Sunday, July 28, 2019

Danville HDJ Review - K-Bo's

The land that lies between the greater Charleston area and the hot dog rich land of Logan has long been barren of good HDJs. Recently we received a couple of review suggestions that gave us hope that there was a halfway outpost worth stopping for in Danville.

K-Bo's is a classic roadside ice cream stand where you stand outside and order through a sliding window. In West Virginia, these kinds of places nearly always have hot dogs and we figured that K-Bo's was no exception. We were heartened to see a sign proclaiming a "5 Buck Lunch" consisting of a hot dog, chips and drink and confidently placed our order for one of those, pausing only to ask what "everything" meant. This is where everything went horribly, horribly wrong:

We were handed a paper menu that listed all of K-Bo's hot dog offerings. At the top were "Sunny Buns." Having never heard of a Sunny Bun, I asked the order taker what it was and was told it was a hot dog on a regular bun with Mustard KETCHUP chili, slaw and onions. I looked further down the menu and was initially encouraged to see a "WV Dog" listed but then I saw what K-Bo's thinks is on a WV Hot Dog: Chili, Mustard and Onions! This is not Fairmont! This is Southern West Virginia! It was like we walked into a wrinkle in the time/space continuum or took a wrong turn somewhere.

We of course had to create our own hot dog from the offered toppings. Humiliating.

We waited patiently for our hot dog, hoping that this would be the one that would make for a good stopover on the long trip from Charleston to Logan but after seeing that all-over-the-place menu our hopes were fading faster than Jim Justice's chance of re-election.

Our hot dog arrived in a styrofoam coffin, and upon opening the lid we immediately saw the too-large diced onions crowding the top and completely covering the coleslaw. We were able to excavate a little slaw to sample it but found it pretty tasteless and dry. The chili, likewise, had a flavor that resulted from browning the meat and onions --and maybe a slight taste of chili powder -- but nothing else. If not for the mustard, this hot dog would have been virtually without any flavor at all.

So we'll score K-Bo's a generous 1 1/2 Weenies and continue our search for a stopover HDJ on the road from Charleston to Logan. Maybe Chapmanville?

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Richwood HDJ Review - The Chill Out Grill

During the recent heat wave we decided to head for the cool Pocahontas County mountains for a

respite, which gave us a chance to stop in and check out this relatively new HDJ in Richwood. We'd received a couple of suggestions from fans that said we should review it, so we timed our trip to make sure we were there at lunchtime. 

The Chill Out Grill is located inside a building that looks a reclaimed Dairy Queen and sits on Edgewood Avenue, just off the main flow of traffic for passer-through like ourselves, but it wasn't hard to find. Navigating the menu was pretty easy too because right there at the top were the objects of our interest.

But also right at the top of the menu was a very bad sign: Ketchup was listed as the first topping. And when asked what "everything" was, the order taker included the red stuff in her answer. Half-point deduction.  

The rest of the toppings were correct, though, so we pressed on. Two different chilis were listed, one homemade and one spicy. We got one of each, but it made us wonder; is the spicy chili not homemade? 

Our order was served fast and friendly. The hot dogs looked pretty good, with really dark chili and slaw that was a good texture. The buns were a tad crusty, like they had been dry-warmed. 

The flavor of the "homemade chili" was a little bland, lacking any discernible spice and almost no flavor other than onions and well-browned ground beef. The "spicy chili" seemed to have even less flavor, but did have a slow burn spiciness that probably comes from cayenne. 

The slaw was a good texture and had a decent flavor. It deserved a better chili.

Given the uninspiring chili, the sparse slaw, the presence of ketchup on the "everything" dog and the crusty buns, The Chill Out Grill gets 2 1/2 Weenies. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Morgantown HDJ Review - Haught Diggity Dogs

Last year in a review of a new Charleston HDJ named Hot Diggity Dogs, we erroneously wrote that the phonetically similar HDJ in Morgantown called "Haught Diggity Dogz" was defunct. In our defense, we seem to have been partially correct, since according to the WV Secretary of State, the LLC that owned "Haught Diggity Dogz" was terminated in 2013.  But as a recent visit confirmed, there still a hot dog joint of the same name (albeit in Westover, not Morgantown) and they are selling very good hot dogs. We're not concerned with the legalities.

We are concerned with quality, though, and it seems that Haught Diggity Dogz shares this concern. But before we tell you about that, let's talk about a matter that has caused great controversy over on the Facebook Page recently.

Three kinds of "Chili," not "sauce."
We'd like to address this to all of those people who say that "nobody calls it chili" and insist that calling it chili is wrong and/or a southern WV thing. Please note the accompanying photo of Haught Diggity Dogz menu board. Here, just 10 miles from the Pennsylvania border, it is chili. It doesn't have beans in it and it is not eaten out of a bowl with a spoon. Now will you all please shut up?

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about Haught's hot dog. It's good. It could be great with some very small adjustments.

First, the good things: The bun is awesomely soft. It didn't appear to be steamed, nor did it need to be. We'd love to know the brand of these buns so we could recommend them to other HDJs. It was slightly different in shape than the Heiner's product that is ubiquitous n the southern part of the state, and softer than any of those even at the HDJs in Huntington where they are sure to get the freshest ones.

The chili is fantastic. We got the medium and the flavor and spice was nearly perfect. Complex, meaty and just the right consistency. The slaw is good too, but had maybe a bit too much mayo and was served a bit too sparingly.

But the onions. Here's where we need some work. They were simply chopped too coarsely for a hot dog and there were too many of them. Most of them fell off the dog as soon as it was lifted from the tray.

Haught Diggity Dogz also gets a half-point deduction for not fully embracing WVHD culture, as exhibited by its failure to have a stated "everything" dog with all of the required elements. This is not unexpected this close to the northern border, but rules are rules.

We're going to give HDD a very respectable 4 Weenie score.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Fairmont HDJ Review - Woody's

Start a conversation about hot dogs with someone from Fairmont and you will likely find that they are either fans of Yann's or Woody's. It seems that all of Fairmont is one camp or the other, with very few people who will admit loyalty to both. This binary dichotomy is interesting to us because of one key difference: Woody's --while optional and must be asked for -- offers coleslaw as a topping, and Yann's reportedly will throw you out if you ask for it.

In other words, Woody's offers hope to the majority of West Virginians in bold defiance of the majority of Marion Countians. It is a stand worth noting, and Woody's is seemingly rewarded for it by the legions of fans that take to the WV Hot Dogs Facebook page to sing the praises of their hot dogs.

A check of the West Virginia Hot Dog Blog archives recently revealed that for some reason our team of Weenie Wonks had never done an official review of Woody's, so we set out to correct that oversight with a trip up I79 from Charleston to the slawless barrens of Marion County.

Woody's is easy to find, just a couple of stoplights off of the interstate exit. It's easy to spot, too, because it looks just like a venerable old hot dog joint ought to look; nondescript cinder block building with a faded Coca Cola pole sign.

Walking into Woody's is like walking onto a movie set. Every detail is what you would expect from a hot dog joint that has been in the same spot for decades. Photos of local celebrities adorn the walls along with WVU sports memorabilia, a long bar sits in front of the food prep area with booths along the opposite wall. The staff is friendly (a stark contrast to - ahem - other Fairmont hot dog joints) and service is fast and efficient.

Before placing our order, we asked the server what "everything" meant, even though we knew the answer: Sauce, onions and mustard, or course. This is Fairmont. We asked if we could add slaw and the server didn't flinch, wince, roll her eyes, try to throw us out or otherwise react in any way other than affirmative.

Woody's also offers a choice when it comes to the spiciness of the sauce: mild, medium or hot. Now usually, when offered with the choice we recommend spicy chili/sauce for West Virginia hot dogs, but this being Fairmont, the land of extremely hot sauce, we decided that medium was the smarter choice.

In short order, before we really had the opportunity to appreciate the historical decor and ambiance of the place, our hot dogs were delivered to out table. Slaw and all. In Fairmont. It was like a dream.

Picking up the hot dog, the first thing you notice is its lightness. The weight is seemingly kept low by two things: 1) the toppings are relatively sparsely applied, and 2) the bun is very airy and light. Usually heft is a good indicator, so we were a little concerned about the lightness.

A. James Manchin in an odd (even for him) photo.
Our first bite revealed that our concerns were unfounded. The toppings didn't need to be voluminous because the flavors were dense and complex. And delicious. A little of this chili/sauce goes a long way. The flavor is as good as any we've ever had, and far better than most. The slaw was sweet, fine and creamy, and even though there wasn't much of it, it was a perfect complement to the sauce.

We're going to rate Woody's hot dog a very high 4 1/2 out of 5 Weenies. What prevents it from being a Five? It might seem unfair to punish Woody's for the cultural bias imposed upon it because its geographical position causes slaw to be something you have to ask for, but by West Virginia hot dogs standards, this gets a half point demerit. If it was located in a place where it was socially acceptable to proudly plop a dollop of its coleslaw atop its otherwise perfectly prepared hot dog -- in other words, anywhere but Marion County -- it could be considered among the best in the state.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Clendenin HDJ Review - Frostbite Dairy Bar

Before the tragic 2015 flood, Clendenin was home to one of the truly great 5 Weenie Hot Dog Joints in West Virginia, the Clendenin Dairy Queen. Sadly, the flood waters took the DQ (and a couple of other good HDJs) and since then Northern Kanawha County had been without decent hot dogs. But lately, we've heard that another spot had opened up, just a few hundred yards from the old DQ spot, and -- it was rumored -- that it had the old DQ Chili recipe and was serving it to hordes of happy customers. It took us a while, but we finally made the trip to find out for ourselves if the rumors were true.

Frostbite is a grab and go place with no inside seating, but does offer several umbrella covered picnic tables for those who prefer not to eat in their cars and don't live close enough to go home with their hot (or cold) purchase. Per usual for this kind of establishment, there is a "order" window and a "pickup" window, and the service is fast and efficient. Friendly too.

The first test for any HDJ is always how they answer the question "what is everything?" As discussed and debated extensively on the WV Hot Dogs Facebook page recently, most West Virginians agree the only correct answer to this question is "chili/sauce, slaw, mustard and onions." Frostbite passed this first test, as the young order-taker confidently answered our query with confidence and precision. 

We didn't have to wait too long on our order, and took our bags to one of the picnic tables. We were thankful for the umbrella on this super-hot July day, but more thankful when we saw that our hot dogs were wrapped in wax paper - the 2nd big indicator of hot dog quality (and also another similarity with the old DQ). Unwrapping the paper, we found that the buns were soft and either had been steamed before wrapping, or had been naturally steamed inside the wax paper by the hot weenie and toppings. The Utilitarian Dogs were beautiful and covered with just about the right amount of toppings for our tastes. So far, Frostbite was holding up nicely to a comparison with the old Clendenin DQ.

Our first bites, however, did not bring back the memory of the old DQ. The chili does not have the same complexity that we remember. There was none of the tartness that we loved, and that which the slaw was perfectly paired. The chili might have been made from the same recipe, with the same ingredients, but it lacked the character of the DQ's. The slaw was just as we remembered it, but without the complex chili, the hot dog wasn't quite the same.

We're not saying that it wasn't good, it was very good indeed. It's just that when you're being compared with a legendary hot dog, it's difficult to measure up. The chili might very well have the same ingredients as the old DQ, but something is different. Maybe the chili needs to be cooked longer, or hotter, to bring out more of the flavor of the original. Frostbite is on the right track, but we think some tweaking is needed if it's going to assume the Queen's crown.

We're giving Frostbite a 4 Weenie rating and hope they continue to improve.