Monday, July 19, 2021

The WV Hot Dog Trail - The New River Gorge and Central WV

The West Virginia Hot Dog Trail is a publication of the WV Hot Dog Blog and will provide food and culture tourists with a literal roadmap with which to explore the state's best hot dog joints (HDJs). The Trail will be revealed in its entirety on National Hot Dog Day, July 21, but we'll be releasing highlights and snippets of the route every couple of days beginning July 15. This is the fifth post in this series:

The New River Gorge & Beyond

Next we're heading back north to Hinton, and the second of the two Dairy Queens on our list, Hinton Dairy Queen. There is no disputing the immense popularity of this HDJ, and its fans are vocal and loyal. This is also the first time -- but not the last -- we'll encounter upside-down toppings with the slaw buried under the chili. We'll save the arguments for another day, but according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, cool toppings always go on top. The Hinton DQ also has one of the best dining room views of any HDJ in the state, so check it out. 

Leaving the Gorge and heading up on the plateau we find Beckley, which for a city its size has remarkably few good hot dogs and no great ones. But the one place worth going just for the atmosphere is King Tut Drive In, whose coolness overcomes the mediocre hot dog. It's not a bad hot dog, its just not a great hot dog, and we struggled with the decision to include it on this list. 

But never fear, one of the best hot dogs on the list is not too much further up the road. Tom's Carry Out in Oak Hill has been selling great hot dogs since the dawn of time, apparently. At least that is the impression we get from the hundreds of people who live or have lived in Oak Hill and have been eating Tom's hot dogs their entire lives. Despite also serving upside-down hot dogs with the chili on top of the slaw, they care about hot dogs and it shows: It shows in the way they carefully spread the mustard on the bun instead of squirting it on like most HDJs; it shows in the way they mix up small batches of slaw. It shows in the way people flock to Tom's and write emails to hot dog blogs. It's inspiring.

Heading north on Rt. 19, just across the New River Gorge Bridge lies the community of Lansing, and a short distance down Ames Heights Road is the brand new Swiftwater General Store. An offshoot of Charleston's Swiftwater Cafe -- which has some of the best hot dogs in the capital city -- this location keeps up the tradition and provides visitors to the New River Gorge National Park with the chance to sample an authentic and delicious West Virginia hot dog. 

Back on Rt. 19 and continuing north, the next great HDJ you'll find is Fat Eddies. The Mt. Nebo HDJ is spittin' distance from the Summersville Dam, and considered by many to be the best in the state. To be sure, Fat Eddies serves up a 5 Weenie classic that is as good as any we have found. The chili has a nice little spice and the slaw is nearly perfect in texture. Every part of this hot dog is perfect. 

Settle in for the next part of the trip, because it's a long and winding country road to The Custard Stand in Webster Springs. Maybe the most famous hot dog chili in West Virginia because of its owners' drive and gumption to have it sold by national retailers (they even appeared on the Shark Tank TV show pitching their chili to investors!), when it's found in its native habitat it's better than the packaged-for-store stuff, and the rest of their toppings are also great. (Note: They have moved to downtown Webster Springs since we posted this review, but the hot dogs are the same in this new location.)

One more stop on this leg of our journey to the center of the state, and that is The Spot. Now we're not sure where The Spot got its name, whether it is because it is almost the dead-center spot on the WV  state map, or whether it is very close to the spot where the Braxton County Monster was first sighted in 1952. Maybe it's because it is the spot to get excellent hot dogs. Who knows? All of those fit, but serving up consistently great hot dogs for years, it is definitely deserving of a spot on our list. 

Next up, we'll venture to the sometimes slawless land of North Central West Virginia. Buckle up, it's a dangerous place for real WV Hot Dog lovers!

Next: Yes, slaw CAN be found in North Central WV

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