Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cairo HDJ Review - Shemp's Ice Cream Parlor

Cairo (the one in Ritchie County, not the one in Egypt) is a little town primarily known for its proximity to North Bend State Park and for being a stop on the 72 mile long North Bend Rail Trail. There area couple of general stores, a diner, a bike shop and Shemp's Ice Cream Parlor. Shemp's might not be named for that famous (and some may say, lesser) Stooge, of The Three Stooges fame, but he gets his share of homage in the decor of the cute little shop that looks legitimately like it is from the 1950s, not in the fake knock-off way, but things inside Shemp's look like they were there in 1958 and haven't been moved much since.

Fortunately Shemp's sells more than just ice cream, because we were hankering for hot dogs when we rolled in off of the trail on our bikes. We hoped that they were good ones, but when the waitress included ketchup in her list of toppings on an everything dog, we were a bit concerned about the quality. Thankfully our concerns were unfounded. We did notice that chili is called "sauce" here, which is understandable given Cairo's proximity to the Ohio River.

Shemp's hot dog is complex. It tries very hard to be a Genteel Dog, with its split and grilled weenie and giant helping of toppings, but is far too messy to rise above the Utilitarian Dog category. Not that this is a bad thing, not at all: In a small trailside town like Cairo, nobody s going to judge you if you have chili and slaw stains on your shirt and really, there is something magical about a hot dog that takes three or four paper napkins to get through, isn't there?

No, there's really nothing bad about Shemp's hot dogs. The bun was a little crusty, seemingly warmed in dry heat instead of steamed, but the chili/sauce and slaw were applied so heavily that a steamed bun might not have been up to the task anyway. The chili/sauce lacks much spice, but it is perfectly textured, as is the slaw. And speaking of slaw, purists will no doubt object to the orange flecks of carrots, but you won't catch this weenie wonk complaining - it tasted wonderful and was piled on in massive quantities. And most importantly, the Chili/sauce and slaw work together beautifully - the sign of a great WV hot dog. The hot dogs are very satisfying, both in quantity and in quality.

We're going to give Shemp's a Four Weenie ranking and recommend it to not only hungry trail riders, but anyone who finds themselves in the Mid Ohio Valley and in the mood for a great hot dog. But fair warning to you tie-wearing types: If you are going to be heading back to the office after lunch, bring a bib.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sissonville HDJ Review - Buddy B's

During our recent Facebook County-by-County poll of best hot dog joints, several votes were cast for Buddy B's Market in Sissonville, so we took a trip there recently to check it out.

Upon arrival, the very first thing we noticed was the sign out front that bragged "Best in Town" hot dogs. Regular readers know that if a HDJ is bold enough to put up such a sign, then they had better be able to back it up because we judge harshly those who boast. The sign also indicated that this was in no way a dedicated hot dog joint, but a market that happened to also sell hot dogs. We were dubious.

Entering the market you first find yourself confronted with a produce stand full of fresh offerings from local farmers, which is nice. To the left is a door that leads to a small dining room, and to the right is the market proper - and more importantly where the hot dogs are made. We placed our order for two hot dogs with everything and didn't have to wait too long before we had our lunch and walked over to the dining room to partake.

 After receiving positive comments from Facebook fans about Buddy B's, I was hopeful that we would be pleased with our lunch, and after seeing the first dog come out of its sleeve, I was further encouraged because the slaw was nothing short of beautiful! My mouth watered just looking at it; perfect in texture and liberally applied (this is where the word "unfortunate" and associated forms will begin to be used a lot), unfortunately looks were deceiving. It turned out that the liberal amount of slaw was unfortunate, because its taste was, well, unfortunate. The hot dog would have been better without it.

But not much better, because the chili, which was also a thing of beauty with perfect consistency and color, was just as unfortunately tasteless as the slaw.

Best in town? Maybe, because we couldn't find anywhere else in town that had hot dogs except for the local Tudor's (which are notoriously hit-and-miss). Fortunately we were able to drive a few short miles back down Route 21 to Skeenies and grab another couple of hot dogs that helped erase the unfortunate memory of Buddy B's unfortunate dogs. 2 Weenies is a generous score for this unfortunate HDJ.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Oak Hill HDJ Review - Delfino's

With the publication of this year's "101 Unique Places to Dine in West Virginia" list, we were reminded of a few HDJs that needed reviewed. One of those places is Delfino's Pizza and Ice Cream in Oak Hill. Now to call Delfino's a hot dog joint is probably a misnomer because it is a full service restaurant, most known for their desserts (a glass case full of delectable cakes and assorted yumminess is strategically placed by the front door), but since so many people brag on their hot dogs we felt we had to check them out.

The atmosphere inside Delfino's is all about the Oak Hill High School Red Devils, whose memorabilia adorns most of the walls. The twang of classic country music drones on in the background, and every person that comes through the door seems to know everyone else - customers and staff - as often happens in a small town establishments such as this. An outdoor picnic shelter is also available for those who prefer to dine al-fresco.

I was told that "everything" includes ketchup, so of course I deleted that from my order and proceeded with two with "everything else". When I got my hot dogs I was further dismayed by the grilled New England Style bun. Regular readers know that we feel that while these buttered and grilled split top buns are tasty (I mean, how could they NOT be? They are buttered and grilled bread!), they often hide the shortcomings of the rest of the hot dog and toppings. This is partially true at Delfino's. The slaw is very good - nearly perfect in texture but a little on the bland side. The chili - also perfect in texture - is devoid of any spiciness, but has a strong onion flavor instead. The weenie is low-to-moderate quality and added nothing particular to the experience. Overall, the hot dog was adequate, but nothing special.

We'll give it a 3 Weenie rating, and suggest that if you are looking for a good hot dog in Oak Hill, that you go on through downtown, hang a right on Jones Avenue and stop at Tom's Carry Out.