Thursday, February 05, 2015

J's Grocery steward of WV Dogs in Mercer, defends border county from Old Dominion dogs.

It's the Citgo station across W.Va. 10 from the
Kegley Post Office.
 It was an easy choice for me to review one of my favorite hot-dog joints, J's Grocery in Kegley, Mercer County.  It is the Citgo station/grocery store/hot-dog joint across W.Va. Route 10 from the Kegley Post Office and is about 10 minutes north of Princeton and 7/10 of a mile south of the U.S. 19 and route 10 split.
     At the split, you'll see the site of what is reportedly one of the most haunted sites in North America. It was a Native American burial ground, the site of a massacre of an 18th Century settler family (including one child who was taken away and burned at the stake) and the Lake Shawnee amusement park, which has its own grim stories. The old Ferris wheel is still there and looks very, very creepy.
This very creepy old Ferris wheel -
on the site of a Native American burial
 ground and a 1700s massacre - can
be seen nearby.
  Last summer, I was driving by and stopped in after seeing the "homemade hot dogs" sign outside. I asked my hostess/dog preparer/co-owner of the joint, Marie Burrell, "are your hot dogs any good?" If looks could kill, her look would have killed.
     "We take our hot dogs very seriously," she said.
     These dogs take several minutes to prepare, so I typically call ahead as I leave Princeton. My dogs are thereby ready about three minutes after I arrive. On review day, I called ahead and was told "our cook (Marie) has stepped out" and no hot dogs could be made.
     Imagine my joyous surprise when a few minutes later - thanks to caller ID, I presume - I was called back and told that Marie had returned and my dog could now be prepared. Marie, you see, is the only one with authority to create hot dogs at J's.
     When I arrived, she was still preparing my dog. I asked what constituted an "everything" hot dog at J's. Her answer could have easily been boilerplate material lifted from any West Virginia Hot Dogs press release:
One of the best dogs I have ever consumed.
     "Slaw, chili, mustard and onions," she said. "Most people around here want ketchup, mustard, but a hot dog with everything must have slaw. 'Everything' must be slaw, chili, mustard and onions because that's what a West Virginia hot dog is. Nothing else."      
     As I shuddered at the thought of hot dogs with ketchup, mustard and relish actually being ordered for human - not just animal - consumption, I was pleased to hear tales of how J's Grocery has worked to educate an uniformed public of locals - whose palates have been corrupted by Old Dominion dogs smuggled across our unsecured southern border - and travelers alike about the virtues of the true West Virginia dog.
    On my previous visits, the slaws were excellent, but had been a little less moist than other slaws I've come across and I mentioned this as she prepared my order. She said the slaw moisture content was intentional - to keep the bun from getting too soggy. I asked her what was in her slaw. She swore she would never tell and asked me about my preferences concerning slaw moisture.
     I took this dog (which cost $2.50 with tax) out to my truck for private review. When I opened the wrapper of this dog, which was utilitarian in packaging, but otherwise genteel in appearance, I was shocked. Dumbfounded. Flabbergasted. Flutterated. The slaw had been prepared in a small batch specifically for my dog (I was the first to order slaw that day) and she had slightly and perfectly adjusted the moisture content of it based on my answer.
     The slaw had a divine creaminess that not only mixed well with the chili, but brought forth many complicated flavors at once. I could taste the nuances of the cabbage, perfectly balanced with the mayo and other slaw ingredients.  If there is a special heaven for mountaineers, this is the slaw the angels serve there. In the chili, I could not only taste the spices, but the meat as well. Nothing, I repeat, nothing was too far forward in this perfectly-balanced mix of flavors.
     The bun was lightly grilled. The result was the outside was a little crispy, while the inside retained its softness. This had an added anti-soggy-bun effect. The wiener was a a quality dog and grilled, not boiled. I could find no fault in this dog. It may have been the perfect dog - and perhaps the fulfillment of some hot-dog-shaman's ancient prophecy.
I give it five weenies. And then some.


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