Friday, December 28, 2007

Classic Weenie Commercials: Oscar Mayer Wieners

I found this classic Oscar Mayer hot dog commercial from the '60s the other day. This is the one with the ubiquitous "I Wish I Were An Oscar Mayer Wiener" song that has become a staple of American pop culture.

There are a couple of points in the advert, however, that seem rather dated. First, notice the peer pressure exerted on the child who has an opinion that is not in line with the other children. That sort of groupthink, while still prevalent, would probably not be encouraged these days. Also notice that they go out of their way to discuss that the weenies are "all meat." Back then, putting soy in a hot dog was considered a way to cheap out, as opposed to current conditions where Tofu Pups cost twice as much as dogs made from "meat" (likely meaning turkey, chicken, and pork). Nowadays, one would only advertise "all beef."

Anyway, enjoy this blast from the weenie past.

Monday, December 24, 2007

New Martinsville HDJ Review - Presto Lunch

West Virginia Hot Dog lovers, There's a new thrill in New Martinsville: Presto Lunch.

According to the printed mats placed on each table in this beautiful retro-styled eatery, the original Presto Lunch was located a few doors down from the current location on over fifty years ago and remained popular well through the 1960's. The granddaughters of the original owners and their mother reopened the restaurant in 2006.

The dining area is spacious while remaining warm and inviting just the same. It's directly adjoined with a wide-open cooking area, separated only by a counter with some stools. Each table has its own roll of paper towels on a spool, which is more than a's a necessity to help sop up all the lip-smacking goodness. My ultra-friendly waitress was happy to point out that everything on the menu is homemade. “Mom” was constantly referred to, and it was easy to figure out which one in the kitchen area she was. No doubt this family puts their all into this fantastic establishment.

My order arrived in a relatively short amount of time, and I was more than pleased by the quality of my hot dogs. The slaw was nothing short of to die for. This was not your typical HDJ slaw, but rather a flawlessly balanced sweet/tangy promenade. The cabbage was finely shredded and chopped, which allowed to dressing to weave into the mixture. It was not too thick to clump or too thin to run. There was a hint of freshly ground black pepper to boot.

The chili was also a work of art. The sauce was smooth and rich, complex yet not overpowering the rest of the dog. The grind of the meat wasn't too fine, but that served it well since the meat and sauce were able to blend together and compliment each other. It was very hearty and gave you that stick-to-your-ribs semblance.

As well it should be, the onions were sandwiched right in between the layer of chili and the slaw. The mustard was applied right on top of the onions to ensure they didn't slide out of place on the comfortably steamed bun. Personally, I'd call it a work of art when a hot dog artisan takes the time to place the components of a hot dog in a deliberate layout that results in a plethora of flavor.

Astounding service from a wonderful staff, awesome hot dogs, and attention to detail (cherry Coke that comes with actual cherries) earn the magical Presto Lunch a five weenie rating. This is well worth going out of your way for. Watch for Presto Lunch to be nominated in the Weenie Awards.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Barboursville Hot Dog Joint: Auntie Anne's Pretzels

During a recent shopping expedition to the Huntington Mall, we all needed a snack and had some coupons for Auntie Anne's Pretzels. Well, one of the certificates was for a free pretzel with the purchase of a pretzel dog. I have long flirted with the idea of reviewing these weenies, but at $2.79 I could get 2 Stewarts dogs or a slice of over-priced mall pizza, so it hasn't ever exactly been a priority. With this coupon, however, it was worth a shot.

For their weenies, Auntie Anne's takes a rather high quality all-beef frank and wraps them with pretzel dough and bakes them in an oven. IF you have ever had pigs-in-a-blanket made with Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, you get the idea. They offer ketchup and mustard for free and a variety of dipping sauces for $.59. No slaw or sauce, however, so I just opted for a couple of mustard packets.

Let me make this one thing clear: while the dawg was indeed purchased in WV, it is by no means a West Virginia hot dog. Therefore I cannot and will not rank them on the weenie scale. As a regular old snack, however, they weren't shabby, getting 3 out of 5 stars. That being said, I would still recommend something from Cosimo's or the Big Loafer if you are at the mall and are starving.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Shinnston HDJ Review - T&L Hot Dogs

T&L Hot Dogs of Shinnston is one of those cozy little HDJs that abides by the mantra 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. And for WVHD fans, that's obviously a good thing.

The little stone covered building situated on Main Street always manages to bring in the customers in a very steady stream all day long. My recommendation is to get there early if you're in the area for lunch, because the two dozen or so seats fill quickly. The staff keeps the focus on the food, and each order is prepared freshly and with TLC. The local regulars are greeted by name with open arms, much like a returning long-lost family member.

The cooking area is wide open for view, and markedly smaller than some other HDJs. You'll be able to watch the experts in action. Everything from the ladles to the fry slicer is well worn but highly cleaned, giving the place a lot of character. The snug dining area follows the typical T&L 50's motif, with reprints of classic advertisements, movie posters, and the like adorning the walls.
The menu here is relatively simple, with only hot dogs and hamburgers listed (of course fries and chips are also available). Many of the other locations offer up the likes of steak hoagies, kielbasa, and so forth. I suspect the limited cooking area factors into this, but it doesn't really matter since the hot dogs are the star of the show here.

Starting at the top of each WVHD is a very fresh slaw mix, featuring that finely chopped cabbage, carrot, and dressing combo that goes well with any variety of hot dog you can think of. It's got a pleasurable taste that melds sweet and tart on the perfect plane. You can't help but smile a little from the great taste.

Right below is that famous T&L chili, which you can get in mild (good for most), medium (not for the casual fan), and hot (how brave are ya?). It's finely ground, with a wonderful mix of flavorings that blends well with the hearty, beefy taste from the cooked-just-right meat.

About the only thing I wish this T&L would improve on (aside from the parking, which is beyond their control) are the fresh-cut fries. Listed by the moniker “Freedom Fries” on the menu, they have a tendency to get either overcooked on the outside or under cooked on the inside. Sure, it's a timing issue, but nothing a little more experience and practice won't fix. Then again, fresh cut fries are an art form. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.

This T&L location deserves no more or less than four weenies. If you're in the area, be sure to stop by and grab a couple for the road (if you don't mind waiting behind with the long line of locals).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Charleston HDJ Review - RPM Restaurant

A new Capital City HDJ has opened in the former home of the Patrick Street location of Sam's Hot Dog Stand. RPM Restaurant, obviously a reference to automobile terminology (revolutions per minute) since the interior is decorated with cars: Little model cars all over the place. I'm guessing the owner is a car enthusiast. I'm psychic like that.

The most impressive piece of decorating, though, is not inside but standing outside in the parking lot: A five foot tall weenie pouring ketchup over its head! Ketchup! (at least it has a bottle of what looks like mustard in the other hand) I've seen this statue at other HDJs before, but this one is unique because it is wearing a cape made from an American flag. This kind of lawn ornamentation definitely says loudly and proudly that this is a Hot Dog Joint. And RPM is definitely a hot dog joint.

I was in a hurry so I didn't have much time to peruse the menu board. I stopped when I saw "West Virginia Hot Dog" with its chili, slaw, mustard and onions. I ordered 2 to go. I was pleased to look in the bag and see that the dogs were individually wrapped in aluminum foil. They were really nice and soft by the time I got them to the car, and unwrapping them was a treat. The slaw was gorgeous, finely chopped with enough carrots to give it some great color. It tasted great too: Very fresh and lightly sweet. It went perfectly with the chili, which was a little on the tame side spice-wise, but had a good flavor nonetheless. The whole dog was kind of salty tasting, which was unusual but not unsavory. The all-beef weenie added the extra oomph that made this a special dog.

Not quite a Five -Weenie, because the chili was a little too tame. After I ordered I noticed a spicy option, and I've already decided to schedule a revisit to check it out. But for now, RPM scores a very good 4.5 Weenie rating.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Parkersburg HDJ Review - Mr. Diggity

My recent Parkersburg swing allowed me to visit another HDJ that I've received lots of email about: Mr. Diggity's. While technically in Vienna, this little HDJ is a little more upscale than the average small town typically has to offer. I came to this conclusion when I saw the sign on the front sidewalk announcing that they were serving Lobster Bisque: not your typical side dish for a WVHD. Inside I found a very functional floor plan with some nice decor, a few really roomy booths and enough tables to seat more than the lunch time crowd that was there at the time of my visit. It would be a nice place for a casual business lunch as well as a nice place to take the kids.

A board behind the counter offers a dizzying array of possible combinations of hot dogs and toppings. Since it was the lunch hour and many hungry people were waiting in line I just ordered one with the proper toppings for a West Virginian and let them decide which of the menu items it most closely resembled. I did notice that the board listed the most requested combination as sauce, slaw and onions. My additional request of mustard didn't seem to raise any eyebrows.

When I got my hot dog the first thing I noticed was the incredible softness of the bun. It literally molded itself to the shape of my hand as I began to unwrap it. Once it was unwrapped it was the slaw that caught my eye: This just might be the most finely chopped slaw I have ever seen on a hot dog. The slaw could not help but be creamy with its minute cabbage particles, but the taste was very nice as well. It was applied in a heaping helping.

As for the chili sauce, it was good and went well with the slaw, but it lacked any distinctive characteristic: Not spicy, not tart, not meaty. Just sauce. If it were a bit spicier would make the whole dog better.

Still, Mr. Diggity's has a mighty fine hot dog. It scores a 4.5 Weenie rating.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cabell County Hot Dog Joint Restaurant Inspections for Nov. '07

From the Cabell-Huntington Health Dept. Website:









5984 ROUTE 60 EAST



Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nitro HDJ Review - Jen's Southern BBQ

Here's a little local place with a big future.

To say that Jen's Southern BBQ is the talk of Nitro is an understatement. It is the talk of the whole Kanawha Valley. It is one of those places that isn't fancy or flashy but has some of the best food you're going to find at reasonable prices prepared and served by some of the nicest folks you will ever meet. It's only been open for a few months, but already people line up at lunch time to get one of the dozen or so tables that might still be available. It sits right on the corner of First Avenue and 8th Street in Nitro in the former home of one of the many Rio Grande Restaurant locations. Look for the huge smoker out front.

I first went there because I heard that the pulled pork was to die for (and it is) and went back to try the country style ribs which were equally as scrumptious. On my second visit I noticed the menu includes a "WV Hot Dog" that comes with chili, slaw, mustard, onions and ketchup (the last ingredient being superfluous, as regular readers already know). I knew that I needed to get back and try one because as good as the rest of the food is I figured that the hot dogs would be awesome. I figured right.

It's difficult to know where to begin, so let's start at the top: The slaw didn't look like anything special. It was cut much more coarsely than I normally prefer and I was expecting something different from what I tasted, but this slaw is very good. Despite the larger pieces of cabbage it was creamy and as sweet as you'd ever want with just a hint of tartness. It tasted unbelievably fresh. This is perfect side-serving coleslaw and it works just as well on top of the dog.

Just under the slaw was more goodness: The chili on this dog, while not terribly spicy, was as tasty as chili gets. It was wonderfully overloaded with garlic (is there such a thing as too much garlic?) and nicely complex. Some folks would no doubt prefer it a couple of shades hotter, but it worked perfectly with the slaw.

Down under it all was an all-beef weenie that seemed to have been lightly grilled. It was bursting with flavor. The onions and mustard didn't detract, but the bun did a little: It seemed to be standard Heiners issue but had not been steamed, toasted or grilled. If I had gotten my dogs to go the wax paper wrapping would have no doubt softened the bun. This is a mild nit-pick and I'm not going to penalize for it. Also, don't forget to ask them to hold the ketchup.

Add it all up and Jen's scores a Five Weenie rating.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cha-Ching! We're in the money!

Ever since I began this blog and expanded its content to the site, I have dreamed of a big payday. I knew that there were legions of loyal West Virginia Hot Dog fans out there who would inundate our sites with gazillions of hits looking for information on the beloved hot dogs of their homeland. I knew that my writing skills along side of those of Chris, Kevin and now Big Daddy, would bring popularity and critical acclaim to our little corner of the internet. Of course I had to pay for the domain name, and the web hosting fees. I've bought promotional items to give to people who could help spread the word. I have used up hundreds of gallons of gas running all over looking for hot dogs joints to review. Printing certificates for the annual Weenie Awards wasn't cheap. Overall I figure I've spent in excess of a thousand dollars on this little enterprise. That doesn't account at all for the hundreds of hours I have spent typing reviews and designing and updating web pages and just doing the work of the Head Weenie Wonk. But I decided it was a wise and prudent investment that would someday reap great financial rewards. I dreamed of a life of luxury paid for by my hot dog income.

And now, coming up on its two-year anniversary, this site has finally paid off. I received in the mail today my first payment from Google Adsense.

That's right: $103.37. That is the total income produced by the Google Ads on our site for the past two years.

Look out Donald Trump; There's a new Weenie Mogul in town.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

5-Weenie HDJ to be Featured on Food Network

WSAZ is reporting that Huntington area 5 Weenie hot dog joint Hillbilly Hot Dogs of Lesage will be featured in an upcoming episode of the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives." They are in town this weekend filming for a segment that should air sometime next year.

Maybe one of y'all with cable or satellite can tape it for Stanton and I (we spend too much on hot dogs to afford such luxuries).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Classic Weenie Commercials: Ball Park Franks.

Thanks to the magic of youtube, we can now relive some of the most memorable hot dog commercials of all time. Today we will look at a couple of adverts for Ball Park Franks.

First up, here is one from the 1970s:

And now the 90s:

Check back soon for more retro goodness.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bridgeport HDJ Review - Maple Valley Meats

Maple Valley Meats reminds you a lot of those general stores/restaurants your find in some of the West Virginia state parks in terms of the appearance, layout, and type of food offered up. They seem to do a little bit of everything here, from meat processing to a restaurant to a mini grocery store. Maple Valley Meats offers up daily meal specials that bring in a steady crowd from the nearby industrial park as well as other business in this area near the Harrison/Taylor county lines on Route 50. The home cooked food is terrific, but the hot dogs here are not as good as they could be.

The hot dogs chime in at $1.50 a pop, which is a little high, but considering the rising cost of just about everything these days I would say it's to be expected. They come in what I call "bare minimum" format: chili, mustard, and onions. Slaw is available only if you ask for it, and then it costs about .25 cents extra.

The real problem is in the slaw --labeled as "Amish Cole Slaw"-- which by itself isn't bad at all. Personally, I happen to really like just about anything carrying the "Amish" moniker (namely macaroni salad). The cabbage has a medium coarseness, as do the slivers of carrot mixed in. The dressing of the slaw is rather sweet, with only a trace of tanginess. The dressing is overly in runny. By itself, it's delicious. Put it on a hot dog, however, and your WVHD just became a pile of mush.

The chili has the pronounced taste of a tomato base, most likely ketchup. The color leans a bit on the reddish side, which would be a give away to even the most novice hot dog enthusiast. The ground beef is of a medium texture with an overall flavor that tastes okay at best. The chili sauce is --like the slaw dressing-- runny. Accompanied with the water logged weenie, the buns fall apart along the bottom. It may be a result of the overload of toppings, which can kill a good WVHD.

I did order some fries with my order, which were your typical frozen shoestring fries. What I was a little more surprised by was that I was given packets of Hunt's ketchup, versus Heinz that you seemingly get just about anywhere else. In my personal opinion I don't think there is anything that compares to Heinz ketchup.

Maple Valley Meats is a fine establishment for anything but hot dogs. I'll have to rate it at two and a half weenies. They definitely need some attention to detail in the hot dog area, but I think they have more irons in the fire than to worry about establishing themselves as a HDJ.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Grafton HDJ Review - Hometown Hot Dogs

There are some hot dog chains/franchises that have become the accepted standard bearer for hot dog quality in their respective localities. While most of their respective HDJs will keep the quality at a acceptable level, there are those black sheep --the weak links of the chain, if you will-- that bring shame upon the good name of their respective namesakes. On the other hand, there are those few outlets that wind up being the "poster boys" for the rest of their peer stores to follow. Case in point: Hometown Hot Dogs in Grafton.

I had embarked on a quest to review as many of the known HDJs in the Grafton area. While I didn't hit every single mom-and-pop restaurant, I found that most of the stands offering up hot dogs were somewhat lacking. It appeared as though Grafton could only hope to languish in WVHD mediocrity, at best. That was until I made the stop at Hometown Hot Dogs located at the foot of the bridge on U.S. Route 50 where it meets Main Street.

The building itself appears to have at one time been a part of the Fetterman church located next door. The gravel parking lot is usually full at lunch time. With five booths and three stools at the counter, seating is at a premium. The interior is very bright and clean, making for an inviting place to have lunch. I was initially taken aback by the fact that this may be the only HDJ I've stepped foot in that didn't have either a radio or TV playing. Fact of the matter is, there is simply too much business for the employees to stop and even think of turning one on. Since this is probably THE place in Grafton to get a great hot dog, most of the local hot dog fans are too busy to carry on their own conversations to bother paying attention to a radio or TV anyway.

The menu is relatively simple, with fewer offerings than the Fairmont or Clarksburg locations, but this works in favor of WVHD fans. A hot dog with chili, onions, and mustard will run you $1.00 (which includes tax), and .20 cents more get you a heaping helping of some of the best slaw around these parts.

Let me start with the slaw. I don't know what to say makes it so special, but it is nothing short of heavenly. It has the perfect sweet/tangy balance that makes your taste buds dance around. The finely chopped cabbage has a slight but delightful crunch which blends well with the creamy dressing. The chili has the typical finely ground beef with a meaty gusto that carries the spice and flavorings to a flood of fun. It's not really complex, but the simplicity of the recipe is what makes it work. Never overcooked and never flat, this chili in either its mild or hot format will please just about anyone. The remainder of the ingredients are well-prepared, as the wieners are always cooked suitably and the finely chopped onions play well with the rest of the toppings. The buns are flawlessly steamed to the point where they can absorb the sauces, but not overdone to where they will easily fall apart.

Hometown Hot Dogs in Grafton earns a well-earned five weenies. Any WVHD fan travelling through the area should make a point to stop in and pick up a couple. Or at the minimum, have one and enjoy the conversations with a neighbor.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Parkersburg HDJ Review - Judy's Famous Hot Dogs

A while back an AP article aired in several small town WV newspapers about and this blog. It spawned a lot of suggestions for reviews in places we don't get to regularly but they get added to our "to do" list and we try to get to them whenever our travels take us there. When that article hit the Parkersburg newspaper we immediately were inundated by suggestions for Judy's Famous Hot Dogs. This place has a loyal fan following and I was eager to see why. I finally made it to Parkersburg this week and Judy's was first on my list of places to visit. I found the tiny hot dog joint sitting just where I was told I would find it, in the plaza that contains the local Big Lots as well as the Parkersburg Gabriel Brothers location. I'm not sure what this plaza is called, but it's near the toll bridge and almost to the Vienna city limits.

One of the most interesting HDJs I've seen, it looks like it began life as a concession stand trailer and then a small storage building with lots of windows was tacked onto the side of it. The result is actually very nice and comfortable. It only seats ten people or so on two half picnic table benches against each wall. Everyone that came in while I was there got their orders to go and I was the only one dining in. I would be surprised if many people use the tables. The rest of the interior was interesting enough to hold your attention while waiting for your order, but nothing fancy. It felt very clean and sanitary, especially considering the kind of structure it is.

The friendly people behind the counter (one of whom I recognized from a photo on the wall as Judy herself) were very friendly and helpful. I scanned the menu to see what an "everything" dog was topped with but gave up when I saw that Judy's is one of those places
that has lots of different kinds of dogs and toppings. I finally just ordered one with sauce (yes, it's sauce in P'Burg), slaw, onions and mustard. When Judy heard the order she said "A West Virginia Dog!" which made me look at the menu again. Sure enough, there it is on the menu: West Virginia Dog - just like the one I ordered.

I really hated to see that my hot dog served in a coffin, but it was so nicely steamed that it didn't matter much in the end; the bun conformed to the shape of my hand as I removed it from its styrofoam vessel.

The sauce at Judy's is about as complex as any sauce I've had. It was much more tart than spicy, but I really didn't miss the spice. The texture was on the runny side and the color was almost unnaturally dark brown. There are a lot of unusual ingredients in this stuff, and a lot of good ingredients. The overall flavor was powerful and it needed a good slaw to balance it out. Fortunately Judy is up to the task: This slaw is phenomenal! Very finely chopped and obviously fresh-made. It was just exactly sweet enough to offset the tartness of the sauce. A great combination. The weenie, mustard and onions didn't detract from the taste.

It's easy to see why Judy's has so many fans: They have one more now. Judy's is a Five Weenie delight!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bridgeport HDJ Review - Mountaineer Brunch

When T&L Hot Dogs closed and/or consolidated some of their locations in the Harrison County area, one of the casualties was the location at the Gabriel Brothers Plaza in Bridgeport. Nestled in the old-but-still-thriving strip mall sat one of what should have been one of the more busy locations. When this location closed, the owners left all of the original fixtures and decorations in place.

T&L Hot Dogs tend to feature a 50's theme in their various locations, and this one was no different. A split level seating area gave a view of the promotional flats featuring the likes of Little Richard, Ray Charles, Bobby Darrin, Sam Cooke. Life-size standees of Elvis and JFK stood watch over the black and white checkered floor tile and retro jukebox. A bust of Mr. Presley rested on top of the soda machine, keeping an eye on the door. Original magazine covers from back in the day of Life and Sport Illustrated were hung in eye-catching frames above each table and booth.

Recently, this particular location reopened its doors as Mountaineer Brunch. I had eaten in this place several times while it was still under T&L ownership, and I noted that not one item had been moved from its original place. About the only thing that had notably changed was the menu, which had been expanded to include a breakfast menu and an expanded lunch/dinner menu. Hot dogs choices had been expanded to include cheese/jalapenos and Chicago-style variations, among others. Thankfully, Mountaineer Brunch also lists West Virginia Hot Dogs for $1.50 each. A steep price, but not the worst ever seen. For those not familiar with the succulent treat, the menu board breaks down the components of each item. WVHDs are listed as "slaw, mustard, chili, and raw onions".

Mountaineer Brunch seems to have adopted at least a portion of the T&L chili recipe, but somehow loses some of the familiar T&L taste throughout the mix. On my particular order for this review, I noted a flavor similar to taco mix seasoning. It seemed to have some kind of filler in it as well, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. On the plus side, it had a good consistency. The slaw was creamy, with just a bit too much vinegar aftertaste. It didn't really work as well with the chili as it should, but it wasn't horrible.

I don't usually comment on fries anywhere, but Mountaineer Brunch makes some of the best fresh-cut fries around. Unlike T&L, these fries don't have that heavy, greasy taste. They were crispy on the outside, and went very well in the tub of bleu cheese dip I added to my order.

One thing I have to give Mountaineer Brunch a "needs improvement" mark for is the service. Not that it was bad, mind you. In fact, the workers are quite friendly and polite. The problem is that there is only ONE person ever working there during the lunch rush. On this visit, I placed my order, had a seat, and waited nearly twenty minutes as the clerk took orders while people were lined up at back to the door. Not his fault, but a bit of poor planning on someones part.

It's probably not fair to compare the present Mountaineer Brunch to the former residents of T&L Hot Dogs. Nonetheless, Mountaineer Brunch neither succeeds or fails in the hot dog arena. The expanded menu has made hot dogs less of a priority, but they are still good enough. Three weenies.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Slow October for Hot Dogs

Rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.

While October was just about the slowest month on record for hot dog reviews, I assure you we haven't lost our taste for hot dogs around here. Between an incredible busy month at work for me, a new dietary ethic for Chris and Big Daddy's travel schedule, it has just been a tough month for our team. But fear not, more reviews are on the way.

I'll be in Parkersburg this week and hope to hit a couple of highly touted HDJs up that way. I'm also committed to heading to Oak Hill soon to try hot dogs from the one place that prompts more reader mail than any other these days, Tom's Carry Out.

I'm not sure what the other guys have in store, but I hope we can put together a few good reviews this month. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Clarksburg HDJ Review - Hometown Hot Dogs

Clarksburg's Hometown Hot Dogs is housed in a building that could easily win an award for "Most Nondescript". The small brick building sits in the middle of the Stealey area, right where the city transitions from a business to residential district. This ideal location puts it within walking distance of residents, but also in a short commute for those working downtown or over in the Rosebud section as well. The parking -or seeming lack thereof- is a little tricky (and a big pet peeve), but that problem is solved via the drive-thru window around the back side of the building. Nevertheless, Hometown Hot Dogs is constantly churning out a steady stream of fresh dogs all day long.

The staff does a very good job of taking care of customers. While they are in a seemingly endless state of working on making fresh ingredients and filling orders, they are never at a loss for conversation. They've got the multitasking down to an art form, and the results come through in every scrumptious bite. This is one of my personal favorite locations, and I can personally say I've never been let down.

There's ample seating inside for a couple dozen customers. The interior is decorated with WVU Mountaineer football decorations and memorabilia. I can't say if this wards off Marshall fans or not, and frankly I don't want to get into that debate.

Speaking of down south, those of you that are fans of Sam's Hot Dog Stands should note that Hometown Hot Dogs are quite similar in taste. I found this out first hand at a business meeting at the Sam's Hot Dog Stand in Teays Valley.

Chili comes in mild, medium, or hot varieties, but the medium is quite spicy enough for anyone. It can easily make beads of sweat break out on even the heartiest spice lover. It has the fine ground beef consistency, with a nice mix of flavors that compliment the meaty taste. The color is a near perfect brown that never shows signs of being over-cooked. This sauce can stand on it's own, which is always a good sign of quality chili.

The slaw is usually pretty good, though on some rare occasions the taste can border on being somewhat plain. It also has a markedly fine cut of cabbage. The rest of the ingredients are always pleasing, and the buns get a good steaming before being served up.

Aside from the parking, you can't really go wrong with Hometown Hot Dogs. The slaw requires a little tweaking (sometimes), but the chili makes up for any shortcomings in the topping department. The service is very good, so Hometown Hot Dogs gets a well deserved four-and-a-half weenies.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Letter Home

We often get letters from expatriate Mountaineers who have run across our site and want to thank us for reminding them of the hot dogs of their homeland. We also get a lot of letters from people in Marion County and other slawless zones who question our assertion that real West Virginia Hot Dogs must have slaw. What follows is a combination of the two: A missive from a former Marion Countian now residing in Maryland. I print it here in the interest of fairness to that 1/50th of the state's population who agree with him:

I am an expatriate West Virginian forced to flee the state for gainful employment. I do, however, still maintain my contacts back home, including those with relatives in Marion County. They sent me the link to this site. No self-respecting Marion Countian would dare to desecrate his weenie with anything so low-rent as a shredded cabbage product, nor should anyone else! I was weaned (or would that be "weened") on Yann's hotdogs and they are by far the finest tubular meat-byproduct-based confection ever known to man. When I was in high school, I used to get a half-dozen of Russell's finest and a pint of chocolate milk for lunch and my lips would buzz all afternoon from the delightful taste of that powerful, oil-based, taste-bud altering sauce! And yes, I called it "sauce" as that is the proper term for it. "Chili" is something you get at chain restaurants that desecrate their tomatoey meat soups with...beans. Beans are cheap filler used when you can't afford meat. See also: slaw. Back in the day, the recipe was to take a Kettering bun, drop in a Superior "Frankie" dog, wave a little wooden stick with yellow mustard at it just long enough to scare it, sprinkle a few onions, and then spoon on the magical sauce. They were wrapped two at a time in a sheet of wax paper and stuffed into a brown paper sack (both of which would instantly become saturated with oily sauce byproducts that would soil the car seats of the uninitiated).

Another Yann-dog feature your reviewer fails to mention, probably due to lack of adequate research, is their medicinal qualities. Every time I felt a cold or sore throat coming, I'd go to Yann's for a half dozen and a Nesquik and the next day I'd have nary a symptom. Yann's sauce just scares the living hell out of any germs still alive in the vicinity of your digestive tract or sinuses.
To downgrade Yann's to a mere four or four and a half weenies for lack of slaw is absolute sacrilege and places the credibility of your site strongly in question. I can only hope you soon realize the error of your ways and stop this silly quest to laud places that weaken their weenies with shredded garden products.

Mark in Maryland (unfortunately)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Grafton HDJ Review - Dairy King

I continue my review of the Grafton area HDJs with another stop along Route 50 with a trip to the Dairy King, which sits within several yards of the Dairy Queen (ironically) and Biggie's. Dairy King is a classic walk-up ice cream stand, offering the usual ice cream treats, shakes, sodas, hot dogs, burgers, and the like. There are five gazebos scattered along the back of the parking lot with ample seating for families or groups.

Hot dogs here go for a .99 cents, so they're easy on the wallet. The service was fine. No doubt they get plenty of business based on their location, as they are the closest ice cream stand / HDJ going into (or out of) downtown Grafton.

Slaw is not available at all here at the Dairy King, so for this review I went straight for the other standard items (you know the routine: chili, onions, mustard). The chili here just goes off in a totally different direction than one would expect from a WVHDJ. What struck me right off the bat was the chunkiness of the chili beef. It didn't have the finer ground that is customary for traditional WVHD chili/sauce. Moreover, it has the medium ground you would find in a homemade spaghetti sauce. Speaking of spaghetti sauce, it had the bright red color of --well-- spaghetti sauce. And, as you may have guessed, it also had the taste of spaghetti sauce...only with a strong peppery flavoring, ala Texas Pete, or the like.

The sauce was thin enough that it soaked through the bun, which combined with the water-logged weenie made the bun fall apart at the bottom, making for a fine mess. The onions were wickedly strong and coarsely chopped, which according to your personal preference is either a good thing or grounds for a sad day. All told, these dogs just don't work.

Based on the lack of slaw and the mismatched chili ingredients, it would be safe to rank the Grafton Dairy King at two weenies.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Recipes! Send Us Your Recipes!

I am forever getting email from folks, mostly expatriates in faraway lands, that are looking for authentic WVHD chili recipes. We've decided to add a section to the website where we can publish recipes, but we need the help of our readers. Basically, we need you to send us your recipes!

A few guidelines:

  • We need chili recipes and we need slaw recipes.
  • Please don't send one you've never tried.
  • If you have a recipe from your church or school, it probably feeds hundreds. Scale it down for us, please.
  • Let us know what part of the state the recipe is from.

Send your submittals to

info at wvhotdogs dot com

(You realize, of course, that I formatted the email address like that to discourage spambots, but I trust you can interpret how to format it in your email.)

Once we get a few recipes collected we'll be adding the new pages to the site. In the meantime, here's one that I have found and tested. It tastes like North Central WV HDJ sauce:
  • 2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
Crumble ground beef and brown over medium heat with onion. Stir in water, and mash ground beef thoroughly. Stir in all ingredients. Reduce heat to low; simmer, 60 to 90 minutes. Then, raise heat and cook at high temperature, stirring constantly, until the sauce is dark brown.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Grafton HDJ Review - Biggie's

Biggie's, which sits along U.S. Route 50 heading towards downtown Grafton, gets your attention immediately when you near it; not necessarily due to the sign announcing hamburgers, hot dogs and the current advertised special, but rather it's the building itself that beckons your attention. Biggie's is laid out with multiple covered parking areas that adjoin the building, a walk-up counter out front, and an indoor eatery area. The building doesn't seem to have been changed since the it was first in business circa 1965-1966 (according to the original business license hanging on the wall). In fact, to get to the restroom you must cut through a storeroom to get to it. And have mercy on you if you are "plus" size. Superman has more room in a phone booth. You get the idea.

The menu is pretty extensive, with a vast array of items that you wouldn't really expect (cauliflower or broccoli with that hot dog, anyone?). It seems as though you can get just about any main course item on a 'platter' (i.e. two side items). You've got to give it to them for at least trying to offer something different. Biggie's also has some pretty good ice cream items as well. The service was decent enough to make me like I was among friends.

The hot dogs themselves are a little on the pricey side at $1.37. Slaw is available as an option, but as is the case with a lot of places in the North Central region, you must remember to ask for it. The chili comes in 'hot' or 'regular', and I opted for the hot in this review to see what Biggie's could do. It was spicy enough to break a bead of sweat on my upper lip, but didn't kill my intestinal lining (thankfully). It had a nice dark color to it, but the flavor itself had a smokiness to it. It may have been a little overcooked, but it wasn't bad by any means. Still, that smoky taste jumped out in every mouthful.

The slaw was pretty rough. It was rather coarse and had that hint of "prepackaged-ness". There was unquestionably something in there that made the anticipated tang fall flat. For that matter, the slaw wasn't very sweet either. It was just kind of at best. The rest of the contents (steamed bun, weenie, onions, mustard) were satisfactory enough, but nothing above and beyond.

Overall, Biggie's is a nifty place which reminds you of an era gone by. The hot dogs themselves are about average, but would be better served with a higher quality slaw. Given that, I'll rate Biggie's with 3.5 weenies.

Friday, October 12, 2007

WV Hot Dog Culture Creeps to the (Old) Northwest

Some WV Hot Dog Blog fans may be old enough to recall that almost an entire generation of WVians in the 1940s-1960s moved to Ohio to find work. Today, you can't go to Cleveland, Akron, Dayton, or Toledo without bumping into multiple folks with at least one Mountaineer grandparent and there are a fair amount of folks names "Adkins" and "Mullens" mixed in with the Polish and German surnames up in the "Land of Left Turn on Red."

Well, yesterday I was online helping a friend find a good place to eat in Toledo and stumbled across Tony Packo's (of M*A*S*H fame). On their homepage, they feature something of a slide show of four pictures of their products; one of pickles and three of hot dogs. Two of those dog pics look like standard Midwestern fare: dawgs with chili sauce (with some beans), mustard, and onions. One pic, however, almost made my eyes pop out. Yup, there was a Toledo hot dog with a big helpin' of slaw on it.

While the sauce and slaw weren't quite what us Weenie Wonks would define as ideal, there is only one place that the idea of slaw on hot dogs in Toledo could have come from. Yup, it traveled up US 23 with our Great-Aunts and Uncles 50-odd years ago.

As soon as Stanton replenishes his frequent flyier miles, you can count on me to hack into his account and book a trip to the Glass City. This deserves further investigation...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Grafton HDJ Review - Grafton Dairy Queen

I recently ventured to Grafton in a hunt of all of the known HDJs in town. My first stop bought me to the Grafton Dairy Queen. I had passed this place time after time during my many ventures across Route 50, but never once stopped by to sample the goods. I was initially excited about paying a visit, mainly because I was hoping to be delivered from the DQ hell that had marred samplings at some of the north central DQs, particularly the one I wrote one of my earliest reviews about located in Shinnston.

I had a glimmer of hope that since this particular establishment had an original sign on top that dated back decades, that maybe...just maybe...this one would have an "in-house" hot dog (rather than the corporate "Brazier" version) that was seeped in tradition and great homemade taste. Well, it was definitely seeped in something.

A flag immediately went up upon discovering that no slaw was available. This wasn't the first time and certainly won't be the last, so I went for the remaining standard ingredients: chili, onion, and mustard. When the nice lady behind the window handed me my order, I quickly made my way back to my car with eager anticipation. When I unwrapped the dog, I didn't know whether to cry or laugh at the appearance.

The dog was soaked in chili sauce, which tasted like it had been prepared with tremendous apathy. It didn't even warrant dissecting to further identify the ingredients. The onions were finely minced, but tasted as though they'd been kept refrigerated too cold only to lose some of their flavor and then became too soft. The wiener tasted like it had been left in it's boiling pot of water far too long, making it leak into the bun and soften it to the point of disintegrating. The bun must've had something sitting on it before it was removed from the bag, because the wiener was the only thing that made it hold it's familiar shape. Perhaps it had been steamed with a clothes iron. It certainly tasted that way.

Simpy put, the hot dog was total mush. I can't find another word to describe it, other than perhaps "debacle". One weenie for the Grafton Dairy Queen.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Quiet Dell HDJ Review - Sports Grille

Right off of exit 115 of I-179 rests the small township of Quiet Dell, home of the Sports Grille. A sign for the Sports Grille can be easily seen from the exit, particularly from the southbound direction. The location is prime for anyone traveling the interstate wishing for a quick hot dog fix (and a fill-up for the car as well).

You’d expect that with a name like Sports Grille that there’d be at least two or three televisions scattered about and tuned into sports channels. On this particular visit, the only TV in the place was tuned into the Cartoon Network. I found it strange that there were at least seven or eight cars on the lot, but only one other customer at the counter. A cursory scan revealed a doorway to a video gambling area, which explains where the business end of this joint actually is.

The service was about average, but the waitress behind the counter was at least polite. Hot dogs with everything here includes chili, mustard, and onions, but slaw is available on request. The dogs came inundated with a ton of shredded, strong onions that wound up masking the flavor of the rest of the ingredients. Like we’ve found in a couple of recent reviews, the Sports Grille also puts the chili on top of the slaw. Since I ordered up two dogs in this case, I was able to dissect the second one and try the components individually. The bun was fresh enough and warm, but not steamed. The wiener was boiled just about right. It seemed as though the chili was relatively bland, lacking any zest or beefy flavor. It had an appealing color and good texture, however. I noticed red pepper flakes available at the counter, and in hindsight that would’ve likely helped. I found that the slaw had very little dressing, thus exposing the watery insipidness of the finely chopped cabbage. I can safely say that the dogs may have been better without slaw in this case.

Like I mentioned in the first paragraph, the location is perfect for hot dog fans passing through. You can get a WVHD, but don’t expect much from the slaw. Sports Grille hot dogs are no more than satisfactory at best, but could potentially be much better. Two and a half weenies.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Morgantown HDJ Review - Haught Diggity Dogz

An alert reader of recently sent word that a new HDJ had appeared in the Morgantown area, but the thing that stood out about the recommendation was the last line of the e-mail: "And yes, they do have slaw!". With a bit of hope that the slaw culture was migrating further north, I set out to visit Haught Diggity Dogz (which already deserves a prize for one of the most original names).

Located just a stone's throw from exit 4 of I-68, Haught Diggity Dogz is located in a little retail strip along Route 7 heading towards Dellslow. It sits in the near corner of a newer looking building, with eye-catching window graphics. The interior is simple in it's layout, but remarkably clean and inviting. A generous sized lunch counter is complimented by a scattering of tables, each of which has a full compliment of condiments readily available.

I received a warm welcome when I came through the door, and first class attention for the duration of my visit. The menu simply states "hot dogs", and carries a flat price of $1.25 regardless of how much or how little you want on them. The menu also boasts fresh cut fries, which can also include chili and/or cheese, baked potatoes, salads, and pepperoni rolls.

I was impressed to see that more slaw was being freshly prepared during the course of my meal. The ingredients aren't simply stockpiled as -with some lesser HDJs- but rather made fresh throughout the day. The taste was absolutely phenomenal. Haught's seems to have the ability to strike that perfect balance between sweet and tangy, all the while having a perfect consistency and satisfying taste. The chili was also a pure treat. Like any HDJ worth it's salt, Haught's offers the standard choices of mild, medium and hot sauce. My norm is to go middle-of-the-road, and the medium sauce here is exactly what it should be: seasoned to perfection, with all the individual ingredients working in unison. It had a lovely brown color, fine consistency, and inviting armoa that tickled the senses. It blended nicely with the freshly steamed bun, which was likewise done to perfection. The onions were chopped extra fine to allow for a pleasing flavor to each bite, but not leave one with dog breath (no pun intended).

Just how good is Haught Diggity Dogz overall? Well, I usually order two dogs during a visit. This time, I had to have a third before I left.

Positive remarks are all that I can offer for Haught Diggity Dogz. With that said, this HDJ earns an easy...and well deserved...five weenies. I would anticipate that you'll be seeing Haught's in just about every category for future Weenie Awards.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nutter Fort HDJ Review - F.O.P Mountaineer Lodge – by Big Daddy

Lodge #78 of the Fraternal Order of Police opened not all that long ago at the former Jim Reid’s restaurant in Nutter Fort. Jim Reid’s always served up great food in a fine dining atmosphere. I didn’t really pay much attention when the F.O.P. bought the place, thinking it would just be another club that I’d never step foot in or care about.

Word had recently started circulating around town that the organization had opened up a public restaurant and lounge, and supposedly one or more of the original chefs from Jim Reid’s had been hired. There was no doubt that some good, 100% home cooking would once again be available for one and all: some terrific surf and turf, Italian specialties, all day breakfasts, and much more.

I was really surprised by all the suggestions that I try the hot dogs at the F.O.P. With nothing to lose, I went in one day to give it a try. After getting seated, I took some time to read through the rather lengthy menu. Hot dogs are listed for eighty-five cents, but that only includes relish, mustard and ketchup. Slaw and chili are fifty cents more. In the end, I found this was a bargain considering how good the dogs were.

It was a little busy on one particular visit, and I wound up waiting close to twenty minutes. My patience was rewarded though. The hot dogs are grilled to perfection, as is the split-top New England Style bun that it comes on. And to be served on a real plate with a dill pickle? Nice! The chili is stupendous, with just the right consistency of not being too thick yet smooth enough to gently seep into the bun without making it soggy. The flavor should be to the liking of just about anyone, as it has a nice hint of spiciness, but not overpowering heat. I made a point to spoon some of it off of the dog so I could enjoy it on its own. This may very well be one of the best chili sauces around.

The cabbage in the slaw was very coarse…maybe too coarse. I’m sure it’s only intended to be served in a standalone mode, but it does the job in the case of topping the dog. It was sweet and not too tangy, cool, extra creamy, and full of flavor. It’s worth buying some as a side order for just about any meal, should you get the urge.

I have to go with four weenies here. These dogs are well worth the wait, and the restaurant is one place you can be assured will always have something for everyone.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The View From Behind the Hot Dog Counter

So, I get drafted by the Band Boosters of the high school where my daughter is in the band to volunteer in the concession stand at Laidley Field for the Kanawha County Band and Majorette Festival. I arrive at five o'clock having absolutely no idea of what I'll be doing but in possession of a willing spirit to perform the most menial and demeaning task for the next five to six hours. My enthusiasm was dampened greatly when I walked behind the counter and found the calzone oven, deep fryers, hot tables and bun steamers made the temperature hover at about 115 degrees with 110% relative humidity. I was determined though, that I would persevere.

So I offered myself up in service to the person who seemed to be in charge. I told her I was completely inexperienced but a quick learner and I would be glad to scrub floors, clean out the grease traps - you know, the kind of stuff this guy does. The boss puts her finger on her chin in a thoughtful "hmmm" kind of way and then with eyes full of hope she asks, "Do you know anything about hot dogs?"

"Yes", I told her trying to hide my smile of conceit, "I know a little about hot dogs." To myself I thought "Ha! Little do these mortals know!"

And thus began my journey into the hot, sweaty, greasy world of hot dog slinging at the concession stand.

Now before you little league parents get all high and mighty and say that you know concession stand work, let me tell you that the Majorette Festival is a doggone big deal in Charleston and there are probably 12,000 people in attendance. All of them came to the concession stand at least once, I am convinced. Most, it seemed, ordered hot dogs. In large quantities.

Now the process of assembling hot dogs is fairly simple: Load the buns in the steamer, take them out and put on the weenie, apply the toppings and put them in the hot table bins as appropriate. There are five models of hot dogs at Laidley: Everything (chili, slaw and onions), Chili and Slaw, Chili and Onions, just Chili and, finally, Plain. The people who work the front counter are supposed to take orders for only those combinations with no special orders. This isn't Burger King: Special orders DO upset us.

In addition to assembly, the hot dog team also has to keep a good supply of chil and weenies on the stove at all times, lest you run out and be lynched by the starving mob.

Our two-person hot dog team worked feverishly all night to keep an adequate supply of all of the various combinations on the hot table bins, but sometimes it was like bailing out a leaky boat with a tea strainer. An endless stream of humanity flowed through the concession stand entrance. Their methods were devious yet simple: They would eye the available hot dogs in the bin (which are clearly visible from the ordering area), pick out the category with the fewest number of hot dogs and order a half-dozen of that type. If the hot dog team was ever in danger of satisfying the demand of any supply point, a special operative was immediately dispatched to place a special order for a hot dog with slaw only, or onions only, or some other non-standard configuration that made the entire assembly line screech to a halt while the primadona's special needs were addressed. Once the special was passed to the front, the work of re-supplying the bins began again.

And again. And again. For five hours. Over 500 hot dogs. I really don't know how many we made because I simply lost count after about 480, a milestone that was passed about halfway through the evening. The total might have been closer to a thousand, I really don't know: I was in The Zone.

After a while I entered a transcendent state where my brain just switched off and muscle memory took over and I began to make hot dogs like a robot. The only time my trance was broken was when I reached for onions and found that someone had moved the onion container to the prep area where it was being loaded with a new supply of fresh chopped stuff. After that it took me a few minutes to find The Zone again but once I was there it lasted throughout the night until that glorious moment when the doors to the concession stand were closed for the evening. After an hour or so of cleaning up, my sentence was over and I was released from my bondage.

Now I'd like to say that my evening on the other side of the counter has made me more understanding as to the plight of the Weenie Workers of America. I'd like to tell you that I'm going to be a kinder, gentler Weenie Wonk as a result of walking a mile in the shoes of a Weenieista. But the truth is, I found out that even in the midst of crushing crowds that far exceed what a typical HDJ experiences on the busiest of lunch hours, there is still time to create a hot dog with care. So there will be no excuses accepted in the future for sloppily prepared hot dogs. You have been warned.

A word about the ingredients they serve at the Laidley concession stand:

Custard Stand Chili - OK, as a good West Virginian I should support this state success story. But it's just OK. It's not great.

Gunnoe's Slaw - Huge, hard chunks of cabbage and other cabbage-like substances. Not very good.

Weenies - Generic Food Service.

Buns - There was no name on the packaging, but I assume they were Heiners. They insist on steaming them at Laidley, which is a good thing.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Huntington Area Updates

Here are some hot dog updates from in and around the Jewel City:

  • Chili Fest: One of the chili vendors (can't remember who) thought it would be a good idea to put their chili on hot dogs and consider them to be a delicacy. They were wrong. The buns were dry as the Sahara, the weenies of a low quality, and they were served at a temperature that would make an English ale proud. The chili, a soupy collection of broth, tomato chunks, and some beef, proved exactly why we in the Tri State call is "sauce." The lack of slaw, onions, or mustard made it only the second hot dog I've thrown away half-eaten in over a year. You can read more on my lukewarm reactio to Chili Fest here.
  • After a corporate event, the Sam's Hot Dog Stand in Teays Valley is lowered, as predicted, from 4.5 to 3.5 weenies. They have proven unable to keep dumping 2x the sauce on their dogs (which was probably straining the bottom line) and, according to Big Daddy, their non-crinkle cut fries are muy crappy. Don't get me wrong, this is still a good Sam's and a good WV HDJ, just not one of the greats.
  • Due to my work schedule, there are a few area joints that are only open during the day on weekdays that I can't seem to get to. I have, therefore, drafted a friend to do some of the reviews of these places (Bowinkles, some of the downtown sandwich shops, etc). Keep an eye out for her in the coming weeks and make her feel at home.
  • If you haven't made it there yet, be sure to get a dog and some ice cream at Austin's in Ceredo. They close up shop sometime in early-to-mid fall, thereby depriving Huntington of their award-wining slaw 'til late spring.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Paul Blogs Charleston's Finest HDJs

In July our fair city was paid a visit by hot dog royalty: Paul, of "I am an American and I eat Hot Dogs" fame came to town with his band "Harry and the Potters" for a show and he (and a few of his band mates) and I met for a couple of hot dogs. We went to Romeo's and Skeenie's and I think our humble home town dogs impressed the hot dog master.

You can read his reviews here and here. Pay close attention to the look on Paul's face as he gets his first taste of a real WVHD at Romeo's. He was in hot dog Almost Heaven!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cedar Grove HDJ Review - Video Village

We would have never, ever found this little HDJ if a reader hadn't emailed us.

In the out of the way town of Cedar Grove, inside an obscure little storefront attached to the Exxon station, in the back of the video rental section of the store, there is a food counter where you can order typical roadside fast food items like pizza, hot dogs, cheese poppers and hot dogs. I was told that this place had good hot dogs, but when I walked in I was skeptical. I nearly walked out because it didn't look like there was any food service inside. Then I saw the video section and remembered that the reader had said the place was called "Video Village" so I walked into the video rental area. There I found the food.

Ordering one with everything (I had to specify "no ketchup") I took my dog to my car before unwrapping it. I was still skeptical about the quality of hot dogs that this little out of the way place might serve. To say my expectations were low is an understatement.

Unwrapping the dog buoyed my hopes momentarily, as the hot dog was topped with a large helping of gorgeous looking slaw. But then, sticking out from under the toppings, I saw one of the teeniest weenies I had ever seen on a real hot dog. It was so small in diameter that it looked like a mistake. My low expectations returned.

But to my surprise, in spite of the teeny weenie, the hot dog actually tasted pretty darn good! The chili had a good texture and a complex taste - a little spicy, a little tart. The slaw was sweet; just about as sweet as any I have ever tasted, and perfect in consistency. The chili and slaw worked well together and made me forget all about the teeny weenie, momentarily. I wondered what the little thing tasted like so I tried a taste independent of the toppings. It tasted fine. It was just little.

Now I guess it could be argued that having such a small weenie allows more room in the bun for toppings, and if you have good toppings then it can certainly offset the lack of a substantial sausage. But there is something kind of disturbing to see a weenie that small on a WVHD, so we'll deduct points for the shortcoming.

The Video Village, that little hidden hot dog joint that could, overcomes it's hiddeness and it's teeny weenie to score a 4 Weenie rating. With a suitable sized weenie it would have been a 4.5.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Clarksburg HDJ Review - Tubby's Cafe

Once in a great while you're fortunate enough to discover a unique place totally by accident that, much like a rare artifact, becomes a gem that you enjoy so much you have to share it with others. Enter Tubby's Cafe in Clarksburg.

I was driving through the Summit Park section of Clarksburg just below old Bridgeport Hill Road when I saw a small sign for Tubby's mounted on a street sign at an intersection. Curious, I hung a left where I normally turn right. A hundred feet later, I discovered an amazingly good restaurant in a hard-to-find section of town. Tubby's is built on to the back of an inviting little private residence on Factory Street. Though the parking is tight, it's certainly worth getting to.

Once inside, I was immediately taken by the Harley- Davidson motif that adorns nearly every nook and cranny of the restaurant, save for a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. standee, a replica hood from the #3 car of Dale Sr., and a drag racing "Christmas Tree". The entire place is done in H-D black and orange, and highlighted with diamond plate trim. The counter area is adorned in the diamond plating, from the top of the counter down to the foot rests. My co-workers who ventured along on this particular visit got a kick out of the blinking yellow "caution" light that was activated when one went to the restroom and locked the door. I also noted a handle grip/brake handle assembly on the beer taps. My friends commented on how shiny and clean this establishment was. Attention to detail was certainly at the forefront of the proprietor's mind. This is one of those places that would put a grin on even the most grumpy curmudgeon on a dreary day. This wasn't a bar by any means...this is a restaurant through and through. I spoke with the owner, who noted that while the location was a bit of a hindrance he hoped to move to a better location sometime in the future.

Tubby's has an awesome menu that offers daily specials, Italian pasta fare, huge salads, hoagies (which all in attendance agreed were some of the best ever to be had), sandwiches, burgers, authentic brick oven pizzas (baked in the wood-fired brick oven that burns all day and night, regardless of the temperature outside), and of course hot dogs. The dogs are listed on the menu as follows: "Served hot off the grill in a steamed bun topped with Tubby's memorable chili, mustard, and onions...$1.25".

Memorable my foot! What an understatement.

This chili might darn well represent a high point for preparation and ingredients in this region. I think one of my co-workers said it best when he noted that it was "just a hair spicy". That may indeed be the best description for it. The chili had a perfect coloring and aroma, and a taste that epitomized 'balance' as the meaty flavor and spiciness worked together rather than overrun one another. It wasn't too complex, but rather complimented the overall hot dog. There was an abundance of chopped onions to give some extra zing to each bite, but not upset the overall presentation. In case there wasn't enough zest for you, take heart that you have your choice of no less than seven different bottled hot sauces, plus red pepper flakes and chili powder available at the counter.

Another plus was that every component of the hot dog is prepped on order (as is everything on the menu). The wieners are grilled on order, versus boiled in a batch and put on standby. I'm always a fan of grilled wieners when they're available; it seems they add some intangible element that you can't get from just boiling. The buns were steamed right as the wieners were being prepared, making for a superior, freshly steamed taste. I'd suspect that if you wanted the buns steamed more (or less), you could get it as you like it upon request.

The service here can't be beat. The owners are front and center doing the food prep, and they're always up for a conversation on just about anything. I found them very personable, and genuine...a quality that anyone can appreciate.

There was one -and only one- drawback to the whole visit: no slaw. I was informed that at one point it was an option, but later taken off the menu since there weren't enough requests for it. That's a shame, as I'm sure it had the potential to be pretty good. I think a good slaw would put these hot dogs over the top. Based on that, I have to score 4.5 weenies for Tubby's. If a decent slaw is ever offered again, I believe it'll score an easy five weenies.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gauley Bridge HDJ Review - Sam's Hot Dog Stand

I stand corrected. I erred when I said that the Marmet Sam's was the chain's most eastward location. An alert reader sent the tip that there is a Sam's located inside the Sunoco station in Gauley Bridge and that they had excellent hot dogs with a view. I thought it sounded like a worthwhile place to check out, so my wife and I set out on the 80-some mile round trip up Rt. 60 to the confluence of the New and Gauley Rivers. A hundred yards upstream from said confluence, on the bank of the New sits the Sam's location we sought.

An interesting mix of convenience and inconvenience, the Sunoco station has inside a convenience store, a Subway and a Sam's. Convenient because it's all under one roof, but when you order your food you have backtrack to the front door checkout to pay, then back to the counter for your food. The process seems a little customer un-friendly, but the personnel were friendly. We soon had our hot dogs and settled into a booth with an amazing view of the New River (the irony, which I will point out for those non-local readers , is that the "New" considered to be the oldest river in the world). There is also an outside deck where you can dine alfresco, but the heat kept us inside.

Despite the view, the hot dogs were pretty much standard Sam's fare. Good chili and mediocre slaw. Missing from this location were the waterlogged weenies I am used to finding at Sam's. I did not witness how they keep their weenies warm because I was off to pay for my meal on the other side of the store, but I'm betting it was some type of dry heat and not a hot bath.

Overall the quality was on the low side for a Sam's: 3.5 Weenies.