Hillbilly Hotdogs

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.

Two thumbs up! I’m not in a wheelchair, but it looks like it.

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.

View Larger Map

It still has mustard on it!

hot dogs wrapped in bacon

At AFS, where I train in the deadly arts of Bando to use my mighty belly as a hammer to crush my foes, a fellow maniac said my blog made him hungry all the time, and asked: “Are you a chef?” My response? “No, I’m just a fatass!”
But I can cook well. Hot dogs wrapped in bacon isn’t the toughest thing to do, so for the cooking impaired I’ll show you how to make ’em. I made some for Milky and I when we watched Crank, and two filled us to the gills with delicious. First, wrap your hot dogs in bacon. I considered holding them with toothpicks but the cooking oil would burn them, but if you have small metal skewers they might help hold the bacon on.
Put some canola or grapeseed oil in a deep skillet or pan. I only used 1/2 an inch of oil, and turned the dogs over with tongs. If you have a deep fryer it would be easier, but with patience this will work. Heat the oil on high until it shimmers and a little piece of bacon fat starts to fry in it. Then lower the heat to med-low and CAREFULLY put your hot dogs in. Tongs will help here. A metal spatula will work.

Remember the first rule of cookery: Don’t cook bacon when you’re naked!! It splatters oil all over the place. Like on your balls. Or even your ovaries. It will take a few minutes per side to crisp up the bacon. There’s a lot of moisture in bacon and it will splatter a lot. I have a fryer guard screen to cover the pan.
While your dogs are frying, toast your buns in the toaster and then put cheese on first. It’s much less messy that way, and the bun will melt it some. I use Land O’ Lakes White American cheese, because they put crack in it. That enhances the flavors. Lay out your condiments ahead of time. We had dill relish, crushed pineapple, Zatarain’s Creole mustard, Sriracha Hot Sauce (also known as “the Cock”), Habanero chile sauce, chopped roasted green chiles, Vlasic Stacker sliced pickles, Hormel Chili, Mango Salsa, Tabasco Reserve, Sour Cream, Diced jalapenos, Banana pepper rings, and ketchup. What, no sauerkraut? Nope. I don’t like it with bacon. It gets things all soggy. If you like it, squeeze it out in some paper towels.
To flip the dogs, I used dogs- about 3-4 minutes after they went in, and only the very top of the bacon wasn’t cooked. So it only took another minute or two to crisp up. Deliver them right to the buns, and make your own wacky combinations.
My favorite was diced jalapenos, banana pepper rings, sour cream, mango salsa, crushed pineapple, roasted green chiles, and creole mustard. A bit spicy, but the sour cream & pineapple cools it off. I made a chili-cheese dog with Hormel canned chili, and will never use that again. It’s tasteless and gave me the poops something fierce. There are other canned chilis out there, or make your own. We also regretted the lack of Nathan’s Hot Dog Onions, which A&P did not have. For shame, A&P! Milky called his the Hot Pepper Rollercoaster. We called them all delicious.
For the record, I used Boar’s Head natural casing hot dogs and bacon, gifted from my pal Brian the Meat Man. Fine products that I will use again. The dogs had some good flavor and snap, and the bacon had good smoky flavor. We used Martin’s Potato Hot Dog Buns, soft with a bit of sweet. They toast very well.
We had them with Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, my favorite of the autumn seasonal pumpkin beers. It balances the firm full flavor of a brown ale with real pumpkin pie flavor. I’ve had pumpkinier beers, like Southern Tier, but Punkin Ale is more drinkable, and doesn’t overpower other foods. I also had a Southhampton Alt Bier, which is a decent example of the variety. A little too malty, but the only bottled Alt I’ve had. When Abita Select was an Altbier, it was my favorite, but they aren’t making it any more.

Kobe Dogs & a man with a 68" cucuzza

Let’s go by phallic measurement, or pecking order if you will. Click the image above to see the article and the guy who grew a cucuzza- an Italian squash, and euphemism for his sazeech, his gabadone, his pistole- that was as tall as he was. Of course, the guy’s name is Ben Longo. Yes, look at Longo’s enormous cucuzza.

Cucuzza are relatively tasteless like large zucchini, but when cooked in a tomato based sauce with hot peppers, sort of like ratatouille, they are excellent and absorb all the flavors. They look like a lime green baseball bat and if you see them at your local farmer’s market, give them a try.
Next, I finally had a “Kobe” hot dog. I highly doubt that high quality wagyu beef was used in these. I had them at Legends, the sports bar in the mid-30s that shows the LSU football games in Manhattan. They were good hot dogs, admittedly, but no better than some non-Kobe franks I’ve had. In fact, they tasted like Hebrew National. I’ve avoided Kobe sliders and franks because of this; it’s like using Beluga caviar to make an omelet, or top shelf liquor for most mixed drinks- you’re not going to taste the difference. I sure didn’t. I liked them, but the Usinger’s hot dog at Big Daddy’s is more memorable. If I want “Kobe” or wagyu I want it rare and mostly untouched. Sorry I’m singling out Legends- they’re a good bar with a good menu, and this was hardly a bad meal. It’s just endemic of the Manhattan bar food world, that “Kobe sliders” are used to sucker people in, when a good bit of ground chuck cooked right would taste nearly as good, without the caché.
Firecracker got a crockpot and made some kick-ass pulled pork, which we turned into Memphis style BBQ sandwiches. I brought the corn! I do cook, and made bacon-wrapped hotdogs recently- photos will be shared soon. This was some really good BBQ. If you love you some pork, a crockpot is definitely a must. Make your own!
Another time, for breakfast, my girl made me waffles. Isn’t she the best? I made the bacon and eggs- cooked in the bacon fat, of course- and decided to make a breakfast sandwich out of them. Now, am I the first guy to think of this? I’ve had ice cream sandwiches made of waffles, but it makes you wonder why more breakfast sandwiches aren’t made this way. I once made a peanut butter and honey sandwich out of Egg-Os, and I heartily recommend using waffles as bread. The honeycomb structure is ideal for collecting drips of egg yolk, as well as the standard maple syrup. Give it a try.

The Quest for the Sonoran Hot Dog

NPR recently wrote about Sonoran hot dogs, a variation on my favorite food that I’d never heard of before. They’ve been around since the ’60s as a Tex-Mex combination, a bacon-wrapped hot dog atop refried beans in a soft steamed bun, topped with tomatoes, onions, jalapeno sauces, mayo and mustard. Recent variations include the Tex Mex staples of sour cream, guacamole and chile sauces; radishes, cucumber and mushrooms.

So this is where the bacon-wrapped hot dog, that I first tried at NYC’s Crif Dogs (full review) first came to be. It’s amazing, the great foods that are made at the borders. Unfortunately I don’t know of any in the NYC area, but I asked on Chowhound. A place on Washington St. in Bergenfield has bacon-wrapped dogs, one step closer to perfection! Let the quest begin!

Tragedy strikes during National Hot Dog Month

July is National Hot Dog month, and I sincerely hope these homeowners get a lifetime supply of Oscar Meyer weiners…

WITI-TV, RACINE – The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile got itself into quite a pickle when it crashed into a Racine home Friday morning.

Neighbors tell FOX 6 the Wienermobile took a wrong turn and ended up on the dead-end street, Kenilworth Avenue in Racine.

While trying to get turned around, the woman driving the hot dog on wheels accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake and lodged the Wienermobile under a house.

Officials say no one was injured in the crash.

The Wienermobile was taken from the scene by tow truck.

No word on the extent of damage to either the house or the giant hot dog.

Got this from primatage on Twitter.

Return to Rutt’s Hut for the Rippers!

Rutt’s Hut is a north Jersey institution. Hot dogs cooked in a deep fryer until the casing splits open, and they are deemed “rippers.” Onion rings fried to a greasy mess of deliciousness. And most importantly, their own language behind the counter. Want a Yoo-Hoo? You’ll get a marlvis. Want them fries to go? Two rippers, Frenchy one, traveling! One marlvis, cap!
That’s part of the charm that makes their crispy fried dogs and their unique yellow relish so memorable. Rutt’s Hut was one of the first entries in the Greasy Spoons catalog, and we’ve come a long way baby. So we returned, on the eve of a Judas Priest concert, to have some rippers, in hope that the band would play my favorite song, “The Ripper.” And by jinkies, it worked! For those not familiar with the Hut of Mr. Rutt, it was opened in 1928 by Royal, aka “Abe” Rutt and his wife Anna. My 89 year old great-uncle Jimmy remembers going there with his wife before they were married. And they still serve the hot dogs the same way.
They are an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, nothing else will do. The crispy skin of the fried hot dog, the juicy center, the no-frills soft bun cradling the dog slathered in yellow mustard and their one-of-a-kind yellow relish made from ingredients unknown, but sure to contain purest manna from heaven. I’m told it contains cabbage, carrots and onions from Wikipedia, but until I see a spectrometry test I’m not budging.
Their fries are always crisp and golden; the onion rings have changed through the years, always a bit dark and overcooked as seen here. But a huge improvement from how I remember them as a child- the batter peeling off, leaving you a soggy fried mess of onions and crispy batter pieces. They also serve chili, but for some reason I’ve never had a chili dog here. The relish stands on its own. They also serve chicken, shrimp, burgers, the ubiquitous Taylor Ham, beer, and more, but nothing to write home about. The bar in back is a classic Old Man Bar (as defined by Weird NJ) and serve dinner specials; you can get hot dogs back there too, if you want a cold one.
Personally the counter is where it’s at. I remember eating on the tiny low children’s counter when I was a wee one, and besides, you can’t hear the guys manning the fry belt out their patter if you’re in back. And the atmosphere brings you back to the past. Jersey is full of ’50s style diners chromed to the gills and neoned to the nines, but this is more the real deal. A food counter that once served beer by the quart, with an overlook giving a scenic view of Route 21 and the glorious Passaic, where bodies still wash up. The tributaries thrive with carp the size of rottweilers, with odd numbers of eyes. The trucks rumble along the highway below belching diesel fumes that give your marlvis a certain extra something. (Cancer- we call it flavor!)

And now for your viewing pleasure, I sing “The Ripper” by Judas Priest while eating a ripper…

Hot Dog Tommy’s

It took a while, but I found someone who’s crazier about hot dogs than I am. He’s also named Tommy, and he runs a fine walk-up hot dog counter in Cape May New Jersey, at the tippity tip of the Shore. Just off Beach Street you’ll find him selling dogs from morning ’till night. We found it before dinner at the Merion Inn, where lobster awaited us, so we went the next morning. “At 9:57 you’ll be in hot dog heaven,” Tommy told us. He likes the rhymes.
For example he sells two brands of dogs- the B.A.D. dog, or Black Angus all-beef frank, and the classic Leaner Weiner, the easily recognized tube steak used for dirty water dogs throughout the state. We opted for the classics- this was an early meal, after all. They were quite tasty, with good flavor that the myriad of toppings couldn’t smother.
I grabbed a Hot Tommy Dog (tabasco mayo, fresh tomatoes, pickle spear, onions) and a Black Russian (rubbed with black pepper, Russian dressing, and Chicago-style pickle). Firecracker loves her taters, so she grabbed a Potato Tornado, which is mashed potatoes, chili, cheese, banana peppers, salsa, and sour cream. Amazingly that all fits in one cup! They were delicious. I liked the Hot Tommy best, it had a nice mix of tang and sweetness.
While a great hot dog requires a tasty foundation- because no amount of toppings can overcome a bland frank, which makes Lucky Dogs only fit for drunk food- the variety of toppings can make or break a great hot dog joint. The best, like Crif Dog and the Dover Grill, mate great dogs with great toppings. I regretted not trying the Black Angus, because I think Tommy’s inspired topping combos would taste even better on a big slab of beef.

Hot Dog Tommy’s will require further exploration to see how high they sit on the Hot Dog Hierarchy, but I have a feeling the Dover Grill has some stiff competition from South Jersey. Tommy definitely wins on personality- with the goofy hat, sharp if corny wit, and ebullient pleasantry that emanates from his hot dog stall, a trip to Cape May county must be topped off with a few of his pups. Take the big menu and pore over it:
I wish I’d tried the Chippy – hot pepper relish, onions and crumbled potato chips- or the Messy Bessy with BBQ sauce and cheese. It’s a place worth a second (or third) trip, so next time I’m down this far south, I’ll be stopping to say hi to Tommy.
View Larger Map