Monday, December 28, 2009

Charleston HDJ Review - M&M Sandwich Mart

M&M Sandwich Mart has been just about my favorite place for sandwiches for several years now. This little market and deli sits in a very convenient place in Kanawha City, has easy storefront parking and sells the freshest Boar's Head Meats in the area. They also don't skimp on helpings (they put a good half pound of liverwurst on my favorite of their sandwiches), so I was pleased when I drove by recently and saw hot dogs advertised on their marquee sign along McCorkle Avenue. I thought that with their demonstrated commitment to quality that a decent hot dog would be a given.

I was half right.

Allow me to begin at the end: The hot dog tasted pretty good. Probably 3 Weenies worth of good.

The problem is that these are self-serve dogs. I was hugely disappointed to find when I went in that the dogs were not going to be prepared by the deli chef behind the counter, but by me on the sales counter! A cutesy little Boar's Head hot dog cart sitting on the counter had two kinds of weenies sitting in pools of their own filth, a tub of lukewarm and mediocre tasting chili and a chilled container of so-so coleslaw sitting alongside. A bag of room temperature Heiner's buns sat there waiting for me and anyone else to paw around inside to pull loose the proper number of buns to begin the assembly process.

In M&M's defense, the owner was standing there behind the counter and offered to help me, but I was disinclined to submit to his assistance.

Since it is my standing rule that self-service hot dog stand gets an automatic 1 point deduction, M&M only nets out a 2 Weenie rating.

Still the place to go for my beloved liverwurst on rye, but unless it can run with the big dogs and have its hot dogs fixed by the professionals behind the counter, M&M needs to stay out of the hot dog business.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Closed HDJs

After more than 250 reviews, it is inevitable that there are going to be some Hot Dog Joints that have succumbed to economics and closed their doors. Some are re-opened soon with new names, but some just quietly fade away.

Here is a list of HDJs we have reviewed that are confirmed to be no longer in business. Feel free to add comments with others you might know about.

Charleston Area

Romeos - Alas, one of two 5 Weenie HDJs on this list. It finally succumbed this past summer after two closures and two re-starts. Stanton wept.

Mr. C's - Will we ever see yellow slaw again? Nobody did it like Mr. C.

Delish - Most people miss it for the satay, but the Delish Dog was a taste treat.

The Valley Bell Store - Nostalgia died when this throwback to the 1960s went out last year.

The Southern Kitchen - Although it was rumoured to be re-opening, it has been dark too long now to have any hope that it will. I still think their slaw had applesauce in it.

Deli Fresh - Bullit Street - Essentially the lunch room for the BB&T Operations Center. When BB&T downsized the operation Deli Fresh went with it.

Mrs. Winkles - A classic example of someone who can cook well but has no business or customer service aptitude.

RPM Restaurant - This place was on life support when it opened and never recovered.

Power Alley Grill

Dee's Delights - Pinch

Meadowbook Diner

Chasers Boulevard Cafe

The Movie House Cafe

Dairy Belle

The Comfort Station

Grandy's Deli

Cock of the Walk

Big Daddy's Fish and More

Charleston-Huntingon Corridor

Wing World Plus Hot Dog Heaven WV - Closed, I am convinced, by bad karma from employee abuse.

Hillbilly Hot Dogs - Culloden The first franchised location of the Lesage institution failed quickly and was replaced by ...

The Hound House - Culloden - Which didn't last long either. I think the place is a gambling joint now.

The Hottest Dog - Hurricane - This is now Mayberry's Restaurant.

Carmen's Diner

North Central WV

Mountaineer Brunch - Bridgeport

Dairy Queen - Grafton.

Hot Dog Barn - Morgantown - The other 5 Weenie HDJ - Closed by City bureaucratic meddling.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Charleston HDJ Review - Tricky Fish, redux

There's an old saying that goes "fool me once shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Shame on me, then.

When I first reviewed Tricky Fish a year and a half ago, they had just opened and I didn't even give the hot dog a Weenie Rank because it was so non-WVHD-like. I've been back on numerous occasions, but I opted for one of their non-hot dog items, even though I did notice that they had changed their hot dog and the new version sounded much more WVHD like. On several of these trips I considered giving the new offering an honest review, but I was little nervous about it.

Nervous, you see, because shortly after I posted my review, another blog reviewed the place and the blog comments turned into a virtual battlefield complete with allegations of venomous attacks on a young artist and vicious counter attacks by the parents of said artist. I decided to steer clear of the row, less I become collateral damage in this war of words.

But I figured after a year-and-a-half the water was safe enough to go back into, especially since that other blog has seemingly decided to review only chains and faraway restaurants. [poke] [poke]

Tricky Fish has kind of recreated itself in the past year, adding a large front deck and the words "Urban Beach" to their name. The recreated hot dog also has a new name: "Nathans Famous." Yes, that's what they call it on the menu. I found this interesting; that an establishment would and could name a dish the name of another restaurant. Interesting, but understandable; I mean Nathans Famous weenies are pretty awesome and why not recreate yourself in the image of something awesome?

The first bad thing about ordering this or any of the other "hot dogs" on their menu (they have a veggie dog and an Italian Sausage dog) is that you have to sift through a large number of available toppings to get the basic WVHD toppings. Thankfully chili, slaw, mustard and onions are among the items on this list.

The second bad thing about ordering this hot dog is that it comes with a knife and fork. Really, people, how many times do we have to go over this? The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council and tasteful people everywhere know that you don't use utensils to eat a hot dog! Click here to watch the NHDSC Hot Dog Etiquette video.

The third bad thing about this hot dog is that the toppings are so overwhelmingly applied that one has no choice but to eat it with the knife and fork. Look at the photo: You can barely see the bun for the scads of chili and slaw poured over the poor little thing. There was absolutely no way to pick it up without losing half of the toppings.

Not that losing the toppings would have been such a bad thing: The taste of the chili was OK - fairly spicy and very meaty, but it really didn't taste like something that should be on a hot dog. The slaw was so bland that if it had been missing it would not have affected the taste one iota.

It's a shame to waste a perfectly good Nathans Famous weenie like this.

This time they do get a score: 1.5 Weenies.

I won't be fooled again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mercer County HDJ Review - Sun Valley Country Store

Since my daughter is a student at UCLA (University of Concord Located in Athens) I frequently travel to the southern part of the state on missions of mercy - usually involving the delivery of vast sums of cash or other valuables. One recent trip found me arriving at just about lunchtime and so my starving daughter and I went looking for a bite to eat. On the road between Athens and Pipestem State Park sits the little wide spot known as "Speedway," and in this wide spot sits Sun Valley Country Store, and inside this country store there is a restaurant.

I was pleased when I saw hot dogs on the menu, but confused when I saw slaw listed as a 10 cent upgrade to the basic dog. I have only run into this price gouging strategy once before (and that was in Huntington where they don't really know what a WVHD is anyway) and I was a little offended by it. I know it's only a dime, but it's the principle of the thing.
So I pays my extra 2o cents and I gets my two hot dogs with slaw. The whole time I am waiting for my order I'm thinking "if you are going to charge me extra - even a dime extra - it had better be worth it." And I'll tell you now that it kind of was: It was sweet, creamy and tasty.
Unfortunately this good slaw sat upon mediocre chili (slightly spicy) and a waterlogged weenie. It was all nestled inside a grilled New England Style bun - a common strategy to hide inferior ingredients.
Overall it was a 3 Weenie hot dog, mostly on the strength of the expensive slaw. Halfway between Hinton (home of the much adored Hinton DQ dog and Kirk's) and the bonafide 5 Weenie dogs at Lynn's in Bluewell, I think if you find yourself in Speedway and hankerin' for a good hot dog you should drive a little further.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Page HDJ - Woods Market

Obviously for most West Virginians, the first question that we have to answer is "where in the @#?! is Page?" The answer to that is easy: Between Montgomery and Oak Hill. The REAL question should be "How in the @#?! did you find this place?" The answer to that questions is that a small email campaign waged by Fayette County readers persuaded me that this little place in this little place that is between two other slightly larger little places just might have a great hot dog. So I had bookmarked it and the first time I found myself in Mongummy at lunch time I decided to hop over Deepwater Mountain and check it out.
As you can see from the picture, from the outside this is not a place that you might expect to find hot dogs, and without the aforementioned letters from readers I am positive that I would have never darkened the doorway of this establishment. Not that it looks terribly scary, it's just that it looks like every small community market I have ever been in and I felt certain that I knew exactly how it would smell inside, and I knew that the people that worked there would recognize that I was not local and watch every move I made in the store - which was exactly what happened when I went in (every time I go into one of these places I feel like the guy working there just might be on the news someday, ala Norman Bates).

But there are some rewards that are worth the risk and the promise of a good WVHD is worth a considerable amount of emotional discomfort, if not bodily harm. I'm not sure that this hot dog, though, was quite worth the risk.

Don't get me wrong, the hot dog was not without merit. My biggest complaint is that the chili was sparsely applied - so sparse that I really couldn't tell much about its taste except that it is heavy on onions. The slaw was finely chopped and wonderful tasting, but also served sparingly. The bun was nicely steamed and overall it was a good Utilitarian Dog, but hardly worth the trip to Page - even from Montgomery.

I'll rate Woods Market's hot dogs at a generous 3.5 Weenies, simply for being an outpost of Weeniedom on the rural Fayette County frontier. If you are in the neighborhood, stop and try it.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Book Review - Hot Dog - A Global History

I recently received an email from a publisher's rep who told me that was mentioned in a new book and asked if we would help promote it. He graciously honored my request for a review copy of the book. I found this beautiful November day a perfect day to sit outside and read and since the book is only 144 pages including appendices, it was easy to finish in one sitting. The book is well written and thoroughly researched. There is one sentence in the book about our beloved West Virginia hot dogs and is listed as an authority. The author, Bruce Kraig, does a very thorough job at telling his readers esoteric facts about hot dogs, including a very scholarly treatment of hot they came to be called "hot dogs". He also tells us stories that run the gamut from amusing to disgusting about how frankfurters are made and sold. The biggest problem I found with the book is this: He talks about wieners, frankfurters and sausages and calls them "hot dogs." Chapter 2 is entitled "How Hot Dogs Are Made" and he goes into great detail about the manufacturing of frankfurters. He doesn't seem to ever quite disconnect the sausage from the sandwich. You see, a hot dog is a sandwich. It is a sausage placed on bread. The sausage might be called a frankfurter, wiener, sausage or any number of other nicknames, but the meat alone is not a hot dog. Chapter 2 is completely about the meat. Chapter 3 (How Hot Dogs Are Sold) is even more confusing because it seamlessly switches back and forth between taking about how the meat is distributed, marketed and merchandised and then talking about the different kind of hot dog joints. He never makes the distinction between the meat and the sandwich. This is extremely frustrating for us here at because we have been trying for years to make people understand the single most important truth about a West Virginia Hot Dog - It is not about the weenie! While I think this might be truer for WVHDs than it is in other regions, I feel certain that the toppings are at least as important for every regional manifestation of the hot dog. I am sure that Kraig knows this, but he never mentions it in his book. But that gripe aside, this book is worth the $10.95 price just for the history lesson it provides. I've included the link so you can order it for yourself.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Smithers HDJ Review - Lopez Family Restaurant

This family owned restaurant has stood alongside Rt. 60 in Smithers for as long as I can remember. It's proximity to The Dairy Carte has prevented me from trying their hot dogs, because why would you pass a perfectly good 4.5 Weenie HDJ to take a risk on a dodgy looking roadside diner?

Recently, though, I was having lunch with someone who didn't want a hot dog (GASP!!!) and so we thought Lopez's was worth a try.

First of all, we need to address the odd fact that Lopez's is first and foremost an Italian restaurant. Odd, I think, because the name might evoke images of torillas and enchiladas, but in this neck of the woods, you see, Lopez is an Italian name. Don't ask me why or how, just accept it.

Secondly, I have to confess that I have no idea what the name of this place actually is. The sign painted on the building says "Lopez and Son Big John Family Restaurant." It makes we wonder who Big John is - whether it is Lopez or Son. The menu just says "Lopez Restaurant"

Well, whatever the actual name, the actual restaurant is an interesting mix of Italian eatery and Applachian roadside diner. They have spaghetti and baked steak on the menu and the place is decorated with dark wood paneling and fake grapevine greenery. Loud, handpainted signs and an oddly placed Pepsi machine completes the unrefined tackiness of the place. Really, this is not the kind of place I would expect to find authentic Italian food in, but my dining companion raved about her dish.

But that's not why I went, now is it?

The Lopez hot dog bears no Italian influence that I could detect. I halfway expected the chili to be sweet, spicy and tomatoey but instead it was meaty and hearty without a hint of any spice other than chili powder. Very typical of Upper Kanawha Valley HDJs. The copious serving of slaw was coarsely chopped but was sweet and somehow creamy in spite of the coarseness. The bun was crusty from being heated in a dry oven: Not my preferred method of warming but it does show an intention that I admire.

Overall the hot dog was tasty and satisfying enough to warrant a 4 Weenie rating. Certainly not the best hot dog in Smithers, but a good effort nevertheless.

Back From the Wilderness

The stench of the latrine filled my nostrils as I approached the camp. With all of the stealth I could muster I crept closer and closer to the sound - and now smells - of the enemy who would immediately assail me if my presence was detected. I realized that I was holding my breath as my senses were on razor's edge; "must breathe normally" I told myself. Through the brush I could see the dimly lit faces that belonged to the people who wanted to cause me harm. It was the first time that I had laid eyes upon their evil flesh, and the sight made my blood run cold and boil at the same time. Here I would wait until they were asleep. Then I would make my move, and what a move it would be.

Silently I made myself comfortable against the base of a tree, not knowing how long I would have to be there. Close enough now to hear their breathing, I would wait until it achieved the measured rhythm of slumber, and then I would wait some more. To keep myself from also falling victim to Morpheus' spell, I began to think of stressful things that would stimulate my adrenal gland into releasing its magic hormone that would keep sleep at bay. I thought about my earlier near death moment, then about the time when I had been tortured to within an inch of oblivion; these two thoughts helped to stay my furor and fuel my will of revenge against these mongrels that lay just on the other side of the bush.

Then I thought of an even more stressful thing: It has been months since I last posted a decent entry on the hot dog blog. This thought became an over arching presence in my brain and I could not escape it. How could I engage in the battle that lay ahead with such a distraction hanging over my head? After a long internal struggle I decided that my nemeses' demise must wait for another day: I had more important things to do. Just as stealthily as I came, I retreated.

I promise, dear readers, this week there will be new reviews and other hot dog stuff posted.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Belle HDJ Review - Mator's Family Grill

Sitting alongside DuPont Avenue just outside the Belle city limits is this little HDJ that seems to want to be a family restaurant but is essentially a sports bar with a family section. The inside, especially the sports bar section, is much nicer looking than is the exterior which is bland cinder block painted with bland colored paint.

I'm taking a complete guess here, but from the look of the decor in the interior of the family section I would imagine that Mator must have played football for the old DuPont High School since the place is covered with photos and memorabilia of people like Corky Griffith, Danny Williams and yes even Randy Moss. "Mator" sounds like an offensive lineman's name, doesn't it?
Hot dogs were listed on the menu and so I inquired as to what constituted "everything" and was predictably told chili, slaw, mustard, onions and ketchup. I say "predictably" because I am developing a new theory about the upper Kanawha Valley and its unexplainable attachment to the red stuff on hot dogs. Not sure why this is, but almost every HDJ between Malden and Montgomery seems to include it. Of course I asked them to hold mine.
The weenie was split and grilled and heavily salted. The chili was a good texture, but way too salty. The slaw was nicely creamy and tasted heavy of celery salt. The New England Style bun was grilled in what I can only imagine was salted butter. I'm not positive that the mustard wasn't salty, but by the time I paid attention to it my salt-sensing taste buds were overloaded.
So what I am trying to say with some subtlety, is that Mator's hot dogs are kind of salty.
I'll generously give Mator's a 3 Weenie score, only because I know that there are people out there who like their food much saltier than do I, and also because they have a picture of an old river tug boat that is named "Stanton".

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Thanks

On this Labor Day, We at would like to thank all of the folks who work their buns off all across West Virginia to make sure that a great hot dog is never than a few miles or minutes away.

Hat tip to all y'all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

101 Unique Places to Dine in W.Va.

This list was published a few months ago and since then it has definitely increased my desire to go on food road trips around the state. But I quickly found out that some of the places on the list aren't so unique and some might be qualified as "unique" but also are not very good.
Somebody has started a new web site that asks for input on the subject in the form of comments, and you can also complain about who was left off of the list. I would encourage you to head over there and post your thoughts about the places on the list. Your insight might save a fellow diner a lot of gas money.
Also, from that same list, here are the hot dog joints included on it (the numbers and descriptions are from the WV Tourism site and should not be construed as any kind of ranking or official commentary):
8. Blues BBQ 1109 Jefferson Rd., South Charleston (304) 744-8335 Blues is famous for its mouth-watering barbecue and ribs, smoked fresh daily right on the premises and served in a casual dining atmosphere. Or, choose from a variety of specialty salads and sandwiches, then top off your meal with a delicious hand-spun milkshake.
10. Burger Carte Rt. 60, Smithers (304) 442-2071 This favorite has been serving up homemade hot dog chili and slaw, hand-patted hamburgers, pretzel dogs, sea dogs, funnel fries and broccoli bites for 40 years.
23. Der Dog Haus 2000 E. Seventh St., Parkersburg (304) 422-7703 Hot dogs, Thursday night ribs, great veggie soup, nightly specials, sandwiches, salads and much more.
32. Fatbob’s Roadhouse Diner4924 MacCorkle Ave. SW (inside Harley-Davidson of WV), South Charleston (304) 768-1600 up a seat and enjoy the camaraderie of the employees at Fat Bob’s. They’re sure to make your dining experience fun and enjoyable..
39. Griffith and Feil Soda Fountain 1405 Chestnut St., Kenova(304) 453-4192 Hailing from the western gate of the Mountain State, Griffith and Feil Soda Fountain in Kenova serves a unique blend of fine food and West Virginia history.
45. Hillbilly Hotdogs Lesage, Huntington and Lavalette locations(304) 762-2458 Hotdogs is famous for its “Homewrecker” and “The Doublewide.” The unique d├ęcor and friendly wait staff make your experience at Hillbilly Hotdogs one you’ll want to come back for.
48. Jim’s Drive In Rt. 60 West, Lewisburg(304) 645-2590 This drive-in restaurant with homemade food and curbside service has been in business for more than 50 years.. This family eatery specializes in mouth-watering barbecue and hot dog chili.
52. King Tut Drive-In301 N. Eisenhower Drive, Beckley (304) 252-6353 won’t want to miss this Beckley hot spot that was voted one of the “Top 55 Must See Places in WV” in 2004. The mouth-watering menu consists of pizza and sandwiches as well as full dinners – all of which you can either take home or eat right there in the car. Top your meal off with a slice of King Tut’s famous homemade pie.
53. Kirk’s 215 Main St., Hinton (304) 466-4600 If you’re in the mood for traditional pub fare, Kirk’s is the place to be. Kirk’s also offers a full list of imported and domestic beers and wines, as well as pool tables, dart boards and televisions to give you the “full pub experience.”
62. Mayberry’s Restaurant 1481 MacCorkle Ave., St. Albans(304) 722-2660 Step back in time at Mayberry’s Restaurant where you can have the “best Coke floats in town.” The clean, friendly staff will make your visit a happy one.
65. Morrison’s Drive Inn 126 Stolllings Ave., Logan (304) 752-9872 World famous hot dogs, homemade onion rings and a glimpse of curb girl Sally Wall all await you at Morrison’s Drive Inn. Sally’s been serving some of the best hot dogs in the state for almost 60 years and still works a full schedule. Morrison’s earned the designations of “No. 1 Hot Dog Chili” and “No. 1 Hot Dog in the State of WV” in 2007 from
71. Pinnacle Drive Inn Pinnacle Avenue and Rt. 16, Pineville(304) 732-7785 This long-established Pineville eatery may be best known for its hoagies and hot dogs. The Pinnacle Drive Inn never ceases to draw first-time visitors as well as its loyal clientele.
84. The Fresh Seafood Company 800 Smith St., Charleston (304) 344-1905 Market, an old train station that was converted to a farmers market in downtown Charleston, houses The Fresh Seafood Market. Known for the “big fish sandwich,” The Fresh Seafood Market is a must-visit location for any seafood lover.
89. The Parkette Old Rt. 50/Old Bridgeport Hill Rd., Clarksburg(304) 623-0155 The Parkette has been a Bridgeport/Clarksburg area staple since the 1950s. Enjoy what generations of locals have enjoyed: great Italian and diner food.
97. Top Spot Country Cookin’7139 Sissonville Drive, Sissonville (304) 984-2816 country cooking is what you’re looking for, then head to Top Spot in Sissonville. Award-winning chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, baked steak, fried chicken and cornbread are all on the menu. The waitresses are very friendly, courteous and considerate and will accommodate changes in orders without question.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

While we have an FAQ page over at, here are some that are somewhat frequent as well:

Q. What kind of hot dogs do you think are best?

A. This question is based on the faulty premise that the term "hot dog" means the same thing as "weenie", and is further misguided because a WVHD is not about the weenie.

Q. So if you make hot dogs at home, what kind of weenie do you use.

A. Why on earth would I make a hot dog at home? I can buy a hot dog nearly 24 -7 for about a buck. To buy a package of 10 weenies, 8 buns, ingredients for slaw (or a tub of pre-fab), ingredients for chili (or a tub of pre-fab) would cost a minimum of $10 and then I'd have to labor intensively for an hour or two. And still, I wouldn't have a finished product as good as a basic gas station Utilitarian Dog.

Q. Do you have a good chili/sauce recipe?

A. Not that I can vouch for (see above) but here is a link to one that seems pretty good.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Charleston HDJ Review - Harding's Family Restaurant

Right off of the Mink Shoals exit of I79, about 2 miles north of the Charleston city limit sign, sits this old favorite. Harding's brags about serving breakfast anytime (which prompted me to once ask for French Toast during the Renaissance; they didn't get the joke), has great home style food and is just a gnerally clean and dependable place to eat. It is usually overcrowded after church, but most other times tables are readily available.

Strangely enough, other than on the kid's menu, they have never offered hot dogs. Thankfully that changed recently and I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a two hot dog lunch special. I wasted no time checking it out.
The special is 2 dogs and fresh cut potato chips for $5.39 - not a great deal, but not too bad for a sit-down place. I inquired as to what they considered to be everything and was horrified to find out that they offered not only ketchup as standard but also relish! Yes, relish! The kind made from pickles! Yecch. I ordered mine without red and green.
The first thing I noticed about my hot dogs upon delivery was that they were served on grilled New England Style buns. The second thing I noticed is that they were messy, really messy. Usually a grilled New England Style bun will hold together pretty well in spite of the volume and water content of the toppings, but these buns weren't up to the task. After the first bite or two they were falling apart and all of the toppings were falling out. The toppings tasted OK, even though the slaw seemed to be eerily similar to the food service slop one usually finds in weaker HDJs. The chili was a little salty and wasn't spicy in the least. The onions were miled, and the mustard was applied on top and in too large of a quantity. Still, the overall taste wasn't bad.
The potato chips were scrumptious, but that can't affect my rating: 3 Weenies.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Film Project

Click to enlarge

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Marlinton HDJ - French's Diner

This little corner eatery is the epitome of "nuthin' fancy", and yet it has sat on the same little corner on the same little street in the same little town for 57 years. It has survived the many floods that Marlinton has seen in those years (no doubt that the place has been submerged more than once) and has remained unchanged in the face of a town and county that has seen a complete change in its economy: from timber to tourism to extreme outdoor sports. The fixtures inside the restaurant look to be original from the 1950s and no money looks to have been spent on sprucing the place up in a very long time. Yet, it remains an apparently viable oasis of affordability and simplicity.
So I figured the hot dogs must be awesome.
My first indication that the hot dogs were going to be less than awesome was when I asked what "everything" was and they included ketchup on the list. Of course, I ordered without. Everything else was in order though. I was able to see the entire process or preparing my hot dog from a distance of about 3 feet (I could have easily spit on the grill from the counter) and was surprised to see the bun go down face first on the grill and sizzle in better. You'd expect this with an New England Style bun, but this was a standard model and I think this is the first time I've seen one of those grilled.
The next surprise was that the weenie was plopped into the deep-fryer basket. This isn't out of the question for upstate New York, but certainly not something done often in the Mountain State. The onions where chopped into small cubes and when coupled with the crunchy coleslaw (which was fairly sweet and tasty), the crunchy bun and the crunchy skin on the weenie, it made this one of the crunchiest hot dogs I have ever experienced. It was a nice touch to an otherwise average hot dog.
The only other thing about the dog that bear mentioning is that I am pretty sure that the chili was flavored with ramps. I just barely tasted them, but I'm fairly certain they were in there.
Overall, French's hot dog gets a 3.5 Weenie score.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ripley HDJ Review - Crabby Patti's

I went to Ripley because of this list and this newspaper article.

When I got there I noticed they had hot dogs.

I got one.

I regretted my decision.

It had beans in the chili.

Any questions?

0.5 Weenies
PS: The crab cakes were mediocre at best. The ones they sell at Fresh Seafood at Capitol Market are much, much better. And their hot dogs are better too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Weston HDJ Review - T&L Hot Dogs

T&L Hot Dogs, Weston, WVThe T&L Hot Dogs in Weston is one of those infamous off-shoots that isn't included in the canon of the official T&L universe. Like Cindy's T&L in nearby Jane Lew, this branch doesn't seem to have any ties to main chain of stores in the Clarksburg, Morgantown, Bridgeport, or Grafton areas. And like the Jane Lew location, the Weston version has a different take on the original recipe for the chili.

One thing I was quick to discover was that it is possible to possible to overcook or over-spice chili to the point of making it hard to enjoy. I can't put my finger on what it was, but the chili had the taste of being burnt and/or bitter. I had heard tell of overcooked chili, but until today I thought it was just an urban legend. Surely no self-respecting HDJ would sell their chili to consumers if they thought it was sub-par, right? I guess the answer to that is "In some cases, yes." That being said, I can't really comment further on the chili here.
The Weston version of a T&L Hot Dog

The slaw was a beautiful sight to behold. It had a fantastic appearance, which had managed to hold its form rather well on the account of the loving wrapping job that was done when my order was handed to me (bonus point!). As far as the taste itself, the slaw had a really nice, subtle flavor. There was just enough taste in it to let you know it was there, but not enough to contrast with the rest of the presentation. Thankfully, it also didn't have too much dressing mixed in so as to run off of the hot dog or blend into the chili and make it runny.

I will give T&L in Weston three weenies. I really hope that I just happened to have caught them on an off day as far as the chili goes, but several hours later I can still taste the bitterness when I think about it. The slaw was very good, and I hope they offer it up in take-home containers (if they don't already do so). And as silly as it may seem, the fact that they wrap up the hot dogs so perfectly speaks as to how much care this HDJ is capable of rendering.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Charleston Area HDJ Review - Happy Days Cafe

South Charleston is turning into a real dining destination lately, and even though the best HDJ in town (Romeo's Grill) recently closed down for good, another contender has popped up just around the corner. Happy Days Cafe sits in the same building as the hoity-toity team room restaurant on D Street just a stone's throw from The Mound. It has a 50's theme, with 50's decor on the walls, 50's music in the air and food like you might have found at a soda fountain in the 50's; including hot dogs.

Before I get to the hot dogs, though, let me take just a second to tell you about the popcorn. You see, not since the Scotch Tape Boutique sketch on Saturday Night Live (circa 1980's?) had I heard of a less likely business start up that the specialty popcorn place that opened a few months ago in South Charleston. The place sold popcorn. Period. A whole store devoted to popcorn. They had many different flavors. So, what does this have to do with Happy Days Cafe? The popcorn store owners are the same people that opened Happy Days, and they still have the popcorn business as a kind of kiosk inside the restaurant. The reason I mention it is because the major point of the atmosphere of Happy Days is smoke from the popcorn popper. The ventilation system is ill-equipped to handle it all and the air is thick with oily smoke; and so were my clothes for the rest of the day after I ate there.

But anyway, back to the hot dogs: They are good. They have the right stuff on them, the stuff that's on them is pretty tasty (except for a faint and odd taste that I detected in the cole slaw - like it had been sitting open in the refrigerator beside an open kettle of fish). The chil was salty, but otherwise pretty good. The bun was steamy soft and the weenie was a touch waterlogged. The slaw was beautiful and the onions finely chopped and mild.

I know that from the descriptions there seem to be a lot of negatives, but the hotdogs worked.

Overall, they earned a Four Weenie ranking. With a better weenie, one that hasn't been soaking in a pool of its own filfth (as Chris James likes to say) and fresher coleslaw this could be a 4.5 or even 5. Room for improvement, and I'll be back to see if they do.

Friday, August 07, 2009

We seldom do this...

But honestly, this graphic is worth every bit of the traffic we can send to to Serious Eats. For his foray into the WVHD world, the author ate at Marties, which is the northernmost 5 Weenie HDJ ever reviewed by

I don't like the huge "slaw dog" label because everyone knows that in West Virginia you don't ask for a "slaw dog" - you just get one; but the graphic is awesome otherwise.

A lot of the content in this article is directly from this blog or the and scant attribution is in evidence, but I am ready to forgive that if they will let me use this graphic.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Weston HDJ Review - Coke & Float

Just outside of Weston sits a humble looking establishment with lists of ice cream goodies so long, they nearly cover the majority of the outer walls near the order window. Coke & Float has just about every imaginable variety of ice cream combination you can imagine (shakes, cones, sundaes, etc.). The hot dogs here are more in the "just alright" arena, meaning they're okay if you need a fix, but whether or not they satisfy a WVHD connoisseur is all a matter of interpretation.

For starters, the weenies used here are rather scrawny. Most likely these
are the bulk variety from somewhere like Sam's Club. On the plus side, it wasn't waterlogged or undercooked. The slaw and onions were both shredded extra-fine, almost to a fault. In my particular hot dog, I found the slaw itself was rather sparse. The little bit that I did manage to separate from the rest of the dog had an good flavor, but with little counter-balance for the notable sweetness.

The chili was likewise very sweet. In fact, I would almost be willing to bet that some form of canned spaghetti sauce was used. That may not be the total gospel, but it tasted very similar to a version made by a relative of mine who does, in fact, use said canned spaghetti sauce.

Still, I've got to hand it to Coke & Float that they do actually care about the hot dogs they make. They come wrapped in wax paper versus the dreaded styro-coffin that seems to be the norm at such stands. Second, and more importantly, you are hard pressed to find many ice cream stands selling hot dogs in the area that actually do have slaw available. My only gripe about the slaw is that there isn't enough. All in all, Coke & Float gets a three weenie rating. Some tweaking of the sauce and extra slaw may be all they need to give their dogs that little extra lift.

Monday, August 03, 2009

2009 Weenie Awards - W.Va.'s Best Hot Dog

After foiling a major ballot box stuffing attempt by a small but noisy group of Fairmont emailers, is finally able to confirm that this year's Weenie Award for the State's Best Hot Dog Joint goes to....................................

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Morrison's Drive Inn in Logan

The mere fact that we get more email from outside the state about this hot dog jont should be enough to cement its place in the Hall of Fame. Even more impressive is that Morrisons isn't on the way to anyplace for most of the state's population, and it is still revered far and wide. The other HDJ that garnered a lot of votes is revered in Fairmont, and by people who used to live in Fairmont.

Congratulations Morrisons, for winning your second Weenie Award!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

2009 Weenie Awards - North Central Region Winners

The 2009 North Central Region winners for the Weenie Awards contains some returning faves and a couple of new entries, including a new winner for in the Best Overall.

Without further adieu:

Marion County - Hank's Deli, Fairmont
Marion County has improved by substantial leaps and bounds in shedding the stigma of being a "no slaw" zone. The crew at Hank's never paid attention to this fictional "rule" anyway. The result? Once again, some of the best WVHDs around.

Lewis County - Cindy's T&L Hot Dogs, Jane Lew
In the past year, Lewis County was added to the areas we reviewed, and Cindy's was the hand-down winner right off the bat. The service is terrific, and the dogs are worth making the quick jaunt off of Exit 105 of I-79 for.

Taylor County - Hometown Hot Dogs, Grafton
Too easy. The competition was minimal, at best. Beyond that, Hometown knows the value of consistency when it comes to a quality WVHD.

Wetzel County - Presto Lunch, New Martinsville
Wetzel County is also a new area for this past year. Focusing primarily on downtown New Martinsville proved to be enough of a challenge due to the quality of contenders, but Presto Lunch easily bested them all. The TLC they put into their entire menu is beyond description.

Harrison County - T&L Hot Dogs, Old Bridgeport Hill, Clarksburg
Although there are a couple of new contenders ready to emerge in Clarksburg in the near future, the Old Bridgeport Hill location of T&L Hot Dogs continues to be the superior outlet for WVHDs in the area, as well as in the T&L chain.

Monongahelia County - Haught Diggity Dogz, Morgantown
Morgantown remains a tough area to review since there are way more HDJs in the city than can be found via a singular internet search. Still, of those that have been reviewed nobody was able to top the homestyle goodness coming from Haught's. This is the second year for Haught Diggity Dogz to take the top title in Mon County, but they do not repeat as the Best Overall for the region.

And the winner for Best Overall North Central Region - Hot Dog Hut, Philippi
Hot Dog Hut was a late addition during last year's awards and unfortunately didn't make the cut for consideration. A re-review of this fine establishment turned out to be one of the highlights of my travels for wonk. Angie and her team have mastered the fundamentals of having a great "all-around" package when it comes to value for the dollar, quality ingredients and preparation, and service. Well done and congratulations to Hot Dog Hut!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

W.Va.'s Best HDJ? The Polls are Open

Due to severe budget cutbacks at, we have had to restrict the far-flung tasting junkets of our Weenie Wonks. Their loss is your gain: We have decided to allow our reader's voices to be heard in an unprecedented way as we open this important questions to the whims and prejudices of our readership.
You may post your vote for the state's best hot dog joint as a comment or email it to
Polls will be open through midnight on July 31 and results will be posted Monday, August 3.
May the best dog win.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2009 Weenie Awards - Charleston Area Winners

For the second year running, Swiftwater Cafe takes the prize for Best Downtown Hot Dog Joint in Charleston. The decision wasn't as easy this year, since a couple of new discoveries were making some serious challenges to Swiftwater's Genteel Dog offering. Honorable mention goes to The Blue Moon Cafe.

The main reason that Swiftwater was able to hold on to the trophy this year was because of their decision to officially remove ketchup from their list of standard toppings; proving that listening to us and responding to our suggestions pays big dividends. Congratulations, Teddy and crew, on the beginnings of a dynasty.

Outside the confines of the concrete jungle, there is still one place to go for the best hot dog within a short drive of the Capitol dome and that is Skeenies Hot Dogs on Sissonville Drive. After all these years they are still making awesome tasting hot dogs and stuffing them into wax paper sleeves for the eager hoards that await them every day at lunch and dinner times. The truest of the true Utilitarian Dogs has no equal in all of Charleston or Kanawha County. This is also the second straight year for Skeenie's to take the top prize in their category.
Next Up: The State's Best Hot Dog Joint?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Huntington Hot Dog Festival

Once again Huntington tried to play host to the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival. This year's event featured 9 hot dog joints, one wiener manufacturer and a whole bunch of various and sundry vendors, clubs, political action organizations and just general hawkers of meaningless crap.

Here are a few pictures:

This is the "Healthy Alternative" sold by Java Joint. It is a tofu weenie and served with vegetarian chili, er I mean sauce. It tasted like a vegetarian hot dog with about three times more mayonnaise than necessary in the slaw. But at least it had slaw: Many of the other HDJs didn't offer it at all.

I was pleased as punch to see at least one person who sported a t-shirt!

At about 2:30 a huge storm blew up and really put a damper on festivities. Many of the vendors packed it in after this.

The HDJs present were (in no particular order):

Hillbilly Hot Dogs
Java Joint
Stewarts Original Hot Dogs (two stands - I guess when your owner is the festival chairman you get such special treatment)
Cowboy BBQ
Big Loafer
Ramona's Market (From Proctorville, Ohio, for Pete's sake!)
Johnny Dogs
Sam's Hot Dog Stand
Midway Drive In

Other vendors/hawkers/propagandizers included:

Rick's Lemonade - 2 stands
Tri State Casino and Racetrack
Ohio Valley Camera Club
Animal Rescue
Temporry Airbrush Tatoos
Club Pet & numerous other pet related tents)
Huntington Harmonica Club
Right to Life (complete with a creepy dead baby display)
Colonial Lanes
Sponge Bob Paraphanalia
Hospice of Huntington

I'll say again what I have said for the past 3 years: Call it what you will, this is not a West Virginia Hot Dog Festival, but a Tri-State Hot Dog Festival. The hot dog vendors at this event in no way represent the hot dog culture of the state, and therefore I will waste no more of Blogger's data storage space with more words about it.

For our posts about past years festivals, follow this link.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2009 Weenie Awards: Huntington Area Hot Dog Joint of the Year

While Big Daddy in still recovering from el dio de los perros and Stanton is fighting a Kazakhstani spambot (apparently the blog "iss very nice" and Stanton should sign up for DirecTV through them), I'll go ahead and pull the trigger on the first award of the 2009 Weenie Award season for best HDJ in the Huntington area:

Sam's Hot Dog Stand of 8th Street.

If you want to get the same great utilitarian dog on January 23rd or July 23rd, this is the place to go. Consistency counts, especially when it is consistently great.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day of the Dog

1st annual Day of the DogOn July 18th downtown Clarksburg played host to the first annual "Day of the Dog", which was a fund raising event to benefit the Harrison County Humane Society. The event was sponsored by local radio stations and Heiner’s Bakery. For $5.00, you got three tickets and a ballot with which you could vote for your favorite hot dog. There were contests for root beer chugging and, or course, hot dog eating.

This was the first year for the event. Based on the sparse turnout early in the event, I assume that it wasn't advertised all that well I only found out about it a few weeks ago from a friend of mine who happens to listen to one of the sponsoring stations. On top of that, the Glen Elk Wine, Music, and Arts Festival was being held just a few blocks away, probably contributing to the low amount of spectators (at least during the time I was there). Still, those who turned out really seemed to enjoy themselves. There were five competing hot dog vendors. Hank's Deli from Fairmont and Hot Dog Hut from Philippi, both ofScooter Dawgs whom are previous 5-weenie winners were on hand. Clarksburg newcomer and lone cart representative Scooter Dawgs definitely impressed me. The other two entries, both from Clarksburg, were the 4th Street Grill, and June Bugs restaurant.

I figured I'd start off with something familiar to serve as a benchmark and had a sampling of both Hank's and Hot Dog Hut's offerings. No surprises here. Both of them bought their A-game. If you've read their reviews before, or perhaps partaken of their goodness yourself, you know how they can bring it.

I made my rounds with the newcomers starting with Scooter Dawgs. I have to remark that Scooter Dawgs seemed to be playing a high stakes poker game of taste with the other vendors. This was the first time I've had one of their dogs, and it was something to behold. They could've used the standard weenies since this was a fund raising event and all proceeds went to charity. But not in this case. They used a 1/4 all-beef frank that made each bite a meal in itself. The chili was off the charts. By far on par with --if not slightly better than-- Hank's and Hot Dog Hut. The menu wins the award for the most creative
4th Street Grill Pico Dog
I've ever seen. Anytime you can include peanut butter, raisins, 1000 Island dressing, wasabi, or Japanese hot sauce in a hot dog, you've GOT to know what you're doing. There will be a more in-depth review coming in the very near future. By the way, they did a great job picking out the name for their version of the WV hot dog: The West "By Gawd" Dog.

4th Street Grill offered a more "artisan" hot dog (see Stanton's terrific project covering the classification of the different dogs at this link). They offered up a "blackened" (their words, not mine) all-beef weenie with a pico de gallo and avacado sauce on a fresh Italian bun. It's the
4th Street Grill menu board
unwritten policy of the crew to limit our reviews to the traditional WV hot dog (slaw, chili, onions, mustard), but once in a while we have to deviate from our mission to keep things fresh. Well, not really. I just wanted to try this. I have to confess that this was a really good take on the hot dog, and I'd certainly consider getting another one in the future just for something different. Good flavor and fun to eat.

The final new entry was June Bugs. They had what was easily to best homemade flavor in their slaw. I wouldn't say they were having a good day with the chili how ever. I detected a heavy presence of spices and seasonings typically found in taco meat. Still, I enjoyed the friendliness of
June Bugs hot dog
the June Bugs crew. They seemed eager to get their product out as much as possible, so you've got to give them points for enthusiasm. Plus, they were giving away free keychains. What can I say? Freebies rock.

All in all, the whole thing went towards helping a good, worthwhile cause. I hope they give it another go next year with some more publicity beforehand. Likewise, I hope they are able to get some other vendors from around the state to participate. (Custard Stand, Haught's...I'm looking at you!)

By the way, I cast my two votes. One for Hot Dog Hut, one for Scooter Dawgs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Flatwoods HDJ Review - Custard Stand

Custard Stand Hot Dogs in Flatwoods, WV

I had been reminded that I was far behind on conducting a review for the blog, so I was eager to get on the road for an impromptu business trip to Flatwoods. I had recently heard that the Cowger family had opened a new shop just off exit 67 of I-79. It stands to reason the convenient location will serve this franchise well in the future. Ironically, the restaurant is located in what was briefly a Sam's Hot Dog Stand.

The interior is small, with enough seating for about 16 or 17 people. The outside features a covered patio area with a walk-up window. Custard Stand has a lot of variety on their menu, including several sandwiches, funnel cakes, ice cream treats, broccoli n' cheese poppers (!), chicken, fish, and something I would never expect to find at a hot dog joint...Buzz buttered steak. Very interesting. They also have prepackaged containers of their famous chili available for
purchase. You can get small, one-pound containers, or industrial sized five-pounders. This was also one of the few places that offers a chili dog...without the wiener.

Good service here. I got the eye contact, thank yous, quick prep and delivery of my meal, etc. As I've said time and time again, good service is key to making your HDJ worth coming back to.

When I got my order back to my car, I was pleased as punch to
Custard Stand menu
see that they didn't just wrap it up and toss it in a bag, like I've suffered with before. They carefully balanced the toppings around the weenie, placed it in a paper boat, and delicately wrapped it in wax paper (bonus points) so as not to crush it. When I unwrapped this little hand-held treasure trove, there was a waft of the freshly steamed bun that immediately let me know I was in for a treat.

Indeed, in the first bite I was impressed by how fresh and perfectly steamed the bun was. I took a look at the slaw and found that it was shredded extra fine. Fortunately, it was not doused in too much dressing so as to make the bun soggy. The slaw didn't suffer from an overdose of sweet or sour. It had the "just right" balance that made the perfect compliment to the dog.

I've had Custard Stand chili before, having picked some up at a local grocery store. My take on it is that is truly a southern West Virginia formula, favoring a good simmered beef flavor versus diverse spices, which are more typical of the
Custard Stand Hot Dog
northern formulas. There was a nice texture to the beef and just the right amount of sauce mixed in. Like the slaw, it doesn't go overboard in the liquid department, but emphasizes a nice, flowing consistency throughout the whole mixture. I found the whole concoction to be both savory and satisfying.

If I were forced (and I would have to be forced) to point out any flaw, it would only be that it was a little heavy on the mustard for my taste. Still, this was easy to overlook as it melded nicely with the chili. The onions were diced a little coarse as well, but again they only served to compliment the whole package.

I give Custard Stand five weenies. It seems as though the Cowger's have the art of the hot dog down to a science. The chili they serve has captured the essence of what homemade should taste like. In the future, a visit to the original Custard Stand in Webster Springs will be in order.