Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Houston Astros

Full disclosure: I lived in Houston for 3 years, am an Astros fan and have a special affinity for the team...regardless of how poorly they play.

Minute Maid Park
It’s better to be lucky than good. As previously discussed, due to road trip finances I always get the cheapest ticket. At Minute Maid Park on April 15 it was $16. Of those, the lady at the ticket window said there were none left and $20 was the cheapest. I had to think about that so I walked the sidewalk for all of 2 minutes when a family gifted me two general admission tickets. In the nosebleeds yes, but that was where I was heading anyway. I thanked them and then tried to give my extra ticket away. No luck. Seems everyone had a ticket. That’s when I ran into Carl who, let’s just say offers a service that is named after an old Indian war ritual involving a tomahawk and a victim’s head. I gave this African-American turned Native-American practitioner my extra in hopes he would at least provide it at a cost lower than the window price. See more about Carl in the “People” section.

It was a great night for a ballgame. It was Jackie Robinson Day. All players, on both teams, wore number 42 in honor of Jackie. Nice gesture but makes it confusing for fans trying to follow the gam with 9 players on the field wearing the same number.

Bun-fresh and steamed
Taste-the Nolan Ryan beef frank pops when you bite into it, a mark of freshness and quality. It was tasty.
Toppings-an automatic top score just for providing squeeze bottles of Gulden’s brown mustard. Other toppings were also plentiful. Building a great dog is easy at Minute Maid.
Price-$5. Seems to be the standard at MLB parks. Cheaper would be better.
Portability-the only area there the dog falls short. It is served in a cardboard boat that makes it easy to carry but doesn’t wrap around like a sheet or sleeve. At a crowded game it would make it easy to lose some toppings while making your way back to the seat.
It Factor-the Astros club level will offer a different feature dog each month including: Southern Comfort Dog, Tex-Mex Dog, Cajun Dog, Colombian Dog, Steak House Dog and the Bahn Min Dog.

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability3GA Ticket Price3
It Factor4Fans5

Location-downtown Houston to the east of the skyscraper-laden kernel of downtown.
Access-I have actually taken the bus to an Astros game, and there are bike trails near, it’s walkable from downtown and free or cheap parking can be found. Minute Maid excels in this category.
Cleanliness-no complaints. Well kept and spotless.
Ambiance-I think Houston tried for a bit of retro look but ended up with a funky hybrid. After the Astrodome they had a tough act to follow. It does have a retractable roof to keep the heat or rain out. And it offers a nice skyline view when the roof is open. It has a working locomotive that moves when the Astros hit a homerun. It loses a point because I get a bit of an amusement park feel when I am at Minute Maid, but by all other accounts a fine venue.
GA Ticket Price-14 smackers is simply too much for a GA seat. Especially when the team was the worst in baseball last year. Plus, there were LOTS of empty seats in the nosebleeds. I think the ticket window lady was pulling my leg.
Fans-See Valentin in the people section. The Astro fans are hardy and loyal (you have to be to be an Astros fan). Great folks. But as a former resident I was not surprised.

Overall a score of 52....meaning catch an Astros' game and eat a dog. 

Mat Drain
I contact all of the parks I intend to visit beforehand to try and talk to the people that make the dog happen. Mat Drain, the Resident District Manager for Aramark, answered my e-mail but it somehow got tossed into my junk mail folder. I only read it the day of the game and responded to Mat. We had a communication lag as a result. He was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule and call me during the game. I met him up at my section and he escorted me to the swanky Club Level section for a brief interview. Mat knows his dogs and it is apparent he runs a tight ship at Minute Maid. He said the Astros will likely sale over 400,000 hot dogs this year and is proud of the fact that on dollar dog night the Astros, unlike many teams, use the same frank on those dogs (many use a smaller weiner).  Mat allowed me to finish watching the game from the Club Level and gave me a coupon to test the Southern Comfort Dog, the Club Level Dog of the Month.

The Southern Comfort Dog
This was AFTER I had already tested the standard dog. I didn’t have much room left. The Southern Comfort Dog is a Nolan Ryan beef frank topped with smoked Gouda mac & cheese and then heavily sprinkled with crushed bacon. I would have passed since I was already full, but did I mention it is heavily topped with crushed bacon? I managed to get ¾ of it down. While it looked odd it tasted damn good. Messy to eat, but hey, napkins are free at Minute Maid.

Thanks Mat for the upgrade, interview and delicious dog.

In the end the Astros lost to the Royals 4-2. A fitting score on Jackie Robinson day.


  1. The Southern Comfort dog looks very tasty!

  2. How far do you have to run to burn off the calories from that dog? I suppose in hot/humid Houston it could be a challenge.

    1. Nate, I have about 10,000 miles more left to go on my road trip. I figure if I run instead of drive it should just about even out calorie wise.