Ritzy Lunch | West Virginia Chili Dogs at their Best

Review by: 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.

What To Eat

Chili Slaw Dog

Giovanni Hamburger


Ritzy Lunch | West Virginia Chili Dogs at their Best Recipes


What do you think of Ritzy Lunch | West Virginia Chili Dogs at their Best?

One Response to “Ritzy Lunch | West Virginia Chili Dogs at their Best”

Andrew Hammack

June 22nd, 2009

On Mr. Stern’s recommendation, I visited Ritzy Lunch in Clarksburg. The service was not quick, as it took more then ten minutes to get my order. Both of the employees offered apologies for the delay.

I had two dogs, fries, and a drink. The fries were decent. The dogs were great. The first dog was topped with chili, which at first I thought was canned. The chili, canned or not, was good. It had a touch of heat that did not come from a can, in my opinion. Very, very good hot dog. The second dog was the same as the first with the addition of slaw. It was also a tasty dog, but not quite as good as the slaw-less chili dog.

As I recall Mr. Stern noting, the Ritzy is not really ritzy. It would be easy to drive by without noticing, but I recommend looking for it. My only caveat is that the restaurant is a smoking restaurant, with ashtrays on every table. In Virginia I’m pretty sure they would shoot you for doing that, but apparently West Virginia lets it slide. That aside, the Ritzy gets a definite thumbs up from me.


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