Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Lexington Legends: All-Star BBQ Dog

Kevin Dolphin and his pack of dogs
Checking out the red hots in the Bluegrass State at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. I was confused at first then I saw the stadium marquee. When I saw “Legend” I thought they knew I was visiting and it was a personal greeting. Turns out the the team’s name is the Lexington Legends. Honest mistake.

For a single A team in the South Atlantic League they put out an impressive array of three specialty dogs. Their GM Kevin Dolphin took me through their specialty selection that includes a Diablo Dog, Chicago Dog and the All-Star BBQ Dog. I chose the All-Star because Kevin explained that it pays homage to their parent organization, the Kansas City Royals. I love connections like that...almost as I love double-meat hot dogs.

Appeal-something about piling BBQ meat on top of a hot dog that makes my mouth water….and my pants tighter. 4.5

Ingredients-I love coleslaw on a dog. And the pickles were a nice touch. 4.5

Uniqueness-the Kansas City Royals connection gives it a boost, as well as a better moniker than just “BBQ Dog.” Topping with pickles is rarely done. 4

Monstrosity Factor-this dog goes more vertical than horizontal in the monstrosity factor. One dog will usually suffice but depending on how hungry you are you might need a bag of peanuts to top you off. 4

Value-at $6.50 this dog is a great ballpark bargain. 5

Overall Taste-absolutely delicious. 5
When a single A team can pull in an overall score of 27 you know they are doing something right. The weird part? I was trying to down my dog while watching the players warm up and ended up dumping some of it because I was swatting at a bee of some sort. Who were the Legends playing that night? The Augusta Greenjackets

Monday, August 3, 2015

Northwest Arkansas Naturals: Italian Sausage

Nothing beats Texas League action at the AA level on a hot midwest night. Most of the league has nice, new ballparks and cozy confines that serve up some delicious dogs. The Northwest Arkansas Naturals have been in my sights for some time since they often play in Tulsa. I finally pinned them down to a date and set my sights on Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, just up the street from Fayetteville; a town that supposedly has a good college football team, although I have never heard of them.

I was able to speak briefly to the General Manager, and it looks like I missed the specialty dog boat. The Naturals offer up a third of a pound frank topped with a choice of five of the following: lettuce, tomato, American cheese, grilled onions, diced onions, cheddar cheese sauce, cole slaw, sauerkraut, and applewood bacon. With a selection like that you could play Picasso of Processed Meat and create your own work of art in a bun. Unfortunately, that dog is not available every night, and being on a Sunday and a kids eat free day, I was relegated to trying the the next biggest thing: the Italian Sausage.

Appeal-after seeing what could have been, I was despondent. So depressed that I was considering a slice of pizza. But I snapped out of it and opted for the the Italian sausage. It looked pretty tasty sizzling on the grill. 3.5

Ingredients-a Johnsonville sausage paired with grilled onions and sauerkraut. 4

Uniqueness-most ballparks are doing the brat/sausage with grilled kraut and onions. 3

Monstrosity Factor-it wasn’t a small dog, but not overly large either. 3

Value-A little pricey at $7.50. 3

Overall Taste-nice soft bun and a tasty sausage. I enjoyed it. 4
I wish I had the opportunity to try the build your own specialty dog. The Naturals would have undoubtedly scored higher than 20.5 out of 30. But, I have to get what I can when at the ballpark. Missing out on that dog gives me an excuse to return to Arvest Ballpark to see another game. Which I will, Naturally.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Oklahoma City Dodgers: The Porker

Did you hear that the Dodgers moved to Oklahoma City? Well, their AAA did anyway. Last year, players one step away from Dodger big league dreams practiced their vocation in Albuquerque, NM. For the 2015 season the Los Angeles Dodgers moved their triple A club to Oklahoma City. With it they rammed the Dodgers moniker down the throat of the local ballclub so that last year’s RedHawks are this year’s Dodgers. As if changing stadium names every few years isn’t confusing enough.

I was there last year to sample the regular hot dog. Not much has changed besides the team name. It is still a fabulous baseball venue in the best part of Oklahoma City. The specialty dogs in OKC can be found in one of two Franx stands within the ballpark. They offer up a Chicago Dog, Coney, and a BLT dog. I opted for their Porker because I have a thing for double-meat dogs. It has a Ballpark brand frank, shredded pork and coleslaw topped with BBQ sauce. What is not to like about that.

Appeal-with pulled pork and coleslaw, my Appalachian roots could not resist testing this dog. 4

Ingredients-zesty BBQ sauce and fresh coleslaw helped out.  The pulled pork was delicious, but the Ballpark frank was just average. 3.5

Uniqueness-a few teams do the pulled pork dog, but not that many. It is a good addition to any dog lineup. 4

Monstrosity Factor-I had originally intended to mark this category a little low as I studied the picture of the dog displayed at the concession stand. Then they handed me the dog. While not piled high, I have seen rivers not nearly as wide. A fork dog to be sure and one will do you. 4

Value-outstanding value at $6. It should be the only food you need to buy at the ballpark. 5

Overall Taste-pretty darn good. The frank could have been better, and the bun a little softer, but overall I was pleased. 4
A score of 24.5 is a decent showing for the Dodgers of the future. The specialty dog out on the American Plains is anything but plain. With about a half of a pig on the bun, along with other condiments you won’t go hungry at whatever they are calling the ballpark in Oklahoma City these days. Maybe it is the same as last year, but with so many stadium name changes I was too beat down to check. But you should check it out, and down a dog while at it. Let me know the name of the ballpark.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Santa Fe Fuego: Fuego Dog

My first encounter with the cuisine inside the independent Pecos League. And I made it in a nick of time. The league is a short-season confederation making catching a game a rarer affair than in ballparks associated with the MLB, and I caught my hometown Santa Fe Fuego playing one their last games of 2015. They play at Fort Marcy Park, which is kind of like a rundown high school field, but with a cooler grandstand.

I was not expecting much, particularly since some single A, MLB-affiliated teams have had some sparse offerings. But the Fuego surprised the Hot Dog Explorer. They have a few dogs in their lineup with the specialty dog being the ⅓ pound Fuego Chile Cheese Dog, known henceforth as the Fuego Dog. It sports a nearly six-ounce frank, beans, red chile and queso cheese.

Appeal-New Mexico is known for its red and green chilies, and topping the local dog off with a local favorite is a hit. 4

Ingredients-the Fuego know enough about putting out a quality product that they use Nathan’s hot dog. One of my favorites (right after a Hebrew National). 4

Uniqueness-the chili cheese thing is all over baseball. Tossing in the red chili is the only thing that sets this dog apart. 4

Monstrosity Factor-a nice sized dog, but nothing huge. 3.5

Value-pricey at $8. 3

Overall Taste-pleasing to the palate, especially when I was expecting a cold Oscar Meyer on a stale bun. 4
An overall score of 22.5 will not win any medals, but as an independent ballclub, the Santa Fe Fuego can be proud of having specialty dog that holds it own with many MLB minor league clubs. I am glad I was able to catch a game before they wrapped up the 2015 season. Even in the spartan trappings of Fort Marcy Park, a dog in hand taste better when hardball is on the field.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Twisters, Moving Vans and the Wayback Machine

Wonder why I haven’t been to a ballpark lately? In a nutshell I am taking a small break while I prepare to move. That’s right, the Hot Dog Explorer is pulling up the tent pegs and headin’ west. My stint in the midwest is, after nearly seven years, over. My time here was fun. The midwest loves baseball and hot dogs. I won’t miss the twisters though. I lived smack dab in the middle of tornado alley. The only thing scarier than a tornado is trying to decide whether to eat a hot dog with a frank that was prepared after its “best served by” date.

I am headed to the high desert. Santa Fe, New Mexico to be exact. I know you probably thought I would head to Roswell to wait for the mothership to return. I would, but I have acclimated to this planet so well I have decided to stay. The good news is: Sonoran Hot Dogs. The bad news: very little baseball in the area. I am about to become very acquainted with the independent Pecos League. I’ll keep you filled in.

Fulton County Stadium
I begin the last leg of my trip to hit the remaining seven MLB ballparks and a slew of of MiLB stadiums on August 1. Look for the blog posts to come fast and furious the first part of August. And, I have a large backlog of Hot Dog Hot Spots to share with you after my trip.

In the meantime, I was pondering the the ballparks I have visited in the past but no longer either exist or host baseball teams. I don’t want to imply that I am old, but here is a list of former baseball stadiums in which I have seen a game and had a dog:

Three Rivers Stadium-Pittsburgh Pirates
Astrodome-Houston Astros
Olympic Stadium-Montreal Expos
Joe Robbie Stadium-Florida Marlins
Fulton County Stadium-Atlanta Braves
Veterans Stadium-Philadelphia Phillies
Old Yankee Stadium-New York Yankees
Jack Murphy Stadium-San Diego Padres
Candlestick Park-San Francisco Giants
Kingdome-Seattle Mariners

Additionally, I did see a game in Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. But it was a Baltimore Colts football game.

You know what I miss about those old ballparks? Very little. We did baseball a favor by bulldozing those places and replacing them with slicker, new facilities. And since then, I believe those ballparks have upped their hot dog game as well. There are better and more creative selections. For a reason I have not discovered, old ballparks can’t compete in hot dog tastiness. Case in point: Fenway Park. Great old ballpark...terrible hot dog.

My favorite of the old ballparks that no longer have baseball? Probably the Astrodome. When I was a kid it was billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” It was big and cool and modern. Today it is dwarfed by the football stadium next to it, and retractable roofs are way cooler. What those parks did have in their favor were the fans. They actually came to watch the ballgame.

Have a favorite park that you have visited that no longer has a team that calls it home? Tell us about it.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Louisville Bats: Half-Pound Dog

The last stop on the current leg of baseball and gluttony tour lands me in Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Louisville Bats. I know what you are thinking; “holy hardball, it’s the bats.” Sorry to inform you the team is not named after the flying rat animal, but after one of Louisville’s most important exports: baseball bats. Ever hear of the Louisville Slugger?

If you have never hit a baseball with one of Louisville’s famed sticks, you can hit one with the frank on their specialty dog; it’s nearly as big. The half-pound hot dog sports on giant weenie and can be topped with grilled onions, pickles and brown mustard. It makes an impressive sight, but frankly the wiener felt more like 8 ounces than a half-pound to me.

Appeal-anything that has a half of a pound of meat on it will warrant a look. It could stand a better moniker and some unique toppings. 3.5

Ingredients-the bun was good, the frank was average tasting and slightly watery. The grilled onions is a good addition but it could stand a few more options. 3.5

Uniqueness-this dog has potential. Add a cool name, upgrade the frank and pile on some better toppings and you have a contender. 3.5

Monstrosity Factor-given the size of the frank, it could have a higher scare score. Lack of other toppings keep it in the realm of mortals. 3.5

Overall taste-with that much meat the dog has to be extraordinary. I did not finish mine. I wasn’t too big, I just got tired of it. 3
An overall of 20.5 will not garner any trophies, but it would not take much to get this dog into contention. Switching the frank to a Hebrew National, adding some grilled kraut with the onions, a heartier bun and it becomes an sought after item.

Hey, guess what the name of their ballpark is? Yep...Louisville Slugger Park Field. Nice park, and they have a vendor that sells items out of a basket that she balances on her head. Now that’s talent.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Reading Fighting Phils: Chooch Dog

I love historic ballparks. Firstenergy Ballpark in Reading, Pennsylvania was built in 1950 and has one of the best baseball vibes in the minor leagues. It has a loyal fanbase and a carnival-like atmosphere on the concourse. It was also the site of the last performance of famed baseball clown Max Patkin.

For a small venue ballpark, the Fightin Phils offer up a nice selection of specialty dogs. It includes a Pizza, Pretzel and Philly Dog. On the advice of some of the concessions workers I chose the Chooch Dog. It is the favorite of one of the worker’s dad, and any dad tested dog gets the nod. It has chili, shredded mozzarella cheese, coleslaw and hot sauce.

Appeal-it has a cool name, although I have no idea what chooch is. The fact it was recommended by those in the know at the ballpark gave it good appeal. 4

Ingredients-an interesting combination. I liked the mozzarella cheese, the Berks frank could use a substitution. 4

Uniqueness-despite the interesting moniker, there is nothing super unique about chili, coleslaw and cheese. Perhaps if it were blue cheese. 4

Monstrosity Factor-a normal sized dog with some extra toppings. 3

Value-at $6 it was a decent deal. 4.5

Overall Taste-not bad, I didn’t go back for another though, despite having room for more. 4.5
Hot Dog Advisors
Checking in at 24 overall is not a bad overall result. While the specialty dogs are not huge, they do have a nice selection. If you don’t come for the dog, come for the history of Firstenergy Ballpark. While there, take a good look at the main concourse walls. It tells a nice history of the team and stadium and make the ballpark part museum. A museum with pretty darn good hot dogs.