Yee Haw! Hillbilly Hotdogs crosses the Ohio

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, June 2, 2010

CHESAPEAKE — You think eating a hot dog is Nirvana; you never met a hot dog lover you didn’t want to leave your fortune to, plus you can howl out a tune well enough to do the not quite famous “Weenie Song.” Then Sonny and Sharie Knight want you.

In fact, they are looking for about 10 people like that as they get ready to open two new locations of their nationally known Hillbilly Hot Dogs diner, the back-home restaurant that started out in Lesage, WVa., that has become the hot dog king with its 22 versions of the well-known sandwich.

“Sharie and I both have always believed you should shop local and hire local,” Sonny Knight said. “When you work for us, we are such a small little place there are so many things to do, but the big thing is personality. We pay them for what they are worth and when you get someone who is good, you pay more. But they have to love hot dogs.”

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Right now the game plan is to bring the restaurant to two locations in the eastern end of Lawrence County by the end of the month. One will be at the location of the former Peparoni’s Pizza Drive In in Chesapeake and the other at the former Freezette diner in Proctorville.

“In Chesapeake we need about six people and Proctorville at least four,” Knight said.

Knight’s son, Brandon Swallow, is coming from California to manage the Chesapeake location, which will resemble their Lesage venue. The menu will also be comparable with the addition of what Knght calls the hillbilly pizza.

“We have several things in mind,” he said. “It will be Shari’s hotdog sauce with green beans, corn, carrots, a good country selection, kind of a like a veggie pizza with country ham and country sausage. Anything we use, it is always a good quality.”

The Proctorville diner will be a Hillbilly Express.

“It is for people on the go to have a quick hot dog,” Knight said. “We have never tried that before. When this became available, thought it was a good chance to try it.”

It was 11 years ago that the couple started a restaurant outside of Huntington, W.Va., that focused primarily on the cookout staple. With an Appalachian motif the Knights created a menu that offered everything from Chuck’s Junkyard Dog to the Man of Fire Dog to Pistol Pete’s Chicken Parmesan.

That got the restaurant recently the ranking of 15th on the Travel Channel’s “101 Tastiest Places to Chow Down.”

Chesapeake’s mayor is pleased the Knights are expanding into Lawrence County.

“Anytime anyone wants to open a business in this economy and make a go of it, I think it is a great idea,” Mayor Dick Gilpin said. “I welcome them to our community.”

Now Knight wants to start conducting interviews for the jobs at the two restaurants that he wants to make sure keep the same ambience as the West Virginia diners in Lesage and Huntington.

“When you come into our business the first time, you are a customer,” he said. “When you leave you are kinfolk. We’ve always wanted to go over (to Ohio). We are excited.”

Anyone interested in applying for jobs at Hillbilly Hot Dogs should contact Knight at 304-751-7631 or 304-617-4100.