Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cincinnati Reds

I hate naming ballparks after corporate entities. Something too impersonal about it, and then the ballpark ends up changing names every few years. Hate it. But if you are a team and can choose your ballpark’s sponsor, then the Cincinnati Reds won the lottery. Great American Insurance bought the naming rights to their stadium. Meaning that the Reds play in...that’s right...The Great American Ballpark. Sort of like the great American novel, which I will be writing soon.

The Lighting Towers 
The GAB, which it will be known as for the rest of this blog, are pretty cool digs. While I really enjoy the parks that followed the retro craze started by Baltimore, I respect those teams that bucked the trend and built something unique that still captures the essence of baseball. The Reds have constructed a complex of sorts with their team museum and ticket office semi-attached. The iron girders are white, and there is a mixture of red brick, stone slabs and other building materials that one would think is a hodge podge style but one that ends up working well for the GAB. Situated on the northern bank of the Ohio River, the stadium pays tribute to Cincinnati’s connection with the waterway with a paddle wheel steamboat styled centerfield deck complete with twin smokestacks that belch fire when the Reds pitchers strike out opposing batters. I suppose it does the same thing when the team belts a homer, but the Reds are suffering a power outage so I didn’t get to observe that during their 1-0 loss to Milwaukee. But the most impressive thing about the ballpark is the lighting. I don’t usually get excited about lighting towers but the ones at the GAB are tall, skinny, white spires that look like they are from the future, but only they are in use now….sort of like dippin’ dots.

While there I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the ballpark’s Executive Chef James Major. James runs a tight ship at GAB and puts out some fine eats. In addition to sampling the regular dog he allowed me to try a Cincinnati original; the Skyline Chili Dog. You will only find the Skyline Dog at GAB and is the top seller. It is served as two mini hot dogs smothered in thin Skyline brand chili and topped off with a mound of shredded cheese. I love specialties that are connected to the local community and the Skyline Dog helps out of town fans sample the local fare. Jame’s crew also offers the Hot Met which is a smokie on a bun and a variety delicious grub to satisfy even the most finicky fan. Getting his start as a cook in the Navy, James is the story of a sailor made good. While mine is the story of a sailor gone to the dogs.

Bun-really fresh.
Chef James Major and the Skyline Chili Dog
Taste-I personally was not a great fan of the Kahn’s frank. But this is why I like speaking with the folks that run the hot dog show. I would have rated it lower for my personal taste, but as James Major explained, the Kahn’s is an Ohio made frank and the taste that the locals like and expect. His explanation helps me rate the frank more accurately.
Toppings-I was offered grilled kraut or onions and pepper when I got my dog. Both make an excellent topping. And they offer two types of mustard.
Price-$4.75 isn’t the best price for a hot dog, but it still rates highly due to the toppings that can turn an ordinary dog into a meal.
Portability-the paper wrapper is the way to go. It keeps it all on the bun without squishing it, allows you to pick it up if dropped and is recyclable.
It Factory-I had actually heard of the Skyline Chili Dog before rolling into Cincinnati. It has a reputation and that earns top score.

Location-downtown Cincy and on the river.
Access-easy to walk to and lots of affordable parking. Surprisingly easy to get out if parking near the stadium.
GA Ticket Price-money rears its ugly head and keeps GAB from earning a perfect ballpark score. $15 for a nosebleeder is simply too much.
Cleanliness-neat as a pin.
Fans-nearly full ballpark and fans that were engaged from first to last pitch. Regardless of how crappy the Reds played.
Ambiance-I like GAB. I like its look even though it is not super aesthetically pleasing….if that makes sense. But it does have a great baseball feel and that is what ambiance is all about.

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price4
It Factor5Fans5

In short, Great American Ballpark is a must-see venue for baseball fans. Price, for both dog and ticket were the major things keeping it from getting a perfect baseball/hot dog experience score. Even then, those factors are not so off the chart that it would deter you from having a great time in Cincy. I typically advocate getting the run of the mill dog, but you would end up kicking yourself, as well as being haunted by the ghost of Sparky Anderson, if you did not gobble up the Skyline Chili Dog. They cost only slightly more than the regular dog and it slides down your throat as smoothly as Joe Morgan into second base after slapping a double.

**The book about this trip "Gone to the Dogs" is now more than 10% funded! Take a look a the kickstarter video and decide it you want to be part of baseball and culinary history by bringing "Gone to the Dogs" to print!**

1 comment:

  1. Hey I was at that game... I'm a Milwaukee Brewers fan who lives in Cincinnati. Glad you got to try the chili cheese coney with a ton of cheese... one quirky thing, they play an old country song during the 7th inning stretch called "Cincinnati Ohio"