Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Welch HDJ Review - The Sterling Drive In

The town of Welch in McDowell County, West Virginia has seen its share of changes over the years. This once thriving city that was the economic center of the southern coal fields was a major campaign stop for JFK during his run for the presidency because of its regional importance. It has shrunk in population to a couple of thousand people and now most of the storefronts on the main streets of town are empty. 

One thing that has stood the test of time in Welch, though, is the Sterling Drive In. Since the 1940s its sturdy curb service canopy has provided shelter for thousands of diners who prefer to sit in their cars, and its dining room has no doubt seen many thousands served as well. The restaurant also houses the McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame. Sitting alongside the main road into Welch from the north, it has been the eating place of first resort for generations of Welch residents and other McDowell Countians. These days it is not unusual to see ATVs lined up outside because of its proximity to trail systems and McDowell County's lax view of ATV travel on public roads. 

So on a recent trip to Welch, I felt the need to check out the hot dog offerings  of this venerable HDJ. I ordered up a hot dog but to my surprise I had to ask for slaw. I have heard natives of McDowell County call their homeland  "The Free State of McDowell" but had no idea that they eschewed the cultural norms of West Virginia in their attempt to establish their own identity. But there, on the menu board mounted to the outside of the restaurant, was all I needed to know: "Slaw Dogs" are a stated menu item.

So I ordered a "Slaw Dog" and a milkshake. When I popped open my styrofoam coffin I found a messy hot dog made with a grilled NES bun - at least I think it was grilled but it might just have been stale. It was hard to tell because it was HARD. The weenie was of the small caliber version and the chili was tasteless. The slaw that I had to special order actually tasted pretty good and had a good texture, but by the time I noticed it was too late and judgment had been passed on this hot dog. 2 Weenies is a generous score.

The milkshake was excellent, by the way, and I'm sure that the Sterling's other menu offerings must be good or else it would have closed up long ago. Perhaps hot dogs just aren't their thing.

I hope that somewhere in the town of Welch there is a better hot dog joint so the people of the Free State of McDowell can know the pleasures of a real WVHD. Who knows? The taste of a good WVHD might be enough of an inducement to lure them back onto the fold and help them to take their rightful place as one of the 55 counties of West Virginia.


Unknown said...

You know, I told you people that no one in McDowell or Mercer Counties think slaw comes standard on a hot dog, but you didn't believe me. So there ya go.

mamacrouse said...

That's just not how we eat them down here! The Sterling has excellent food and if I'm not mistaken, they deep fry their buns. I do appreciate his comment that maybe hotdogs just aren't their thing instead of completely trashing them.