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.

1 comment:

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