Monday, August 27, 2012

Downtown Charleston HDJ Death Match - Championship Round

After it had been resurrected to fight another day, you had to be rooting for The Fresh Seafood Company to complete the comeback by knocking off the top seed, Swiftwater Cafe. But will this Cinderella Story have a happily ever after ending, or will the glass slipper dream be shattered?

Swiftwater's Genteel Dogs
TFSC has a hard task, unseating the HDJ that won the Weenie Award for Charleston's best hot dog three out of the four years it was handed out by Swiftwater takes hot dogs seriously and executes well with tasty slaw, great chili and Boar's Head beef weenies. They also have the consistently friendliest service of any downtown lunch spot. A few years ago, owner Teddy Queen changed his slaw recipe to make it sweeter and creamier, and he also wiped (and I mean literally wiped - you can still see the remnants on his sign) ketchup off his list of "everything" toppings to fit the true definition of a WVHD. You gotta like that kind of initiative.

The Fresh Seafood Company makes me assemble my hot dogs myself. If for no other reason, this one shortcoming would make them lose this round. A valiant effort, but just a little short.

But to be honest, even if TFSC had a hot dog lovingly assembled by kiss-blowing supermodels and served on a silver platter, Swiftwater's excellent product would blow it away. Swiftwater's hot dog is extremely tasty and is presented like a true Genteel Dog should be. There is simply nothing bad you can say about the Swiftwater Cafe hot dog experience.

So the winner, who will now be able to claim the title "Downtown Charleston's Best Hot Dog," is Swiftwater Cafe. They will rest on their laurels for a while until the West Side HDJ Death Match is complete and then will be pitted against the Best of the West. Till then, congratulations Swiftwater Cafe!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Downtown Charleston HDJ Death Match - Special Eat-Off

Sam's Hot Dog LOOKS great, but...
First, before ugly rumors get started, there is NO HDJ Death Match curse. It is complete happenstance that three of the HDJs in our contest closed down before a winner could be decided. Or at least that's what we said last week. Then, lightning struck again when, the very next day after they won the semifinal round against Sam's Hot Dog Stand on Hale Street, Sister Act Cafe on Capitol Street went belly up.  The latest casualty, however, caused us to rethink the possible existence of a curse, and it also posed a great problem for us here at; namely, how can we move forward with crowning an unimpeachable champion with this kind of controversy mucking up our process?  Do we roll back the contest and allow Sam's to compete with Swiftwater Cafe for all the marbles? That really didn't seem fair, because Sam's didn't beat ANYBODY in the tournament. The only competitor they faced was the aforementioned Sister Act and were defeated handily.
Seafood place or not, TFSC has a great dog!

After a week of hand wringing and brow furrowing, we decided that the most equitable solution was to have an elimination match between Sam's and the first HDJ that lost to Sister Act, The Fresh Seafood Company. So presented for your approval (or not) a Special Eat-Off to decide who faces the top seed.

This match up provides an opportunity to decide between two very different HDJs; On the one hand, Sam's Hot Dog Stand is -  as its name says - a hot dog stand. The Fresh Seafood Company - as its name implies - is a seafood place. It would seem natural for the hot dog stand to win at what would seem to be its own game. If we were judging fish and chips, it would follow that TFSC would have a leg up. But - as they say - in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but not in practice. The practical truth of this matter is that TFSC has some really good hot dogs. It is not known whether Sam's has good fish, or any fish for that matter.

So who wins?

The strength of Sam's is in its chili; in fact, when it comes to the Hale Street location, that might be its only strength. Sam's Hale Street location always seems to have stale buns and waterlogged weenies. Its slaw is consistently average. Sam's Chili is slightly better that Fresh Seafood Company's offering, but that's the only category it wins.

TFSC has better slaw, better bun, better weenie and good chili. The only downside is that I have to assemble the dang thing myself; and that's not an insignificant problem!

So the contest comes down to negatives and which HDJ has the fewest. That would be The Fresh Seafood Company. They are resurrected to face the top seed in our tournament, Swiftwater Cafe.

Results posted next week.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Downtown Charleston HDJ Death Match Round 7 - Sister Act Cafe vs. Sam's Hot Dog Stand admittedly has a love/hate relationship with Sam's Hot Dog Stand. Here are some of the reasons we love and hate them:


  • They have a consistently decent product (rarely bad)
  • Some locations are better than others
  • They are one of the only HDJs that offer spicy chili as an upgrade
  • They have many locations around the southern half of the state
  • They have a consistently decent product (rarely great)
  • They call chili "sauce" in most of their locations
  • Lately all of their new locations seem to half HDJ and half gambling joints
In spite of our history with Sam's, we still seeded them #2 in this tournament, primarily because of their spicy chili offering; heretofore the only such offering in downtown Charleston. Or should I say "theretofore"? Because defending champion Sister Act Cafe now offers TWO spicy chilis; And they call it chili!

So as you might be able to tell, Sam's rode in to this contest on the strength of their chili, but Sister Act's is better. It is spicier and better tasting; it's not even close. 

Sam's slaw looks better and had the right consistency for perfect hot dog slaw, but it is not any tastier than Sister Act's. 

Sam's weenie has always been a weak spot (soaking all day in a pool of its own filth), and this time is no different; Sister Act's grilled weenie beats it. 

Buns being equal, this round goes to Sister Act Cafe, setting up the final round against...

... Swiftwater Cafe!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Downtown Charleston HDJ Death Match Round 6 - The Fresh Seafood Company vs. Sister Act Cafe

After defeating Diana's Snack Bar and then winning in two walkovers of HDJs who failed to make an entry, The Fresh Seafood Company now has to tackle a serious opponent: Sister Act Cafe.

Now Sister Act did not fare well on our initial review, receiving a ZERO Weenie score, but the volume of fan mail we've received since then have made us think that maybe we caught them on a bad day. Their performance today confirmed it.

I do not recall seeing this before, but Sister Act now offers three different temperatures of chili: "Regular", "Spicy" and "Charleston Devil Dog." I opted for the middle one and it turned out to be a good choice. The flavor of the chili was definitely influenced by some cayenne pepper and something else that I just couldn't put my finger on - kind of tart and very tasty. Versus The Fresh Seafood Company, there is no doubt that Sister Act comes out on top.

The weenie seemed to grilled and all-beef; nice flavor. No clear winner here. nor where the buns are concerned.

The slaw was tasty but had great big chunks of cabbage in it. Again, a virtual tie with perhaps a slight edge to TFSC for its better texture.

One critical difference tips the scale on this round: at the TFSC, I have to assemble my own hot dog and Sister Act is kind enough to do it for me.

This is the closest match yet, but the winner is Sister Act Cafe. And while I am at it I will go ahead and update their Weenie Rating to a 4.5. Great improvement!

Next Up: Sam's Hot Dog Stand, Hale Street

Monday, August 13, 2012

Downtown Charleston HDJ Death Match Round 5 - The Fresh Seafood Company vs. Kanawha County Judicial Annex Snack Bar

Well, heck.

After a week off to allow my triglycerides to recover, I set out on a recon mission for the next round of our Downtown Charleston HDJ Death Match only to discover that the next opponent had ceased doing business.

After emptying my pockets and going through security (oh, the things I do for you people!) I found that the elevator was out so I had to take the stairs; glad it is only the SECOND floor snack bar!

When I stepped out of the stairwell exit, I immediately knew something was amiss because I didn't smell the ever-present old onion smell that usually greets visitors there. When I cleared the doorway and glanced to my right, I saw a steel cage with nothing behind it, and in that same instant I remembered this story and how the Health Department had flexed its public health muscles and showed those county bureaucrats what fer. The snack bar closed a month later, but nobody notified

So, The Fresh Seafood Company wins in another walkover.

Next up: The Fresh Seafood Company vs. Sister Act Cafe.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Downtown Charleston HDJ Death Match Round 4 - another walkover

Not that anyone at is going to shed a tear about it, but why were we the last to know that the Town Center Maggie Moo's stopped selling hot dogs?

Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that the Fresh Seafood market lives on to fight another day and will take on next the formidable Kanawha County Courthouse Annex Snack Bar.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Downtown Charleston HDJ Death Match Round 3

Yesterday's winner, The Fresh Seafood Company - a small locally owned establishment - today takes on a corporate giant: Dairy Queen.

Now first, all Dairy Queens are not created equal. There two major divisions, the first being Dairy Queen Brazier which is a brand within a brand and sell products unique to that sub-brand. Then there are regular old DQs that mostly sell corporate's dairy products but are left to figure out hot dogs, french fries and other hot foodstuff on their own. In my view, the regular DQs do a much better job on WVHDs than the corporate-directed Braziers. If you are interested in reading the many different reviews of various DQs that has done over the years, follow this link.

The Town Center Mall DQ is not a Brazier outlet, but interestingly enough they still seem to use the standard corporate issue Coney Sauce on their hot dogs. Now this stuff can be doctored to taste OK, but by itself it's rather bland. TCDQ does not doctor theirs at all.  The slaw they serve is standard food service stuff that is tasteless, coarsely chopped and kind of tough.

New England Style Split Top bun fans will like TCDQ's buttered and grilled bread, but this is not a standard WVHD offering so they win no points here.

Today's death match was really no match at all. The Fresh Seafood Company's hot dog is so far superior to TCDQ that it's like they are not even in the same class. We'll see how it fares tomorrow when we walk down the mall when we go to another ice cream joint that sells hot dogs, Maggie Moos.