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Hillbilly Hot Dogs owners featured in host's cookbook and best of episode

Oct. 29, 2008 @ 11:00 PM

LESAGE -- To borrow a line from Guy Fieri, the wild-and-crazy host of The Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," "It's on like Donkey Kong."

For Sonny and Sharie Knight, owners of Hillbilly Hot Dogs, the flow of love from Fieri hits broil this weekend as the couple's cool-and-quirky original restaurant at Lesage gets a four-page spread in Fieri's new cook book, "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip with Recipes," by Fieri with Ann Volkwein, (William Morrow Cookbooks, $19.95).

The book hits shelves on Saturday, and is available locally at Empire Books and News at Pullman Square as well as Borders Books and Music at the Huntington Mall.

If that isn't enough love for a week, Fieri, and Page Productions, which tapes his show, is also flying the local couple out to California on Friday, Oct. 31, to tape an episode of "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives," featuring Fieri's favorite places.

Sharie Knight, who has ordered a couple dozen of the books for family and friends, said at first they wanted her hot dog recipe, but since she didn't want to give it up, she turned it up a notch giving two spicy recipes for the book, her homemade Habanero Sauce and the jalapeno-and-habanero-pepper stuffed creation Rahall's Red Hot Weenie that is the creation of U.S. Congressman Nick Rahall.

That's a good call since Fieri recalls in the book Rahall's creation will "make you break a sweat, no joke."

The book also mentions in the index two other local places, Smokey Valley Truck Stop in Olive Hill, Ky., as well as Central City Cafe, in Huntington.

Inside the 250-page book, Fieri, a California resident with two restaurants, Johnny Garlic's and Tex Wasabi's, takes readers on a wild, roadtrip to 60 of the coolest mom-and-pop places dotted along little state road maps.

Fieri, whose father hailed from Wheeling, W.Va., introduces Hillbilly Hot Dogs on page 114 by saying that "this is great, it might shed some light on how he learned to cook. What better place to start then here at Hillbilly Hot Dogs."

Calling it "without a question one of the most insane joints I've ever been in," Fieri was smitten from his first look at what he calls, "the ultimate WV hot dog stand."

Sharie, an L.A. native who moved to West Virginia when she married Lesage native Sonny, said she was afraid before Fieri's December visit of how he would perceive them and their restaurant.

"He was 100 percent the real deal," Sharie said. "Sometimes people don't even get out of the car and they give the expression of what the heck is this, and being from California, I know how we can be. He never showed anything on his face. The second he opened the door, the laughter started, and it never stopped. We were cutting up so bad that it was hard for him to film he had so much fun, and the crew, and everyone was wonderful and put us at ease."

One of the things that lingers in the minds of many who visit Hillbilly Hot Dogs is that this couple likes to go grande, and that wasn't lost on Fieri.

In fact, he describes getting elbows deep into the five-pound hamburger, the Singlewide, in a side piece called "Flavortown Moment: Burger Encounter of the Massive Kind."

Describing it as "a burger the size of a manhole cover," Fieri said "after taking a bite out of that thing, I actually had to ask if there was any in my ear," he wrote. "I could've eaten all of it, but you know I've got to get into that one-piece leotard; I have ballet on Thursdays. This is the steering wheel that goes on the bus that goes to Flavortown."

Sonny and Sharie said this past Saturday that more than a few folks have stopped off at the Hillbilly Hot Dogs locations since viewing the episode that began airing in April.

Saturday, a couple who are fans of the show, stopped off driving from South Carolina to the Ohio State and Penn State game.

"This show has been seen throughout the world, and we've had customers come in from Japan and Australia, from Russia," Sharie said. "We have a guest book signed from people from all over the world and our business is up about 25 to 40 percent from it. It's been incredible."

Sharie said lots of folks come in asking for the items featured on the show, such as the Junkyard Dog, the Homewrecker and the Singlewide.

"When we break into song, which is not featured on the show, it's something they weren't expecting," Sharie said with a laugh.

Something, they didn't expect was to be filming with Fieri again.

But they're flying to Sacramento, Calif., to tape a "best of" show with Fieri and his crew.

"It's going to be a lot of fun, they're just a fun bunch of people," Sharie said. "It's humbling to be on the show again, and another television episode just means more publicity and more people coming to this fine state."

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