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.