Zack Harold Published

Marmet’s Yellow Slaw Offers a Tasty Twist on the Standard West Virginia Hot Dog

Yellow slaw hotdog at Chum’s hotdog stand in Marmet, W.Va.

If you go to a West Virginia restaurant and order a hot dog with “everything,” most of the time you’ll end up with the same thing: a weenie in a bun topped with a beef-based chili (no beans), mayonnaise-based coleslaw, diced onion and mustard.

Some places leave off the slaw. Some places make the chili spicier than others. Some places put ketchup on it, much to the horror of slaw dog purists. But no matter these slight variations, the flavors remain more or less consistent.

Except in the little town of Marmet, West Virginia, about 10 miles outside the state capital. Here the slaw is yellow — because it’s made with mustard, sugar and apple cider vinegar, not mayonnaise. This lends the dog a complex sweet and tangy flavor.

The yellow slaw started in the 1930s at a Marmet restaurant called Blackie’s, which later became the Canary Cottage. In the 1970s came another restaurant called the Dairy Post, which was open until the early 2000s.

Chum's Hotdog stand in Marmet, W.Va.

Zack Harold, WVPB
Chum’s Hotdog stand in Marmet, W.Va.

After the Dairy Post closed, Marmet suffered a years-long drought of yellow slaw — until Frances Armentrout opened Chum’s in 2008. This tiny stand makes the original yellow slaw recipe, which Armentrout got from her friend Lou Kinder, former co-owner of the Dairy Post.

“She came in from out of state and showed me the recipes,” Armentrout said. “She’s a wonderful friend.”

Chum’s sells hundreds of hotdogs every day, most of which feature the iconic yellow slaw. Marmet Mayor Jay Snodgrass is a regular.

“Anybody that I have bring to meetings, I’ll try to get them down here at least once,” he said. “They always seem to fall in love with it. And they come back.”

You can try to make yellow slaw at home. The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog published a recipe in 2010:

  • 3 lb head of cabbage, shredded fine and drained
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

Combine ingredients and leave overnight in refrigerator.

At the time, blog editor Staunton Means claimed he found the recipe in a box at a flea market — although he now admits that’s not true.

“As a blogger, especially when you’re a blogger about hot dogs, you don’t have a real strong sense of journalistic integrity,” he said. “I was approached by someone who claimed to have the famous Marmet yellow slaw recipe. But he swore me to secrecy and he said that, if his name got out or if anybody knew that he’d shared it, he’d be in big trouble. So I had to make up a cover story to honor my source.”

There’s an additional twist to the story. Although the recipe will render something pretty close to Chum’s yellow slaw, Frances says it isn’t the genuine article.

“It’s very different from ours,” she said after being shown the blog post. “There’s a couple things in here that we do not put in ours.”

So if you want the real deal, head to Chum’s in Marmet. Walk up to the window and say, “I’ll have a hotdog with everything.” Those magic words — and $1.85 — will get you a dog topped with chili, diced onion and yellow slaw. No mustard needed.

This story is part of the Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Project, a partnership with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia and the Folklife Program of the West Virginia Humanities Council. The Folkways Reporting Project is made possible in part with support from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies to the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Foundation. Subscribe to the podcast to hear more stories of Appalachian folklife, arts and culture.