and as I watched it again it brought a tear to my eye as I missed those scrumptious sandwiches. In the video you get a glimpse of the inside and the people who patronize the place these days. Check it out.

Isn't the Internet great sometimes?

Now thats a big wiener....

I found the above public domain photo of the world's longest hot dog here. At 104' 9", it was done as a publicity stunt for a bakery in Oregon. Imagine, however, if someone in WV had tried for the record. It very well could have exhausted the world's supply of cabbage and sweet onion.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why I'm a Hot Dog Fool

You know the saying "There's nothing worse than a reformed anything"? Well, it's true and the truth behind the saying is also the truth behind my obsession with hot dogs, West Virginia style.

It all started when I was about seven years old. I suddenly and inexplicably developed several food allergies all at once. It first came to my attention, and to the attention of my poor sainted mother, when I had a "Zero" candy bar after dinner one evening and within 20 minutes my lips and eyes had swollen up so bad that I couldn't talk or see. My mother, who was normally in complete control in any crisis, went completely berzerk and rushed me to the hospital. After questioning me for quite a while (and only "yes" or "no" questions because I literally couldn't speak intelligibly because of the enormous size of my lips) they deduced that I had most likely developed an allergy to almonds since that was the most likely allergen present in the food I had eaten that day. They gave me a shot of Benedryl and sent me home.

Over the next few months I discovered all the things I couldn't eat anymore. Not only did I find out that I couldn't eat almonds, but walnuts, hazlenuts, pecans, peanuts and peanut butter where all now taboo. Unfortunately most of these discoveries were accompanied by a trip to the ER at Charleston Memorial Hospital. I was told simply that I could not eat these things that I loved so much, and perhaps I could never eat them again. Ever. Forever is a long time for a 7 year old. My doctor did say that it was possible that I could "grow out of my allergies" someday but I discounted it. He said I would likely be in my twenties before that could happen. "Twenties! Might as well be in the hundreds," I thought.

I also develeped one non-nut allergy, but more about that later.

Now I really loved to eat nuts, but I knew that I could do so no longer. Even at age 7 or 8 I understood that eating nuts could kill me and therefore it was fairly easy to stay away from them (even though one of my family's holiday traditions was to have bowls of mixed nuts sitting around the house with sets of nutcrackers and nut picks so guests could help themselves). Being in general contact with the foods in question wasn't a problem. My allergies only manifested symptoms if I actually ate the nuts, so I learned to just say no.

Peanut butter was harder. How can you be a kid and not eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I can tell you, it's hard. How many times when having lunch with my friends at the school lunch table did I long to trade my cheese or bologna sandwich for a peanut butter and jelly, bananna or honey sandwich? How many times did I have to tell a friend's mom "no thanks" when she offered to make me a sandwich? I went from age 7 to age 25 without tasting the simple joy of a PB&J. What changed at age 25 you ask? I'll tell you: I couldn't take it any longer.

One day I decided that that I simply couldn't stand it any more, I had to have a PB&J if it killed me, and I knew it just might. So I took a prophylactic dose of Benadryl and I fixed myself not one, not two, but three PB&J sandwiches on white bread. I sat at the small kitchen table of my small apartment and instructed my friend to call 911 if I lost conciousness. I moved things out of the way so the paramedics could get me through the door and down the steps on a gurney. I was ready. After making all the preparations, pouring myself a glass of milk and a large cup of courage, I took a bite.

My allergies had always been so acute that even touching peanut butter to my lips brought an immediate tingling sensation and, in short order, swelling to the area. But after the first bite that day, either due to the Benadryl suppressing the histamine that my body was trying to produce or because I had simply "grown out of my allergies", I felt nothing. I waited for a few minutes then took another bite. Still nothing. So I began taking bigger and bigger bites and still nothing! I finished the first sandwich and simply wolfed down the second in about three bites. The third, though, was for savoring. It was for all the PB&J sandwiches I had been denied all those years. When I finally downed the last bite I felt truly satisfied, although I still feared the reaction that could send me into anaphylactic shock at any moment.

It never came. There was no reaction whatsoever.

Over the next few weeks I tried eating PB&J's again, first with the Benadryl appetizer, then without. I had no further reactions. It seemed that the mythical "growing out" of it had actually happened. I was liberated.

Next stop? The Peanut Shop on Capitol Street. Yes, I confess that I went on a nut binge. It was like I had to make up for lost time by consuming as many nuts of as many varieties as I possibly could. I bought almonds, cashews and pecans like they were going out of style. I made the October trek to Spencer and ate Black Walnut EVERYTHING. I tried all the exotic nuts I had been denied during my allergic period and I fell completely in love with pistachios, over which to this day I am competely powerless; I will eat them until they are gone or I am sick - or both.

Other than pistachios, though, I pretty much got over the nut obsession after a few years. I still love nuts and hardly a day goes by that I don't have a handful of some kind. I still love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I keep a jar of PB and a jar of J in the kitchenette at my office just in case I can't leave for lunch. But for the most part I'm just a normal nut eater now.

So, what does this have to do with hot dogs? Remember I said I was also allergic to one non-nut related food?

The other thing I was allergic to was coleslaw.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Lazy Friday Post

I had hot dogs today.

"So what?" you say.

They were good hot dogs. From Chris'. I felt like having hot dogs but didn't feel like rolling the dice on a new joint just so I'd have something to post. Chris' is always good. Scratch that, Chris' hot dogs are always great. Romeo's hot dogs are always great too but Chris' is closer to my office.

So today I allowed myself the luxury of an actual lunch hour (well, 45 minutes anyway). I call it a luxury because I have one of those jobs where I am always on duty and my work is never finished, so I usually grab it to go and eat at my desk. But when I walked into Chris' today I decided to just sit and take in the atmosphere. The place was packed and I got the last seat at the bar. As I sat there I was able to watch the whole room and the people in it very discreetly with the aid of the huge mirror on the other side of the bar. As I waited on my order I had time to spend a few minutes watching the lunchgoers at each booth and table as they chatted and chewed. Some of the tables looked and sounded more fun than others. Only one person sat alone, except for me and my fellow bar-sitters. The solitary booth sitter was a face I recognized as a former elected official. Some of the other diners also had familiar faces, but I wasn't sure why they were familiar. In a small city like Charleston it's not too surprising to see faces you recognize simply because you see them frequently enough that they seem familiar.

When my hot dogs arrived I savored them slowly. I wish I knew the secret to Gus Christo's chili. Not that I'd try to duplicate it, I just wish I knew what made it so darn good. It's impossible to identify any one taste over another. It is just a great blend of perfect flavors. There really are three hot dog joints in the area that have amazing chili and all three share this same trait: The chili is enigmatic and difficult to describe because it has such a unique flavor that is unlike any other taste. But Chris' adds that burn! Oh man, it sticks with you for an hour after lunch.

The slaw and everything else was great today too. As I was paying for my order I noticed that Karen had framed her "Best Hot Dog Chili" Weenie Award certificate and had it hanging proudly by the register. That made me feel pretty good about the work that goes into this blog.

And it is work. Fun work, but work nevertheless. I counted up today that I have published over sixty hot dog reviews. In the process I have eaten over eighty hot dogs, most of them weren't very good. There have been many that were so mediocre that I never bothered posting reviews for them. But, man oh man, when you get hold of a great one it makes all the effort worthwhile.

It was a lazy Friday to end an exhausting week. Maybe next week I'll find another great hot dog in a new and unexpected place. I have to drive north next Friday so maybe I can try to nail down more precisely where the slaw line intersects with I79. If I do, I hope I can sit and enjoy my hot dog like I was able to do today.

Because sometimes you just have to stop and smell the chili.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Clendenin Hot Dog Joint Review - Yummee Freeze

I was astonished when I rounded the curve and saw the sign. After all I had just left Clendenin, it with its two excellent hot dog joints Shafer's and the Dairy Queen, and here was an obvious suspect for yet a third good hot dog joint within a mile of town. The Yummee Freeze is one of those classic roadside dairy bars where West Virginia hot dogs of exceptional quality are known to live. By the looks of the building and sign it looks like it's been there for 30 years, but by the looks of the crowd waiting eagerly for their for their orders it seemed like it was brand new.

When I pulled up there were five or six people waiting for their orders. I was glad to hear that as each order was called every single one of them were for a quanity of hot dogs. "Three with chili and onions," the counter lady would announce through the small opening in the sliding window. "Two with everything!" That would be me.

Wrapped nicely in wax paper, my hot dogs had a nice weighty feel to them. The slaw was a little dry and wasn't nearly sweet enough for my picky palate. The chili was the Mexican taco meat variety and it had a sneaky slow burn. It did not seem spicy until I had already started back down the road when I realized that I had finished my Pepsi and began to look for somewhere to stop for another.

The bun and weenie were pretty good and interstingly enough, just as I was leaving a Heiner's truck pulled in with a fresh delivery (well, as fresh as it gets in these parts) of buns.

I said I was astonished when I discovered the Yummee Freeze. This is because I thought for a moment that I had discovered that Clendenin was a West Virginia Hot Dog Mecca of sorts. If there were actually three hot dog joints with great dogs within two miles of each other, well that would be an unprecendented and prodigious discovery indeed. As it turns out, the Yummee Freeze only sells a good hot dog, not a great one. Still, Clendenin certainly deserves an award for great hot dog joints per capita, and Yummee Freeze is still a neat little HDJ even if does suffer by local comparison.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Haloscan - Update: All is Not Lost

Update: I figured out a way to recover the old posts and to make them display on individual post pages as "Old Comments." Phew! That was close.

Serves me right. I thought I'd be like the cool kids and add Haloscan to the blog. I read every little piece of find print and never saw the part that said if you install Haloscan YOU WILL LOSE EVERY COMMENT EVER POSTED ON YOUR BLOG!!!!!


Like Abe Lincoln said "Comments are the lifeblood of a blog." So I guess my blog is now bleeding to death.


If you need me I'll be over there on the floor, curled up in a fetal position.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Clendenin Hot Dog Joint Review - Shafer's Super Stop

After I posted the Clendenin DQ review last week I got an email that said that the best hot dogs in West Virginia could be found at Shafer's Super Stop which is on the access road that connects I79 Exit 19 with the town of Clendenin. Well, as I have written before, don't go telling me that you have the best hot dogs in town, in the county or the state unless it's true because I am going to judge you more harshly if you do. I don't like bragging that isn't backed up and I hate false advertising.

So I had to be in Clendenin again today and thought I'd go ahead and check out the dogs at Shafer's. While driving the twenty miles I was, quite frankly, prejudicially planning to find inferior hot dogs at Shafer's. I had eaten there once before and recalled it as more of a place that sells pre-packaged pizzas and other typical convenience store fare. I was sure I would find some self-service hot dog bar with condiments in little tubs with utensils that looked like they had been freshly washed last week. I convinced myself that I was going to be ticked off because I drove all that way to find bad hot dogs.

So I walked into the little joint and ordered a single hot dog, because I knew I wouldn't want more than that since they were going to be so bad. When the lady handed me my order I saw that the hot dog was served in the dreaded hot dog coffin: "A sign of more mediocrity," I thought to myself.

So I walked outside and popped open the coffin and saw, much to my surprise, a hot dog that was topped with a liberal helping of some of the nicest looking coleslaw I've seen. Finely chopped and fresh looking, I quickly tasted it and was completely surprised to find that it was sweet and tasty. "OK," I thought, "but I'll bet the chili is gross." Wrong again. The chili was quite meaty and had a hearty taste that really worked with the sweet slaw. It had almost no spiciness but the flavor was just nice.

My prejudices were falling by the wayside one by one and I began to look at the hot dog with a more open mind. I realized that the bun was nearly perfectly steamed: Not too soggy but certainly very soft completely through. The weenie was the only part of the dog that wasn't remarkable, but it certainly wasn't bad. Overall this was a very good hot dog. Not the best in West Virginia, like my emailer claimed, but very good. When compared with the dogs down the road at the DQ, I would say it's probably a matter of taste which one is the better dog. Shafer's chili is very meaty tasting while DQ has the kind that is cooked at higher temperature and is sort of carmelized into a sweet and tangy mixture. The slaw at DQ is very creamy while Shafer's is sweeter. You won't go wrong with either.

I simply have to say a few things about the atmosphere at Shafer's. This place is pure Appalachian to its core. First, as the name "Super Stop" indicates, it is a combination truck stop, gas station, convenience store and fast food restaurant. You order at the counter, wait for your food standing around in the aisles of the store and pay for your food at the counter by the front door. It is down-home friendly and absolutely without pretense. Some, not me but some, would certainly label it a "redneck" place. The clientele sitting in the dining room in the back when I was there would definitely tend to reinforce such a label. It is exactly the kind of place you find all over West Virginia in those places where rural communities meet an Interstate highway exit (although this is the very first time I've seen a sign advertising a "Turkey Split" - I was afraid to ask what it was!).

But don't be prejudiced like me. Give Shafer's a chance the next time you're in the area and you'll find some pretty good authentic West Virginia hot dogs in a pretty authentic West Virginia roadside oasis.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - 7-11 Cafe in Elkview

So I get an email from a guy, Eddie, who says the best hot dogs around can be found at Maynor's Sandwich Shop in Elkview. He tells me that he is a former Charleston city policeman and has eaten a gazillion hot dogs and swears that Maynor's has as good a hot dog as there is. So I went in search of Maynor's, looking forward to enjoying such a treat for myself.

I followed the directions to the letter but when I got to the end of the trip, instead of finding Maynor's Sandwich Shop, I found a 7-11! It had a sandwich shop attached to it and it had hot dogs on the menu, but no sign that indicated this was the Maynor's I sought. "Well," I thought, "I might as well get a hot dog while I'm here," so I did.

The menu lists several styles of hot dogs, one of which called the "West Virginia Hot Dog" with chili, slaw and onions. They also had a New York style and a couple of others listed. Naturally I opted for the WVHD, even if it lacked mustard.

Unfortunately it lacked a lot more than mustard. The slaw was pretty average, the chili tasted Mexican, kind of like taco meat with a touch of tomato sauce. The weenie was not high quality and the bun was basic. Overall about a 3 on the weenie scale.

So I went away not sure if I had found Maynor's or had stumbled into another HDJ instead. It wasn't until I wrote Eddie to ask for a clarification that I found that it was indeed Maynors, but that it had just recently changed its name. Eddie told me that he had eaten there since the change and that it was still the same. Well, either it has changed since Eddie was there or we have different tastes in hot dogs. Sorry Eddie, these dogs rank low on my list. My recommendation for someone looking for hot dogs in Elkview would be to drive about six miles to the north.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joints - Fat Bob's Roadhouse Diner

One of the neatest lunchspots in the Charleston area is hidden in plain sight on McCorkle Avenue in South Charleston. It's called "Fat Bob's Roadhouse Diner" and it's tucked away inside The Harley Davidson shop in Spring Hill. It is a delightful restaurant with a delightful staff with delightful food in a place that many people might fear to tread because of the undeserved reputation of those who ride big, loud motorcycles. The crowd is not what you might expect, though, as a visit to Fat Bob's at lunchtime will reveal: You will see many more business suits than leather jackets (although you can buy yourself a leather jacket while you're there). Even without the stereotypical bike crowd, though, you still can't forget you are in a motorcycle shop because the decor is all about Harley Davidson and the menu has all the sandwiches have motorcycle names (The Hugger, The V-Twin, The Easy Glide,The H.O.G., etc.) The restaurant has floor to ceiling glass windows that overlook the service department so you can watch over your Hog as you munch your lunch. It is a very cool place, even for non-bikers. "So," you might ask, "who is Fat Bob?" Well, I'm glad you asked: It's not a who, but a what. A "Fat Bob" is a type of gas tank found on some Harleys. There several versions hanging from the walls of the diner. I have found out over the years that when you tell someone the name of the restaurant you are either met with a knowing grin or a quizzical stare: The former comes from bikers. I have been eating at Fat Bob's for years but I never had a hot dog. I wasn't aware they had a hot dog on the menu until a reader emailed me with a review suggestion. I had to scour the menu until I found it - a Badboy is what they call it. The only thing that gives it away is the chili and slaw listed as toppings. I was psyched when I found it because all of the food at Fat Bob's is great and I felt certain they would do a hot dog right. I was a bit surprised when the hot dog was served on a grilled New England Style bun. New England Style buns seem a little pretentious to me and if there's one word that one would not use to describe Fat Bob's it would be "pretentious." The bun was good, though, and it does add some volume and heartiness to the dog which fits with the Fat Bob's food program pretty well. The chili is also very hearty - meaty and thick textured - but had only a slight chili taste. I expected it to be spicier. The slaw has a good texture and the slight green pepper essence reminded me of Porker's. An adequate measure was served on my hot dog - er, I mean my Bad Boy. A little sweeter would be better, but it fit the chili pretty well. I think I can sum it up by saying that the Bad Boy is a pretty good dog. If you've never tried Fat Bob's then I highly recommend it, even if you're not after a hot dog. Actually my favorite sandwich there is the Fishtail, which in the real world is tuna salad - really good tuna salad. They have lots of good stuff and I've never had anything that wasn't good. The service has always been a tad slow, but it is always very friendly. Try it, you'll like it.