You might think hot dogs are for city folk, being popularized by Nathan’s in New York City all those years ago. But let me tell you, Sonny & Sharie of Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, West Virginia have a thing or two to show us city slickers about making hot dogs. They make some of the best in this here country of ours!
Tucked away on a country road about a half hour south of Point Pleasant, home of the Mothman and the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1969, Hillbilly Hot Dogs is immediately recognizable by the rusty Tin Lizzy parked on the front lawn with the scrawled sign proclaiming their name. Park on the gravel and mosey on up to see the ramshackle place they’ve pieced together from all sorts of junk, goodies and gewgaws.
Don’t let the state of disarray fool you. There’s some good cooking going on inside. If you can get past the prank door, come inside and try not to ogle the names of everyone who’s scrawled their moniker in marker on everything from the furniture to the stuffed deer heads mounted on the walls. They make some great hot dogs, but a lot of what makes them unique is the atmosphere and the attitude, so let me linger on just how cool this place is.
They have cats roaming outside, license plates nailed to an old tree, and picnic tables for outdoor dining. If you love hillbilly humor, you’ll spend as much time peering around at the little gags, like “Hillbilly Bubble Bath” – a package of dried beans- than you will at the large menu. But let’s get on to the food, which was really worth writing about.
I’ve said it before, you can add bacon or whatever how many toppings you like on a hot dog, but if it’s a bland frank, you don’t have a winner. Here they have a couple of options- one is a standard frank, deep fried, another is a real winner- a Mettwurst dog. This one is bigger and gets sliced down the middle for searing, and tastes pretty darn good. I was really impressed with this one. I had it on the Rahall’s Red Hot Weenie, named for a local politician Nick Rahall, who was very particular about his toppings. Representative Rahall’s dog has “nacho cheese piled high with sauteed peppers & onions, jalapenos, hot mustard, then topped with sauerkraut,” and let me tell you, it was the star of the show.
I also had a standard Hillbilly dog, a smaller deep fried frank with their homemade chili sauce, mustard and onions, that rivals any Texas Wiener I’ve had. I prefer chili sauce to real chili, and these give the Clifton Hot Grill a run for their money. The dog had some good spice to it, which made a real difference. Lastly I had the Junkyard Dog- and be careful because they put everything including the kitchen sink into this one! Homemade chili sauce, mustard, onions, ketchup, mayo, relish, slaw, kraut, nacho cheese, jalapenos and BBQ sauce for extra measure. Mine also had a wood screw in it. I’m not sure if that was a mistake or a gag on a Jersey city boy, but careful if you order this one!
Milky had 3 dogs as well- a pizza dog, since he loves pizza burgers more than any man should- and a Hound Dog, which has BBQ sauce instead of chili. He also had a plain one for balance, to see what they were like unadorned, and he approved. Now we also got fries, and the hillbilly brand are crinkle cuts made golden and crispy. I expect they bake or broil these, since they serve them flat in a steel tray. Whatever they do, I loved them. I like mine crispy but not burnt, and these were perfection. I had the garlic ranch variety, and Milky went for the chili cheese. Neither of us were disappointed, and it was clean plates all around.
Truly a memorable hot dog experience, and a new entry into my Top 5 Dogs (see that and the burger list on the right sidebar). Hillbilly Hot Dogs can’t be mentioned without their challenge- the Hillbilly Homewrecker, so big it has its own webpage. It’s a 15″ one-pounder topping with another 2 1/2 pounds of bun and toppings, including cole slaw, jalapenos and lots of hot sauce. Guy Ferry of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives- my nemesis- made this one famous, and I will begrudgingly thank him for introducing me to these awesome hot dogs. And of course, though I didn’t get to meet Sharie & Sonny, thank you for running a hot dog stand that really stands out.
Their customers are friendly too. And before you joke, they all had their teeth! I spoke with a fella named Brian who runs a tobacco farm up the road, and we talked about how our states have bad reputations. But let me say this- we never got the stink-eye or any rude treatment in West Virginia. In Breezewood, PA if looks could kill we’d be blogging from heaven now, but in West Virginny we made lots of small talk with people. It’s a beautiful state, and don’t neglect to visit it.
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