Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hinton Hot Dog Joint Review - Dairy Queen

We've been getting email from people who love the hot dogs at the Hinton Dairy Queen practically since has been in existence. I've heard about the grilled New England Style buns and the crazy way they put the chili on top of the slaw. I've heard about the dining room with the great view of the New River and I've heard about the hordes of people who show up there for hot dogs. And after hearing this for so long, I finally got a chance to see for myself.

Now, it's not that I haven't eaten at this Dairy Queen before; I have. I have spent quite a bit of time in Hinton over the years beginning in about 1970 when Pipestem State Park was under construction and my dad's company was a sub-contractor on the project. I actually stayed for weeks on end at the Sandman Motel which sits right next door to the DQ. So I have eaten there many times, but not in the past few years and certainly not since I've been doing hot dog reviews.

But for those who haven't been there, let me tell you a little about it: The major feature of this DQ is the really nice two-tier dining room that looks out over the New River. The lower level is not more that ten feet above the water's surface and faces what could either be called a small rapid or a large riffle. Whatever it is, it gives diners a little bit of white water to look at while they eat (incidentally, just a few yards down the river is raft company outpost where you can embark on a pretty tame whitewater adventure on a stretch of river suitable for smaller kids). Upstream you can see the confluence of the New and the Greenbrier River, and just up the stream from there is the massive Bluestone Dam which holds back the waters of Bluestone Lake.

The New, in Hinton, is wide and shallow. It is not unusual to see hip-wader clad anglers in the middle of the river hunting smallmouth bass. The view across the river from the DQ is one of complete natural Wild Wonderful West Virginia, except for the McDonald's golden arches sign protruding up obscenely from behind the tree line and a lone cell phone tower on top of the high ridge beyond the riverbank.

With its view of the river, trees and mountains this little dining room rivals any I have seen for sheer atmosphere. A full size fireplace at one end of the room belies the fact that this is a fast-food joint. You might expect to be served by a tuxedo-clad waiter in such a aesthetically pleasing place as this.

Ordering your food, though, will quickly bring you back to reality. One must speak one's order through a window to one of about five or six cute teenage girls who busily scurry about the back and call the order numbers out to the waiting patrons. Mine was number 171.

The first thing I noticed as soon as I pulled the dog out of it's wrapping was the aforementioned upside-down chili presentation. I had been warned, but seeing it in real life was a bit disturbing. I quote from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council's Hot Dog Ettiquette web page:

Condiments should be applied in the following order: wet condiments like mustard and chili are applied first, followed by chunky condiments like relish, onions and sauerkraut...
...and I will add, coleslaw.

Putting hot chili on top of cool slaw means you have cool chili and hot coleslaw. This is an abomination.

But I got over it.

One good thing that comes of the upside down presentation is it gave me a chance to really taste the chili with no interference from mustard or slaw. So I can tell you exactly what it tastes like. It tastes exactly like ground beef. Exactly. Nothing else, just ground beef. My wife said she tasted a hint of chili powder, but I'm not so sure that wasn't just the power of suggestion: It is called "chili" after all. The texture of the chili was nearly perfect, but the taste was simply beefy. Not that it wasn't good, mind you, but it lacked flavors you'd expect to find in hot dog chili.

But as accessible as was the chili, the hidden slaw was as difficult to isolate for a proper taste sampling. What I could taste seemed very good, but a little chunky maybe.

The grilled New England Style bun was tasty and satisfying, but we know the place of New England Style buns in the West Virginia hot dog world, don't we? They're kind of like Grandma's good china: a good change of pace, but not for everyday use.

Coming up with a Weenie Rating for this HDJ was not easy. I had the whole drive back to Charleston to mull it over and still am not completely satisfied, but here it is: Starting with 3 Weenies, just on the merits of the dog, and adding a half point for atmosphere isn't quite enough. At least a quarter point is demanded by the overwhelming support of its fans. We'll round it up to 4 Weenies.

I know this is going to disappoint a bunch of loyal supporters who have repeatedly emailed trying to get us to Hinton. But this hot dog lacks anything really special like over the top great chili or amazing slaw that would put it into the upper echelon of WVHDs. Except for the upside down presentation there is nothing extraordinary about this hot dog.


Christopher Scott Jones said...

I've been to too many church picnics gone wrong to ever put anything hot on cole slaw.

wvapoker said...

I speak with a little experience in this area that any kind of food poisoning would more likely come from bad chili than bad slaw. There is not much in slaw to make it go bad plus if you add a little bread and butter pickle juice to it the acidity will prevent any bugs from growing. Fear not the slaw, but the bucket of chili than has be out of temperature for 4 hours or more.

With all that said hot slaw is sauerkraut, which as we all know is not part of a WVHD!

Good Review.

Christopher Scott Jones said...

Never underestimate the ability of a well-meaning but forgetful 80 year-old to leave a heavily-mayoed slaw on the counter for a few hours before a church outing.

This alone is why the City of Richwood no longer has a Disciples of Christ congregation. :)

Bill said...

Hinton, WV being my hometown not withstanding, I have to chime in on the review. Most of my life has been spent away from hometown Hinton, but on of the true pleasures on visits back home was going to the DQ for one of THOSE hot dogs. Now, having moved back here to live and going to the DQ I have to say that either my taste buds have matured over the years OR the DQ does not make them the way they used to (maybe both??). While still good they are not GREAT anymore. I also think that the chili over the slaw leaves a lot to be desired in culinary circles. Why can't things stay as good as you remember?????
Thanks for the opportunity to sound off.

DBA Rat said...

I happen to know that it was sold a while ago and is under new management - well, new for the last couple of years. The famous hot dogs are not there as they once were. It is now an urban legend

kilroy said...

I was there this weekend, 3/19 and 20, 2011. Leonard Anderson apparently no longer owns the DQ. Those hot dogs in the 50's, 60's and 70's were absolutely great, with the coleslaw where it belongs. I don't know what kind of outsider bought the DQ but they certainly ruined it. The hot dogs are now just a sandwich, the hamburgers are undercooked mystery meat and apparently boiled instead of fried. The ONLY thing going for the sandwiches there is the top-sliced hot dog buns and even that isn't as good as it could be since they seem to have forgotten how to make things that have some flavor.
Sad to say that an era has passed. Those once famous DQ hot dogs are gone. The Hinton Hot Dog Stand, at one time on 3rd Ave is gone, and The Diner is operated by an out-of-stater yuppie complete with no-fat, no-calorie, no-flavor raw french-"fries", boiled sandwich mysterymeat, and canned everything else.

kilroy said...

I grew up in Hinton and going to Leonard's Dairy Queen for the legendary hot dogs.
THEN, the hot dogs were absolutely like the legend, PLUS they were were built with the coleslaw on top, where it belongs.
I was over there last summer (2013)and found that the hot dogs were highly overpriced ($3.00 each!) and nasty.
The chili or whatever it was laid on top of some limp coleslaw that tasted like "bag-o-slaw" from the local supermart, the New England style buns no longer fried, just run through a toaster. Now for the so-called chili.
It was nothing but the blendered remains of their boiled hamburgers.
Evidently, Leonard has sold his business to someone who is absolutely greedy and living on the good reputation that was built up over the years.
No longer.
Stay away from Hinton DQ unless you like overpriced, sub-standard food served with a scowl by teenagers who do not want to be there.

Mattsgrl81 said...

These reviews make me sad. I myself used to work there in the early 2000's when Leonard and Wilma Anderson owned it. They were very precise as to how there store was run and how the food was prepared. I absolutely loved the food there. My family and I moved to NC almost 9 years ago and have not been back in a few years. I am truly sad to see the Legacy that the Andersons built get into hands that aparently haven't got a clue!!

Unknown said...

Wish all dqs made them same eay as ones in hiton best chilie dog i have ever had. Someone needs to teach ones in martinsburg how to make good buns and chilie dog's

Gotty said...

So, are we going to Kirk's?