Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hot Dog Hot Spot: Taylor Brothers Hot Dogs

The great thing about a baseball game in Visalia California is not only that it has the quaintest and coziest ballpark in the entire California League, but the stroll through downtown Visalia to get to the stadium if you park downtown. The Rawhide are a lucky bunch to call Visalia home, it is one of those small towns that makes you forget you are still in the Golden State. And it sports one of the neatest hot dog hot spots on the planet.

As you make your way down Center Avenue, nestled among bungalows turned into businesses, you find Taylor Brothers Hot Dogs. It is a smallish building that has outside dining only and the coolest neon hot dog sign I have ever seen (and I have seen a lot). The sign is a neon-animated running dog. So cute you want to hug and squeeze the neon gas right out of its glass tubes. I would have if I could have found a way on the roof.

The dogs are simple: onions, mustard, relish and chili. That’s it. You can also order up a six pack of dogs. It would take two to fill me, but they are cheap ($1.60) As I was on my way to the ballpark where I had to sample a dog anyway I opted for one. As much as I love hot dogs they don’t taste nearly as good when you have to force one down due to a full tummy. Plus, I have to keep an eye out on my girlish figure.

I could not dig up much infor on the Taylor Brothers, and the workers didn’t seem too chatty, but I do know they have been a Visalia fixture since 1952. Anyone that can stay in the hot dog business for that long is doing something right. While I was not blown away by the taste, it was pretty good and the ambiance makes up for any slack.

The next time you are exploring central California add the Taylor Brothers Hot Dog stand to your list of places to do the dog dance with your gullet. And be a man...get a six pack.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hot Dog Alert #4

Several people have asked me if I have visited the Fresno Grizzlies. Sadly, with two trips to California to take in ballparks and hot dogs, I have not made it to Chukchansi Park. No snub to Fresno, I just can’t get my schedule and theirs to match up. But now I know why fans are so fond of the team.

Did you know that May 21 is halfway to Halloween? Me neither. But the Grizzlies know and they are having a party at the ballpark that includes zombies, a haunted house and, oh yeah, a baseball game. So why am I excited? Because for one night, and one night only, Fresno lets the monster out of the lab for all to enjoy. Introducing: Frankenslice.

It is a pepperoni pizza slice with the crust stuffed with….a hot dog. It is the mother of all abominations that should trigger a 20 point rise in the stock of the company that produces Rolaids. Nothing like greasy buttons of pepperoni to help that frank slide down the gullet. It is a true processed meat lovers dream. While you and cardiac surgeons may be appalled, we hot dog connoisseurs are delighted. Can anyone fly me to Fresno this Thursday?

One MLB team that might consider adopting this beast as a regular ghoul in their ballpark is the Toronto Blue Jays. The Canadians love pizza and outperform any other MLB team in pizza consumption. The hot dog still reigns number one in Toronto, but pizza is a close second. You would know this if had read my book. You are going to read my book aren’t you? Here is a link so you can get it from amazon:

Read it, it will make you a better and more interesting person.

Meanwhile, in Fresno, this Thursday night, the monster is off the table and coming for your tummy. The villagers may have the pitchforks and torches out, but me, I’ll kill it with just a fork.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tulsa Drillers: Firecracker Dog

After finishing my west coast swing of eight MLB ballparks I find myself back in Tulsa and plotting the next move in my gastronomic journey. I returned just in time for a rain-interrupted, five-day homestand for the Tulsa Drillers that included one of my favorite baseball oddities: a morning first pitch.
When the game starts at 11 AM the ballpark makes the perfect spot for lunch and the ideal proving ground for tasting the dog. I thought it would be me and about fifty other fans due to the time of the game. As it turned out it was Tulsa Public Schools field trip day and the streets outside Oneok Field was lined with yellow school busses. So it ended up being me, fifty other fans and about four thousand screaming kids. You know what screaming kids do at the ballpark besides scream? They eat. And eat. And eat. It took until the fourth inning before I was able to brave the lines at the concession stand and grapple with a Firecracker Dog. It was a hard choice as Tulsa continues to impress me with the menu options for a class AA ballpark. The Franx stand offers the following specialty dogs (all served with a 100% beef frank:

Pizza Dog-sliced pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, homemade marinara.

Oink, Cluck, Moo-chicken tenders, cheese sauce, BBQ sauce, crumbled bacon.

Chicago Dog-tomato, pickle, peppers, relish, celery salt served on a poppy seed bun.

Buffalo Chicken-shredded buffalo chicken, red hot sauce, blue cheese dressing.

My Firecracker Dog included shredded spicy chicken, pepper jack cheese, jalapeno sauce, chipotle mayonnaise.

Appeal-while all the dogs looked good, the name association with the spiciness was undeniably attractive. And the ingredient mixture was enticing. 5

Ingredients-a fiery medley of meat on a bun. 5

Uniqueness-this is a stand out dog that is seldom duplicated at other venues. 5

Monstrosity Factor-it is a regular sized dog, but loaded with meat. It is possible this might be your only meal at the ballpark, but if you get it early enough you might be reaching for some peanuts by the seventh inning stretch. 3.5

Value-at $6 it is a great value compared to other ballparks and the amount of meat it packs. 5

Overall Taste-both the beef frank and the spicy chicken get along well inside the bun. The spicy was not too overpowering and allows the eater to enjoy the heat without gasping for breath. 5
Trust me when I say I am impartial on my dog ratings. Yes, Tulsa is my home ballpark, but since they built Oneok Field about 4 years ago they have been committed to providing great food a one of the best AA ballparks in the nation. The Firecracker Dog deserves every one of its 28.5 points.

Disagree? Say when and where and I will meet you for a dog off at your ballpark. You buy of course. Did I mention that despite my fame and good looks I am still on a budget?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Albuquerque Isotopes: Orbit Dog

Science lesson: Isotopes are variations of a particular chemical element that differ in the number of neutrons. I know, I should have paid attention in science class too. But that is stuff to remember if you ever appear on Jeopardy! All you really need to know is that these particles go in some sort of orbital motion, which is why the class AAA Albuquerque Isotopes’ mascot is called Orbit. And they have named their most outrageous specialty dog after him called the Orbit Dog.

Last year the Isotopes had something similar called the Lasorda Dog, named after legendary Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda. Now that the team is a Colorado Rockies affiliate, a tweaking of the recipe and new moniker were in order. Enter the Orbit Dog.

It consists of two all-beef franks, mac & cheese, green chile and bacon bits all wrapped up in a tortilla. At nine bucks it should be a meal in its own right, and it is. It is also a costume wrecker. A brillo pad would not hold that contraption together, and it doesn’t take long for its half-life to expire and start to disintegrate.

Appeal-love the name and concept, and the challenge of downing a two-frank dog. 5

Ingredients-the green chile is a New Mexico thing and I like that. The mac & cheese on hot dogs is starting to become passe. 4

Uniqueness-two franks in one dog, and the tortilla wrap give it a leg up on the competition. 5

Monstrosity Factor-nearly huge enough to warrant top score. But I didn’t feel the need to purge after so it falls slightly short. 4.5

Value-this is the only dog you will eat the night of the game. Still, at $9 it should feed two people. 4.5

Overall Taste-this could have been a great tasting dog. The Isotopes use Farmland franks which fall flat on taste. They have the texture of meat but the rest of the ingredients overpower the franks instead of complementing them. In a two-frank dog, the meat should be the star of the show. I’d recommend switching to Hebrew National franks for a much better and beefier taste. I’d feel better about shelling out nine bucks for it too with HN kosher franks nestled in that tortilla. 3
A score of 26 is nothing to balk at. Kudos to Albuquerque for putting up a fight with a very unique and large hot dog. I rate Isotopes Park as one of my favorite MiLB venues and it has lots of fine and tasty food to offer. With some tweaking the Orbit Dog could become a legend. Until then, it continues to drift in the Van Allen Belt.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Arizona Diamondbacks: Churro Dog

The Arizona Diamondbacks are much to blame for the monster hot dog craze. While a few other teams offered up some crazy concoctions first, the D-backs upped the ante when they introduced an 18 inch, bacon wrapped, cheese infused, corn dog called the D-Bat in 2014. This year, they aimed to outdo even themselves and managed to pull it off nicely with the Churro Dog.

If a double-fudge sundae is a sugar bomb, then the Churro Dog is the nuclear option. This diabetes-inducing caloric abomination is the anti-meat hot dog. It is strictly for dessert. Shaped like a regular hot dog, there are some very stark differences. Instead of a bun the Churro Dog uses a chocolate drizzled long-john donut. It is curved around none other than a cinnamon churro that lays in the bun like a frank. The churro is topped with locally-sourced yogurt smothered in whipped cream. This monstrosity is then drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauces.

How did it fare?

Appeal-this dessert dog has been in the media so often most patrons take its picture before eating it (me as well). Fans seek it out. 5

Ingredients-you can’t go wrong with the composition of this dog. It did have a bit too much whipped cream for me, but otherwise delicious. 4.5

Uniqueness-no other dog like it exists. 5

Monstrosity Factor-off the scale. This wonder of the hot dog world, while not huge, will satisfy the sweet tooth of a giant. In the end, I could not finish it. It was just too much sugar for me. 5

Value-at $8.50 it is a steal as it can easily satiate two fans. 5

Overall Taste-great taste, but overly sweet for just one person to finish. 5

After awakening from a diabetic coma and several rounds of dialysis I recovered from eating about three-quarters of the Churro Dog. It is everything it is cracked up to be, a gut-busting sugar pill that is the dessert of the desert. Want a challenge? Try to finish one off after downing a D-Bat.
The Churro Dog is the perfect ballpark relief from the hot Arizona sun. And with an overall score of 29 the currently specialty dog leader. Warning: this is a messy, messy dog. After eating it you will have about a pound of it on your face, but you will be cool, full, refreshed and ready for some more Diamondbacks baseball.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

LA Dodgers: Xtreme Bacon Wrapped Dog

I love Dodger Stadium. Of the old parks (it is the third oldest in the MLB) it is my favorite. While it is 40 years younger than Wrigley and Fenway, it bristles blue and has been well maintained and updated. Additionally, it is a fine example of Mid-Century Modern architecture. Besides hot dogs, I love all things Mid-Century Modern.
I was also excited about the hot dogs. Sure, it is home of the vaunted Dodger Dog, but the ballpark has ventured into the extreme hot dog arena. In fact, the stands throughout Dodger Stadium where they sell those dogs is called “Extreme Dogs.” I did some research and was excited to try this dog that had coleslaw and blue cheese crumbles on it. As soon as I took my obligatory selfie at the ballpark I headed for one of those extreme dog stands and….found out that the blue cheese and coleslaw dog was so last year and had been discontinued. Why can’t the internet automatically delete outdated information? If we have self parking cars surely we can do that.

I had to go with plan B and eat the dog that is the talk of the Los Angeles baseball world: the LA Xtreme Bacon Dog. It was that over its competitors that included:

Doyer Dog-chili, nacho cheese, pico de gallo drizzled with sour cream.

Frito Pie Dog-chili, shredded cheese and fritos.

Big Kid Dog-mac and cheese topped with fritos.

Of course, this being Dodger Stadium, all use a Farmer John frank. That LA Xtreme Bacon Wrapped Dog is made of a ¼ all-beef frank that is wrapped in two slices of applewood smoked bacon and smothered with grilled peppers and onions with mustard and drizzled with mayo.

Appeal-attention all MLB teams. Enough with the bacon wrapped frenzy. Everybody does that now. Sure, bacon taste good but if you want to really entice the exotic hot dog seekers, offer up something no one else does. How about that coleslaw and blue cheese dog. Still, it has bacon so it gets a decent score. 4

Ingredients-attention Dodgers. I know you have a love fest with Farmer John franks. I am sure regular Dodger fans are familiar and maybe even like the taste. Hint: everyone else thinks they taste kind of strange. Not bad, but strange. Want to knock it out of the park? Switch to a Hebrew National all-beef frank. Once you do you, and your fans/customers, will never look back. 3.5

Uniqueness-just touting it as a bacon wrapped dog hurts the score. As I said previously, bacon wrapped is overdone these days. No other original ingredients as well. 3

Monstrosity Factor-it is a big dog, but I have seen bigger and badder. I killed it no problem. 3.5

Value-this is a one-person dog, so at $10.50 if is pricey. 2.5

Overall Taste-wrapping the Farmer John frank in bacon helps out on flavor, but let’s talk about that bacon. Bacon wrapped dogs end up with flimsy, soggy bacon around the frank. A better idea is to lay a strip of crispy bacon alongside the frank they way they do at The Red Hot in Tacoma. I let them put mayo on my dog because I wanted to taste the full meal deal. Mistake. Regular mayo does not belong on a hot dog.
I was ready to be blown away by the Dodger’s dog offerings. I wasn’t. A score of 20 is not something to crow about when you play in one of the league’s premiere ballparks. I recommend bringing back that cole slaw dog. And you know, some day Vin Scully (Dodger’s broadcaster for over 40 years) will have to retire. The Dodgers should also think about retiring the Dodger Dog, or at least the Farmer John frank.

Lancaster Jethawks: Hot Dog

The Lancaster Jethawks have a very cool ballpark. Not only is it in great shape, but it exceeds coolness barrier by having an F-18 Hornet on a giant pedestal in front of the main gate. Awesome. Unfortunately, even that kind of firepower can’t help the Jethawk’s hot dog entry.

Apparently, last season Lancaster offered an impressive lineup of specialty hot dogs including one call the Greek Dog. I would have without a doubt tried it since I had never had one. This year they offer a hot dog and a chili and cheese version of the same. Yawn.

Allure-hot dog. Just the hot dog. Hot dog. Hot dog. 1

Ingredients-the cloverdale frank isn’t bad, but with just pump yellow mustard and packet relish to keep it company it disappoints. 1.5

Uniqueness-hot dog. Hot dog. Hot dog. 1

Monstrosity Factor-it was as frightening as a 15 year old toy poodle. 1.5

Value-the Jethawks haul in top score here. $3.50 for hot dog at a ballpark is a real bargain, no matter how skimpy it is. 5

Overall Taste-it tasted as expected. It wasn’t bad, but not overly good either. 2.5
Lancaster scores the lowest of any ballpark so far. I am bewildered as to why they would scrap their specialty dog menu, that would have boosted their score significantly. Perhaps they should take a twist from a famous baseball movie: “If you build it and cook it, they will eat it.”