Monday, April 20, 2015

Seattle Mariners: Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog

Last year Seattle failed miserably in offering up a competitive run-of-the-mill hot dog. This year they had the chance to redeem themselves by serving up a specialty dog worthy of the top spot. They do just that, if you can find it.


Most ballparks rave and advertise their over-the-top dog so that there is no mistake about which one they think is the top dog on the planet. Seattle has a delicious specialty dog, but finding it is harder than finding a space needle in a haystack. I asked several vendors at numerous stands where I can find the biggest, baddest, most outrageous dog in the park. Most didn’t have a clue as to what was sold outside of their small spot in Safeco Field. I finally met on gentleman who called around and found it. He steered me towards the small vending spot called “Edgar’s,” named after honored Mariner third baseman of yesteryear Edgar Martinez.


I had passed this stand twice before and noticed that they served a bacon-wrapped hot dog. What I didn’t know was that THIS was the specialty dog offering. I wasn’t excited. I had eaten my body weight in bacon-wrapped dogs in the last year; then I read the description. It is topped with caramelized onions, jalapenos, and a chipotle cream sauce. Combine that with the fact that while Cloverdale franks rule the regular dog, they are wise enough to use a Hebrew National frank on their top of the line entry. Plus, it is all stuffed into a super soft bun dusted with cornmeal. Yummy.

Yes, that is balanced on his head
The result is a dog with a hint of southwest flavor, as it should be since it is sold at Edgar’s Taco stand. The flavors play very well together and was one damn delicious hot dog. Vast improvement from last year.

Appeal-this is where the Mariner’s fail big time. I saw this dog and had no idea what it was about. Some of the workers called it the “Pen Dog” but it was not advertised as such. A cool nickname would steer more fans towards this delicious dish. Call me Seattle. 2.5


Ingredients-excellent job in making a southwest inspired dog that does not overpower the taste buds with flame throwing peppers. 5


Uniqueness-there are a slew of bacon-wrapped hot dogs in baseball now. The other ingredients save the score in this category. 4


Monstrosity Factor-basically, another loaded dog. 3


Value-one dog does make a meal, but at $9.50 it should. 3.5


Overall Taste-outstanding taste. If I had room in my tummy (and another job to afford it) I would have eaten one.
APPEAL2.5
INGREDIENTS5
UNIQUENESS4
MONSTROSITY FACTOR3
VALUE3.5
OVERALL TASTE5
TOTAL23
Two things kill this dog’s chances of competing: appeal and cost. The first is an easy fix; change the name of the dog and advertise a little. The second I am not so sure how to fix. What I do know is that any fan will flinch at nearly ten bucks for a hot dog. There are a lot of tasty hot dog stands just outside of Safeco Field, if you have a Hamilton to spend on a dog; do it, you will not be disappointed. If not, eat before you enter the ballpark.

Oh...and THIS was happening outside of the ballpark:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hot Dog Hot Spots: Top Dog

I visit a lot of hot dog places...a lot. I rarely get super excited about any one hot dog hot spot, but there is a stand in Berkeley that pushes all of my buttons.

Top Dog has been a sausage staple in the east bay area since 1966 when the first Top Dog spot opened. Flooded by fans headed to a football game the first day they opened, Top Dog got off on the right foot and has been serving up the dog done right for nearly 40 years. Top Dog has had several locations throughout the years, with an apex of five spots there are now three in the greater Oakland area where one can bite down on one of the nation’s best natural casing dogs.

I visited the original site at 2534 Durant Avenue in Berkeley, just a short walk from the UC Berkeley campus. I spent some time chatting with owner covering a broad range of topics that included some serious hiccups in a trip to my town of Tulsa to historic center fielders. One thing that impressed me most was his outlook on business. He claims he would rather “have five dollars next year than a nickel today.” That means his approach is to sell a lot of dogs at a reasonable price than a few at a higher price. The result? One of the most delicious and most affordable dogs on the west coast.

Using a hot dog supplier from Chicago (where they know hot dogs) Top Dog uses a sliced baguette for their signature “Top Dog.” There is an array of other quality meats to satisfy any palate but you cannot go wrong with the all beef kosher Top Dog, at a price of $3.00. Best dog for value I have encountered, and the tastiest.

What could make it better? For the Oakland A’s to get off of their duff and invite Top Dog to open a stand in O.com Stadium. Both the A’s and the fans would win. The team could bring in a local flavor and the fans could enjoy watching the A’s with a Top Dog in hand. It’s a win-win. Are you listening O.com?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hot Dog Hot Spots: Sinbad's

There is more than gaming and debauchery in Sparks, Nevada. There is a hot dog hot spot worth visiting. Sinbad’s has been serving up the dog to the denizens of Reno and Sparks for years. Not a gourmet hot dog joint, they are noted for their regular hot dog which they do well. It comes in several iterations but you cannot go wrong with downing a wiener in Sinbads.
It is located in a stripmall setting with a small, diner type interior. The walls are adorned with a full spectrum of hot dog related art/advertisements and photos of celebrities eating hot dogs. Perhaps my favorite is Field Castro getting his dog on. That’s not surprising though, considering he was once an aspiring baseball pitcher. I guess when you can’t make it in the baseball the next best thing is being a brutal dictator. If you can’t dominate a game from the mound, why not dominate an entire island nation? That’s what I am planning if this hot dog thing doesn’t work out.

The Nevada area in general seems to be somewhat devoid of dedicated hot dog spots. That means it isn’t on my list of vacations spots. But this is what makes Sinbad’s such a welcome oasis in hot dog desert. It is worth a stop and if you headed deeper into Nevada, be sure to take in one last dog before you hit the great, dogless expanse that awaits you.



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

San Francisco Giants San Francisco Dog

I reviewed AT&T ballpark last year and you can find it in the archives on my blog. The crux of it was; great ballpark but really expensive. Not much has changed on that front, but I won’t mention the cost this time. However it was expensive and a nosebleed ticket cost a number that rhymes with 45. But I won’t mention the cost this time around...other than it was damn expensive. But I did get a bobblehead, so I guess that evens it all out.

There are numerous types of dogs available in the home of the reigning World Series champs. The ballpark does not really tout any one dog as the “it” dog, but the ones that could contend are found at only one spot call “Chicago Dogs” that offers up three specialty dogs worthy of contention:

Chicago Dog-mustard, relish, onions, sport peppers, tomato, pickle, celery salt. Your typical Chicago Dog.

San Francisco Dog-swiss cheese, sauerkraut, onions, pickle spear, thousand island sauce.

Coney Island Dog-chili, cheese, onions.

Only the San Francisco Dog was original, other ballparks have versions of the other two. Plus, it was representative of the city which is why I chose it at the dog to test.

Appeal-the name alone is catchy and it did sound like the toppings would blend really well or really bad. I had to find out. 5

Ingredients-ahhhhh….Hebrew National how I have missed you. With a HN frank on a poppy seed bun the dog was off to a good start. All other items were fresh. 5

Uniqueness-this is the only dog I have seen that has swiss cheese and thousand island sauce on it. 5

Monstrosity Factor-again, just a loaded dog really. Nothing to make children scream. 2.5

Value-at $7.50 it was not crazy expensive, but not a total bargain either. It was San Francisco so I suppose it was affordable...to San Franciscans. 4
Overall Taste-hard to go wrong when you start of with an all-beef, kosher Hebrew National frank. The other toppings blended well. It was  unique taste that pleased but I am not certain I’d eat it again. 4.5
APPEAL5
INGREDIENTS5
UNIQUENESS5
MONSTROSITY FACTOR2.5
VALUE4
OVERALL TASTE4.5
TOTAL26
An overall all score of 26 of 30 is enough to land it in second place. The park makes the hot dog taste better as well as AT&T is a gem of a ballpark. If you can afford a ticket. But I won’t mention the cost.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Oakland A's Diablo Dog

The second stop of the season had me at the Oakland A’s O.com Stadium (yeah, I hate that name too). Things have been quiet on the A’s front regarding new offerings for 2015. I guess they chose to forego entering into the crazy “who can outdo the other team” over the top hot dog madness. Their hot dog lineup, much unlike their on field lineup, looks much like it did last year.

Their specialty dogs are a trio of loaded dogs that include:
All Star Dog-mac n’ cheese and jalapenos.

Diablo Dog-nacho cheese, bacon and onion strings.

Bay Bridge Dog-chili n’ cheese.

None seemed to stand out and none were touted as THE dog to get, so I chose the most bold option and went with the Diablo Dog. I figured with a name like that it had to be something that would kick my teeth in.

Biting into the Diablo Dog is like expecting an attack from a pit bull and instead getting a face licking from a cocker spaniel. It wasn’t spicy at all and had way too much of that cheez-wiz type nacho cheese on it. It did come with a fork, and I needed it as it seemed to fall apart under the stress of the cheese.

Appeal-it has a catchy name and the ingredients sound good when read from the menu. 5

Ingredients-this should be a winning combo, but the nasty nacho cheese really kills the chance of the other flavors shining through. The onion and bacon were dehydrated bits. 3

Uniqueness-there are other ballparks with variations of the Diablo Dog. 3

Monstrosity Factor-like the previous ballpark, it is really just a loaded dog. 2.5

Value-this loaded dog cost a whopping $9. Overpriced for the taste, ingredients and serving size. 2.5

Taste-if you read my blog last year you know I am not a fan of Miller franks. I just don’t like the taste. Real shredded cheese would have given the dog a chance but that nacho stuff is kind of nasty. I did enjoy the onion strings. In the end I did not finish it. 2
APPEAL5
INGREDIENTS3
UNIQUENESS3
MONSTROSITY FACTOR2.5
VALUE2.5
OVERALL TASTE2
TOTAL18
Some tweaks and imagination could really boost Oakland’s score. I get using Miller franks, they are a semi-local company. Other teams have figured out that biting the bullet and paying a little extra for a quality frank like a Hebrew National not only catapults the quality of the hot dog but means they will likely sell more of them. And for nine smackers, I want a quality dog.

I would love to design a dog for the A’s...I will even let them use my name on it. How about: the Marvelous Bastard Dog?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Colorado Rockies: Taco Dog

You know how much I love Coors Field. Great location, ambiance, fans, food, electricity...it is just a great all around ballpark. Last year it tied for second place in the overall hotdog/baseball experience. But how does it do for a specialty dog venue?

I’ll get to that, but first know that I went to extremes to get this report for you. Poor planning on my part had me at Coors Field on opening day with tickets sold out weeks in advance. I tried StubHub, but I am even more convinced they cater to those flush with cash, the day of the game a few seats dipped just below $100. Did I mention I do these trips on a budget? I was working the Craigslist angle but every time one would show up that was $50 or less it was gobbled up before I could respond, plus at mid morning I was still hurtling towards Denver in my trusty RAV4. Rule of Craig’s List is that the first person to show up with cash wins.

I had to take my chances with the scalpers at the ballpark. The first guy wanted $160. For that kind of money I figured I would get to pitch at least two innings. Then the baseball gods smiled upon me and I met a guy who had 4 tickets from friends that could not make it (it was an afternoon game) and wanted to just get face value back from his investment. Price? $35 a seat. Bingo. I was in.

Then there was the security issue. The Rockies now use metal detectors for entry. Upon arrival I asked why they had not opened the gates yet, they looked closed from the long, stagnant lines. Answer: they had been open  for about 2 hours. Ay caramba! Hopefully the Rockies learned that if you want to implement extra security make sure you have the process smoothed out before using it. The result was some pretty pissed off fans.

Now the dog. The Rockies offer up a bevy of specialty dogs. At the Extreme Dog counter you can get the:

Denver Dog-stinking green chili, shredded cheddar cheese, fresh jalapenos.
Diablo Dog-red chili, diced red onions, shredded pepper jack cheese, fresh jalapenos.
New York Dog-sauerkraut, spicy brown mustard, diced onion, sliced peppers.
Santa Fe Dog-sour cream, red chili, fresh jalapenos, shredded cheddar cheese.
Chicago Dog-relish, diced onions, sport peppers, wedge tomatoes, cucumbers, spicy mustard, celery salt.
Bacon Bleu Dog-blue cheese dressing, blue cheese crumbles, diced red onions, bacon.

But the one they are raving about this year at Coors Field is the new Taco Dog. It starts with a chorizo frank on a soft bun topped with shredded cheese, lettuce and pico de gallo. How did it do as the first dog to test the new specialty dog rating system?

Appeal-top score. Everyone loves a taco don’t they? Combining taco taste with a hot dog sounds downright delicious. 5

Ingredients-all things in this dog are taco related and compliment each other well. Everything was fresh. 5

Uniqueness-while it may sound simple, I have not come across a Taco Dog in all of my ballpark travels. I am surprised it has not graced more venues but Denver is the first to really catapult it to fame. It looses a half of a point because it really is kind of a mundane concept, nothing outrageous about it. 4.5

Monstrosity Factor-this is the Taco Dog’s lowest scoring category. While delicious, it is basically just a loaded hot dog. 2.5

Value-$6 for a loaded specialty dog is really a great bargain at an MLB stadium. Top score. 5

Overall Taste-it doesn’t have the crunchiness of a taco, but that is a good thing. Crunchy means stale in the hot dog world. The chorizo frank was fabulous and spicy and combined with the other ingredients was damn tasty. 5
APPEAL5
INGREDIENTS5
UNIQUENESS4.5
MONSTROSITY FACTOR2.5
VALUE5
OVERALL TASTE5
TOTAL27
With a score of 27 out of 30 the Taco Dog at Coors Field is the new leader. Well...it’s the only leader. But the other 29 teams have some stiff competition. But don’t take my word for it. Typically rockpile tickets at Coors Field are $4 meaning for $10 you can have a Taco Dog in the bleachers. Now THAT is a deal. See you at the ballpark.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gone to the Dogs Now Available

Looking for a good summer read between innings? Something spectacular and baseball related with a healthy dose of processed meat thrown in? Wait no longer. The literary event of the century is upon us. That's right, "Gone to the Dogs" is NOW AVAILABLE on amazon.com Just type the title with my name in the search bar on amazon and a few short clicks later you will have your own copy on the way.

In case you have forgotten, "Gone to the Dogs" details my search last summer for the best ballpark/hot dog experience and chronicles my visits to all 30 MLB ballparks as well as 35 MiLB venues. Plus all of the other antics in between. 




here is the link to the amazon page: 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1457536234/sr=8-1/qid=1428607762/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&qid=1428607762&sr=8-1

For my kickstarter backers, again, thank you. My copies have shipped and will arrive in about a week....right in the middle of the west coast swing of my 2015 road trip to write the sequel book. As soon as I get back I will sign them and put them in the mail. Sorry again for the delay.

Everyone else? Be part of literary history and get your copy today!