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The Food Guy: A heaping helping of reader mail

Do you remember earlier this year when I innocently posed the question, “Who has the best hot dogs and hamburgers around?” That simple plea immediately launched a firestorm of comments, the likes of which I’ve rarely seen.

I was bombarded with votes for weeks and, if you can believe it, am still receiving a suggestions months later.

“Mr. Keith, if you want to partake of West Virginia’s best hot dogs, try Marie’s in Delbarton,” reports Ted Warden. “It’s worth the drive for what is absolutely the best hot dogs that can be found. You will not be disappointed.”

Delbarton, eh? It’s on my list!

And speaking of hamburgers, I’m STILL eating my way around Charleston to find — and eventually declare — the undisputed best patty in town. My recent “research” has taken me to Adventures Bar & Grill (solid), Bricks & Barrels (really good) and Big Joe’s, where a late-night and deliciously messy burger bomb was just what the doctor ordered.

Lots of work remains, though. Burgers at the Smokehouse, The Grill and Bear’s Den are all on my to-chew list.

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Do you also remember when I had a reader ask how to prevent his home-brewed iced tea from turning cloudy in the refrigerator?

I was able to solve his dilemma by explaining how the oils in tea can turn cloudy once they cool down (especially when cooling too quickly) because those oils basically solidify or congeal, creating an opaque look.

But reader Jean Kinder of Belle has another solution.

Her tip? Adding a pinch of baking soda to your tea as it steeps.

“Just let it set and it clears it right up,” she said. “I’m known all around this area for my sweet tea. Even people who claim they don’t like tea say they love mine.”

A pinch of soda, eh? I’ll give it a try!

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Reader David Bryant gave me a call to say I should really check out the great food they’re dishing out at — well, umm — the hospital.

“I just got out of Charleston Memorial [CAMC] recently,” he said. “I was there for five days and the food being served to patients was extraordinarily good. If you ever have occasion to sample the food patients get, you should definitely take advantage of it.”

Well, David, I hope I don’t find myself as a hospital patient anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that good eats await if I do.

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And finally, anyone who knows me knows how passionately I believe that good service can absolutely make or break a dining out experience.

If a restaurant serves mediocre food but provides excellent service, you’ll walk out having had a good experience. But suffering through poor, incompetent and/or unreasonably slow service will leave a bad taste in your mouth, no matter how amazing the food on your plate.

Reader John Luoni feels the same way.

“Steven, I had a thought about restaurant service times that I think your readers would likely find interesting,” he said, adding that he’s been coming up with his own restaurant ratings based on the speed of service, follow-up during the meal and promptness of receiving a bill when you’re ready to leave.

“For example, from my limited knowledge of local area restaurants I would give the following restaurants these service ratings: A — First Watch, Olive Garden; A-minus — Tidewater; B — Outback, Cracker Barrel [Kanawha City]; C — Pies & Pints, Chili’s; C-minus — Recovery.”

“I think a column on this subject would generate much interest,” he concluded.

John, I totally agree. So tell me, dear readers, which area restaurants do you feel consistently offer the best service. I’d love to give a shout-out to those who rise to the top.

And if any places are completely missing the boat, I’d love to hear that as well. I won’t call them out by name, but your constructive comments may help provide some general tips I could share.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by email at You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”

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