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 WVHotDogs.com 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 bland...so-so 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 WVHotDogs.com 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.