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!