Sunday, November 12, 2017

Huntington HDJ ReReview - Midway West Drive In

This venerable Hot Dog Joint has been getting more than its share of love lately on FaceBook reviews. It seems every time we review a less-than-stellar HDJ there is always someone commenting that we should check out Midway. They are right, of course, because the last time we reviewed this place it was shortly after it reopened in 2008. It didn't get good marks then, but we often give new places a second chance after they have some time to iron out the wrinkles. We usually don't wait 9 years, though. You'd think that after nine years this place would have its act together.

It does. Spectacularly so.

I made the drive to Huntington on Saturday and timed it out to arrive at lunchtime. Expecting it to be pretty busy, I was a bit relieved when I found it not so, and a grabbed a prime parking spot where I could see both the inside and outside activity (there is inside seating for a few folks at the counter). Almost before I could get my window down, the extraordinarily friendly and efficient carhop was there to take my order. I asked what "everything" was and he said it right: Sauce (being Huntington), slaw, onions and mustard. Perfect. I asked for two and side of fries and away the carhop went.

I thought I'd take some notes while I waited on my order to come out. The place look like it has been recently painted, is clean and...WHOA that was fast! I have no idea how they served me so fast. It was dizzying how quick it was. And I wasn't a fluke either; I watched while I ate and everyone was served fast and friendly.

But experience teaches me that fast dogs aren't always good dogs, so I cautiously unwrapped the first dog, which had a nice heft and temperature. Wrapped in paper, the dog was steamy and soft. It smelled heavenly. Nearly a perfect Utilitarian Dog presentation.

The slaw was beautifully chopped and quick taste revealed it to be slightly sweet. The chili was under the weenie - not the preferred placement but a sight better than those crazies who put it on top of the slaw - was rich and complex but lacked much spiciness. It paired well with the slaw, though, so we'll not penalize it much,

Altogether, this was simply the best hot dog I've had in quite awhile. The class of Huntington HDJs for sure, and a definite

contender for the next Statewide Top Ten list. We're going to rate it 4 1/2 Weenies primarily because of the lack of spice in the chili, er I mean, sauce. We never give extra points for service, but if we did they would surely get a bump. Likewise for the crinkle-cut fries which were perfectly crispy and delicious. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Sad, Sad Day for WV Hot Dog Fans

We've seen it happen all too many times. Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas just to name a few. People who were the best in the game and then sadly went downhill. People now remember them not  just for their greatness, but for the lackluster performance of their declining years.

It happens with Hot Dog Joints, too. And now, it has happened to the King of WV Hot Dogs.

A trip south this weekend gave me the opportunity to stop in for hot dogs at Morrisons Drive Inn in Logan (OK, technically Stollings). When I say "opportunity" I mean it in the most positive way: I look forward to a trip to Morrisons - which has topped every list of best WVHDs we have produced since 2007 - like a five year old child looks forward to Christmas morning. Or at least, I used to. It all changed this weekend.

Driving up to the curb-service parking area, my mouth was already watering. When the car hop came to my window I got my first inkling that this trip might be different when she asked if I wanted slaw on my hot dogs with everything. What? How's that? I did say everything, right?

I found this more than a little unsettling. It was like buying tickets to Disneyland and begin asked if I wanted Mickey Mouse to be included in the price. I expect this kind of behavior up north, closer to Fairmont, and I will tolerate it in Huntington, but please, not at Morrisons. Please, for the love of all things Holy, not Morrisons.

I shook it off.

After few minutes I began waiting on my hot dogs and remembering that they have never, ever disappointed me. I told myself that this "you want slaw with that" moment could be explained by the possibility that the car hop was new, or some other reason that didn't mean that Morrisons was slipping. I waited some more. And some more.  25 minutes for two hot dogs and fries, and they really weren't very busy.

The waiting didn't bother me. Some things, grandma always said, are worth waiting for. And surely, this had always applied to Morrisons hot dogs before.

When my order finally arrived, the first thing that I noticed was that my fries were stone cold. That's OK, I thought, I'm not here for the fries, They are but an accoutrement to the main course. And my hot dogs looked great, there inside Morrisons' signature cellophane wrappers. I expected that when I unfurled them that they would be the same delicious Utilitarian Dogs that I always had before, soft and maybe even slightly gooey from being steamed inside the wrapping.

They weren't.

The buns were hard on the bottom, almost to the point of being crunchy. The temperature of the hot dogs was not sufficient to create steam anyway. And the slaw that I was asked about? Barely there, and completely tasteless. The chili still tasted about the same as before, but it was a little bit cold and therefore had a greasy feel.

Morrisons, whose hot dogs I have never found to be deserving less than a 5 Weenie rating, has fallen so far since I was last there. This hot dog - even adjusting for my disappointment and being as objective as I can possibly be - would barely rate 3 Weenies, and that is generous.

It could have been an off day. But the King isn't allowed an off day. Part of why they were the King was due to the fact that they were 100% dependable for decades.

I am shaken to the core. The one thing that seemed so constant in my life has fallen from its pedestal. The King might not be dead, but he is certainly showing signs of mortality. And now, perhaps, it is a good day to start thinking about who will take Morrisons' place on the throne.

Nominations, please.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cross Lanes HDJ - T&M Meats & WV Brick Oven Bistro

The bare-bones exterior probably scares away more customers than it attracts, but once inside you can't help but to be impressed by this meat that shop has evolved over the years into a bonafide restaurant. With a brick oven pizza menu, various bar food selections and a decent beer selection it has become a real hot spot in Cross Lanes. Refrigerated cases filled with just about any kind of meat you might want line two walls and in the center are tables and a bar for dining. The namesake beehive shaped "brick oven" sits prominently behind the bar.

I didn't go into T&M Meats for a hot dog review, but when I saw one on the menu listed for $2.00, I figured I'd order it as an appetizer to give it a shot. I saw that the toppings included ketchup, so of course I asked the waitress to delete it from mine. She informed me that the hot dog comes standard with two weenies and asked me if I wanted it that way or with only one. After taking a second to try to understand what a two-weenie hot dog would look like - a heretofore unprecedented encounter - I said "sure, why not?" and threw all caution to the wind. I spent the waiting time wondering how they could fit two weenies on one bun, postulating various theories.

It turns out that the two weenies were of the small caliber variety, so they fit on the bun just fine. They were made a little bit smaller by being over-grilled until they were dry and leathery on the outside. The bun, strangely enough, had a coating of poppy seeds, but was about the same size as your basic Heiners hot dog bun. The poppy seeds added nothing to the taste or texture of the hot dog.

The chili was sweet, with not much spice but super-fine. The consistency made me think that there might be some kind of meat substitute like TVP added, but I couldn't be sure. The slaw was slightly sweet and slightly vinegary. There is little synergy between the two.

There's really not much else to say about the hot dog at T&M Meats. We'll give it a 2 Weenie ranking for trying hard, but honestly, trying less hard would make it better. We would recommend ditching the double-weenie and replace it with one that is properly-cooked, and likewise ditching the poppy seed bun.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Davis Hot Dog Joint - Wicked Wilderness Pub 'n' Parlor

We discovered what might be the highest HDJ in the state. Both elevation-wise and price-wise.

If the Town of Davis' claim of being the highest incorporated town is accurate (and we have no reason not to believe them), and if there are no other hot dog joints in town (we couldn't find any) then indeed the Wicked Wilderness Pub n Parlor must be tops -- as it were-- in the State of West Virginia.

This recently-opened establishment has basic bar food and drinks and is an overall nice place. Located right next door to Sirriani's Cafe, which previously might have been the only bonafide restaurant in Davis (and a little more previously it might have been the only real restaurant in all of Tucker County), the WWPnP is in a good location to catch some of the the hungry hordes that are routinely standing outside waiting for a table there. The Saturday evening we were there they seemed ready for a large influx of customers with plenty of waitstaff, but business was slack early on.

I really wasn't there to do a hot dog review, but when I saw the lovely words "West Virginia style" under the "Wicked Hot Dog" title, I knew I had to check it out. At $6.50, this would certainly be one of the highest-priced hot dogs we've reviewed - a fitting companion to its high elevation, I guess. I hoped it would be enough to satisfy my dinner-sized appetite.

When my hot dog arrived, it was easy to see why it was so pricey - the thing was YUGE and I did not worry about leaving hungry. The weenie was as large as any I have encountered, and as a bonus, was quite tasty. It would have gone well as the centerpiece of a sausage-centric entree with a couple of vegetable sides. To give you a sense of the size of this monster, look at the photo: The bun was actually a standard-size hoagie bun, though, so it lacked the soft feel that one looks for in a proper WVHD bun. It also lacked any substance in that critical space under the weenie, so all of the ingredients started falling out of the bottom with the first bite.

The slaw looked great, finely chopped and liberally applied (yes, you anti-carrot people, it has orange flecks. Why are you SO against color in your slaw?), and tasted good if not great. That chili though...

The chili, or rather I should say "chili," because it was not really chili. It was browned ground beef with almost no seasoning whatsoever. Maybe it was a bad batch, but it was absolutely the most bland tasting chili-like substance I have ever had on a hot dog. With a name like "Wicked Hot Dog" I was really expecting something spicy, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

The bottom line is that, despite the menu's claim, this was not really a West Virginia style hot dog. It was an attempt at a meal-sized facsimile of a WVHD but fails primarily due to the lack of seasoning in the "chili," but also because of the overall size and lack of a real bun. We'll give it a 3 Weenie score for effort, but we'll keep looking for a real hot dog in the Davis/Thomas/Canaan Valley area.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Barkersville HDJ Review - Le Chien est Chaud French Bistro

We have long maintained on this blog that the West Virginia Hot Dog is an art form unto itself, but never before have we found a hot dog joint that embraced the idea more than does Le Chien est Chaud in Barkersville. To call this lovely restaurant a hot dog joint might be seen as a disservice to some, but not to Claude de'Avril, the friendly owner and chef of Le Chien.

"Not at all!" de'Avril said with a chuckle. "When I came to West Virginia I was delighted by the culinary landscape, and what would it be without the West Virginia Hot Dog? We are honored to be called 'hot dog joint'"!

Le Chien est Chuad's signature dish!
With menu items ranging from a hand-cut Delmonico steak to New Orleans Style Bouillabaisse, you might be surprised to find hot dogs on the menu, but there they are right between the Coho Salmon and the Veal Scallopini. Listed as the signature dish, the entree that takes the bistro's name as its own is no ordinary WVHD, but  "two deconstructed West Virginia hot dogs. Delicately grilled frankfurters served with moutarde jaune, onions, chili con-carne and koosla."  Deconstructed dishes are all the rage in fancy big-city restaurants these days, but we were still surprised to find this dish in a small town like Barkersville, even though this little burg has surprised us before with its culinary offerings. We were eager to try it.

While Claude was preparing our dish, we looked around the interior of the restaurant with great interest. A neat display of old photos and newspaper stories from the 1920's illuminated the impact that French immigrants had on Barkersville. According to one of old newspaper clippings, at one time there were so many native Frenchmen on the town council that it almost changed the name of the town to "Poisson," in recognition of the great fishing that could be found in Barker Creek which runs through the middle of town. The native locals, however, though the word was off putting since it was only one "s" removed from a very negative English word. The locals won, evidently.
Culinary artistry!

 After a reasonable wait, our entree arrived and we were simply stunned by its appearance. Certainly this WVHD was far different from any other we had encountered. While the weenies were presented in their entirety, the bun had been carved into bite size pieces and lightly toasted. Small mounds of chili and "koosla" (slaw) were placed nearby on the plate and an artistic stripe of moutarde jaune (yellow mustard) brought color and life to the plate, which was made complete by a beautiful arrangement of delicately sliced onions. After beholding the artistry for a moment we were eager to dig in.

Chili, slaw mustard and onion was our favorite combination
Not wishing to commit a faux pas, we asked Claude how he had intended the dish to be eaten, whether with fingers or knife and fork. He suggested we use utensils, but to vary our bites so different combinations of the ingredients could be tasted. We definitely found the best combination to be a bite of bread, a cut of meat dipped in mustard and dredged through the complex chili and sweet cole slaw. Delightful.

We also took the chef's suggestion for a wine pairing, the 2013 Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet. The wine's rich, hedonistic core of wild berry, blackberry, plum and currant, with a graceful, elegant mouthfeel and supple, caressing tannins leading to a long, powerful and refined aftertaste was the perfect complement to the entree.
So rich! We couldn't finish the meal!

At $21, these are the most expensive hot dogs we've ever bought, but the dish would have been a bargain at even a higher price point. Deceptively rich and filling, it didn't leave us room for dessert; a shame because the Moon Pie Flambe' sounded so tempting! Perhaps the next trip - and there will definitely be a next trip for this Weenie Wonk.

While we never give an official Weenie Rating to hot dogs that are so non-standard as these, we do give Le Chien est Chuad our highest recommendation as a fine dining restaurant and a great place to dine on special occasions, like April Fools Day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A partial list of some HDJs that have closed since our last review

The Hot Dog business in West Virginia is tough since most every locally owned restaurant includes some kind of hot dog on its menu. Perhaps this is the reason that a lot of promising HDJs have closed in the last few years. Whatever the reason, we feel it is our duty to report the casualties from time to time. Here is our most recent list of formerly great HDJs that have bitten the dust:

Hog and Dog - Charleston 
Sistah's Rib Shack - Charleston
Sammy's Chili Dogs - St. Albans (now called Bammy's)
J's Grocery - Bluewell
Not Franks Pizza - Shrewsbury (we're not sure if the Montgomery location is still there)
Five Corners Cafe - Charleston
The Blossom Dairy - Charleston
Maggie Moo's Ice Cream- Charleston
The Daily Grind - Charleston
Sister Act Cafe - Charleston
Wild Flour Bakery - Fayetteville

In addition to these that succumbed to the natural pressures of competition, we also lost two well-known HDJs to last June's floodwaters: 

Mumsey's Iron Skillet - Richwood
Dairy Queen - Clendenin

On this first day of spring we can only hope that the newness of the season brings us many more great HDJs to take the place of these fallen heroes.