Hot Dog of the Week: 'Chile' Dogs and Ice Cold Buttermilk at Texas Tavern in Roanoke, VA
My last trip to Roanoke, on official hot dog business, was for the famous Roanoke Weiner Stand, which was delicious. But I had no idea it was only a few blocks away from one of the coolest looking "Texas" themed hot dog joints in the country. While passing through the area again, I made sure to stop in this time.
By the looks of it, you wish this sort of place existed in every town (and maybe it did at one point).
Texas Tavern, also known as Roanoke's Millionaires Club, has been around since 1930. The 24-hour, cheap and greasy hot dog counter is equally suited for vagrants, locals, and the intoxicated. Inside, it's covered with quirky paraphernalia; an advertisement for a local septic system cleaning service is right next to a menu full of peculiar-sounding dishes from another time. Even their website proudly brags that "Preachers sit next to sinners and ladies of the evening rub elbows with the country club set."
Texas Tavern's place on the Texas-themed hot dog trail is sort of bizarre. The dogs are advertised as "Coney Island" which isn't unusual, but instead of Coney sauce, Greek sauce, or sauce, they call their meat topping hot dog chile—a slightly dry, chunky, mildly spiced concoction that's a bit different than the looser Mexican chile served by the bowl.
Both "chiles" are available to take home by the pint, quart, or gallon for ridiculously cheap prices as noted by the many signs inside and outside the establishment. There's also ice cold buttermilk, as well as the Hamburger America approved cheesy Western burger, egg and cheese "Denvers" and breakfast until 10:30 a.m.
Almost everything is under two bucks.
So how was the dog? Pretty much your standard Southern mild pork and beef skinless dog, cooked on a flat grill to a slight char. The chili, warmed up to order in a pot rather than just ladled out of a trough, was similar to but maybe a notch better than the stuff from Roanoke Weiner down the street.
Pretty unique here, a hot dog "all the way" also comes with Texas Tavern's "famous" relish—also available by the pint, quart or gallon—which was mustard based and definitely different on a chili dog. Nothing mind-blowing but definitely a decent dog with a nice balance of rich chili, tangy relish and a few fresh diced onions. Wash it down with an ice cold buttermilk, possibly the strangest "signature hot dog beverage" experience I've ever had.
The one thing the Texas Tavern doesn't serve is beer. You have to walk a few blocks to the Roanoke Weiner Stand for that. Also somehow related is the similar Texas Inn in nearby Lynchburg.