Take a Hot Dog Tour of West Virginia

[Photographs: Hawk Krall]

West Virginia tends to get a bad rap with serious hot dog aficianados from other parts of the country, due to the almost complete lack of anything other than the cheapest possible no-name hot dog. But to me, that's also part of what makes West Virginia hot dog culture so awesome.

Every small town seems to have at least a handful of crazy little hot dog shacks—many of which double as coffeeshops or video poker parlors—that pride themselves not on high quality frankfurters, but on the spiciness of the homemade chili or creaminess of their slaw. There's also that careful small-town attention to detail where even a $1.18 hot dog is assembled gracefully with a perfectly steamed bun, usually wrapped into a neat parchment paper package where all the flavors sort of meld and mush into each other.

Even though it's generally disregarded by encased meat purists, the world of West Virginia hot dogs is too big too ignore. Practically every lunch counter, general store and gas station in the state has a hot dog set-up, with an attention to detail (bun steaming, delicious fresh chili and slaw) that you don't find in my neck of the woods, where gas station cuisine is normally only eaten out of desperation or drunkenness.