Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The World Wakes Up

In the United States, the true authority on hot dogs is the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Like most associations these folks have to be diplomatic when it comes to judging the merits of its constituency and can't really say what they believe if it show favoritism toward any one individual constituent. But once in a while, the truth refuses to stay in the shadows. Such is the case with their recent March Madness Hot Dog and Sausage Tournament on Facebook, where the WVHD vanquished all comers.

All hail the victors! West Virginia Hot Dogs reign supreme!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Morgantown HDJ Review - The Bear Cave

Once in a while I am still surprised to find a HDJ that is really old school. Usually that means that they have a 1950s era Sunbeam bun steamer or make their slaw in an antique Norge mixer, but when I was recently introduced to this hidden away HDJ on Peacock Avenue, I was truly taken aback.

A relic from the past, The Bear Cave makes no bones about being a men-only establishment.

And they have great hot dogs.

My visit to The Bear Cave was facilitated by an acquaintance who is a regular there, which is really the only way that anyone ever gets in. The cleverly hidden doorway on the lower level of the building and the complete lack of any signage makes accidental discovery almost impossible, and the seedy look of the neighborhood makes it unlikely that people are going to be just walking by. It doesn't get much better immediately inside the door - a dimly lit hallway that leads to the reception area further reinforces the feeling that this is not someplace you want to be nosing around. It is only after you turn the corner at the end of this hallway and come face to face with the large stuffed bear that mans the maitre d' station that you feel that this is a place that humans frequent.

The interior is only marginally less dimly lit than the entrance corridor, but there was enough light to see that the decor looked like it came from a Mad Men set with burgundy leather, red brick and dark oak the only perceptible colors. The lovely smell of hot dog chili hung in the air and it reminded me of what I had come for.

I asked my host about ordering up some hot dogs and he summoned an older man who had been talking to another group of older men nearby. He introduced the man as "George" and said he was one of the owners. I asked George what he considered "everything" on a hot dog and was pleased to find out that slaw was listed as a standard topping. I ordered two and George immediately left toward what I can only assume was the kitchen door.

While I was waiting on my hot dogs to return I queried my host on the history of The Bear Cave but either he didn't know much or he was sworn to secrecy because I found out nothing. I asked him what would happen if a woman came in and he just said "it'll never happen" and dismissed my further questions. There was so much that I wanted to know, but my hot dogs came back before I could ask any more questions. They looked and smelled so good that I couldn't resist turning my attention to them.

When I took out my camera to take a photo of the hot dogs for this post, my host quickly told me that pictures were not allowed (I guess he hadn't noticed that I had snapped one of the bear on the way in), so you'll have to take my word that these hot dogs were a thing of beauty. The buns were cloud-like in their softness and the chili was a deep brownish red. The slaw looked perfectly prepared and the onions were so finely chopped that they nearly disappeared into the texture of the slaw.

And they tasted even better than they looked! Heavenly. A Five Weenie classic if ever one existed. The chili was spicy and the slaw was cool and sweet - they were joined together in a synergistic marriage of pure deliciousness. The soft bun cradled all of this goodness and made everything even better because of its freshness. I looked at my host and then at George who was still standing by, smiling in expectation. I think I had a tear in my eye because I had found what was quite possibly The One True Dog. Rapture! Delight!

For a long time I couldn't speak, I could only enjoy the magnificent taste. When the words finally came to me, I thanked George for the privilege of tasting it. I thanked my host for the opportunity to experience The Bear Cave, a place that until that morning I had never even heard of. I excitedly  told them both that I couldn't wait to write the review and tell all of our readers about it.

And that's when they looked at each other and their smiles turned into frowns. My host said to me, "No, you can never write about this."

"Never," reinforced George.

"But, this to too wonderful!", I said. "I can't possibly be expected keep this quiet? This is the best hot dog I have ever had!"

George narrowed his gaze and said "Never, capice?" His meaning was very clear. I capiced.

After a long pause, I agreed to never write the review. I ate the rest of my hot dogs with a mixture of joy and sadness. Joy for the sheer pleasure of the taste and textures of these hot dogs, and sadness because I knew that I could never tell my readers about them.

It was months later, though, that I remembered that I write this blog under a well-protected pseudonym and that my host and George knew me only by my pen name. I decided to throw caution to the wind and publish this review.

Besides, with all of the kumbaya going on lately in this country, with all of the equal rights court decisions and all of the women empowerment books being published, I thought to myself, "how can I just stand by and not say anything about this discriminatory hot dog joint? How is it OK for me to have this information - that what is perhaps The One True Dog exists and it is being purposely withheld from 50% of our population because of their sex?" I decided that I can't be complicit any more and I have to speak out.

I challenge the women of Morgantown, go down to Peacock Avenue and find this place and just march in and order a hot dog. This is your time to Lean In!

I just hope I don't get leaned on for writing about it.

Oh, and one more thing: Happy April Fools Day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pepperoni Roll Power Play

Today a bill was introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates to make the Pepperoni Roll the official state food of West Virginia. This has caught us here at WVHotDogs.com completely by surprise and our operatives have been scrambling all afternoon to launch a counter-offensive in the war for Mountain State gastro-domination. Take this as a quick legislative alert and call to action for readers who know that only a West Virginia Hot Dog is the true State food, official or otherwise. Get on the phone to your elected official and make your voice be heard!

Here is the breakdown on the sponsors of the bill:

First, you have the predictable North-Central Dem delegation of Caputo (D Marion), Iaquinta (D Harrison),  Miley (D Harrison), Manchin (D Marion) with a token Republican Smith of Preston County. 

From the Free State of McDowell, there is Delegate Cliff Moore a wild card who loves to have his name on a bill, and who now has his name on this one. Not a big deal - as we documented last year, it is hard to find a decent hot dog in McDowell County. Pepperoni rolls probably survive the treacherous trip to McDowell County better than do hot dog buns anyway. All in all, Moore's sponsorship is no surprise.

The lead sponsor, though, is terribly surprising: A Republican from Boone County, Joshua Nelson has no business getting involved in this issue. Boone Countians, let him hear about it. Hot dogs with chili and slaw rule that land, not pepperoni rolls!

Troy Andes from Putnam County is in a no-win situation since he represents the only county in the state that doesn't have a stance on whether they like their hot dogs with "chili" or "sauce." It is this kind of confusion that makes politicians do irresponsible things.

But the biggest disappointment is the from the Mingo and Logan Democratic delegation. Ted Tomblin from Logan and Delegates Marcum and White from Mingo have really dropped themselves in a big ol' pot of hot water with their sponsorship of this flawed bill. Why, Logan is the home of Morrison's Drive Inn, quite likely the best damn hot dog joint in the state - as well as having at least three other Five Weenie HDJs in the county. And we are certain that Big Daddy Buck Harless - a noted Hot Dog  fan - is not going to be happy about Marcum and White going off the reservation like this. There's gonna be some serious ramifications in Mingo County in the coming days. 

So WVHD fans, let them have it! You can find their contact information here. Phone or email - let your voice be heard!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

St. Albans HDJ Review - Sammy's Chili Dogs

After a long hiatus, partially because of holidays and partially to give our triglycerides a chance to return to tolerable levels, our Weenie Wonks are back on the job just in time to catch a brand-spanking new HDJ in their first week of business. And while sometimes a new restaurant takes a while to get their sea legs and start putting out a quality product, we found out that this is not the case with Sammy's Chili Dogs.

Sitting on the bank of the Coal River backwater on West Main Street, this HDJ just opened this past week and is already causing a splash. [Update: Now located at 54 MacCorkle Avenue in St. Albans]We first heard of it through a Facebook Fan and were eager to check it out since it's been so long since a new HDJ opened in these parts. It didn't take long to find Sammy's since it is right at the intersection of West Main and Coal River Road and has a flashing red traffic light that stops all cars right in from of its door.

First thing you notice - if you are an experienced Weenie Wonk - is that Sammy's sign looks very much like another area HDJ whose name also is a derivative of the name "Samuel." We'll just have to wait and see if somebody's lawyer notices. [Update: Somebody's lawyer must have noticed because Sammy's has changed its name to "Bammy's, and their sign is different.]

The second thing you notice is that Sammy's keeps insane hours for a HDJ: Open from 9:00 AM until 3:00 AM daily and then from 1:00PM until 2:00AM on Sundays.

Inside, Sammy's is clean as you would expect a week-old restaurant to be, but it is also tastefully decorated and homey with comfortable seating for probably 20 diners and a few more at the counter. The staff is friendly and the service is quick.

As for toppings, Sammy's doesn't seem to have a standard set of toppings, an unfortunate trait which is usually an indicator of lower quality hot dogs. "Everything" is not well defined and can include anything from the proper WVHD toppings of mustard, chili (regular or spicy), slaw and onions to ketchup, pickle relish and jalapenos. I ordered mine of course with mustard, onions, slaw and chose the spicy chili.

My hot dog came out with some rather large chunks of onions sitting on it, but otherwise looked good. The spicy chili had a lot more going on that just spice and was perfectly balanced by excellent slaw; creamy and sweet and applied in perfect proportion. The bun was soft and had obviously been steamed fresh. The weenie was all-beef and of the large-caliber variety. This hot dog has been thought through by someone who loves hot dogs and was very well executed.  Very good and very satisfying.

The size of the onions makes it necessary to deduct one-half point, but Sammy's gets an enthusiastic 4 1/2 Weenies and our unabashed recommendation as the best HDJ in St. Albans. A little out of the way (especially with the closing of the Nitro bridge) but well worth it.