Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Roast Grill

The Roast Grill Storefront

From the street you’d never guess what a treasure The Roast Grill is. Its name glows in neon in the big picture window and a Coca-Cola sign with “Hot Weiners” is a clue. Otherwise, this building, located on West, just off Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, looks like what was once someone’s house. In fact, there’s a front porch next door.

If the outside makes the establishment look smallish, the inside accentuates the point. A counter with eight stools and a couple of really small tables round out the accommodations at twelve seats. It's tiny. Customers must maneuver as if they are solving a sliding puzzle to accommodate one another.

NC State memorabilia decorate the walls. A “no ketchup”t-shirt and pictures from the Roast Grill’s encounter with The Travel Channel’s Adam Richman and Man vs. Food add the perfect accent.
No Ketchup Allowed

A motherly/grand-motherly woman takes your orders and prepares them. She also takes your payment when you’re ready to leave… and gives you a Tootsie Roll for the road. The ambiance alone is worth a visit, but we’re here for the dogs.

Ordering isn’t complex. They sell hot dogs. Nothing else—well, other than beer and soft drinks... and dessert: baklava or pound cake. Toppings for the hot dogs are classic Carolina Hot Dog fare: mustard, slaw, onions, chili. No, they do not have ketchup or catsup. Don’t ask.

The dogs are some of the pricier ones in the Triangle. They currently sell for $2.50 plus a quarter if you want both onions and slaw—well worth the extra quarter.

While I thought the hot dogs a tad expensive, I’d have to say I’d pay it again. They’re darn good dogs! They grill the wieners to a delicious crunch, and that smoky crunch really sets these hot dogs apart from the usual boiled ones. The chili has the right taste and meatiness. I would have loved a bit more, but it still added just the right flavor. The slaw is hand-chopped, not mutilated by a food processor. The same hands that chop the cabbage apparently chop the onions; they’re about the consistency. The onions on my dogs were just a little bitter, but that happens with onions.

Two Very Delicious Carolina Hot Dogs

Parking is street parking but not particularly hard to come by. Payment is cash only. Hours are 11-4 Monday through Saturday. With its location near so many Downtown night spots, I’m sure they’d make a killing if they were only open late night, but I guess they’re satisfied with the money they currently make. I know I'd sure buy 'em around 2AM if they were open.

For a hot dog that stands out served in a retro environment, you can’t go wrong with The Roast Grill. Yum!

My verdict: 4 weenies

Friday, November 1, 2013

Snoopy's Hot Dogs

Snoopy's Hot Dogs with non-offensive marquee
In Wake County, you really can’t talk about Carolina Hot Dogs without Snoopy’s Hot Dogs making an appearance. They may not be the best hot dogs in Raleigh, but with numerous locations, they are probably the most recognizable hot dog stand in the Capital City, especially inside the Beltline.

I originally sampled Snoopy’s several years ago, and as I recall, I wasn’t really impressed. Because of that, and another issue I’ll discuss a little later, I haven’t really been back. However, if I’m going to review Carolina Hot Dogs, Snoopy’s is definitely a location to include.

With a hankering for dogs and a mostly open mind, I decided to hit the original Snoopy’s at the corner of Whitaker Mill and Wake Forest Roads, just a few miles east of Five Points. It's a small building, a converted service station, with a walk- window for ordering and another for picking up. Because there are no public rest rooms, there are no tables or chairs for dining. (I used the trunk of my car.)

In keeping with my taste and tradition, I added coleslaw to the mustard, onion, and chili of the standard Snoopy’s Famous Hot Dog. At just over two bucks, these dogs are a small bit more expensive than most others I’ve sampled.

I unwrapped my order, and the slaw was a bit suspicious-looking. It was hard to tell if it was home-made or bought. Even upon tasting, I wasn’t completely sure, but if it wasn’t home-made, it was probably the best purchased slaw I’ve ever had. If it was home-made, it was sufficient, but not awesome. It blended well with the chili, onions, and mustard and made for a pretty respectable dog, certainly better than the ones I had remembered. The chili was tasty, but it didn’t seem as meaty as I typically like, but again, it worked. I did enjoy the hot dog.

A respectable dog
And I would probably go back. Might go back. Depending on my mood. If my hankering for a Snoopy’s dog out-weighed my political conscience, that is. You see, there’s a message board/marquee out front, and through the years, most of its content has been innocuous—like it was the day I visited for this review—but many times it has featured conservative political comments that tend to rub me the wrong way.

It seems like a business owner would want to appeal to as many customers as possible. Liberal money spends just as well as conservative. Atheist and agnostic money, as well as Christian. The same with black and white, Islamic and Hindu. It’s like playing a biased newscast in a business. Wouldn’t it be better to aim at non-offensive—unless a business owner is happy to settle for a specific niche (see Chick-fil-a and Barilla).

Political messages aside, Snoopy’s offers a darn decent dog, and they have some pretty enticing pricing, especially on Tuesdays and Sundays.

My verdict 3 weenies

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Drag Bingo

Drag Bingo actually more of an event than a place, but the hot dogs are fabulous... and the entertainment matches!

Mary Kmart Hosts
Hosted by the awesome Mary Kmart, Drag Bingo is a major fundraiser for the Alliance of AIDS Services - Carolina. AAS-C provides all kinds of support for those living with HIV/AIDS and their families and friends. The AAS-C holds Drag Bingo about six or so times a year, usually at the Durham Armory across from the Marriott and the Carolina Theatre in Downtown Durham. Upon special occasions, Drag Bingo has been at the Raleigh Civic Center, the NC State Fairgrounds, and at Golden Belt. The evening consists of traditional bingo mixed with stand-up comedy, drag performances with a new theme for each event, and great dogs rolled into one glittery fun evening.

Miss Clair Entertains
The hot dogs are delicious and cheap. Five bucks gets you two hot dogs, a bag of chips, a sweet, and a soft drink. Purchase your special and head to the toppings table. The usual condiments are provided: mustard, relish, ketchup, mayo; but more important are the toppings that make these dogs special: freshly chopped onions and home-made coleslaw and home-made chili.

I've always said one of the most important components to a great Carolina Hot Dog is the slaw, and the slaw here is always fresh and creamy, seasoned perfectly. The chili, too, is tasty and freshly home-made. It's really hard to find something about the chili or slaw that isn't divine. Truly delicious!
Three Carolina Hot Dogs

Yumminess in foil

You do have to purchase a ticket to get in. Currently, admission is $20. It includes several games of bingo, several dazzling drag performances, and off-the-cuff comedy between the host(esses) that make it worth the cost of entry. Add to that the fact that all the money raised goes to support those living with HIV and AIDS, not to mention access to some of the best hot dogs in the Triangle. That's the makings of a fun--and tasty--night out.

Don't miss some of my favorite weenies!

My verdict: 5 weenies

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hot Diggity Dogz

My partner and I spent a week in Surf City this summer, and tooling around the island one evening, we spotted a tiny hot dog stand named Hot Diggity Dogz. It was after hours, and they were closed; but I decided we’d have to hit it during our stay.
photo of Hot Diggety Dogz from the street

So, one scorching afternoon, debating lunch options, we decided to visit. The dogs all have beachy-cute names like Shaggy Dog, Carolina Dog, Beach Dog, etc. except for ones named for hot dogs of a specific city, like the Chicago dog. All dogs are three bucks, and the stand also offers canned soft drinks, shaved ice, and nachos.

Stand and Eat Shelf
Hot Diggity Dogz is indeed a hot dog stand. If you don't want yours to go, there are a couple of picnic tables and a shelf where you can eat. We ate at a picnic table, but we had the hardest time finding the trash. It was out by the street.

As we walked up, the man inside promised the best hot dog we had ever eaten. In fact, their slogan is: “The best seven inches you’ll ever get.” At three bucks, they ought to be good, and I have to say they were. The best I’ve ever eaten? Well, that’s a tough title to earn.

I opted for a couple Beach Dogs: mustard, slaw, chili, and onions. My partner opted for a couple of different dogs, the names of which escape me. One featured a ketchuppy relish that did very little for me and the other was a chili cheese dog.

Beach Dogs

As you may have heard me say, you can tell a lot about a hot dog from the slaw. Hot Diggity Dogz’ slaw was not necessarily traditional, but it was very good. I could tell it was made fresh. The chili also seemed fresh and created with care. The wieners were all-beef, so they were a bit “fancier” than the red ones that normally lie under Carolina toppings—and I like beef franks, so I was pleased.

Though the prices were a bit steep, it’s good to know that I can get a pretty good hot dog at the beach.

My verdict: 4 weenies