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.

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