Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hillbilly Hot Dogs Gets Immortalized in Print

Diners Drive-Ins, and Dives...The Book! Photo Credit: foodnetworkstore.comI recently received a copy of Guy Fieri's new book "Diners Drive-Ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip...with Recipes!" Hillbilly Hot Dogs is now a part of literary history as they are included in the book among some of the best of the best featured on the show.

As you all probably remember, the Food Network show of the same name paid a visit to Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage in late 2007, with the episode airing in the spring of 2008. Included along with the recount of his visit, Guy also includes and adapted version of the "Rahall Red Hot Weenie" and the accompanying habanero sauce.

Throughout the book are whimsical reviews of his visits and great recipes from some of the more memorable episodes. This book is a great read for any fan of the show.

Happy New Year to all!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Open Thread: At home favorites

When I make a WVHD at home, I usually use Cavalier franks, Heiner's Sunny Buns, Gunnoe's slaw, and homemade chili sauce.

How'd you do it en su casa?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Charleston HDJ Review - Sub Shop

I like to think I make a difference in the world. Call it vanity, but sometimes I think I do.

The Sub Shop on Quarrier Street didn't used to sell hot dogs; now they do. I think that after they were reviewed by another local food blog, they wanted to be reviewed by this blog. That is why I believe they started putting up a sandwich sign on the sidewalk advertising hot dogs. It was like they were saying, "Please Stanton, don't pass us by!". Again, call it vanity but I think that's exactly what happened.

And so I heeded their call and tried their new hot dogs.

This little place looks has always looked like it ought to sell hot dogs; cozy and bright with a few inside seats and a bustling carry out business. I'll leave it the other blog to fill you in on the menu, and I'll just tell you that an "everything" dog has mustard, KETCHUP, onions, chili and slaw. Obviously a bad start, but I figured they are new to the hot dog biz; they'll learn. I ordered two without red stuff and waited. And waited. And waited. I was one of two customers and it was after the lunch rush. I waited some more.

While I waited I got to see how they go about preparing hot dogs. They nuke the buns; this is a huge no-no; sure it makes them soft and hot, but when they start cooling off they get tough and chewy. I also noticed that the slaw was being dished out of a regular bowl, not some food service package; that was a good sign.
When I got my hot dogs I noticed immediately the small caliber weenies. I had seen a "Boar's Head" sign in the window and I figured they might have used the premium weenies that "Boar's Head" offers, but these were not those. This weenie was small and tough. Actually, there is a possibility that it was a premium weenie before the life had been cooked out of it and it shrank to the diameter of a large pencil. When I bit it it was nearly as hard to chew as said pencil.

I must say, though, that in spite of the bun and weenie, the toppings were pretty good. The slaw, although served sparingly, was tasty and the chili was dark, meaty and had a nice little spiciness to it. The onions were sweet and mild. If these toppings had been placed on a better weenie and in a bun that hadn't been blasted into submission by microwaves, it would have been pretty good. As it is, though, it only ranks 2.5 Weenies.

My advice, if you are listening Sub Shop owners, is to get a bun steamer and some better weenies; do that and you will be able to compete with the big dogs downtown.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Charleston HDJ Review - Sabatino Brothers

Sabatino Brothers is a nice little storefront operation in one of the accessory strip malls at the Southridge shopping center. They have offered Philly-style cheese steak sandwiches since they opened, but except for a kiddie menu concession there have never been hot dogs on the menu. I always thought they were missing an opportunity because there is no other HDJ in the vicinity of Southridge, which on any given day has sufficient population to qualify it as one of the larger cities in West Virginia. So I was not at all surprised when I drove by recently and saw a sign advertising a hot dog special - 2 hot dogs, drink and chips for $4.99 - except for being surprised that it took so long. Restaurant owner John Smallridge is a saavy businessman and he should have seen the same opportunity long before I did.

So anyway, I braved the crush of the lunchtime Christmas shopping crazies and made my way to Southridge one recent afternoon so I could sample the new dogs. When I first got inside the door I saw that the special advertised outside could have french fries added for a buck. I went all out and got the special even though I wasn't planning on eating many of the fries. I was told that "everything" included mustard, onions, chili and slaw; a good start.

The first thing I noticed was the GINORMOUS hunks of onions sitting on top of the otherwise normal looking dog. Seriously, "coarsely chopped" would be a huge undertatement. These things were onionbergs; they could have sunk a small ship. They looked as if the prep chef had torn apart the onion with his bare hands. And if the size wasn't enough, the taste of the onions was almost chemical! They were the hottest and most bitter tasting things I have ever, ever had on a hot dog. Luckily they were easy to remove so after the first bite I didn't have to suffer their wrath.

Once I got past the unfortunate onionbergs, I found some pretty good tasting slaw (a little heavy on mayo) and decent chili that was far meatier than most. The bun was soft, but the weenie was even softer! The consistency of this thing was similar to a Vienna Sausage. It had apparently been sititng in a pot of water for a very long time. Some people claim a weenie should "snap" when you bite it; this one squishes.

The whole hot dog experience at Sabatino's was less than expected from a place that has such a nice and diverse menu. They could keep the chili, dry up the slaw and then put that grill to use and grill the weenies to order and they would have a nice hot dog. But the onions have to go.

I like the atmosphere and friendliness of Sabatino Brothers. They have an interesting menu and a nice comfortable place to sit and eat. It's hard to give this place a poor weenie rank because they have so much potential to provide the dogless masses of Southridge with proper sustenance. But we don't grade on potential. 2 Weenies.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Clarksburg HDJ Review - Dagwood's

After a long, unintended break from doing reviews, I decided it was time to get back to work and see what new offerings I could find in the hot dog realm. I took the opportunity to finally visit Dagwood's in Clarksburg, which I had heard has some of the best sandwiches in town. Dagwood's theme is based on the very same sandwich-loving comic strip character from your Sunday newspaper. Copyright infringement? Who knows. I'm not about to debate the specifics.

For those of you who can remember decades ago when downtown Clarksburg was more of the retail hub of the area, Dagwood's resides in the former Rex Hex News Stand building. Some minor remodeling has been done to the place, most notably a partition erected in the rear quarter of the shop that separates the kitchen area from the rest of the dining area. I say minor remodeling based on the fact that you get the impression that there is still more structural work that needs to be done at some point in time. But apparently the selling point is not the atmosphere, but the food.

Dagwood's menu boasts a menu of no less than 27 different sandwiches, in addition to pizza, pasta, soups, salads, gyros, wings, and more. Of course, hot dogs are also on the menu. You have the choice of the special, which for $3.49 will get you two hot dogs, fries, and a can of soda. If you wish, you can also get a twelve inch "foot long" for $5.50. Or, if that's too much, the menu says you can get an 8 inch "foot long". Yes, you read that right...an "8 inch foot long". Please leave your wisecracks in the blog responses section.

I've had the special once before. The hot dog themselves were rather plain, tasting no different than ones you would make at home. While the wiener was of the all-beef variety and perfectly grilled, that's about where the nicety ends. While the chili is extremely watery and bland in taste, it had remarkably a nice consistency to it. Then again, it's hard to overcome a flavor deficit. The cheap, floury buns didn't help matters. Slaw is available as a side item here, and you have to remember to order by the numbers. If you don't, you're getting ketchup along with the mustard, chili, and onions.
Now as far as these "foot longs" go, they are quite the study in trying too hard to be resourceful. The buns used in this matter are actually hoagie buns. The buns are cut in half and split open, baked in the oven until they're crispy. You receive four (count 'em....four!) wieners spread out so that each half of the sandwich has two wieners. Because there is ridiculously disproportionate amount of bun to weenie ratio, you wind up with the equivalent of four hot dogs. While this may or may not be considered a bargin, depending on how you feel about dishing out $5.50, you still get shorted on the toppings as you can see by the photo.

Dagwood's is a tough one to nail down. Obviously, the bread and butter of the business is the lunchtime sandwich sales. Hot dogs don't get the care and attention they deserve, but Dagwood's still tries to give some sort of value of the money. My theory: if you want any type of sandwich, this is the place to go. If you want a hot dog, you're better served heading to the likes of Ritzy Lunch, Hometown Hot Dogs, T&L, or if you want a true and respectable foot long, Grandma Cookies Hot Dogs. I'll give Dagwood's three weenies.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Welcome State Journal Readers

State Journal reporter Ann Ali has blessed us with a nice article in the most recent edition of West Virginia's business news weekly paper. If you have found your way here because of that article I hope you stick around a while and check out some of our archived posts.

We've been a little slow lately but now that the elections are over maybe we can get back to what makes this country great: hot dogs!

Thanks Ann!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

New Martinsville HDJ Review - Scream n' Dogs

An old colleague in New Martinsville pointed out this little stand near the southwest end of the downtown business district. A pleasant fall day and a scenic overlook of the Ohio River were enough to make for an enjoyable lunch, but this place had two other bonuses going for it: first prize for probably THE most original name I've come across in the state yet (sorry Haught Diggity Dogz), and the for being the first place this far north that actually lists a West Virginia Hot Dog on the menu by name. I played dumb and asked exactly what comes on one. My friendly cashier put down what she was doing to use hand gestures to show me which layer had which toppings. Thankfully, they know what they're doing. Well, except for the styrofoam coffin. The price was a bit on the higher side at $2.00, but the upward prices are more likely the trend for the foreseeable future. I found the slaw to be of decent quality. The cabbage had a slight crispness to it, and a decent sweet/tang to the dressing. The consistency New England Style bun but didn't saturate it. I thought that putting the rather chunky bits of onion on top of the slaw instead of the chili was a rather interesting concept. Nothing wrong with it, mind you, just something different. The chili (and it was called "chili" here, not "sauce") was much sweeter than I'm accustomed to and seemed to be a bit skimpy in the amount of beef in it. Still, it managed to work really well with the other ingredients and was both enjoyable and satisfying. The service was very good. The hot dogs are very, very good. The name is certainly original. Scream n' Dogs is good enough to rate four weenies. This even takes into account the half-weenie deduction for the use of a New England Style bun instead of a regular bun. Beyond that, I'm still thrilled to find someone get the concept of a real West Virginia Hot Dog spot on, rather than just calling it a "chili dog with slaw".

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hurricane Hot Dog Joint: Wing World Plus Hot Dog Heaven WV

If there is one way to describe my whole experience and Wing World Plus Hot Dog Heaven WV, it would have to be "half-bunned."

Within my first two minutes in the joint, I personally witnessed three instances of tension between the owner and employees. At that point, I really, really should have left. But, ever intrepid (meaning stupid), I order up a dog with chili, slaw, onions, and mustard.

The weenie was of the same quality as my grade school cafeteria after the Reagan budget cuts in the 80s and was about as waterlogged as one of the trees left in Gad for bass habitat.

The sauce was okay, but reminded me of a bland knockoff of Hot Dog Stand chili sauce. Think of Full House's fourth season. Very TGIF.

The slaw was from a national supply company of some sort, as there were bits of pickle relish and other odd bits of vegetable matter that no self-respecting WV would ever put in something that might end up on a hot dog. I imagine that one of the gang over at Fork You could even tell you the location of the plant where it was made (my guess: Wenatchee, Washington).

The whole thing was served out-of-order, too, as mustard was slopped all over the place. Either Jackson Pollack was back there making my dog, or the weenista just didn't give a crap.

I'm not saying that places like Romeo's or Sam's or T&L are using kobe beef and organic cabage or anything like that, but they have found a taste and a certain level of quality that their customers appreciate and match the price point accordingly. While they are in business to make money, they also have a certain level of respect for quality control. This place seems to be using cheap ingredients and selling them at a standard price for a WV hot dog ($1.19 + tax) in order to maximize profit.

With a bunch of fair to good HDJs 'tween Scott Depot and Culloden, this place better have great wings. Otherwise, they totally fail to justify their existence.

Half-bunned, half of a score: 2.5 weenies

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Martinsville HDJ Review - Choo Choo's Restaurant

Choo Choo's Restaurant in New Martinsville, WVJust when I think I've seen it all in the hot dog culinary arts, along comes a new take on an old favorite. A return to New Martinsville gave me the opportunity to pay visit to Choo Choo's Restaurant. Word of mouth from some associates was that this was a fantastic diner with some terrific classic diner-style offerings, and they did indeed offer up a couple of unique hot dogs that I was told I wouldn't find anywhere else.

When I took a gander at the menu, I saw a listing for a "deep-fried hot dog". My associate quickly told me that what I really wanted was the "1/4 lb. chili dog with slaw". Okay, I thought, let's see what they can do. The waitress asked if I wanted chili or sauce, telling me that chili was indeed "chili...the kind you eat by itself as a meal. The sauce is the kind you want for a hot dog like this." I'll give them bonus points for at least paying attention to detail. This will likely reopen the whole 'slaw vs. chili' debate. Once my order came, I finally had a visual reference for the term "ginormous". The all-beef wiener was split length-wise and grilled in a manner that gave it a faint hint of hickory. The wiener may have weighed in at 1/4 pound, but I'd guess that the slaw and chili likely made the total weight well over 1/2 pound. Some of the most delicious beer-battered onion rings I ever had rounded out the awesome platter. The hot dog was on the pricey side, coming in at over $2.75, but not as expensive as Hank's Deli in Fairmont.
Choo Choo's Hot DogsThe sauce was teeming with beefy goodness, with just a lightly measured amount of red pepper flakes mixed in for the right amount of flavoring. The beef wasn't ground too fine as you might normally find. The I personally like it a bit spicier, but I think this variation strikes a nice balance that all hot dog fans will enjoy.

I found the slaw to be crunchy, cool, and sweet all at the same time, indicating exceptionally fresh ingredients. It doesn't have an overdose of dressing to disintegrate the bun, which for me is a more than welcome thing.

I'm a fan of good old side-of-the-road diners, and Choo Choo's is now on my list of favorites. Extra-friendly service, generous portions (even with the hot dogs), and an expansive menu...they have it all. There's no reason to give anything less than five weenies to Choo Choo's.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Clarksburg HDJ Review - T&L Hot Dogs (Rosebud Plaza)

T&L Hot Dogs Rosebud Plaza Sometimes there is nothing better than just playing it safe and sticking with something familiar and reliable. With that thought in mind, I took a trip to the outskirts of Clarksburg for a good ol' West Virginia dog from T&L Hot Dogs' Rosebud Plaza location. This location is (I believe) the second oldest location in the chain, with downtown Bridgeport holding the title as the original restaurant.

Considering how busy as this location seemingly stays, I've always found the staff to be friendly irregardless of how crowded it gets. As it should be, you can always walk into a T&L and ask for a West Virginia dog, knowing that they're going to get it right. Like the other locations, the Rosebud spot boasts a retro 50s/60s look that's eye-catching and charming. What separates the Rosebud location from the others is the annual Summer Car Cruise held here, which features a plethora of snazzy classic autos from around the area, classic 50's cover bands, and other family-friendly events.
T&L Hot Dogs interior Rosebud Plaza, Clarksburg, WV

For a change of pace, I ordered the hot chili this time out. Doing so served to remind me of two things: First, I'm not as young as I think I am, and therefore my ability to handle super-spicy toppings is really diminished. Second, root beer is no match for chocolate milk when it comes to washing down really spicy chili.

The chili was what it should be from T&L...hearty, filling, beefy, full of flavor, and totally satisfying. No, it's not the greatest of all time, but it can certainly hold its own. The slaw at this particular location seems to have an unusually abundant amount of carrots in it. Somehow, though, it manages to work. The dressing is still sweet, cool, and creamy. With all other things (steamed buns, weenie, and onionsT&L Hot Dogs, West Virginia Hot Dogs), T&L always seems to have a good game plan in preparation. It's comfort food personified.

All things considered, this spot rates no less than four weenies. T&L's Rosebud Plaza location has all the familiar flavors and friendly service that made T&L thrive in the area for the last couple of decades.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Greater Summersville HDJ Review - Drennen Dairy Bar

Along Rt. 39 just a few miles west of the Summersville city limit sign is the little town (wide spot in the road) known as Drennen. One of the key features of the town is the Drennen Dairy Bar, and one of the key features of the dairy bar is its hot dogs. They are legendary and many people have emailed me with requests for a review. It took a while to make it up that way, but a recent weekend road trip afforded me the opportunity to check it out.

It seemed like I was the first customer of the day when I arrived for an early lunch. I was greeted promptly and cheerfully and when I asked what was included on an "everything" dog I received the proper answer: Chil, slaw, mustard and onions.

The bun was nicely steamed and the heft of the hot dog was substantial. It fairly molded itself to my hand when I took it out of its coffin. The slaw was finely chopped and pile high on top of an equally generous portion of chili, which was runny and soaked nicely into the bun. A nice big squirt of mustard peeked out from under the slaw.

The taste test revealed that the chili was only slightly spicy but had a nice flavor. The chili was barely sweetened, but it worked well with the slaw. The onions were mild and chopped into very minute pieces. This hot dog was a joy to behold and to eat.

We'll give Drennen Dairy Bar a 4 1/2 Weenie rating. A little spicier chili would be nice.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mayor Felinton goes after the weenie wonk vote

Huntington's incumbent mayor, David Felinton, will be hosting a free hot dog cookout at the Ritter Park picnic shelter on Teusday, September 16.

This will be a great time to press him on some of the important issues facing Huntington:

  • Why does Stewart's serve underweenie sauce?
  • What is his stance on slaw education for kindergarteners?
  • Can we get the alley behind the Sam's Hot Dog Stand in Highlawn paved?
  • Should the health dept. start cracking down on ketchup on hot dogs?
  • Would he support the re-introduction of tarring and feathering for stale buns?
  • Finally, would metro government impact our ability to buy moonshine from that killer HDJ off of Rt. 10 that we don't tell lawyers or artists from Charleston about?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Charleston HDJ Review - Big Daddy's Fish & More

Located in a former Domino's Pizza location in a neighborhood with a troubled past, this little HDJ has an interestingly diverse menu. While the name would imply it's a fish joint - and they do have a good selection of fish offerings - they also have things like philly steak sandwiches, pizza bread, ham and cheese sandwiches and calzones. Oh, and hot dogs.

I guess I should begin with a disclaimer: Big Daddy's is not owned by our north central WV reviewer who goes by the same moniker. Any resemblance is purely coincidental. And I can assure you that if our BD had his own HDJ they wouldn't put ketchup on hot dogs; which these folks do unless instructed otherwise.

So this Big Daddy's is located on that little strip of land that isn't quite the West Side and isn't quite North Charleston on Seventh Avenue just around the corner from Patrick Street. The place used to house a restaurant with the unlikely name of "Some Kind of Wonderful Express" and that sign still occupies the top of the pole. A changeable letter sign denotes the business' new name and hand painted (read scrawled) letters on the storefront windows put the world on notice that hot dogs lurk inside.

After I navigated the ketchup infested waters and secured a hot dog with the right stuff (read chili, slaw, mustard and onions) I sat outside on the picnic bench; the only seating available at this establishment. The dog was wrapped in aluminum foil and was overstuffed with the driest chili I have ever seen and a huge helping of slaw. The flavor of both was OK, but the volume made this a somewhat satisfying dog. The weenie was large caliber and beefy tasting. The bun was unremarkable.

I won't spend much time getting to the point: This is not a very good hot dog. I am going back to Big Daddy's sometime to try the fish, but this is one of those places that serve hot dogs obligatorily and it tastes like it. Let's give it a 2.5 Weenie score simply because the size makes it a satisfying meal.

I'm going back for fish sometime, but since Big Daddy's is less than a mile from two really good HDJs I won't be stopping for hot dogs.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Charleston HDJ Review - The Blue Moon Cafe

I walk past this little downtown cafe regularly. It sits on Lee Street, just a half block away from Capitol Street and a few doors down from The Sitar of India (yes, please). When I first started this blog I went in one day looking for hot dogs on the menu but found none. I was surprised by the lack of hot dogs because it looks like a prime suspect with funky neon decor and a laid back vibe, but I never checked back. Today was such a nice day that I decided that I needed to eat lunch outside and I remembered that I had seen that The Blue Moon had a nice patio adjacent to the shady confines of Davis Park (by "shady" I mean that it has lots of trees, not lots of shady characters - most of them are a block over at Brawley Park), and decided that it would get my lunch budget dollars for today.

When I walked in I was greeted by a happy sight: A "specials" sign that advertised "2 Hot Dogs and Macaroni Salad - $4.99"! So I got the meatloaf sandwich.

Just kidding. But it did look good.

No, I got the hot dogs and, boy oh boy, I am very glad that I did. And Swiftwater Cafe better be glad I didn't go to Blue Moon before handing out this year's awards. This is a great hot dog. I'm sure that some would like it better than Swiftwater's excellent offering, but it might not be for everyone, and here's why: It is sweet. I mean really sweet. The chili is sweet, meaty and delicious. It has a wonderful, slightly BBQ inspired flavor and is as meaty as any chili you're likely to find. The slaw is equally sweet; as sweet as any in Charleston. You might think that all of the sweetness by be overdoing it, but I'm telling you that this is a great hot dog. The weenie is great as well and the mustard was applied generously. I was amazed that this hot dog was found at a place that doesn't specialize in the genre.

On my way out I inquired as to how often they served hot dogs and was told that they have them every day. They aren't on the menu board over the counter, but they always have them. I will be going back soon to see if they are always this good.

In addition to the great hot dog, the outdoor dining space was very nice and peaceful. I would rank it as perhaps the best alfresco dining spot in town.

And I rank The Blue Moon Cafe a solid 5 Weenie HDJ!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Parkersburg HDJ Review - Tim's Root Beer

Ever since I was a wee tyke I have loved frozen root beer. After the last A&W in Charleston closed in the early 80's I went for years without the frosty mug goodness until a few imitation A&W locations opened throughout the Kanawha Valley in the late 90s. The root beer they served wasn't quite the same but at least it had the icy sludge floating in top that I remembered from my youth. There was no other root beer place around that offered this frozen goodness. In an attempt to slake my thirst for the frozen concoction I even made a trip to Huntington's Frostop Root Beer because I remembered seeing the giant mug on top of the restaurant and its representation of a head of frozen root beer, but I found out that it was only a cruel joke: Frostop has no frost on top. Nor does Stewarts. Nor does Farley's.

So when I received an email recently from a hot dog enthusiast from Parkersburg about the hot dogs at Tim's Old Fashion Root Beer I was thrilled when he mentioned that Tim's root beer was "icy". I hoped that meant that it was full of the wonderful icy sludge I had craved for so long. But enough about root beer, for now; we're here for hot dogs, right?

With some help from Google, I found Tim's easily enough. It's kind of off the beaten path, but that didn't seem to matter to the hordes of people who were there. The place is big enough to accommodate said hordes with room to spare (a large banquet room in the back could presumably be employed to accommodate an even larger horde). The place is covered with root beer signs from every imaginable brand from the past and several large barrels are filled with root beer flavored candy and other such treats. The place is nice and clean and the staff is friendly and efficient. The menu is far more diverse than I expected with several nice looking sandwich offerings as well as other more traditional family restaurant style dinners.

Being that Parkersburg is a border town, when I asked "what is 'everything?'" I got a vague answer in the form of a list of available toppings. Fortunately slaw and sauce were the first two toppings our of my server's mouth, so I stopped her there and added onions and mustard and asked for two. And a root beer, of course.

Let me begin with the end and tell you right off that Tim's hot dogs earn a solid 4.5 Weenie score. They are very good, nearly excellent. But the reason I wanted to start with the score is because I can't really understand why they are so good: The sauce is only good, not great. The slaw is not particularly outstanding. The weenie was odd tasting and waterlogged soft (almost like a vienna sausage in both taste and texture) and the onions were so mild that if they hadn't been on top I wouldn't have know they were there at all. The bun was nicely steamed and soft (some might say too soft, but not me).

But in spite of all of the mediocrity of the individual parts, the whole was great. Tim's has redefined the word "synergy ": This hot dog is far superior to the sum of its parts.

Oh yeah, then you get to wash it down with some really good root beer with a frozen icy head, just as I hoped I would find. And lots of it: Tim's does not let your mug run dry. I drank so much root beer that I sloshed as I walked to the counter to pay.

My only regret is that Tim's is 75 miles from Charleston and with $4 a gallon gas, a good root beer and a hot dog will set me back a good $25. It is almost worth it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Weston HDJ Review - Ice Cream Barn

Weston isn't exactly a hotbed of hot dog culture, but if you're driving into town headed east you'll see this charming little red barn right along Route 33 beckoning you to stop in for a visit. I think Ice Cream Barn may win the record for the widest hand written menu posted by the window. Plenty to choose from here if you're hungry, but make sure you've got a some time to spare. Everything aside from the ice cream is made fresh to order.

I was kindly offered to take advantage of the bargain of a hot dog special, which included two dog, fries, and a drink for about $3.39 or so. I was in a little rush, so I passed on the fries this time out. No slaw here, which was a little surprising. Lewis County HDJs typically offer slaw as a standard item, making Ice Cream Barn is one of the exceptions.

I though the chili was hearty enough, but subtle in both the flavor and spiciness realm. The beef wasn't ground as finely as in other chilis found in this region, but the meaty taste was still there. The sauce was just okay, but tasted pretty fresh.

The bun and weenie were suitable enough. The whole concoction was totally overwhelmed with rather chunky cuts of onion that didn't serve to help the presentation. I'm okay with lots of onions, but this was a bit too much.

Overall, Weston's Ice Cream Barn is a nifty place to grab a dog once in a while. Go out of your way for it? Probably not. But if you're in the neighborhood and need a chili dog fix, give this three weenie rated family-friendly place a try.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Clarksburg HDJ Review - Toni's Ice Cream

Ask anyone in the Clarksburg area to name a place to get good ice cream, and you'll likely hear Toni's Ice Cream mentioned more than once. When I was a kid, it was an absolute treat for me and my sisters when Mom and Dad put us in the car to go get a black raspberry cone or shake. No matter what time of the evening you went, there was always a line of customers either at the window or going through the drive-thru. Nobody really seemed to mind because the wait was worth it. To this day, I haven't found anything that comes as close to the sumptuous black raspberry ice cream they serve at Toni's. But in all the years that I've visited there, I never once ordered any of the burgers, hot dogs, or other hot foods they served up.

When I finally got around to getting over to Toni's this summer, I found that the hot dogs come standard with chili, mustard, and onions. Sadly, there was no slaw available. A let down for sure, but I'm no stranger to slawless dogs in this region. My order was served up in a styro-coffin, which didn't serve to make me feel any better.

I found the dog to actually be acceptable for what it was: a simple no-frills chili dog, albeit a little on the scrawny side. The wiener was of the standard bulk food variety. The buns were suitable in both freshness and steaming. The chili had a nice, full texture to it. I found the sauce mixture to be rather basic yet inundated with black pepper. This concoction at least satisfied the need for spiciness without overdoing it.

I'm going to give Toni's a three-and-a-half weenie rating. While the hot dogs themselves seemed to be prepared well enough, the effects of not having a good slaw really weighs down the overall satisfaction factor. Still, Toni's strength lies in the ice cream side of the house. I'll testify to the pleasure of washing down a hot dog --or anything else for that matter-- with one of their black raspberry shakes.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Overall North Central Region Hot Dog

2008 Weenie Award Winner for Best Overall North Central Region Hot Dog Haught Diggity DogzThe best overall award for the north central region presented a challenge in judging on account of there being so many worthy contenders. There was a serious late contender in the form of the Hot Dog Hut in Philippi, but we couldn't fairly give credit for consistency since they bounced from a three weenie rating to five weenies in the course of a few months just before the nominations for the Weenie Awards began. There were several other noteworthy HDJs such as Marties in Keyser, New York Hot Dogs in Wheeling, and Presto Lunch in New Martinsville. While I was fortunate enough to review these terrific hot dogs, I didn't get to review more nearby HDJs to confidently declare them the best in their respective counties. Hopefully in future editions of the awards, we'll include many more counties in the northern region.

Be that as it may, there were two hot dogs in this region that really stood out from all the others: Hank's Deli in Fairmont and Haught Diggity Dogz in Morgantown. Both have outstanding toppings that are made fresh all day long. Both are places you'd want to eat at over and over again with friends and family. Both have great service. Both are the best in their respective counties for the 2008 Weenie Awards. What can be the deciding factor?Haught Diggity Dogz 2008 Weenie Award Winning Hot Dogs for Best Monongalia County and Best North Central Region Overall Hot Dogs

Simple: price.

While Hank's is substantially higher in price than Haught's, both the taste and satisfaction factors make the money spent worthwhile. However, Haught's manages to keep one of the golden rules of a true West Virginia hot dog: making the best possible hot dog with the cheapest ingredients. Haught's dogs taste like a million bucks, but the price is more in keeping with what you would expect from a true WVHDJ.

For keeping the most stubborn of West Virginia hot dog fans satisfied with a tremendous hot dog and awesome service, Haught Diggity Dogz wins the 2008 Weenie Award for the Best Overall North Central Region Hot Dog. A hearty congratulations to the owners and crew. Keep up the great work!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Welcome My Z viewers and readers!

Welcome to all the folks who surfed over here via My Z's link to our Huntington review section. WVHotDogs.com thanks Jessica Ralston and the rest of the gang at our favorite newscast, My Z's 10 PM news, for the coverage online and on last Friday's newscast.

I love the fact that Ralston and Co. weed through all of the boring stories that we can choose to read or not read online and stick to a concise report of the goin's on of the day. Stanton says that he enjoys not having to stay up til 11:35 to get the news.

My 2 year-old son just thinks that Jessica Ralston is "pretty like mommy."

Anyway, thanks again for think link. As Stanton says, you've made our year.

My Z 10 PM news can be seen on digital subchannel 3.2 in Advantage Valley; otherwise, check your local cable company's listings.

2008 Hot Dog Awards: Best Monongalia County Hot Dog

Haught Diggity Dogz, 2008 Weenie Award Winner for Best Monongalia County Hot DogMonongalia County may have presented the easiest decision when it came to the 2008 Weenie Awards. From the first time I stepped through the doors of Haught Diggity Dogz, I fell in love with the place. These were the hands down be-all, end-all of Mon County hot dogs for the past year.

The aroma of the fresh, homemade chili and steamed buns permeates the air just before you walk through the door. It beckons you to come in, take a load off, and enjoy some friendly conversation over the most satisfying West Virginia Hot Dogs around. Like magic, Haught's freshly made slaw has a blend that can seemingly do no wrong whether it is combined with the mild, medium, of hot variations of chili.

I'm always pleasantly surprised by the fact that no matter how busy it gets inside Haught's, there seems to be no shortage of time for the owners to make for a pleasant "hello" and "how do you do" with each and every customer that comes through the door. Service like this can't be bought these days.

A hearty congratulations to Haught Diggity Dogz for giving us THE Best Monongalia County Hot Dog! Here's too many more great years of success and fantastic hot dogs.

Monday, July 28, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Huntington Hot Dog (Suburban Division)

Good news, 'Peakers. M & M Dairy Bell has picked up a Weenie Award for the second year runnin'.

Last year, they won for the best joint in the Huntington area. This year, they take home the hardware for the best hot dog in the suburban and rural areas surrounding Huntington.

They have, hands down, the best atmosphere of any HDJ in Greater (or Lesser, if the new census data is to be believed) Huntington and are still serving up tasty dogs just the way any self-respecting West Virginian would want 'em (nevermind the minor technicality that they are a few hundred feet north of the river bank).

If you're in Huntington and stuck in a Stewarts/Sam's/Frostop/Hillbilly rut, head n over to Chesapeake and order two dogs with sauce, slaw, mustard, and onion and an order crinkle-cut fries (some of the best in the Tri State) or, better yet, a side of 'Peakes Pride bacon cheese fries.

You'll thank me later.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Marion County Hot Dog

Look up the word "finicky" in the dictionary and you will find a definition that best describes hot dog fans in Marion county. By and large, you'll find customers split each and every time over who has the best West Virginia Hot Dogs around. Most of the time, you'll hear Yann's mentioned. The problem with Yann's dogs as it pertains to Weenie Awards is that while they are legendary and phenomenal in their own right, they are not true West Virginia Hot Dogs due to the intentional omission of slaw.

So that brings us to the question: who has the best WVHD in Marion County? After thorough review, it doesn't seem like you can find a taste that tops Hank's Deli. Though the price is still a bit higher than most HDJs at $3.50 for one (or "double the dog" for an extra dog at $1.00 more), it does include a side of chips and pickle, for what it's worth. One bit tells the tale of just how worth it these hot dogs are.

These dogs are truly made with TLC and attention to detail. From the sweet and savory chili that has such a distictive, unique flavor to the sweet, creamy slaw that would make any hot dog into a masterpiece, Hank's makes it worth the effort to visit for just one hot dog alone.

Hank's is consistently good in terms of food quality and service. Like any good HDJ, it's a place I'm happy to go out of the way for and to bring my friends and family to over and over again. Congratulations once again to Hank's Deli! Well done and well deserved!

Friday, July 25, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Charleston's Best Hot Dog (Suburban)

There is no HDJ in or around Charleston that can match the quality, charm and longevity of Skeenie's Hot Dogs. Sitting on the side of Rt. 21 for 50 years just at the edge of Charleston city limits, this little gem of a HDJ is as close as it gets to being the original WVHDJ, and I mean that in a geographical sense as well as a philosophical sense. You see, tradition holds that the first place to ever serve coleslaw on a hot dog was The Stopette Drive In, which used to sit less than a half mile from where Skeenie's is today. And some people say that The Stopette recipe is still being used by Skeenie's. Now I don't know about that, but I do know that when I want an authentic WVHD and don't feel like taking a chance on getting a bad one, Skeenie's is the first place I think about going.

The chili at Skeenie's is always great: Spicy and perfect in texture. The slaw is wonderfully creamy and sweet. Skeenie's is never afraid of onions either and they load 'em up. Put it all together on the softest steamed bun and wrap it up in a wax paper sleeve and you have yourself a Five Weenie treat!

I hope Skeenie's is around for another fifty years!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Taylor County Hot Dog

Whether you are heading east or west along US Route 50 through Grafton, should definitely hope that you have the time to stop in for Taylor County's best version of the West Virginia Hot Dog at Hometown Hot Dogs.

What sets Hometown apart from the other HDJs in Grafton is the attention to detail that's put into the components, particularly the slaw. Hometown's Grafton location has one of the best slaws in the area, emphasizing a creaminess that nicely compliments the always enjoyable chili.

Another factor in naming this as Taylor County's best is that everything is kept simple, from the cool white interior, to the uncluttered menu, to the lack of a TV or radio blaring over top all of the friendly conversations that are always going on.

Congratulations to Hometown Hot Dogs for giving WVHD fans Taylor County's best hot dog. Keep up the good work!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Huntington Hot Dog (City Division)

Knuckle's Sandwich Co. is one of Huntington's newest hot dog joints and, thanks to a careful attention to detail, they are one of the best.

In terms of buns, they have skipped the debate altogether and allow Huntington's savvy hot dog connoisseurs the choice of a traditional or New England split-top bun. In an age where so many chain restaurants treat customers like animals at the feed lot, it is great to see a place give me just a little credit.

With weenies, though, they have made a choice for the customers. They serve a blended beef 'n pork dog that does not, like some fancier all-beef jobbies, butt its way to the front of the flavor profile.

The sauce is so delicious that it sails past "great" into the range of the sublime. They could get rich selling this stuff from Portsmouth to Webster Springs. When paired with their understated slaw, they manage to stay true to the concept of a West Virginia Hot Dog while also honoring the quirks of the local market (where it is all about the sauce).

Congratulations to Knuckle's Sandwich Company, makers of the best WV hot dog in the City of Huntington.

Hey, wait a minute...didn't owner Jarrod Queen's brother Teddy just win the same award for Chucktown?

Stanton has observed that the Queens might be the new first family of hot dogs in WV. I think he is right.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Web Site Update

Due to the slothful nature of the WVHotDogs.com workforce (most likely due to eating too many hot dogs) the reviews on the WVHotDogs.com website had not been updated since February. I am happy to report that they are now up to date.

We will now rejoin the 2008 Weenie Awards, already in progress.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Crinkle Cut Fries

I have been a lover of a good WV-style dog ever since I was a wee tot. Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a great hd with beefy sauce, creamy slaw, sweet onions, and tangy French's yellow.

Well, nothing 'cept one of those with some fresh-from-the-grease crinkle cut fries. Beyond mere shoe-string taters or seasonably-varying onion rings, crinkle fries capture the unpretentious essence of the WV hot dog like no other side.

And there is one WV HDJ that serves up up hot 'n tasty every single time.

Sam's Hot Dog Stand, a 5 weenie joint in its own right, uses clean, hot oil to produce crinklers that are crisp, but not greasy, and taste like potatoes, not yesterday's fish sandwich platter special. They'll even top them with Sam's special hot dog sauce, one of the best anywhere.

Congrats, Sam's of Lavalette and thanks for knowing how to make a great hot dog even better.

Friday, July 18, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Harrison County Hot Dog

T&L Hot Dogs, Old Bridgeport Hill, Clarksburg, WV 2008 Weenie Award Winner Best Hot Dogs in Harrison CountyIn the north central region, there are two hot dog chains which hold court over all smaller HDJs near them, Hometown Hot Dogs and T&L Hot Dogs. Ask any two WVHD fans in the area and you'll likely find yourself smack dab in the middle of a friendly debate over which one has the better dog.

Although there are some worthy hot dogs to consider in the area, none represented the total package of value, taste, consistency, and an enjoyable atmosphere better than the T&L Hot Dogs located on Old Bridgeport Hill in Clarksburg. The chili typifies what the northern style is all about: loaded with spicy goodness and seasoned to perfection. The slaw always seems to be just right. The ying and the yang (the sweet and the tang) always perform in unison. Simply put, these hot dogs never disappoint.

T&L has five locations in Harrison County alone, and are well known throughout the area. Understandably, they are the most well-known of any HDJ in this neck of the woods. I'll save "which T&L is the best" for another awards session. For now, T&L Hot Dogs' Old Bridgeport Hill location in Clarksburg wins the 2008 Weenie Award for the Best Harrison County Hot Dog.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 Weenie Awards: Best Downtown Charleston Hot Dog

"Location, location, location" is the universally accepted paramount concern of business. Equally as important for a successful Hot Dog Joint is consistency, consistency, consistency. There is one downtown HDJ that has demonstrated a consistent commitment to excellence over the past couple of years that just begs to be rewarded, and I am happy to be the one to reward them.

Award for the best hot dog in downtown Charleston. Their hot dog is made with the highest quality ingredients, put together in a way that lets you know that this is a place that cares about its product and its customers. Using a premium weenie (Boar's Head) is a good start, but on top of that sits a really meaty and slightly spicy chili that The Swiftwater Cafe wins this year's Weeniealways tastes like it was made this morning, and a big helping of the some of the best slaw in West Virgina: It is sweet and tasty, and the perfect texture for a WVHD, and has a story to go with it: You see, a couple of years ago after reading Swiftwater's review on this blog, owner Teddy Queen made a decision to change his slaw. He sought out a new recipe, one that was sweeter and more compatible with his chili. After he had it right, he emailed me and asked me to come and try it. I did and as a result, Swiftwater earned the Weenie Award for best slaw last year.

The only knock I have is that "everything" includes ketchup. Oh well, nobody's perfect.

Teddy should be proud of what he has created there at Swiftwater. Not only is his food excellent but the people that work for him seem to really enjoy their jobs and treat customers like gold. It is a rare treat in this day of customer non-service to receive a sincere smile along with your food order, and I have never eaten at Swiftwater when I didn't feel welcomed and appreciated. Simply remarkable.

Congratulations, Teddy and staff, on your committment to hot dog excellence. Keep up the good work!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's Time for the 2008 Weenie Awards!

Pull up a seat and get your napkins ready! The 2008 Weenie Awards will be announced starting this week!

The 2008 edition of the awards will focus on the best hot dogs by geographical location. This is a change from the previous years when judging covered best slaw, best chili/sauce, best weenie, etc. A recent meeting by the WVHD.com awards committee found that it would be more meaningful if the awards were based on the "total package" of each respective nominee.

In the coming days, you will find announcements of the best hot dogs in the Charleston, Huntington, and North Central areas, and perhaps a few surprise categories along the way. Stay tuned for details.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Huntington Hot Dog Joint: Midway West

In order to assess the prodigal son of Huntington hot dogdom, Midway West, we've invited a guest reviewer and life-long Midway mark, Mrs. Film Geek, to giver us her take on the joint:

"Hey, how about we skip 4th period, and drive down to Midway for lunch?"

My friend, Teresa, would coax me into it now and again during my senior year in high school. Teresa and I had a bad case of senioritis in 1984. We'd sneak out of our senior study hall class, climb into my green 1976 Toyota Corolla and drive the short distance to the hot dog stand. It was worth the risk. Midway's hot dogs were the best in town, and their fries were tasty. Almost as good as the hot dogs--maybe on some days better--was the sweet Pepsi they served, from a fountain, and chilled with crushed ice.

Unfortunately, our occasional trips for dogs came to an abrupt end one summer day when, just after we'd placed our order, we spied Vinson High School teacher and coach Mr. Griffith enjoying his lunch two cars across the lot. He finished up his lunch, then walked over to ask us how we enjoyed ours.

We served detention each day the following week.

A regular since I was a toddler, Midway was really a significant part of my life. Better than Frost-Top and Stewarts, Midway was the place to go for curbside food that was consistently good. The hot dog sauce was the best in town--it was meaty, with a nice spicy (but not hot) flavor. The slaw was sweet and creamy. The slaw was so good, in fact, that it was the only place I ordered slaw on my hot dog. So, I was really saddened when my husband called one day to tell me Midway had been closed by the city because it's owners owed back taxes. It was like hearing that "The Sopranos" series was ending.

When I read recently that Midway was opening again, with new owners, I was excited to stop by and sample the food. Mostly I wanted to see if it was the same. The lot was full of cars--about 40 cars were crammed tightly onto the lot--and more than a dozen people were eating at the small bar inside. After finding a spot, I ordered my hot dog, fries and Diet Coke, sat back and crossed my fingers.

It was good. But, it wasn't the same.

The hot dog was fairly close to those served by the former owners. The slaw was sweet, chopped fine and there was plenty of it on the dog. The wiener tasted beefy, and sort of snapped when I bit into it. (I don't know much about wiener quality, but that seemed like a good thing.) The sauce was average. It didn't stand out as good or bad, really. It was just unremarkable. Add that the soda was less sweet and served over block ice rather than crushed, and the crinkle fries were sprinkled with steak fry seasoning (which was too spicy), and you realize the current Midway is something different than the previous Midway. My heart sank.

It was good, but not as good.

I am glad that in the Midway's absence, I discovered the perfect hot dog meal at the
Griffith and Feil Soda Fountain in Kenova. I'll be going there from now on.

Sadly for the new owners, I have to agree with Mrs. Film Geek. I have not heard so much buzz about a restaurant opening in town since, well, ever and the year-long torment of the "opening soon" sign sure didn't help. Midway has given itself, and ultimately suffers from, high expectations.

The slaw is tangy and had a dominant celery salt taste. Unfortunately, it is too dry and chunky.

The sauce is indeed pretty darn average and is quite similar to others based on ground beef that is browned rather than simmered. It is bit more sweet (ketchup?) that I like, but the sauce partially made up for a bit of the under-sweetened slaw. The taste of the two is more than the sum of its parts, but not by much.

The crinkle cut fries are a bit greasy, a sure-fire sign that the oil is not hot enough. They also taste like the oil had been in the vat for a few days.

I'm sure that Midway will find its niche of pedestrians in the area and nostalgic folk, but, in order to regain it's predecesor's place in Huntington's hot dog culture, Midway West needs to go back to the fundementals of what made Midway so great.

3 weenies.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Morgantown HDJ Review – Smitty’s Kountry Kreme

With the return of summer comes the reopening of more and more walk-up ice cream stands throughout the region. I decided that a recent jaunt through Morgantown after a business meeting was a perfect opportunity for me to begin exploring more of said stands in hope of finding a really good WVHD.

Smitty’s Kountry Kreme sits next to the exit from I-79 that starts into the Star City section of Morgantown. As I hunched over at the inexplicably small walk-up window, I noticed a listing on the menu for something called the “Hillbilly Mess”, which is apparently a bizarre ice cream dish that doesn't have a description listed (and I didn't take the time to ask). Perhaps one day in the future I’ll come back and find out what this is.

Once the cashier returned with my hot dog, I was thrilled to see that it was wrapped in foil. That’s an automatic bonus in my book. Although there’s something comforting and familiar about getting your hot dog served in a wax paper wrapper, I personally think that foil is superior when it comes to preserving the heat of the hot dog. But that’s just me and I'll leave it open for debate on the blog.

Though I was thrilled with the wrapping, I was less than enthused by the quality. For starters, the wiener had all the characteristics of having been boiled in sea water. It was just that salty. I’m not sure what those salt blocks they put out for cattle taste like --nor do I really want to know-- but I have little doubt this wasn’t that far off.

The chili was thick with a strong tomato flavored base. It seemed to lack any particular type of seasoning to differentiate it from any other chili, save for a trace of garlic powder. On top of that, it didn’t even taste warm. It seemed to be rather tepid.

The slaw was okay, but didn’t have any of the makings of being anything special. The cabbage was coarse with a little crunchiness in it, but seemed to be lacking a dressing with any discernable flavor. The onions were pretty coarse in their own right, but didn’t have any flavor in them either. It tasted as if they were left in the refrigerator for a day or two and lost their punch.

These hot dogs weren’t particularly good and didn’t really offer up any satisfaction. A WVHD fan can find better in Morgantown. I’d give Smitty’s Kountry Kreme hot dogs a weenie rating of two weenies. Hopefully, the “Hillbilly Mess” will make up for the disappointment of the hot dogs.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Requested Re-Review - The Hot Dog Hut, Philippi

The Hot Dog Hut in Philippi, WV When I originally reviewed The Hot Dog Hut in Philippi, I gave them a three weenie rating, stating that I found their hot dogs to be just "safe". The biggest problem I had with my hot dog at the time was that when I unwrapped it, the chili and slaw had mashed together into a rather ugly looking presentation. Consequently, the flavors of the chili, slaw, and mustard became indiscernible from one another. As a result, I stated that the chili tasted as though it had fillers in it.

Immediately thereafter, a response appeared on the blog from Angie, the owner of The Hot Dog Hut. She pointed out that since the photo of the hot dog was posted, Hot Dog Hut had changed the way the they prepare to-go hot dogs, favoring a paper boat and sleeve instead of wrapping up tightly. Another point she made was that the homemade chili did not contain any filler, and that the slaw was also made with TLC (as were soups and salad dressings). In addition, she pointed out that the restaurant was one of the best looking places to eat in town. Angie finalized that she believed The Hot Dog Hut was worthy of at least a four weenie rating.Philippi Hot Dog Hut hot dog Being as she was unbelievably polite, I agreed to a second chance review.

For my revisit I ordered WVHD by the numbers and ate in. I was greeted with a warm and enthusiastic smile, and had my order delivered to my table almost before I got fully seated. The statement about the appearance of the restaurant is definitely true. The place is spotless and appealing to the eye. The hot dog was certainly a major improvement from my last visit. The bun was the definition of "steamed to perfection". The chili and slaw were not blended together in a slurry, but rather sat majestically on top of one another in a fantastic presentation.

For taste, the chili had a rich and wonderful beef flavor. The beautiful brown coloring owed itself to how well prepared the mixture was. The texture was complex and satisfying. Each bite tasted like heaven. This was easily one of the best chilis I've had in this north central area. The slaw was seriously fresh, crunchy, and had a nice balance of sweet and tart. This slaw will certainly be in the running for the Weenie Awards.

Sorry folks, but I still can't bring myself to give The Hot Dog Hut four weenies. Nope...I have to say that I can give no less than a five weenie rating. It says much that The Hot Dog Hut picked up the game and hit one out of the park.