Sam’s No. 3

Travel is an opportunity to get a taste of the local culture and the literal taste of local cuisine. I avoid chain restaurants as much as possible when I travel, choosing instead local joints and small businesses when I can.

This strategy works out great sometimes. Others, not so much.

On my last day in Colorado, we wanted to have a good breakfast and go for a hike before heading to the airport mid afternoon.

Diners are my jam so I was excited to find a nearby diner that had been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives.

It was ok.

I know – how arrogant does that sound?

Hear me out. We had some great meals on this trip including a couple of delicious breakfasts with great service, decent prices and terrific atmosphere. This just wasn’t one of them.

We were there on a Sunday morning and it was understandably busy. We waited about 45 minutes for a table, heightening the anticipation that it would be worth the wait. The menu is huge with plenty of variety so that’s good. The look of the place is cool and I always give restaurants brownie points for atmosphere.

But the food wasn’t that good. Bland potatoes and eggs with some sliced American cheese on top didn’t do much for me. The egg to potato ratio was all wrong as it was a ton of potatoes with two scrambled eggs on top. My friend didn’t love hers either.

However, lots of folks around us seemed pretty happy. So what do I know?

I am always hesitant to tell you about the things I dislike and prefer to focus on the positive. However, this was a valuable lesson that what’s popular isn’t necessarily what’s good for me. What’s not featured on tv may still be pretty awesome.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a Colorado breakfast joint I did enjoy immensely.

Hillbilly Hotdogs

If you’re looking for a slice of Americana and a unique dining experience, look no further than Hillbilly Hotdogs at Lesage, West Virginia. It’s between Gallipolis, Ohio and Huntington, West Virginia on Route 2.

They specialize in gourmet hot dogs but do it under the guise of pure Appalachia complete with lots of junk, an outhouse (it’s just for looks) and dining rooms made out of old school buses. They even have a weddin’ chapel on site if you wish to tie the knot with your kissin’ cuzzin.

Let’s stop here for a moment. First, it’s more than hot dogs. They have sandwiches, salads, deserts and even a vegan menu so I was able to have a cool gourmet hot dog too.

Second, I’m not a fan of anything that exploits the Appalachian region or our people as I live in Appalachian Ohio where it feels like someone is always ready to put us down. However, this place is all in good fun and and is own and run by locals. You know how it’s ok for you to say something bad about your relative but it’s not ok for someone else to say it?

Same theory.

Anyway….. the place dates to the late nineties. From the road, it looks like a shack with some picnic tables amidst a sea of motorcycles and cars of all make and model.

Look closer though and there’s no telling what you’ll find. The yard is filled with stuff – from old collectibles to pure junk and a lot of kitsch thrown in for good measure.

I ventured down on Friday with a friend. They have outdoor dining space but I wanted to eat in one of the school buses so that’s what we did.

I got the Lockwood veggie dog, fries and a drink for about $7.50. The dog was a lot to handle and a little messy to eat but I didn’t complain. I liked the creativity of lettuce, onion, tomato, shredded cheddar, mustard and ketchup on a veggie dog. It also comes with slaw but I asked to hold that.

My friend said his food was good too. He got something with hot dog sauce, some hot sauce and jalapeños because he evidently enjoys punishing himself!

We ate inside one of the two old school buses turned dining cars. I watched with interest as the line never really went down and people kept coming the entire time we were there.

This place has received a ton of press over the years but none more influential than a feature on the tv show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. This show practically turned this unusual roadside hot dog stand into a household name.

Want to learn more? Click here to visit their website! Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you about the other thing we did while in the area.