Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Charleston HDJ Review - Sam's Hot Dogs - Randolph Street

We reviewed this convenience store location of Sam's when it first opened in 2008, actually on it's very first day in business. We found the hot dogs and service to be sub par on that day, but realizing that it's not fair to judge a place before it has its sea legs, we made a promise to come back. We didn't mean to wait seven years.

But seven years it is, and when we returned today here are the differences that we found:

  1. They weren't as busy.
  2. They no longer use coffins for their hot dogs.

Other than that, the experience was exactly the same as in 2008. Chunky slaw. 3 1/2 Weenies.

The only thing that made this visit remarkable was that we broadcast the review live on Periscope (now if you don't know what Periscope is, do not feel alone because approximately 99.8% of the world's population is just as clueless, but you can read more here). It was our first Periscope review (it won't be our last) and we learned a few lessons.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

West Virginia Slaw War Museum

In 1921, there began in West Virginia a battle that pitted brother against brother and North against South; blood relatives railed against each other's deep-seeded beliefs and family traditions. Decades later the scars of this battle are still visible and divide this great state. A clear victor has been established in this fight, and yet citizens of a certain area of the state stubbornly hold to the old ways and will not allow defeat to be acknowledged.

Of course, I am talking about the great Slaw War of West Virginia that began when the Stopette Drive In on Rt. 21 near Charleston began putting coleslaw on top of their popular chili dogs and started a food revolution that soon swept the entire state. Well, almost the entire state. Marion County, along with certain factions from Harrison County resisted the slaw advance and set the scene for The War.

A new museum has opened in Jane Lew, just a few miles south of the front lines of The War, that hopes to enlighten people on the ways in which this rift has affected people in North Central West Virginia. The Slaw War Museum is owned and run by Flora Olips, a former school cook for Marion County Schools. Flora is determined to help people on both sides of the issue come to an understanding. She was kind enough to sit down with us for a recorded interview. We hope to have the full audio version posted soon, but here are some highlights of our chat:

West Virginia Hot Dog Blog: Flora, when did you first get the idea for this museum?

Flora Olips: I've been wanting to do it since 1967. That's when my grandfather died. He was the one who told me about The War.

WVHDB: Was he affected by The War?

Flora: Oh Heavens, yes. He drove a truck for Heiners Bakery and he used to have to make the run from Huntington to Morgantown. He used to tell me how some Marion County restaurants wouldn't take buns from a open tray because they didn't want to use the same ones that places that served slaw used.

WVHDB: That sounds a little crazy...

Flora: Crazy? O mercy, that's exactly the kind of talk I'm trying to discourage here. It's just a different way of thinking. It might be hard for you to understand, but it's real to those who believe it.

WVHDB: So, which side are you on, Flora? Are you for slaw or against it?

Flora: Hah! If it were only that simple!

WVHDB: What do you mean? I just want to know if you like slaw on your personal hot dogs or not.

Flora: No, you asked whether I am for slaw or agin' it. That's what is complicated. As for what I eat on my own hot dogs, well, it depends on where I am and who I am with.

WVHDB: You mean, you swing both ways?

Flora: In a manner of speaking. I would never walk into Russell Yann's place [Yann's Hot Dogs in Fairmont] and ask for slaw, but if I am in Charleston or Logan, I love me a big helping of cool creamy slaw on my dog.

WVHDB: So you're attitude is kinda 'when in Rome?'

Flora: Exactly. I believe strongly in a person's right to choose.

Flora gave us the full tour of the museum that included photos of seemingly every hot dog sold by West Virginia vendors, showing the variations in presentation and styles. She had secret chili recipes from some of the great hot dog joints of the past, and iconic hot dog memorabilia such as the 1950s era Sunbeam Bun Steamer from Romeo's Grill in South Charleston. Just seeing these artifacts made my mouth water thinking of the delicious hot dogs they used to sell.

Alas, Flora doesn't allow photos in the museum so you will have to check it out yourself. The museum is located on Flair Pools Road just south of the Jane Lew Exit of I79. Open only one day per year, on April 1.

And speaking of museums, make sure that you visit the West Virginia Mine War Museum  that opens on May 16th in Matewan.