Saturday, November 25, 2006

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joints - M & M Dairy Bell

A few months ago, Huntington hosted the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival (Stanton posted his unenthused review here). I, too, attended the event and was particularly taken aback by one entry, M & M Dairy Bell. One minor problem, they are not, technically speaking, located in West Virginia but rather Chesapeake, Ohio. This was the one dawg that Stanton refrained from sampling, but boy, did he miss out.

While the business is located on the wrong side of the river, their hot dogs are all-West Virginia. The sauce. The slaw. The people. They all have a lot more in common with West By God than with the flatlanders of Akron, Columbus, and Toledo.

M & M Dairy Bell is from the old school. It is a small mom 'n pop business located on the main drag in Chesapeake (a suburb of Huntington, located just across the Robert C. Byrd Bridge).
It appears that their specialty (along with ice cream) are foot long dogs, but my appetite was limited when I dropped by, so I stuck with a traditional size weenie.

I ordered a dog with sauce, slaw, onions, and mustard and, upon the dog's arrival to my table, I knew that I was in for a treat.

The bun/weenie were standard Huntington issue. Fresh and tasty.

The sauce (chili to those east of Hurricane) was first-rate. There was lots of loose ground beef in a tomato/chili powder base. It was the right balance of liquid and thick to bathe the weenie in deliciousness. The sauce was on the mild end of things, but much how a veggie korma is the mildest dish at an Indian restaurant, not hot but full of flavor. I would most certainly buy it if it was available at Julian's or Kroger.

The slaw was nicely chopped, creamy, and just sweet enough. There was plenty of it spooned on the sauce and the two interacted quite well.

The atmosphere was what put it over the top. It was small, friendly, and oozing with the charm that one would expect in an old-timey drive-in in Appalachia. The service was top-notch and wait staff was helpful and courteous.

As far as side dishes/non-hot dog options go, the menu looked like pretty much what you would expect for a dairy bar. My wife had a corn dog and crinkle cut fries that she reports were quite tasty and perfectly fried. The ice cream selection seemed diverse and the menu featured local favorites such as a Panther Paw (double cheeseburger with pepper jack) and 'Peakes Pride (bacon cheese fries).

Overall, this is a place that knows exactly what it is and is comfortable with its spot in the Huntington-area food chain and it excels in its niche. In fact, I would say that M & M Dairy Bell is better at what it does than Arthur's or Savannah's and is on par with Rocco's and Jim's (speaking relatively, of course).


I'm not even going to bother to break it down. This is my first (and likely only) 5 weenie review. Now this leads to a dilemma...

This would mean that the best West Virginia hot dog in Huntington is not in West Virginia at all. Now granted, Chesapeake, Ohio is just as West Virginian in character as any other of Huntington's 'burbs. But still, Ohio.

This means one of several things...
1) I should be tried for treason against the state of West Virginia.
2) Some places in Huntington (and yes, even Charleston) need to shape up and restore our pride with some better sauce ASAP.
3) We should ignore arbitrary, artificial political boundaries that were drawn by British and French peers 240 years ago and instead focus on socio-cultural demarcations instead (ie trade the northern panhandle to Ohio in exchange for Lawrence, Gallia, Meigs, and Athens counties).

Whatever the solution may be, you'll find Chris James & family pondering it and many other questions on the wrong side of the river a lot more.

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