Tuesday, April 28, 2015

LA Dodgers: Xtreme Bacon Wrapped Dog

I love Dodger Stadium. Of the old parks (it is the third oldest in the MLB) it is my favorite. While it is 40 years younger than Wrigley and Fenway, it bristles blue and has been well maintained and updated. Additionally, it is a fine example of Mid-Century Modern architecture. Besides hot dogs, I love all things Mid-Century Modern.
I was also excited about the hot dogs. Sure, it is home of the vaunted Dodger Dog, but the ballpark has ventured into the extreme hot dog arena. In fact, the stands throughout Dodger Stadium where they sell those dogs is called “Extreme Dogs.” I did some research and was excited to try this dog that had coleslaw and blue cheese crumbles on it. As soon as I took my obligatory selfie at the ballpark I headed for one of those extreme dog stands and….found out that the blue cheese and coleslaw dog was so last year and had been discontinued. Why can’t the internet automatically delete outdated information? If we have self parking cars surely we can do that.

I had to go with plan B and eat the dog that is the talk of the Los Angeles baseball world: the LA Xtreme Bacon Dog. It was that over its competitors that included:

Doyer Dog-chili, nacho cheese, pico de gallo drizzled with sour cream.

Frito Pie Dog-chili, shredded cheese and fritos.

Big Kid Dog-mac and cheese topped with fritos.

Of course, this being Dodger Stadium, all use a Farmer John frank. That LA Xtreme Bacon Wrapped Dog is made of a ¼ all-beef frank that is wrapped in two slices of applewood smoked bacon and smothered with grilled peppers and onions with mustard and drizzled with mayo.

Appeal-attention all MLB teams. Enough with the bacon wrapped frenzy. Everybody does that now. Sure, bacon taste good but if you want to really entice the exotic hot dog seekers, offer up something no one else does. How about that coleslaw and blue cheese dog. Still, it has bacon so it gets a decent score. 4

Ingredients-attention Dodgers. I know you have a love fest with Farmer John franks. I am sure regular Dodger fans are familiar and maybe even like the taste. Hint: everyone else thinks they taste kind of strange. Not bad, but strange. Want to knock it out of the park? Switch to a Hebrew National all-beef frank. Once you do you, and your fans/customers, will never look back. 3.5

Uniqueness-just touting it as a bacon wrapped dog hurts the score. As I said previously, bacon wrapped is overdone these days. No other original ingredients as well. 3

Monstrosity Factor-it is a big dog, but I have seen bigger and badder. I killed it no problem. 3.5

Value-this is a one-person dog, so at $10.50 if is pricey. 2.5

Overall Taste-wrapping the Farmer John frank in bacon helps out on flavor, but let’s talk about that bacon. Bacon wrapped dogs end up with flimsy, soggy bacon around the frank. A better idea is to lay a strip of crispy bacon alongside the frank they way they do at The Red Hot in Tacoma. I let them put mayo on my dog because I wanted to taste the full meal deal. Mistake. Regular mayo does not belong on a hot dog.
I was ready to be blown away by the Dodger’s dog offerings. I wasn’t. A score of 20 is not something to crow about when you play in one of the league’s premiere ballparks. I recommend bringing back that cole slaw dog. And you know, some day Vin Scully (Dodger’s broadcaster for over 40 years) will have to retire. The Dodgers should also think about retiring the Dodger Dog, or at least the Farmer John frank.

Lancaster Jethawks: Hot Dog

The Lancaster Jethawks have a very cool ballpark. Not only is it in great shape, but it exceeds coolness barrier by having an F-18 Hornet on a giant pedestal in front of the main gate. Awesome. Unfortunately, even that kind of firepower can’t help the Jethawk’s hot dog entry.

Apparently, last season Lancaster offered an impressive lineup of specialty hot dogs including one call the Greek Dog. I would have without a doubt tried it since I had never had one. This year they offer a hot dog and a chili and cheese version of the same. Yawn.

Allure-hot dog. Just the hot dog. Hot dog. Hot dog. 1

Ingredients-the cloverdale frank isn’t bad, but with just pump yellow mustard and packet relish to keep it company it disappoints. 1.5

Uniqueness-hot dog. Hot dog. Hot dog. 1

Monstrosity Factor-it was as frightening as a 15 year old toy poodle. 1.5

Value-the Jethawks haul in top score here. $3.50 for hot dog at a ballpark is a real bargain, no matter how skimpy it is. 5

Overall Taste-it tasted as expected. It wasn’t bad, but not overly good either. 2.5
Lancaster scores the lowest of any ballpark so far. I am bewildered as to why they would scrap their specialty dog menu, that would have boosted their score significantly. Perhaps they should take a twist from a famous baseball movie: “If you build it and cook it, they will eat it.”

Monday, April 27, 2015

Visalia Rawhide: JJ Putz Dog

It was a cozy night to build a fire. By cozy I mean catching a game in the ballpark that seats the fewest fans in any MLB affiliated baseball stadium. With 1,888 seats Recreation Park is the smallest with each seat offering a close encounter with the Visalia Rawhide. By fire I mean the fire in my mouth. I chose the JJ Putz Dog (named after a former player). Other entries of size were variations of the sausage dog named The Big Unit and Luis’ Linginusia. I chose the JJ Putz because it was the spiciest choice. I like spicy.

The result was a large and zesty sausage on a toasted bun generously drizzled with deli mustard and a pickle. It was a good sized dog for the price and after the first bite I was asking the usher where the water fountain was. That puppy was warm.

Appeal-the names affiliated with former players is a cool idea and had me asking about each. 4

Ingredients-a quality sausage, and a nice toasty bun. It could use a few more toppings. Grilled onions perhaps. 3.5

Uniqueness-a few other teams use the player moniker on dogs, and the sausage on a bun is done in nearly every ballpark. 3.5

Monstrosity Factor-it is a large dog, but I had no trouble downing it. 3.5

Value-seven smackers is a fair deal for the size and quality of the entry. 4

Overall Taste-while it could have used a few more toppings, my taste buds that were not burnt off enjoyed it. 4.5
For the size of the ballpark Visalia does a pretty good job of offering up some variety in the dogs. While it will not be a top contender if I ranked the minor leagues, it is all about doing the best considering the resources available. And with 1,888 seats the Rawhide are never going to sell a ton of hot dogs. Kudos for being as good as they are.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

San Diego Padres: Carne Asada Dog

It is always a pleasure to see my Padres play, no matter how bad they suck. Actually, this night they were in first place...and then promptly dropped the game to the Dodgers 3-0. But watching the game is secondary to hunting down the best specialty dog in Major League Baseball.

San Diego, my home for 12 years, butts up against the border with Mexico. So it should come as no surprise that the Padre’s entry into the world of wild hot dogs comes with a mexican flair. They offer up the Carne Asada Dog. It is a ½ pound Tarantino frank topped with a spicy diego cheese sauce and pico de gallo all served on a jalapeno cheddar bun. That would be a meal right there, BUT then they toss a hearty portion of carne asada on top! Ay caramba! What you have is a hot dog that is tough for one person to tackle. I was really hungry when I arrived at the ballpark and nearly could not finish it. Two fans (not a pig like me) could easily make this a meal.
The only stand where you can get the carne asada dog

Appeal-it is a mexican entree and there is a huge mexican population in San Diego. Plus, who doesn’t like mexican food? 5

Ingredients-all top quality ingredients that is fresh and spicy. They mix well for a mexican food bomb that explodes in your mouth. 5

Uniqueness-meat on top of the frank is used in other ballparks so no top score. But it is close as the carne asada is a mexican specialty that as far as I know the only hot dog of its type in baseball. 4.5

Monstrosity Factor-nearly perfect. I ate it, but barely. One more topping and I would have had to purge before finishing it off. It is a meat monster. 4.5

Value-most would balk at the $12 price tag, but two normal fans can make it a meal. The cost would then be $6 per fan and that is a bargain for a top-notch dog like this. 4.5

Overall Taste-if you like mexican food you will love this dog. If you like meat you will love this dog. If you like being stared at while eating you will love this dog. 5
With an overall score of 28.5 the Carne Asada Dog at PETCO Park is the new leader on the MLB specialty dog scoreboard. This was a dog I truly enjoyed taking on. By the end of the game I was still full. Again, while it is a $12 dog, it will be the ONLY food you eat at the ballpark that night. For once I am not sure if I ate the dog or the dog ate me.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Inland Empire 66ers: Footlong Louisiana Sausage

It is always nice to visit a ballpark for a second time. I took in San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, California last year on my road trip. I remember it scored well and I ate way too many garlic fries and drank too much beer. I also remember they had a pretty decent over the counter dog, but this time I was hunting the real deal, the big time, the wonder of wieners.

I found something close, something that rates pretty damn high on the scale of deliciousness. The Inland Empire 66ers offer a Martin’s Footlong Louisiana Sausage. It is one-half pound of pure cajun tubular goodness. It comes with grilled peppers and onions and a choice of regular and spicy. Being the adventurous type I of course too the quick route to indigestion.

The Louisiana Sausage is eight bucks, but it makes a meal. The only thing you need to make it a complete ballpark dinner is a beer to wash it down with. I made quick work of it, fortunately there were only about 150 other fans in the stadium to see my atrocious ballpark table manners.

Appeal-did you say spicy Louisiana sausage? Score! 5

Ingredients-I am no sausage expert, but that Martin’s sausage was the real deal. The grilled onions and peppers compliment it well. 4.5

Uniqueness-I have seen many sausage offerings, but none that tout being from the Sportsman’s Paradise. 4

Monstrosity Factor-sounds sort of tame until you see it. Gazonga! 4

Value-pricey at first, but you will need no other food after devouring it. 4

Overall Taste-it had me ready to move to Shreveport (and I have been to Shreveport, that’s saying something). 5
The competition for this dog is the Bernie’s ¼ pound nacho dog (Bernie is the team mascot). It was tempting since that offering uses a Hebrew National frank, and you know how I love HN wieners. But I had just eaten a nacho dog a few days ago and the Louisiana Sausage Dog beat it in the ginormous factor; and that is what I am here for, to slay monsters. With an overall score of 26.5 it is a dog worthy of pursuing.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: Doyer Dog

There were lots of dogs at the Epicenter, the name of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes ballpark. Real dogs I mean. Not the kind you eat, but the kind that eat you, or at least lick you to death. It was bark in the park and there was a fine showing of fan’s best friend enjoying the game and taking in the smells. It was also cool and pretty dang windy. With all the fur they were undoubtedly the most comfortable fans there.  

I was able to hunt down the Doyer Dog. Apparently, Doyer is spanish for Dodger and it is a mexican themed version of the Dodger Dog. For $7.50 you get a footlong with nacho cheese, chili, jalapenos, onions and tomatoes. Not a bad deal considering t the size. How did it do?

Appeal-I had no idea what Doyer meant (and neither did the concession stand workers) until I looked it up. So I was intrigued. 4

Ingredients-it is basically a chili-cheese dog spiced up a bit. Too bad it was that nacho cheese stuff. 3

Uniqueness-apparently this is a knockoff of what they offer at Dodger Stadium. But I had never heard of it so it scores well. 4

Monstrosity Factor-big but undaunting. 3

Value-a tad pricey at $7.50 but still considered a meal. 3.5

Overall Taste-for a hot chili-cheese dog it was pretty good, but not overly remarkable. 4
That night I would have rather had some of that fur on me than a hot dog; it got a bit cool. Still, the Quakes have a very nice ballpark and worth having a dog in if you are in the Inland Empire anytime soon. I think they could do better than the Doyer Dog, but they are a Dodgers organization and it’s not a bad offering. Kudos to the Quakes for sponsoring a bark in the park, it is an outstanding and popular event in baseball. And what could be more fun than sharing a dog with your dog?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hot Dog Hot Spot: The Red Hot

In a corner of the country not known for its hot dog prowess, you have to dig mighty deep to find a place worthy of hot dog hot spot recognition. I talked to people, did some online research and narrowed it down. But one factor pushed one place over the top and becomes THE place in the pacific northwest to down a dog: they were invited to open a stand INSIDE the Tacoma Rainiers ballpark at Cheney Stadium.

The Miller Boys: Stu & Chris
In downtown Tacoma, at 2914 6th Avenue, you will find The Red Hot. Run by brothers Stu and Chris Miller, The Red Hot has what it takes to make dog chasers happy. Not only do they offer up a unique and tasty lineup of hot dogs, they have over 20 craft beers on tap. The list of dogs is nearly as long. This is the kind of place hot dog lovers come to for lunch and then stagger out a week later and wonder what the hell happened. The sausages sing their siren song to draw you in and the beers keep you there.

The perfect way to wash down a dog
The Miller boys aren’t in the hot dog business to become the Donald Trumps of tubular meat; they just love serving up a quality dog. The kind that makes you keep coming back, which is what Tacomans do. Part of that crowd includes the executives of the Tacoma Rainiers, a AAA team of the Pacific Coast League. It was their idea to set up a Red Hot stand in Cheney Stadium. You have to applaud the Rainiers front office for brining in a local dog pusher. You know from my previous travels and book that keeping it local at the ballpark adds a unique atmosphere that the fans love.
The Hillside

While there, I tackled the Hilltop (most dogs have a locally oriented name), a delicious frank topped with yellow mustard, 1000 island dressing, onions, nacho cheese sauce, a slice of bacon and tomatoes. I wasn’t really that hunger, but I wanted to eat one for, you know, science. I ended up with an empty plate in front of me; it was that good. And it was the first dog with bacon I have had (and I have had many) that was not quasi-limp. The strip of bacon was hard and crispy the way it should be; like pork on viagra.
The Red Hot Stand at Cheney Stadium

The next time you are in the greater Seattle area see the Space Needle, visit Pike Market, have some coffee but head a few miles south for lunch or dinner and enjoy the area’s best dog at a slower pace in Tacoma. Get ‘em while the’re hot at The Red Hot.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Los Angeles Angels: Legends Dog

Sometimes, things like the Loch Ness Monster can only be found if you look really hard for them. That was my experience hunting down the biggest, baddest specialty dog at Angels Stadium. Fortunately, I had help. I met my cousin Pam at the game and she helped me track down a large meat bomb known as the “Legends Dog.”

You won’t find it at any regular concessions stand. There is a section near one of the entrances on outside of the main concourse that has a tented vendor called “Smoke Ring.” They serve up a footlong Farmer John frank on a bun and top it with chopped brisket and BBQ sauce. The result is a specialty dog with as much meat on it as a fat Chihuahua. It had the potential to be great. Two things were big detractors: no other toppings to speak of and the Farmer John frank.

As you learned last year, I cannot put my finger on it but the Farmer John frank has an odd taste to it. Los Angeles fans must like it because they supply the frank for the Dodger Dog as well and have for decades. I guess like drinking PBR beer, it’s an acquired taste. My cohort in crime Pam agreed though, FJ needs to go.

Appeal-the name is sort of funky and has no hook, but the idea of a beef hot dog topped with more beef had my saliva glands working overtime. 4

Ingredients-nice fat frank, but they chose a Farmer John frank. See other comments to know my thoughts on the taste of that. The meat was all grilled in front of us so was fresh. 3

Uniqueness-an all meat dog has been done, but this is not a bad effort by putting brisket on top of the frank. 4

Monstrosity Factor-this is the first dog to get more than an average of 2.5. The sheer amount of meat does frighten one a bit. 3

Value-$10.50 for this thing. For that kind of cash they need a better frank and more brisket. And a foot rub.

Overall Taste-the bun was average and split. The chopped brisket was delicious but the frank was its undoing. 3
Pam and I do the wave (it was a ski cap giveaway night)
This dog had a chance but it was way too expensive for a single serving dog. And the taste of the FJ frank hurt the experience. You will get your daily ration of protein with this beast though. Interestingly enough, my cousin Pammy devoured all of her dog despite being about half my size. Proof that hot dog greatness is in our gene pool.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

High Desert Mavericks: SoCal Nacho Dog

It was a windy night at Stater Brothers Stadium, which is pretty much in the middle of the desert. Probably the most desolate ballpark I have been to. It was also my first Minor League visit this year. The High Desert Mavericks are located near Victorville, California (which is pretty much in the middle of the desert as well) and a member of the Class A California League.

I am not reviewing the ballparks this year, only the specialty dog. But the Mavericks have a regular, ordinary Class A ballpark. Nothing remarkable about it, but it is still a decent facility that hosts a good game. Which it did for me and about 100 other fans. I got a ticket to position myself for snagging a foul ball, but the wind chased me into a wind-blocked seat behind home plate. I can’t explain why, but I love going to a Minor League ballpark with just a few fans. It’s like they are playing in my living room just for me.

Let's just say it was in intimate game
While a Class A team, the Mavericks dish out a Class AAA specialty dog. It is the SoCal Nacho Dog. Served in a large soft bun, it has a delicious Hebrew National frank topped with chili, nacho cheese, onions and flanked on each side of the wiener by nacho chips. The first bite was fantastic. And then it exploded and fell apart. Forkless, I ended up looking like two-year old eating spaghetti. Messy, but tasty.
Wooly Bully and I
I am not adding the MILB teams to the overall rankings this year. Maybe against each other if the readers want it. But the chart is for informational purposes. With an overall score of 25 out of 30 it proves that with imagination and quality ingredients the minors can compete against the big boys.

Hot Dog Alert #3

When you love dogs like I do, you want to call the SPCA when someone disses the dog. I actually did this. Seems the SPCA is only interested in real, live dogs; not hot dogs. 

You can imagine my horror when the news out of Kansas City surfaced that, on dollar dog night, there were some abused puppies being served up. I actually liked the hot dog I had there last year and gave them high ratings. But as the pictures taken by fans shown clearly show, something was amiss at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals are investigating, but look for your own independent report from your intrepid hot dog explorer in May. I WILL get to the bottom of this.

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.
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: