Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Charleston Area Hot Dog Review - Dairy Belle

Not to be confused with M&M Dairy Bell in Chesapeake, OH, this Dairy Belle is a recent refugee from the Dairy Queen empire. It sits right along US Route 60 just past Witcher Creek, less than a mile from Riverside High School. The sign still has the skeletal remains of the DQ logo and the tell-tale "Brazier" lettering above the changeable letter marquee.

The hot dogs are refugees from the DQ days as well. They still use the New England Style bun which is the only good thing about this hot dog. The weenie, chili and slaw are tasteless and the mound of finely chopped onions that covered the top of the hot dog tasted old.

Obviously this restaurant is in transition, having only abandoned the DQ identity recently. Perhaps they haven't found their new identity yet. When they do I hope they will make a better effort at producing a good hot dog. The location is good enough to make a go of it, but if this is the best they can do I don't think that they'll make it.

1 1/2 Weenies. If that.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Charleston HDJ Review: Clo's Uptown Eatery

Across Washington Street from CAMC General Division sits this little building that has houses numerous incarnations of numerous restaurants over the years. The most recent is Clo's Uptown Eatery. A fairly extensive menu includes a lot of soul food faves like collard greens and catfish and also some basic fast food items like, interestingly enough, hot dogs.

Everything includes chili, slaw, mustard and onions. Of these toppings Clo's slaw is the only thing worth elaborating on. It is a little too coarsely chopped for my tastes, but the flavor was just excellent. It would be great as a side dish to some of the wonderful smelling fish they had frying in the back. The chili was just OK and the amount of care that went into the preparation and assembly of the hot dog was lacking. In their defense they were quite busy when I was there (they seem to really be a favorite of paramedics and hospital support staff - a good alternative to the hospital cafe I guess). The service was also dreadfully slow, presumably to the crush of the lunch hour.

I plan on going back to Clo's to check out the fish, but the hot dogs only rate a marginal 2.5 Weenies at best; I don't think I'll go back for another.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Old Morgantown HDJ?

Reader Jeff Russell needs our help. Especially those in Morgantown or those with Morgantown connections that date back to the 1960's:
Jeff writes:
"I used to go to a gas station with a hotdog stand inside in Morgantown with my Dad in the early 1960s. They were known for their chilidogs. Ring any bells?  I'm going there for the first time in 30 years and I wanted to find it if I could. My Dad has since passed away. If you have any ideas, I'd appreciate it."
If anyone can help Jeff out please post a comment here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Charleston Area HDJ Revisited - South Charleston Dairy Bar

I got an email the other day from someone who said that the South Charleston Dairy Bar now offers an New England Style bun as an upgrade. Having a new found appreciation for grilled or toasted New England Style buns I just had to go check it out.

In my original review I gave the Dairy Bar a strong 4 Weenie rating. Would the addition of an New England Style bun make a difference? Yes.

The bun makes this hot dog much more satisfying. Everything else is pretty much the same as before so I'm going to bump it a half point to a 4.5 rating.

Still the second best hot dog in town, but improving. Keep it up SC Dairy Bar!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Very Unusual Hot Dog - Spring Hill Pastry Shop

Pop Quiz: How can a hot dog have no chili or slaw and still earn a Five-Weenie rating on this blog? (You will find the answer is at the end of the post)

Spring Hill Pastry Shop in South Charleston has long been a favorite place for goodies. Their sheet cakes are legendary and their brownies are unspeakably delicious. They have cream puffs and eclairs that will make you think you've died and gone to heaven. And the donuts? Don't even get me started on the donuts!

Suffice it to say that everything that Spring Hill Pastry creates is first-class. Still, when I overheard someone talking about the hot dogs they sell I was intrigued. I knew that they would be great like everything else they sell, but I was more interested in the novelty of a bakery selling hot dogs than anything else.

So one day at lunchtime I visited the shop. Bad mistake. Never, ever walk into this place when you are hungry, unless you also have no money. If you do have money, you will have none when you leave. The selection of beautiful, scrumptious goodies is immense. You will be tempted to get at least one of everything - and if you do it will cost you approximately $380. Luckily I only had $10 when I went in. I had 27 cents when I left, but that is only because the cheapest item they have is 35 cents and they wouldn't sell me half of a donut.

But I did get hot dogs. And after trying them for myself, I can safely make several claims about it:

  1. Chris James and his Huntington Heiners' connection can't hold a candle to the softness of the bun that cradles the...
  2. ...Sweetest toppings ever put on a hot dog.
  3. It is the prettiest hot dog ever.
  4. "Everything" includes chocolate icing drizzled artistically over the top of the sweet filling.
OK, I've carried on this ruse just about as long as it will go. The Spring Hill Pastry "Hot Dog" is basically a doughnut/eclair type creation that somewhat resembles a real hot dog, thus the name. The "bun" is basically an elcair that is split on one side and filled with a delicious cream filling. I just had to include it here just for fun, but you should try one - or a dozen - at your earliest convenience.

I am awarding these hot dogs an honorary Five Weenie Rating! Take your pick between "plain" and "everything," either way you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Paradigm Check

I don't know why, but this blog is definitely getting more visitors from places with different hot dog cultures. I've gotten a whole series of emails recently that go something like this:

"OK, you make it abundantly clear that you eat chili and slaw on your hot dogs, but what about the hot dog itself? Is it all-beef? Is it natural casing or skinless? What brand is it?" These questions are usually accompanied by the language of frustration and often have an undertone of "you ignorant hillbilly!"

All of these questions reflect a fundamental misunderstanding, the kind of which is difficult to explain because it is asked from a completely different frame of reference than the one in which I live. But let me try:

When I tell you about my hot dog and then you ask , "but what about the hot dog?" the question sound like nonsense to me because I think of a hot dog only as a complete sandwich. It seems that your question is first and foremost interested in what I call the "wiener" or "weenie". For you, this part of the sandwich is what makes or breaks it. For me, it is one of four necessary parts of the whole and I don't get too wrapped up in what it's made of or how it tastes. As long as it isn't offensive tasting (and some are) if it sits in a good bun and has great chili and slaw on it it can still be a first-class West Virginia hot dog.

Now I completely understand that you folks that reside where Chicago or New York hot dog cultures dominate place a great deal of emphasis on the meat inside the bun. I realize that the differences between your hot dog joints are largely based on the different taste of the wiener. So why is it so hard for you to understand that the quality of our hot dogs is dependent on the toppings? It shouldn't be that difficult to understand, but still the questions persist.

"You mean the onions are RAW?" asks one Chicagoan. "No peppers at all?" asks an unidentified northerner. "Yellow mustard? How bourgeois!" writes a man from the Great Plains. And that doesn't even begin to address the hundreds of emails that insinuate that eating coleslaw on a hot dog is akin to eating roadkill 'possum.

You see, as proud Appalachian-Americans, it is difficult for us to hear your questions and snide comments as anything less than a slam of our culture. For generations we have been ridiculed for our simple ways, our unique dialects and our laid back attitudes toward life in general. Many a hoity-toity do-gooder have come here to try to impose their culture and values on us. Don't get me wrong, we love it when people come to visit and learn about our culture, but we like things the way we like them. On purpose. It is our nature to be hospitable but we are fiercely protective of our way of life.

So, welcome, ya'll, to the West Virginia Hot Dog Blog. Enjoy yourself while you're here and come back often to visit. Tell your friends about us and invite them to come by and say "howdy." You will always find a welcome place here in the mountains.

But don't screw with our hot dogs. Yankee bastards.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Huntington Hot Dog Joint: G.D. Disappointment at G. D. Ritzy's

By most definitions of the word, G. D. Ritzy's in Huntington is a pretty cool place to eat. The place is decorated in the fashion of a 50's nostalgia joint and has a diverse fast food menu that features burgers, ice cream, Cincinnati-style chili (well, sort of) and coneys.

Coneys? Wait, isn't this West Virginia?

Well, it's a national joint, and it really seems to be more a a restaurant that happens to serve hot dogs instead of a hot dog eatery, so maybe some slack can be given, as long as the dogs are good.

I noticed on their menu board that slaw was not listed as one of the toppings for the dog, which was disappointing, to say the least. Fortunately, a side order of slaw was available with fries and the dog as part of a "platter," so I bit.

When I unwrapped the dog, I was first struck by the critical mass of sliced onions that swam in, on, and under the coney sauce. I sampled one, and they were indeed quality onions, but there were entirely too many. Additionally, the large slices were a better fit for a chili 5 ways instead of a hot dog.

The sauce was meaty, beautifully red in color, and almost entirely tasteless. I will in the future give them the benefit of the doubt and try the stuff on a 5 ways, as maybe the onions blasted some subtle hidden flavor out of the water, but as it stands, it was a nothing special at all.

More bad news came from the bun and weenie. The bun was hard enough to break a window. I have some week-old Sunny Buns in my bread drawer that are fresher than this thing. While it was kind of embarrassing that a Huntington HDJ would serve such a bun, I was able to reassure myself that it was not really a local hot dog joint, per se. The weenie had the texture of one of those pickled red hots from a gas station and the flavor of a 1980's hospital-served weenie.

The only good thing about the dog experience was that which was never intended by Ritzy's: the slaw. The slaw was super creamy, very sweet, and pretty fresh. Since I got it on the side, I was able to drown the dog in slaw (I also added more to each bite) and increase its palatability by at least 73%.

The service, however, was fast and friendly and the ice cream selection looked comparable to most places. I need to try their Cincy chili to see how that goes, too, as it is one of my favorite non-hot dog dishes. I mentioned in the lead that it is in fact a cool place to eat for families and, with its proximity to the Little League fields and Cabell Huntington Hospital, would make for a great post-game or post-pediatrician visit treat.

As a hot dog joint, I give it 2 weenies. Great place to take a family, but not appropriate for true West Virginia hot dog connoisseurs.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hamlin Hot Dog Joint - M&R Restaurant

When I went in search of Kenny's, I passed this nice and neat little restaurant on the road to West Hamlin just outside the Real Hamlin. I thought I should stop because one never knows when one will be in Hamlin again; it's not on the way to anywhere.

What I found at the M&R Restaurant was a very typical small town place with everything on the menu you'd expect to find, including hot dogs.

The hot dogs were like home made, only better, with prety good chili (only they call it sauce), tasty slaw and huge chunks of onions on top. The bun was warm and a bit crusty as if it had been warmed in an oven. Fairly straightforward WVHD. Not a lot to elaborate on. Good hot dog. A solid 3.5 Weenie rating.

I just had to sample their Turkey Bacon Club because it is one of my very favorite non-hot dog sandwiches. I can safely report that M&R has the best TBC I have ever tasted. The bacon was definitely premium quality and the turkey had a peppery border that really brought the whole thing to life.

The only thing to add is that the service is friendly and prompt.

M&R is located just outside Hamlin near Lincoln County High School. They are closed Saturday's but open the rest of the week.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

West Hamlin HDJ Review - Kenny's

Over the mountain from Hamlin, the county seat of Lincoln county and hometown of Chuck Yeager, is West Hamlin. Now I'm not sure of the corporation status of this little burg, or whether people living their even like to be identified with The Other Hamlin, but I would imagine that a lot of people in Hamlin make trips to West Hamlin for hot dogs. Kenny's would be the reason for this trip.

Kenny's is a little concrete block hut beside the main road just across from the IGA store where seemingly everyone on the road in West Hamlin is heading. Inside, the place has seating for 8 people at two booths, and leaning spots for a few more. It is functional but austere, just like a good WVHDJ ought to be.

Apparently we can put this part of Lincoln County into the "sauce" column, because I was told everything included sauce, slaw, mustard and onions. It's still chili.

The hot dog looked pretty good and when I picked it up an looked it over I realized that the slaw was three to one more voluminous than the sauce. In fact, I had trouble isolating enough sauce to sample it by itself. But from what I could tell it was excellent. Nice texture and a taste that defies description; in fact there is an ingredient in this sauce that I simply could not identify but it added so much to the overall taste of the hot dog that I found myself wishing that I could a dozen of them. The slaw was finely chopped, perfectly sweet and creamy as it could be. Then, as if the sauce and slaw weren't good enough, the bun was perfectly steamed and the weenie was excellent. This is a great, great 5 Weenie West Virginia hot dog!

As I traveled the winding road back home I could not get the mysterious flavor out of my mind. What was this ingredient that seemed so familiar but so out of place in a hot dog? I kept replaying the flavor over and over in my head until at last I think I nailed it down. It is something that you would never expect but really adds something special. I will not divulge my theory because Kenny's is a WVHDJ that everyone ought to experience for themselves. Once you've tried a Kenny's dog feel free to post your theory as a comment.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hot Dog Article from Asheville NC Newspaper

A while back a reporter from Asheville, NC wrote to ask some questions about WV hot dogs and if I had any theories as to why slaw was a typical hot dog topping in much of southern Appalachia. Here's a link to the story that was published last month. I am cited as "one of nation's few hot dog researchers." Wow! I had no idea!

You'll note that she reviews a few Asheville area HDJs, too. It's a fun read.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Huntington Area Hot Dog Joints - Griffith & Feil Pharmacy

Kenova, for the geographically challenged among us, is the furthest west one can go in the state of West Virginia without getting wet. The name of the town comes from Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia to reflect its location near the point where these three states intersect (although it seems to me that it would be more properly called "Kenovir") .

Located in the heart of this little community is Griffith and Feil Pharmacy and its magnificent soda fountain. From its beautiful wood floors to its amazing tin ceiling to its neon "pharmacy" sign that glares colorfully off of both, this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing little restaurants around. Its charm lies in its nostalgic decor, which is made up of some authentically old elements and some retro style new stuff. The old wooden booths and soda fountain look to be 100 years old; the jukebox is decidedly newer. A gleaming row of chrome swivel barstools stand guard before the oak and brass soda fountain bar. Behind the bar hangs an enormous clock with the Griffith & Heil name emblazened around the rim of the face. The whole place is clean, shiny and a wonder to behold.

My visit was made even better by the presence of my gracious host, The Film Geek. He's a regular at G&H and had recommended the place to me a while back. When I wrote him and told him I was planning a visit he good enough to meet me there. And then he paid for my lunch, which made it even better.

But would the hot dogs be able to measure up to the quality of its surroundings and my dining companion?

The first piece of good news came when I asked what "everything" meant. "Sauce, slaw, mustard and onions" was the reply. Slaw is standard!? In a Huntington area HDJ? I was impressed.

I was more impressed when the hot dogs were delivered to the table and I saw their breathtaking beauty. I am so glad I was carrying a better camera than usual because I was able to capture the picturesque presentation (note to self: Avoid alliteration. Always.)

OK, so the place looks great, the hot dogs look great. But how do they taste?

The slaw is great in quality and quantity. It's creamy, finely chopped and just about perfect. The sauce is sweet, too. It had a meaty texture but lacked the complex flavor that comes from extended cooking over high heat. I thought the sauce would make a nice spaghetti topping, or throw in some beans and you would have a nice bowl of chili. It is very good but not great. The onions, while not chopped quite as finely as I like, were fresh cut and must've been some species of sweet onion. The bun was soft and delicious. I'm going to give it a four-and-a-half weenie rating.

It is obvious that Griffith & Feil care about quality, and that quality is defintely present in their fine hot dogs. Even without the gorgeous setting this would be a great HDJ, but add the ambience back in and you have an essential, must-visit HDJ.

To get there, take the Kenova exit (Exit 1) of I64. Turn right off the exit and then left at the first stoplight past the railroad underpass and Griffith & Feil will be on your right. 1405 Chestnut Street.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Slow Week

I think I still have a hangover from the big blogiversary blowout and I haven't heard from Chris or Kevin since the party. I hope they got home OK.

I think I'm going to have to switch to the "New Blogger" and while I'm at it I think a redesign of the template is in order. Some people have complained about the black background. So the next time you visit it might look unfamiliar, but I promise to maintain the same high quality content (scoff) that you have come accustomed to.

Charleston Area HDJ Review - The Pour House

The Pour House Sports Bar is located near the intersection of Rt. 25 and Big Tyler Road in a building that began as a garden center and then became a church before its most recent tenant moved in. It is a typical sports bar with a few TVs tuned to ESPN and cigarette smoke hanging heavily in the air even when no one is smoking. It has typical sports bar hot dogs, too.

In case you don't know what a typical sports bar hot dog is, here's a primer. Sports bar W.Va. hot dogs are:

  1. Slow- The chili is kept in the fridge and has to be microwaved.
  2. Basic - Lowest common denominator slaw, buns and weenies.
  3. Cheap - 1.25 including chips.
Not much to else to say.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Letters. We get letters.

I thought as a final blogiversary post I would share some of the email we've received. So are really pretty cool. First, there's the expatriates who bemoan the unavailability of decent hot dogs in whatever land they find themselves living:

"Cole Slaw....You're out of your mind!"Living in South Central PA, that’s what I hear wh
"Coen I mention the best hot dogs that I grew up with in Raleigh County. These people around here have a lot of good “farm food”, but most have never ventured too far out of York and Lancaster Counties. Why, what the rest of the world calls Sloppy Joes, they claim that it’s BBQ. And no, there’s no cole slaw on them either. Once at the deli section at a local grocery store, I was buying local-made hot dogs and some deli slaw. A young lady beside me was doing the same. Turned out she too was from WV. And we agreed, if you can’t find ‘em, make ‘em!
Some expats are simply wistful:
What a treat to find your hotdog site. I am from the Ripley area but moved away a couple of years after high school back in 1959. I haven't found any place in the world that has hotdogs equal to WV. I like them better than steak.

Then there are folks who have moved to different parts of West Virginia but still find the local hot dog offerings lacking. Some of these folks seem bitter:

I was born & raised in Clendenin, left there in 1973 and moved to the mid- Ohio Valley (St.Marys, Pleasants County). Now live in New Martinsville (Wetzel County). The ONLY decent hotdog I have had since 1973 was anytime I went back to Clendenin to visit family. These yankees up here don't have a clue what a WV hotdog is all about. Not so much as a hint of a clue! They put friggin' BEANS in their chili! Or, as they say, sauce. That is down right blasphemy! And IF you can find slaw, it is that stringy crap.There is not a decent hotdog North of Jackson County heading up the Ohio River. Believe me, I have tried them all. Wood County, Pleasants, Tyler, Wetzel, Ritchie.......none, nada, zilch. I can give you spot by spot ratings if you'd like, but don't waste your time or money coming up this way to find a good WVHD, it ain't gonna happen.

I get a lot of letters from people who are thankful for this blog because it affirms their own fanaticism. Here's one of my faves:

I have loved hot dogs since my Mom first started feeding me them and I've not stopped since. When I was expecting my first son 23 yrs ago, I was so sick all the time.....the only thing I craved and could keep down was a Romeo's hot dog!!! My husband is a UPS driver so he would stop at Romeo's in S. Chas and bring me home a supply of them.

The most common email phrase is "The BEST hot dogs in West Virginia can be found at...". I have received emails that claim at least eleven different places have the state's best hot dogs, and dozens that claim a place has the best hot dogs in a certain locality. I have even gotten two emails that claim the best hot dogs in West Virginia are at a hot dog joint in Ohio!

But my favorite email has got to be this one I received last week:

This is a picture of [name deleted], biology

professor at Texas State University --South
Charleston High School, class of '59. [name deleted]
and my
family had a group of friends from our church
over for a New Years Eve
West Virginia Hot Dog party.

We opened some folks' eyes!

This is [name deleted], who
set the evening record by downing 6 WV hot dogs.

[name deleted]
Professor of Music
Texas State University
South Charleston High School, class of '68

Preach it, brother! And the rest of you, keep those cards and letters coming. They make it all worthwhile!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Top Ten Lessons Learned From One Year of Hot Dog Blogging

10. People look at you strangely when you take pictures of your food. I'd like to tell you that I got over being stared at, but frankly I think I am more sensitive about it now then I was at first. Most of the hot dog photos, you will notice, are outside. I most often get my order to go and wait until I'm out of sight before taking the picture.

9. Half of the population want to know where the best hot dogs are found. I don't go around telling people that I blog about hot dogs, but if I am at a gathering and it comes out, the first thing people ask is, "So who has the best hot dogs?"

8. Half of the population are sure that they know where the best hot dogs are sold. The most common opening line of the emails I get is "The best hot dogs in West Virginia can be found at..." Most of the time these folks also poo poo another well thought of hot dog joint as being an inferior place that no one in their right mind would eat in. Often times HDJs are accused of being unsanitary by their detractors.

7. Yann's Hot Dogs in Fairmont has, by far, the most loyal fans. Based on the emails I have received I would estimate that 70% think Yann's has the best hot dogs in the entire universe and there is not another hot dog that should be injested by humans. 20% will eat other hot dogs as long as they are made in Fairmont. 5% think that Russell Yann is God.

6. Marion County hot dog fans think that the hot dogs they have in Fairmont are found all over the state. Even those expatriates writing from their adopted lands refuse to believe that the hot dog culture of their youth is the norm. They consistently argue that slaw is not an ingredient that can be put on a "real" WVHD in spite of all the evidence gathered on this blog and website.

5. There are multiple gradients from north to south and east to west when it comes to the dominant flavors of chili and slaw. For example, chili is a little spicy in the southern coal fields, virtually without spice in central W. Va. and spicy as the dickens in north central WV. Slaw gets sweeter the further south you go. I have tried to figure out a way to chart these gradients but it would take a lot of maps, lots of driving and lots of money.

4. Hot dog joints that really care about having good hot dogs don't include ketchup on their "everything" hot dogs. In fact, one of the key indicators of a good hot dog joint is that when you ask "What is everything?" they immediately and confidently tell you. When the answer is wishy-washy you can usually be sure that the hot dogs are mediocre.

3. Expatriate West Virginians often Google "West Virginia style hot dogs", "slaw on hot dogs," and many other combinations that lead them to this blog or the website. When I first started this blog I wrote tongue-in-cheek in the blog description that WV hot dogs were "quite possibly is the reason that many transplanted West Virginians can never really be happy living anywhere else." I had no idea how true that was.

2. There are far more places that sell hot dogs than I ever dreamed. This year we have visited one hundred HDJs. While I've hit the most obvious places in my town, we've not scratched the surface statewide. Call it job security.

And what is the number one lesson that I have learned from one year of hot dog blogging?

1. My God, I love a good hot dog!

We Did It! 100 Reviews in One Year!

Thanks to Chris working overtime and Kevin coming on board at the right time, we were able to successfully meet our goal to have 100 HDJ reviews in celebration of today's blogiversary.

Here's the list of this year's reviews. Most of these are also archived on WVHotDogs.com:

Appalachian Power Park
Bigley Avenue Foodland
Blues BBQ
Burger Carte
Chaser's Boulevard Café
Chris' Hot Dogs
D.J.'s 50's & 60's Diner
Dairy Delight - Chapmanville
Dairy Freeze
Dairy Queen - Parkersburg 7th Street
Dairy Queen - Charleston Town Center
Dairy Queen - Clendenin
Dairy Queen - Eleanor
Dairy Queen - Flatwoods
Dairy Queen - Nitro
Dairy Queen - Ripley
Dairy Queen - Sissonville Drive
Dairy Queen - St. Albans
Dairy Queen - Teays Valley
Dee's Delights
Deli Fresh
Diana's Snack Bar
Dunbar Bowling Center
Farley's Barboursville
Farley's Famous Hot Dogs Hurricane
Fas Chek Washington Street
Fat Bob's Roadhouse Café
Freeman's Family Restaurant
Fresh Seafood Company at Capitol Market
Frostop review #2 by Chris James
Galaxy Lanes
Gold Dome Bar & Grill
Good Stuff Pantry
Hillbilly Hot Dogs Culloden
Hillbilly Hot Dogs- Huntington
Hilltop Market
Hometown Hotdogs
Hot Dog Barn in Morgantown
Huskey's Dairy Bar
Jane Lew Restaurant
Johnny Dogs at Southside Chevron
Kanawha County Courthouse Snack Bar
M&M Dairy Bell
Mallory's Grocery
Market Drive Bar and Grill
Maynors 7-11 Café
Meadowbrook Diner
Mollohan's Family Restaurant
Morrison's Drive In
Movie House Cafe
Mr. C's Hot Dogs - Kanawha City
Nathans Famous
Parkway Drive In
Peggy's Dairy Treat
Pete's Hot Dogs
Porkers BBQ
Power Alley Grill
Red Line Diner
Ritzy Lunch in Clarksburg.
Romeo's Grill
Sam's Hot Dog Stand - Huntington
Sam's Hot Dog Stand - South Charleston
Sam's Malden
Shaar's Bar & Grill
Shafer's Super Stop
Skeenies Hot Dogs
South Charleston Dairy Bar
Spring Hill Deli
Stewarts Huntington Mall
Stewart's Original Hot Dogs
Swiftwater Cafe
T&L Hot Dogs in Bridgeport
Teays Valley Foodland
The Dog House
The Farm Table
The Grill
The Hottest Dog
The Smokehouse
The Southern Kitchen
The Valley Bell
The Wagon Wheel
The Wheelhouse
Timmy's Snack Shack
Towne & Country Lanes
Trivillian's Pharmacy
Tudor's Biscuit World - South Charleston
Tudor's Biscuit World - Teays Valley
Venture Family Fun Center
Wayne Family Restaurant
Whitey's Sandwich Shop
WV State Capitol - West Wing Snack Bar
WV State Capitol Complex - The Vendateria
Yummee Freeze

Boy, do I feel full.

Charleston Area HDJ Review - Good Stuff Pantry

You just never know. Good WVHDs sometimes live in the most unlikely places. That's why I wasn't too skeptical when someone wrote and suggested I visit Good Stuff Pantry in Cross Lanes to try their hot dog offerings. I've stopped by Good Stuff Pantry a few times over the years to grab a cold drink or maybe some gum, but I never realized they had hot dogs or any other fast food. It's a typical W. Va. roadside convenience store, through and through, not a place you would think of for hot dogs. But I have found my readers, for the most part, to be astute judges of hot dog quality so I didn't think twice about making a special trip to check it out.

The place is easy to find; just go to Cross Lanes, go straight through the stoplight and keep going until you think you surely must have missed it and it will be there on the right. It looks like it might be closed; it's looked that way for 15 years. Inside, it's one of those utilitarian places with concrete floors, just enough shelving for the basics and large beer and pop cooler along one entire wall. An old meat display case stands empty beside the cash register. It is behind this case from where the hot dogs eminate.

"Everything" includes chili, slaw, mustard and onions. Yay. With no inside seating all dogs are wrapped to go in aluminum foil, a good choice that makes for a nice, gooey hot dog in no time at all. The weight of the dog is nice and it is highly piled with rich, meaty chili and sweet, finely chopped, creamy slaw. Nothing overly special about either but they work well together. The weenie is good and the bun is excellent. Put it all together and it adds up to a solid four-and-a-half weenie ranking.

This is well-planned and executed WVHD, the kind you'd like to introduce to your friends from Pennsylvania or Ohio to show them what West Virginia is all about.

A fitting hot dog to be honored as this blog's one-hundredth review!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Charleston Area HDJ Review - Red Line Diner

Located at the mouth of Scary Creek just of the St. Albans exit of I64, this little 50's style diner serves up a good food, friendly service and a heapin' helpin' of nostalgia.

The building is one of those pre-made stainless steel and plastice diner in a boxes. Everything inside is either red naugahyde, chrome, or black and white checkers (did diners in the 1950's really look like this?) A knock-off Rockola juke box dominates the interior, but newfangled flat panel TVs hang at each end of the dining area so you can keep an eye on CNN on your lunch hour. It's a nice little place with friendly service. I think I heard that it changed owners not too long ago.

Funny thing about hot dogs at a diner: The chili is always really meaty and the slaw is always piled high. No exception here. One hot dog was a meal in itself, but the really good onion rings were hard not to finish (I failed).

The chili wasn't just plentiful, it was also pretty tasty. Most of the taste was provided by the beef itself, but a little chili powder snuck through too. It was thick and meaty. The slaw was a little bland and coarse; also a common diner trait. It was OK, but nothing to write home about. Take off points for ketchup as a standard topping, too.

Red Line Diner is a nice little place to eat and enjoy the friendly nostalgia of your surroundings. They have great hamburgers and other diner-type offerings. But as a hot dog joint, I'm afraid it only scores 3 weenies.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Putnam County Hot Dog Joint: Worst. Dogs. Ever. at Teays Valley Foodland

As you might expect, the gang at WVhotdogs.com gets bombarded with friendly recommendations regarding the quality of hot dogs at all sorts of locations across the state. Sometimes those suggestions pan out, but other times we are left scratching our heads.

Some of my friends in the Teays Valley had told me that the Foodland on Teays Valley Road makes decent hot dogs, so I figured that I'd at least give it a shot. These are friends that I have always trusted.

No more.

The Foodland is, of course, a supermarket and not really a hot dog joint, per se. The dogs come from their deli area located in the back of the store. When I pulled up to the deli counter, I first noticed that the weenies were floating in a greasy bath. While I like my dogs boiled and am not totally adverse to them hanging out in hot water for a bit before being served, I was reminded of why I would rather not actually see them doing so before hand.

The dog was prepared quickly and with a smile, which is always nice, and the price was right ($.79, by far the least expensive dog that I have reviewed thus far). but it goes downhill from there.

The bun was a straight-outta-baggie special and, as you can imagine from my earlier description, the weenie was less than stellar (this might have been a psychosomatic taste reaction as much as anything, however).

The sauce was thick-but-fluid and consisted of finely ground beef in a tomatoey base. Its flavor was very very sweet (too sweet, in fact) and a strong undertone of green pepper (imagine a crappy Manwich). 2 weenies.

The slaw was essentially sugared cabbage chunks with little mayonnaise. Sweet cabbage + sweet sauce = bad idea. One or the other, please. 1 weenie.

The best part of the dog was the mild onions and the mustard (which cut the saccharinesque taste of the dog thankfully and dramatically). It's never a good thing when the best part of a WV hot dog is the yellow mustard.

Overall, this is one hot dog to avoid and I only give it 1 weenie. Even at $.79, I still felt ripped off. Go to the nearby DQ or, better yet, hit up the Tudor's Biscuit World just down the road if you are in TV and want a dog. If you only have a buck and can't afford a dog at either of those places and are tempted by the the price, I would still recommend rummaging around in the gutters for dimes or just going hungry. Whatever you do, don't get their dogs.

Marion County Hot Dog Review - Hank's Deli

Hanks Deli occupies an inside corner location in the, now largely defunct, Middletown Mall. It has a rather unassuming styling and decor, with a fair amount of seating available for eating in. Today's time sensitive visit, however, required a to-go order. Hank's Deli, as the name would suggest, is a deli style restaurant/menu. As one would expect from a deli, there are a number of assorted sandwiches, about ten in total; most with names like "The Blue Ridge" and "Gone Turkey" all of which are served with Pickle and Chips as standard. However, deli sandwiches are not the task at hand. We're here to find out how the deli can compete with the more traditional HDJs in the world of West Virginia Hot Dogs.

As the friendly city resident reviewer, I've never really considered slaw to be essential to the Hot Dog experience. Undoubtedly, this is much the same for other Fairmont residents, as the appearance on slaw as a hot dog topping option on the menu is as rare as finding hen's teeth. Predominantly, the HDJ's in Fairmont serve up cheap dogs with mustard onion and the HDJ proprietor's rendition of what chili/sauce should be. Most locales employ a similar formula to ensure a relatively low cost: a basic packaged bun, cheap wiener simple menu and speedy service all serve to work towards the ability to turn over untold numbers of dogs in short order.
A quick read over the menu at Hank's Deli quickly portrays the differences between Hank's and the other local HDJ's:
First up comes the sticker shock. With little fear of being corrected. I dare say, on the surface, these are the most expensive in north central WV (coming in at about $5 for my pair of hotdogs). Not to be unfair, they are apparently only available served with the standard pickle slices and chips that come with the other deli sandwich offerings. Next up comes the real shocker. Reading down the different dog options (of which there are six, if you count the "tally dog", a pepperoni roll available with chili) with their "deli names" I spot "Messy Dog". Reading across we learn a "Messy Dog" is one served with "Ann's Chili" AND "Hank's Slaw"(I half expected this to be served on the side, ala DJ's Diner, however, this slaw is actually ON the dog!). This certainly marks the first occasion I can recall seeing WVHD's in Fairmont. I proceeded carefully, as I thought surely there would be booby traps waiting to ensnare me on my (Holy Grail) quest for the first 'true' WVHD on record in Marion County. Alas, no traps and no ticker tape parades ensued, just fast, friendly counter service.

As mentioned previously, this trip was for a to-go order. At first, I didn't think anything out of the ordinary about the large Styrofoam container (like what you would get to take home leftovers in from a restaurant) the dogs were handed to me in. Upon opening it, however, it becomes obvious that deli presentation is an important consideration here. A few pickle slices serve to add colorful garnish. Also present alongside the dogs is an ample portion of the aforementioned 'chips' (which I had expected to simply be "out of the bag chips", in fact turned out to be of the fresh, 'deli made' variety, a welcome surprise.) The dogs were placed on individual paper trays and they were indeed messy. Ample portions of both chili and slaw were piled high and virtually flowing out of the ends on the slightly grilled/browned wiener nestled in a faintly toasted bun (just enough to warm it and very lightly brown a few spots). Carefully picking up the "messy dog," I was somewhat unprepared for the heft present of a WVHD. It seemed even heavier than I remember at Romeo's in South Charleston (which I had opportunity to visit recently). The first bite certainly took me back to Romeo's as well. The slaw is carefully and finely cut to ensure a tender consistency and comes in as being quite sweet and creamy. Decidedly unlike the slaw I often find served on the side at most restaurants in town. At first, the chili, while served in ample quantity, seems almost lost under the mountain of slaw. Carefully tasting it, it seems at first to just be a simple, sweet tasting chili. Another tasting elicits some underlying complexities and a faint tingle. Though, the taste is far more subtle than you'll find in most other Fairmont HDJ's (No Yann's for you!). The chili's sweetness and slight spiciness complements and blends very well with the sweet and creamy slaw, it is clear that these two components were well planned to work together.

So how does the first WVHD located in Marion County rate? With a slightly toasted bun, a lightly grilled wiener, sweet and spicy chili all smothered under a tastefully tender, sweet and creamy rendition of WVHD slaw; all served with a side of fresh made chips. I can't help but give it a full 5 weenie rating. Hank's Deli is definitely a hidden gem and a welcome addition to the Fairmont HDJ family.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Charleston Area Hot Dog Joint - Sam's Hot Dog Stand - Malden

In Chris James' latest review of Sam's Hot Dogs in Huntingon, he puts forth the theory that the quality of Sam's products varies by location. In my past encounters with Charleston area Sam's locations I have been uniformly disappointed, but I thought I'd try one more just to give Chris the benefit of the doubt.

Just a stone's throw from the boyhood home of Booker T. Washington, and just a mile or so from the boyhood hood of Randy Moss, sits the eastern-most Sam's location that I am aware of. Malden is a small community that has two grocery stores, one quilt shop, one lawyer and one hot dog joint.

This little HDJ is more diversified than most, having a gambling room in the back. The cigarette smoke that seeps out of the video lottery room gives the place a "den of iniquity" kind of atmosphere, and the presence of Budweiser on the menu only further separates this Sam's from the others I have visited. But would the hot dogs be different too? Let's find out, shall we?

Well, right from the start it seemed different. When I asked the person behind the counter what everything is and she says, pay attention Chris, "CHILI, slaw, mustard and onions." Chili, not sauce. And this from a Huntington based chain! Since they have mild and spicy CHILI, I ordered the spicy variety. And you know what? It was really, really good. Not nearly as spicy as Yann's or other Northern WVHDs, but spicier than 98% of hot dog chili in these parts. And the slaw was really, really good too. It was finely chopped, sweet and flavorful. Color me surprised, and color Chris correct; Sam's locations really are different. Now we're gonna have to go review all of them.

There was one part of the hot dog that was not good, though, and that was the weenie. It tasted like it had been sitting in a pan of hot water for a week or two. I saw a Cavalier Meats box in the refrigerator, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't an inferior weenie, just old. Overall it was pretty good hot dog, though. Even with the bad weiner it earns a four weenie rank. Better than any other Sam's location I've tried.

I think the reason it's better is because they call it CHILI instead of sauce.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

W. Va. Charleston HDJ Review - State Capitol Complex "Vendateria"

With a name straight out of a "Dilbert" strip, the Vendateria is located inside Building 7 of the State Capitol Complex. If you are not a state employee then you will have to go through security in order to eat there (this was the first time I've been forced to empty my pockets of all metal and electronic objects before I could eat a hot dog) and the security guards will also point you in the proper direction to find the Vendateria.

Once you'd found it, you will immediately understand the name: It has vending machines, table and chairs and a full service food window where you can order prepared food like, oh I don't know, maybe hot dogs. The sign over the window says "Virgie's Tasty Treats." I assume Virgie is the name of the vendor who operates the place, unless it's some kind of play on "West Virginia." I really hope not.

I ordered up and found that "everything" includes chili, slaw, mustard, onions and (sigh) ketchup. I had one without ketchup.

Now the person who wrote to tell me about the Vendateria had indicated that he didn't that the hot dogs were very good, so I approached the first bite with some trepidation. My initial thought after the first bite was that someone had slipped up and put potato salad on top instead of slaw. Then I realized that it was indeed slaw alright, but slaw made with more mayonnaise than any thing else. If you like creamy slaw, this is it. Almost to the point of slimy.

The chili was pretty much standard chili for the Kanawha Valley. The only taste that was discernable over any other was chili powder. The chili was very thin and made a wonderful gooey mess of the bun in short order. And speaking of the bun, it was straight out of the bag and cold to the touch. The onions were chopped in large pieces and pretty potent like they had been sitting around for a long while.

Pehaps it is that I had low expectations going in, but I found the hot dog to be reasonably good. I can't help but think that the too-much-mayo-slaw might have been a one-batch mistake, and if not for that and the cold bun then this hot dog would have scored higher. I'm going to give it a charitable 3 weenies. Not great, but close enough for government work.

Chapmanville Hot Dog Joint Review - Dairy Delight

While I was in Logan last week checking out the extraordinary one-two punch of Parkway and Morrison's, I thought I should check to see what kind of hot dogs they have in Logan's neighbor to the north, Chapmanville. I went in blind, not having any idea which way to turn off the exit to find a hot dog joint, or whether there was one in town at all. I didn't wonder long as I saw the familiar red and white mansard roof that says "Dairy Queen" without words. Actually this facade belongs to one of the many former Dairy Queens that continues on in life as a DQ impersonator. Luckily most of these places change their hot dogs once they make the name change. The Dairy Delight, as it is now called, seems to be a small regional chain; I saw one in Logan while I was searching for Morrison's. They have standard offerings of fast food and ice cream treats and the menu board looks just like a DQ board. I was fearful that the hot dogs would be just like DQ too. The Dairy Delight offers regular buns and a grilled New England Style bun as an upgrade. I splurged. Standard equipment is, of course, chili, slaw, mustard and onions. I sampled the chili first and found it to be nearly identical in texture and taste to that of Parkway. Flavorful but lacking pizzaz. The slaw was unremarkable but the bun and weenie were very good. This would be a good place to go if you are a weenie and bread kinda hot dog fan, but since there are two really good hot dogs just down Corridor G a few miles, a real hot dog lover would not mind making the trip. I'm going to give Dairy Delight a 3, primarily on the strength of the bun.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Logan Area Hot Dog Joint Review - Parkway Drive In

It's interesting when a small town has two of something. People take sides. In many towns it is rival high schools that cause people to line up behind the object of their loyalty. Logan only has one high school, so apparently people there have decided to divide themselves along hot dog lines. The emails I have received from current and former Loganites seem split 50/50 on who has the best hot dogs, Morrison's Drive Inn or Parkway Drive In. Regardless of which they prefer, there is a definite opinion among both camps that Logan hot dogs are the best that West Virginia has to offer. The neat thing about these two hot dog joints is that they serve great hot dogs that taste pretty different from each other, so it's easy to see why each would have its fans.

Parkway is located not in Logan, but in Justice, which is north of Logan on Route 10. It's just south of the entrance to Chief Logan State Park. The big colorful sign is difficult to miss. It looks like it's older than the building, and if you look closely you can see that it's covered with old corroded sockets where neon tubes would have connected when it was newer. While it is a drive-in, the building has inside seating (smoke free) but it seemed that most people opt for curb service.

When the carhop took my order for one hot dog with everything (chili, slaw, mustard & onions) she did so with a smile. I had my dog, wrapped in wax paper, in short order. Once I unwrapped it I realized the hot dog looked exactly like the one I got at Morrison's, but I immediately recognized that it smelled different. Once I bit into it, I realized that it tasted different too.

Difference #1: Slaw - I'm sure that regular readers know that I like my slaw sweet. Well, this slaw is sweet. Too sweet. I'm sure that might come as a shock to Chris, who thinks I'm off-the-scale-silly about wanting sweeter slaw than you can get in Huntington, but it's true. This slaw is sugary, candy-like sweet. The sweetest slaw I have ever tasted except for some failed home-recipe attempt in my past. It was nicely chopped and nicely creamy, though.

Difference #2: Chili - This chili is not as complex as Morrison's. It seems to be lacking all of the herbs and spices, and certainly hasn't been cooked as long. It's good, but not great. More than that, it's really good, but not great.

Difference #3: Weenie - Parkway either uses better weenies or prepares them more lovingly, because the difference in flavor is noticeable. It could be the tamer chili that allows the weenie's flavor to come through, but I definitely tasted more nice flavor than at Morrison's.

Don't get me wrong, this is a really good hot dog. To my taste buds, however, it suffered by comparison to Morrison's, so I'm going to rate it a 4.5 out of 5 weenies.

Loganites should be proud to have two such top-notch HDJs. It puts them on par with Clendenin as the place we have discovered with the most quality HDJs per square mile.


To celebrate our one year blogiversary this coming Sunday, we will be posting lots of reviews this week. It will probably average two reviews per day for the remainder of the week, plus there are some other interesting things that readers have sent that we'll put up too.

So check back often!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Huntington Hot Dog Joint: My Default Hot Dog from the 8th St. Sam's Hot Dog Stand

In order to maximize its consumer base, Sam's offers customers the choice of two sauces, aptly called "mild" and "spicy." They are essentially the same style of sauce: a nicely seasoned pile of finely-textured ground beef. Both sauces are cooked for quite some time to remove most of the liquid and have a somewhat sweet taste. The difference is the spicy contains what (if the bottles in the prep area are any indication) appear to be Tabasco sauce and red pepper flakes. The mild sauce is pretty good, but the spicy sauce is the star of Sam's menu.

Let me be upfront with everyone here: I love Sam's Hot Dog Stand's spicy hot dog sauce. It is, by default, my gold standard in hot dog sauces in the Tri-State region. I will generally consider properly-prepared Sam's spicy sauce as 5 weenie unless otherwise noted...and if a place screws it up, IT WILL NOTED!

However, as it is a franchise/franchisee based chain, there is no area hot dog joint that illustrates greater dog variation from location to location, depending on the quality and commitment of ownership (much like Tudor's Biscuit Worlds in the state). Some Sam's locations in West Virginia consistently turn out some of the highest quality product in the area. Other Sam's, on the other hand, suffer from a myriad of troubles and technical inconsistencies. For example, whichever franchisee that represented Sam's at the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival made the rather odd decision to not bring any cole slaw for their dogs.

For this reason, I will treat different locations of Sam's a separate entities that share a common sauce and not much else. Also, whenever I refer to their "sauce," unless I say otherwise, I am referring to their spicy sauce (when isn't really that spicy compared to, say, Yann's).

Fortunately, the Sam's on 8th Street in Huntington is one of the good ones. Scratch that, one of the great ones.

It appears to be operated by one guy who has been there almost every time that I purchased a dog. After making thousands of hot dogs, the guy has apparently developed a consistent technique that balances the complex tastes of the sauce and its interaction with the other fixin's. I would argue with anyone drunk or OCD enough to care that he is the best hot dog maker/artist in the Huntington area. Service: 5 weenies

At this location, the spicy sauce and the slaw (slightly sweet with tang, 3 weenies) are usually balanced in a manner where the only so-so slaw acts as a dressing. The sauce is then tempered just enough to bring out the taste that makes for a great WV dog.

The location itself is not that great (3 weenies), as the location was meant for more of a drive-thru clientele than for a sit-down experience. The dining area is a rare blend of tiny and sparse and looks as if no one has eaten in the joint in quite some time.

I give 8th St. Sam's a 4.5 weenie score. Although there are other dogs that I may prefer over Sam's, I usually end up going back to them time after time. And as far as Sam's goes, 8th St. is among the best.