Memorable | One of the Best
Ritzy Lunch | West Virginia Chili Dogs at their Best
Review by: Jane & Michael Stern
It’s All About the Chili
“A hot dog without chili is not a hot dog!” proclaimed John Selario, known in Clarksburg as Hot Dog John. Mr. Selario’s parents opened Ritzy Lunch in 1933. When we met him in the early days of Roadfood, he showed us pictures of his father in front of the same storefront back in the 1940s. Hot dogs were listed on the window for seven cents each, hamburgers a dime. “Ritzy lunch has always been known for hot dogs,” he told us. “Clarksburg itself is an important hot dog town, not so much because of the weenies but because of the way we make our chili. There are so many immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants – Greeks and Italians, mostly – that when we spice up our chili, we know how to do it right!” The result is West Virginia chili dogs at their best.
Different Dogs & Burgers
Hot Dog John beds his dogs deep inside a steamed-soft bun. Atop them he puts gently-peppered ground-beef sauce with earthy character. Many customers add a sweet note in the form of cole slaw on top. You’ll find this popular configuration throughout much of West Virginia and the South. Some people know it as a Dixie dog. Ritzy Lunch also created a unique configuration dubbed Hot Dog Johnny. For this, they deep fry a wiener, nestle it inside a long Hungarian pepper, top it with onions, and put it in a bun.
Although hot dogs reign, consider also eating a hamburger. We recommend a special known in this area as the Giovanni. Melted cheese and roasted peppers adorn the burger, which gets sandwiched between slices of butter-and-garlic-infused toast.
Where the Locals Hang Out
Ritzy Lunch is an immensely happy place that exudes neighborhood feel. Old friends and town characters occupy ancient counter stools and old wooden booths throughout the day. It’s fun to hear them chat back and forth among each other and with the waitresses. On any pleasant day, two or three such wise-acres likely will be standing out on the sidewalk joshing with each other and making friends with newcomers.
Clarksburg has many culinary wonders, including top-notch Italian restaurants and Tomaro’s bakery. But no culinary tour is complete without West Virginia chili dogs at their best and a little conversation at Ritzy Lunch.
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