HUNTINGTON - Statistics from the National Restaurant Association show there are 1 million restaurants in America. Very few of them, however, can advertise the coveted phrase "As seen on Food Network." After Monday night, Huntington's Midway Drive-In can claim that distinction.
"As soon as the word got out Food Network was going to be here, business has gone through the roof," said Brandon Roberts, a six-year curb worker at Midway Drive-In. "I watched the show. It was awesome. It's national exposure, and that's huge."
Midway was featured on the second episode of Food Network's new series "Guilty Pleasures," which aired Monday night. On the show, Food Network stars reveal their guilty pleasure food. Katie Lee, a Milton native, celebrity chef and star of Food Network's "The Kitchen," revealed Midway's onion coleslaw chili dog, fries and a peanut butter milkshake as her guilty pleasure foods.
"This is like a 20-napkin meal," Lee said on the show. "It's blissful. If Midway was close to my house, I'd be in big trouble."
Tuesday morning, Lee tweeted she was craving a Midway hot dog.
"We are very happy about the show," Cory Hutchinson, co-owner of Midway, said. "Katie did a great job, and there really couldn't be a bigger honor for us. I think Katie did a lot better on camera than me and (co-owner Bill Ghiz) did."
Hutchinson said Midway Drive-In has gained many new customers as a result of the buzz created by Food Network.
"We still see a lot of familiar faces, and we see a lot of unfamiliar faces," he said. "We also see some people coming back we haven't seen in quite a while."
Nate Givens and his wife, Janice, of Huntington, said in the past they frequented Midway Drive-In but hadn't eaten there in around five years.
"We had heard that Food Network was going to be here," Nate Givens said. "Ever since then we have wanted to come back. This place is a Huntington institution, and we need some good publicity right now in Huntington."
According to Midway's new website, www.midwaydriveinwv.com, which launched this past Monday, the restaurant is described as not just a restaurant, but an "experience." Established in 1939, Midway Drive-In at 445 6th Ave. West has had several owners over the years, but all have been passionate, enthusiastic and determined to maintain its Americana cuisine, according to the website.
When the opportunity came to buy and reopen Midway in 2008, childhood friends Ghiz and Hutchinson seized the opportunity. Ghiz said he has loved the hot dogs since he was a kid. He worked his way through college at Marshall University by working as a curb worker at Midway Drive-In. Hutchinson said the opportunity to buy Midway was a dream-come-true.
"If someone would have told me seven years ago when we bought this place we would end up on Food Network, I would have told them they were crazy," Ghiz said. "It seems surreal. I still can't believe we were on national TV. It was really cool. We watched the full episode and thought (Lee) by far did the best job talking about her guilty pleasure. Her feelings are genuine, and we think viewers could tell."
The show has affected Midway Drive-In "across the board," Ghiz said. The increase in business has led to more hours for employees and increased tips.
The episode featuring Lee and Midway Drive-In, titled "Decadent and Delicious," airs again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6; 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 10; and 1:30 a.m. Thursday, June 11, on Food Network.
Follow reporter Brandon Roberts on Twitter @brobertsHD.