Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Madison HDJ Review - West Madison Grocery

 A few years ago we put up 55 different posts on our Facebook page, one for each county in West Virginia, and asked people to tell us their opinion of the best Hot Dog Joint in the county. Boone County had only one response: the Dairy Queen in Whitesville. That Dairy Queen is now permanently closed, so where does that leave us? 

Could Boone County be the driest county in West Virginia, hot dog-wise? It seems that way. So when we began compiling data for our West Virginia Hot Dog Trail (to be published in July 2021), we had a conundrum: How does one get to Logan, the hot dog Land of Plenty, from Charleston and points north without going through Boone County? You virtually cannot. So we had to make several trips to Boone County and beat the proverbial bushes until we found a hot dog worthy of a stop on the statewide Hot Dog Trail map.

 And we finally found it. 

West Madison Grocery is about as nondescript as a grocery store gets, and even less obvious as a Hot Dog Joint. It's off the beaten path, in a tired-looking building, in the back of the building, past the aisles of canned meats, dried goods and other things you would expect to find in a grocery store. Also a few things you wouldn't expect in either a grocery store OR a HDJ like a self-serve coffee station that seems to be for customers who just like to come in to chat; like the guys who were sitting near the checkout when we were there. 

But in the back of the store, there is a deli counter of sorts. And they make hot dogs. Darn good hot dogs. 

We were told that an "everything" dog included chili, slaw, mustard onions and -- ugh -- ketchup. This was disappointing, but that was the last disappointment we would experience. This hot dog was terrific. From the heft and softness of the wax paper wrapped hot dog, we could tell it was made with care. From the aroma, we could tell is was going to be tasty. When we unwrapped it, we saw that the slaw was beautifully fine and creamy, and perfectly portioned., When we bit into it, we knew that we had found at least one great hot dog in Boone County. We'll rate this one 4 1/2 Weenies, only deducting a half point because we had to ask for no ketchup. Otherwise, this hot dog could be a Five Weenie classic!

Just in time for it to be included on the Hot Dog Trail, it will help break up the long drive between Marmet and Logan. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Fayette County HDJ Review - Swiftwater General Store, Lansing

Long known as purveyors of one of Charleston's best hot dogs, Swiftwater Cafe's owner Teddy Queen has staked out a new location of his spin-off, Swiftwater General Store, within spitting distance of America's newest National Park. Opening up in an empty restaurant space that was built for and formerly occupied by a Thai food eatery, the new location of Swiftwater General Store is blessed with a great kitchen so it's only natural that the store would offer some prepared items to go along with the convenience and staple goods stocking its shelves. And since the owners are fairly expert at making great hot dogs, it stands to reason that one of these items would be a West Virginia Hot Dog. 

In fact, at the top of the menu is listed "Award Winning West Virginia Hot Dog." Ya'll know what that award is? It was back when the owners of this blog gave out certificates each year to the best in several different categories of hot doggery. Swiftwater Cafe won several of these awards, most notably "Best Downtown Charleston Hot Dog" for several years running.

So when we found out about this new outpost, we just had to make the trip to see if the Fayette County version is as good as the Charleston version. 

Before we get into the question at hand, though, allow me to reflect on some friendly debates that we had with Swiftwater over the years. For a long time they continued to have the red stuff listed as a topping on their "everything" hot dog, but gradually we talked them out of it. We also influenced them to change their slaw recipe from one that was rather bland and tasteless to a sweet and creamy version. 

I was happy to find that the slaw at the new location was creamy and sweet, and that ketchup wasn't listed among the standard toppings. I was also pleased to see large-caliber weenie they served, just like in Charleston, but it seemed to be a little tougher and chewier in texture. Maybe the Boar's Head truck doesn't run to Fayette County. 

The chili, though, gave me pause. Maybe it was an off day, but the chili wasn't the meaty and hearty stuff I'm used to from Swiftwater. It tasted much more like runny taco meat than hot dog chili. Not that it was bad -- it wasn't-- but it was not quite the same. 

The onions were also a bit too coarsely chopped for my tastes, but they were mild so I didn't mind too much. A tad more mustard would have made the whole dog better.

The other thing that threw me was that when I asked for a WV Hot Dog I was asked if I wanted a regular bun or an English bun. People, there is no such thing as an English bun. It is a New England lobster roll bun and it has no place on a WV Hot Dog! 

Thankfully, the bun I received was a regular ol' hot dog bun that was steamed to be soft and warm. The overall hot dog was delicious, but I'll stop short of saying it was as good as the ones in the Big City. Still, though, it might be the best hot dog in Fayette County, but I'm sure fans of Tom's and its upside-down slaw presentation will disagree. 

We'll give Swiftwater General Store a solid 4 Weenie rating on this day. The place is brand new and will most likely improve with experience, so in time we'll expect that a 5 Weenie score is on the way.