West Virginia Hot Dog Blog takes a bite out of Appalachian tradition


West Virginia is home to unique food: pepperoni rolls, dishes made with wild ramps and homemade apple butter. Amongst all of those specialized foods, head Weenie Wonk of the West Virginia Hot Dog Blog, Staton Means, said there is nothing as unique as a West Virginia hot dog.

“Hot dogs are different no matter where you travel, but no other state has such singular tastes as West Virginia,” Means said. “The vast majority of people in our state share the view that a ‘real’ hot dog must have chili, slaw, mustard and onions, and virtually nowhere else in the United States eats them this way.”

The blog goes into specifics about the ingredients that make West Virginia hot dogs unlike any other. The sauce is like chili, seeing as it features some of the same flavors and ground meat; the largest difference is the absence of beans in West Virginia hot dog chili. The WVHD blog states that the sauce needs to be just spicy enough to sit well with the cool sweetness of the coleslaw, which is generally made of “cabbage, mayonnaise and other ingredients” according to posts on the blog.

“The balance of chili and slaw is everything and that’s what makes West Virginia hot dogs different from other regional dogs,” Means said. “We don’t care about the size or quality of the wiener so much as long as the chili and slaw work together.”

Although it may be a popular condiment choice for some hot dog eaters out there, Means said a proper  hot dog connoisseur will never use ketchup on their hot dog.

“It’s a bigger issue than just West Virginia hot dogs,” Means said. “If you go to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council page, you’ll find a lot of information about why you shouldn’t put ketchup on a hot dog. Ketchup is just too strong of a condiment. It just covers up other flavors. It doesn’t do anything for a hot dog.”

Means said he started the blog in response to a friend’s claim of a great spot to pick up some food.

“A friend of mind posted on his own blog that ‘everyone knows that the best hot dogs in Charleston can be found at Chris’ Hot Dogs,’” Means said. “I took exception with that assertion and went about proving him false.”

The blog was started in 2006 and has been updated ever since. The blog features a complete breakdown of the various types of West Virginia hot dogs, a FAQ page and a slaw mapping page that provides visitors with a map of West Virginia and colors that correspond to whether the slaw is standard at hot dog joints or not within the specific county.

Means said the work involved with maintaining the blog has been daunting at times.

“So many hot dogs, so little time,” Means said. “It’s a hobby and I do it when I can. I’ve enlisted a few other Weenie Wonks over the years and they were productive for a while, but then faded.”

The health aspect of eating so many hot dogs particularly got to Means at a point during his time with the blog.

“You have to eat a lot of hot dogs to keep it going,” Means said. “This is not good for one’s health. Over the years, I’ve certainly had to cut down my intake for health reasons and that certainly impacted the number of reviews that showed up on the blog. The thing was I used to always just order two hot dogs whenever I went anywhere, but now I just usually get one. It hasn’t translated to a better activity level, just more guilty feelings.”

Means said keeping up with technological changes required some reworking of the blog’s format.

“Facebook changed the blog a lot,” Means said. “People who use Facebook like short snippets and are less likely to read long-form reviews. As this became more evident, I began to post fewer long reviews.”

The blog, however, is no stranger to quantity. The blog featured 182 posts when it first started.

Means said even though there are lots of places to get West Virginia hot dogs, the quality of the hot dogs varies and the differences are fairly evident.

“There have been many ‘worst hot dogs’ over the years,” Means said. “Most are forgettable, but recently the one from the Sawmill Restaurant in Davis was one of the worst. Of course, it’s a sliding scale — we’d expect a bad hot dog from a convenience store, but a place like Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage sells about the worst example of a West Virginia hot dog we’ve ever tasted and their offensive stereotyping of Appalachians is reprehensible.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Means said going to the usual spots pays off.

“Morrison’s Drive Inn in Logan is consistently the best in the state,” Means said. “Until it was lost in the flood last year, the Clendenin Dairy Queen was as good on most days as Morrison’s.”

As for other popular West Virginia foods featured on the blog, Means said he will always turn that down because the blog is just for hot dogs, although he said he would love to see a pepperoni roll blog pop up sometime in the future.

Will Izzo can be contacted at [email protected]