Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hot Dog Hot Spot: The Dog Haus

I nearly made it to Phoenix before I caved. Living in the 21st century makes research easy and that is how I found The Dog Haus in Flagstaff, Arizona. It is owned by Gary McElfresh who used to be a Der Wienerschnitzel employee waaaaay back in the day. When Der Wienerschnitzel moved out, Gary moved in the old building and has been a Flagstaff fixture ever since...for 42 years and counting.

You don’t stay in the hot dog business for nearly half of a century without peddling a good dog. Gary has combined quality Sysco franks (with an all-beef option) and somewhat famous chili to keep the folks of Flagstaff coming back.

The locale is directly on Route 66 and in that fashion there is no indoor seating. You can drive through and grab a dog to go or plant yourself on the cement picnic tables in the lot. I love outdoor eating, but at 35F with a wind kicking up I retreated to into the confines of my vaunted hot dog exploring vehicle (HDEV) and chowed down on a slaw dog. I have been planning my next MLB road trip and remembering the great slaw dogs I had in the Carolinas helped me out with the choices. I was not disappointed. Gary insists on quality, fresh ingredients and the slaw was zesty and crunchy. It went down waaaaayyy too easy.

If you are a music fan this hot dog hot spot has a connection with a hot number. Do you know the lyrics from the song “Take it Easy?” That “standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” is geographically and artistically correct, but the flatbed Ford lyric was really inspired by a Toyota truck pulling out of  Wienerschnitzel in Flagstaff. That Wienerschnitzel is now The Dog Haus.  

Next time you are in Flagstaff grab a part of both US and music history by driving Route 66 and downing a dog at The Dog Haus.

Check out my interview with Gary below:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Things Just Got a Little Cleaner

Me that is...not the blog. Hot dogs and working out at the gym do not exactly go hand-in-hand. In fact, they are pretty much at the opposite ends of the fitness spectrum. But, as of a few weeks ago, I am now a proud member of Planet Fitness. 

Why Planet Fitness? Why not Gold's Gym or others? First, I don't have a German accent, therefore I am automatically persona non grata at Gold's...plus I think the real fitness dudes would beat me up. Secondly, Planet Fitness is present in nearly every city I will be visiting this summer. I know what you are thinking: "good move Tom, it is important to keep in shape while on the road." That may be true, but it is actually more important to stay clean while on the road. If you remember, last year, I had a bit of an issue finding places to shower. It had it's advantages, within 10 minutes of taking my seat at the ballpark I had the section to myself, and I wasn't bothered by fans crowding me. But the flies became an issue. Which brings me back to Planet Fitness. They are they cheapest national chain of gyms. They are open 24/7 and I can access any of them at any time. That makes for one clean hot dog explorer. Otherwise I would have to get a couchsurfing shower or pay for one at a truckstop. Showers at truckstops are about $10. A Planet Fitness membership is $20 a month. You do the math. 

This is great news for any of you planning to meet me for a hot dog at a game this year. Last summer, I went nearly 5 days without a shower. It got so people would not even park next to me. I may even invest in some deoderant this year. 

I begin making my way to Phoenix on Monday, March 2. Look for me in the stands, I will be the one so sparkling clean the sun will be glinting off of me....except for that mustard stain on my shirt. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Head West Young Man

In a few weeks it is off to Arizona to test the hot dogs in all of the Cactus League ballparks. I will be using my system for judging the dogs from last year while a I devise my new system for testing the the MLB specialty dogs during the regular season.

For those of you not in the know, MLB spring training is held in two locations. Half of the teams practice and get into shape in the Arizona desert in what is known as the Cactus League while the other half heads to steamy Florida for the Grapefruit League. I’d love to try the dogs in all of the ballparks of both leagues, but there are these things called time and money, not to mention the distance. Plus, many of the Florida State League (FSL) teams play in their parent team’s spring training ballparks meaning I have already visited several of them.

While there are 15 teams in the Cactus League, there are only 10 ballparks. Some teams share facilities, which makes fiscal sense. A few, like the Cubs stadium, are brand new and should be exciting to visit.

Baseball has been in Arizona in the spring since 1947 so the area is steeped in baseball history. And there is that Sonoran hot dog thing. If you didn’t read my post last year on the Sonoran, no worries...you will hear more about it, along with some great Cactus League action.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hot Dog Hot Spot: Jennifer's

In just a few weeks I am off to the greater Phoenix area to test the hot dogs in the Cactus League during MLB spring training. In the meantime, I have had the shakes. The “I ain’t had no damn dog in weeks” shakes. A guy I know highly recommended I try the hot dog cart that is outside of the exit of the Lowe’s home improvement store here in Tulsa. According to him it has the best dogs in Tulsa. But I have heard that before. I never pass up a good hot dog tip. Think of me as the Ponce de Leon of Processed Meat; in a never-ending search for the perfect dog. I prefer the dogs at parks, but since not all hot dog lovers love baseball (why, I have no idea) I bring you the best in hot dog hot spots as I come across them.

It ends up this cart is called “Jennifer’s.” The chef was cooking up some peppers when I spoke with him the the pepper fume infused smoke from the grill took my breath away. An array of grilled veggies adorned the artsy concoction and the frank was split to ensure even cooking. I was offered hot sauce, and being no wimp, I accepted.

The result was a juicy dog that bites back. It was a fabulous experience that had me headed for the water fountain. While I am not convinced it is the best hot dog in Tulsa, it certainly ranks as one of the best. And what man does not get hungry browsing power tools and lumber? So when you are in the Lowe’s in Tulsa lumber on over to Jennifer’s and get a delightful dog. And check out the video for the Jennifer's experience in full living color.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Super Dogs

As you know I attempted to predict who would win the world series by correlating which team had the best hot dog at their home ballpark. My belief was that the team with the best dog would win against their opponent. Despite some early success the system failed in the end as a world series soothsayer. There were some mitigating factors: problems in the Middle East and the untimely death of Joan Rivers to name a few.

I decided to give the hot dog-predicto-machine another whirl and see if it could predict the Super Bowl winner. The hot dog vendors are usually the same for MLB and NFL teams in the same city (but not always) so I assume that the players on both teams have the meaty goodness of hot dogs coursing through their veins. Could it be the deciding factor in this years NFL finale?

When I was in Boston testing out the Red Sox hot dog (nestled in that funky New England bun) I was in awe of Fenway Park. It is one of my favorites and the oldest in baseball. I counted the “obstructed view” as part of the old time baseball experience, but the $30 GA ticket was the ballpark’s undoing. Thirty smackers for an obstructed view seat is not old timey. Besides that damn bun, the toppings on the dog were far too scant.

While Boston has an old venue Seattle has a slick new park with a retractable roof. Talk about eras apart. With that, both ballparks scored 26 but for different reasons. Seattle ended up being bit by their dog. While I dislike the New England style bun, at least it was fresh. The bun for the Mariner Dog was stale and didn’t taste all that great. How does that translate for overall scores?

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price2
It Factor3.5Fans5

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability3GA Ticket Price3
It Factor3Fans4

There you have it. The Red Sox hot dog trounces the Mariners hot dog by 5.5 points. That translate to a huge Patriots win over the Seahawks. Trust me, I have worked out the kinks of the system. And this year's Super Bowl party? Skip ordering the pizza and cook up some hot dogs. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Regional Dog Fight: Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia

This hot dog face off pits the two key teams in the Keystone State against each other. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s a close contest and I do my best to keep any influence from my childhood from skewing the results (I grew up a few hours south of Pittsburgh).

Both teams have a relatively new ballpark, and both are nicely done. Citizen’s Bank Park (CBP) sits just south of downtown Philly in a sportsplex area that hosts the NFL football stadium and an arena for one of those other sports I don’t like. PNC Park is just a short jaunt across the Roberto Clemente Bridge from the kernel of downtown Pittsburgh and sits on the banks of the Allegheny River. If you know my scoring system, the Pirate’s digs already smacks down the Phillies home park on location alone. While CBP is a very nice venue that I recommend, it simply cannot match the vibe at PNC Park.

The dogs were a much closer call. Keep in mind that Philly had an edge; I was getting lots of hot dog love from the City of Brotherly Love since it was dollar dog night. Hard to compete with that. Pittsburgh on the other hand had a very good price for the regular dog (best in the MLB) and the softest and tastiest bun of the entire adventure. In the end, Pittsburgh edged out Philadelphia in both dog and ballpark. Plus, I really like saying the word “Allegheny.”

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability4GA Ticket Price4
It Factor4Fans5

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price4
It Factor4.5Fans5

You cannot go wrong with a dog at either ballpark. There is enough geography between the two as not to interfere with each others fan base, but Philadelphia has some major competitors if you are in the area and can only catch one game; Baltimore, Washington and the NY teams are stiff competition.

The mighty buccos may not be so mighty since the late 70s, but they still swing a mean hot dog

Thursday, January 1, 2015

It's a Whole New Year

Happy New Year fans! Last year was a blast and I hope your 2015 was as good as my 2014, and that mine is even better. Now that it is a new year check out the blog’s new look and send me some feedback, AND it is time to start the countdown to the most important date of 2015: pitchers and catchers report in 51 days.

I suppose it is also time we talk about plans for the new year and those damn resolutions. I really don’t make resolutions, I would vow to get a TV with better resolution as my resolution, but I don’t own a TV (really). I would say I would eat better, but that only means making all of my hot dogs with Hebrew National franks….I am a Hot Dog Explorer; eating healthy is not in my plans.

Oh, the plans. Yes. Well. I thought of going back to work (briefly). The off season has left me a little bored. Now that the winter meetings are over all I have to look forward to is Spring Training. Did I mention that pitchers and catchers report in 51 days?

And I will be right behind them. That’s right, your intrepid hot dog explorer is headed to Arizona to find out who in the Cactus League has the best hot dog. It has to be done and what better time to do it than to escape to the fabulous February Phoenix weather when it is cold as a well digger’s butt in Tulsa. I will hit all Spring Training facilities and catch a game and report back to you which ballpark had the tastiest dog using my previous scoring system.

Then, in April, the regular MLB season begins. That’s where I need your help.

Last year I discovered which MLB ballpark had the best overall baseball/hot dog experience. I used the combination of ballpark and hot dog scores to determine the winner. This year, I intend to repeat my journey but judge the SPECIALTY hot dogs offered by each stadium. I need you to help me figure out a grading system for the specialty dog. What factors should it be graded on? Also, do you want to know just straight up who has the best specialty dog or the overall baseball/specialty dog experience? Your input is valued.

Lastly, need a break from the winter weather? Come to Arizona and catch a game with me. I will shower beforehand, I promise.