Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Putnam County Hot Dog Joint: Good Dogs at Tudor's--Teays Valley

When it comes to the holy trinity of West Virginia cuisine, there is much debate over who makes the best hot dogs and the perfect pepperoni rolls. People from the north, south, east, and west all have their general opinions while each town has their own specific preferences. Do dogs have sauce or chili? How much? Over or under the weenie? Is the slaw to be sweet or tangy? Does it have slaw at all? Does a proper pepperoni roll have cheese? Does it use stick or sliced 'roni? Should they be large or small?

There is, however, little debate over who has the best entry in terms of biscuits (the third component of the triumvirate of deliciousness), Tudor's Biscuit World. Previous reviews have discussed the presence of Dairy Queens in nearly every town in WV. Well, where there is a DQ, there is also often a Tudor's.

It is kind of hard to describe a Tudor's biscuit to someone not from the area. Imagine a biscuit from a major fast food chain, only like 1000x times better. They make gigantic homemade buttermilk biscuits from scratch (and I mean from scratch) and thick slices of bacon, sausage, and/or ham (like you would use at home) on them, real fried eggs (not that reconstituted egg-based product found at the national joints) and the best tasting cheese this side of the government commodity truck (by the way, I challenge anyone to make a better sandwich cheese than the US government. No, I'm not kidding.). If you don't believe me, go to a grouping of fast food joints by an interstate exit any morning. You will see a few out-of-staters at Mickey D's and BK and a shipload of people with WV tags at Tudor's.

In addition to God's own breakfast biscuit, Tudor's also serve lunch. As is the case with any self-respecting West Virginia establishment, hot dogs are among the items on their after-breakfast menu. While the biscuits are pretty uniform from Tudor's to Tudor's, these dogs can vary greatly depending on the franchise owner. For example, this site reviewed a Tudor's in Charleston a few months ago that had relatively pathetic dogs. And then there is the Teays Valley Tudor's.

Judging from the previous review, I really wasn't expecting too much from this dog. Boy was I in for a pleasant surprise.

I walked into the restaurant and noticed right away that the hot dog with "chili, slaw, and onions" was $1.49, a bit on the pricey side for a WV hot dog (though not as overboard as The Hottest Dog a few miles up the road in Hurricane). However, as soon as I placed my order, my spirits were lifted as I saw the kitchen staff go to work creating my dog. They were toasting the bun and grilling the weenie when I was distracted by someone carrying a tray that had a pigsworth of bacon. By the time that I regained my bearings, my dog was ready. So far, I am impressed by their service and thoughtfulness.

While I consider bun-tasting to be a somewhat extraneous endeavor, I am by no means opposed to the practice. It did make for a nice highlight flavor for the dog's overall taste. Same goes with the grilled weenie: unnecessary but appreciated. My main concern is that the bun and the sausage are of a particular quality, and I must say that both were superb on this particular hot dog ad get a 4 weenies score.

The slaw, on the other hand, was just barely not awful. It was very dry and neither sweet nor zingy. While it turned out to be quite photogenic and appetizing in appearance, it was basically just a heaping mound of finely chopped cabbage and carrots and tasted as such. It only gets 2 weenies.

Fortunately, the sauce/chili saved the day and erased any thoughts of the boring slaw. The sauce had the texture of a finely seasoned pile of ground beef with just enough liquid to keep it moist. The flavor was spiced, but not spicy, with all of the taste and aroma of a good bowl of chili. There could have been a bit more salt in the sauce, but that is my only complaint. I don't know if this would win the weenie award for best sauce, but it should at least be nominated. 4 weenies.

Overall, I give the hot dogs at Teays Valley Tudor's 4 weenies. The chili sauce and the quality of the bun and weenie more than make up for the crappy slaw. If you are from the Northern Panhandle or Fairmont and do not do the whole slaw thing, then this might be a good option for when you are travelin' through the area. Just ask for a dog with no slaw.

I can't guarantee, however, that you won't hear the cashier yell "one Yankee dog."

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