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.


Buzzardbilly said...

There was an HDJ in Whitesville, WV, many years ago run by an Italian family. And, despite the fact that the place has been closed for I was born in 1964 and I don't ever remember going there, their hot dogs are to this day legendary in the area. The owner, whose parents came here from Italy so he was first-generation Italian-American, used to carry a special blend of spices in his pocket that he never shared with anyone. He would come into the restaurant and add some of those spices to taste. Whatever it was, people to this day ask his family if they have his hot dog chili recipe.

Never underestimate the HDJ of Italian descent. Excellent review!

BTW, I love a diner. I know it's a crapshoot going in, but when it pays off it pays off big for me.

The Film Geek said...

Seems like I've seen a sign in this establishment that says "best hot dog in the area" or something like that. That always made me suspicious, but now I'm gonna try it.

Unknown said...

This place has been in Smithers, like FOREVER. At least as far back as the 1970s. Much to it's credit, it is one of the few restaurants that survived when the mines went bust in the area during the 80s. It's original name is Lopez Restaurant. Me guess that senior/madam Lopez has become since became elderly and the younger set of the Lopez clan now have a commanding role in the operations. Hence, the name modifications.

Hey, this place is in Fayette Co and is not listed as such on your Fayette Co link. The county line w/Kanawha Co on Route 60 is further west, right before you get to the bridge to Montgomery.

Ray Rappold said...

The reason people go to Lopez's is for a local treat - the Al Burger (named after Al Falbo who ran a restaurant/club/bar in Smithers many years ago - since burned down). The Al Burger is a delightful treat (also available at The Burger Carte - although not as good as Lopez's in my opinion, and also at Benny's in Montgomery - named after Benny Filliagi). Lots of Italians in this area.... The Al Burger can be had with salami, ham, (or both) grilled up with a special sauce (hot, medium, mild), onions, cheese, pickle on a big Italian roll. Try one of these the next time you are through the area !!