Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Texas Rangers: The Boomstick

It’s the end of the road amigos. I made it to whatever they are calling the ballpark the Texas Rangers play in these days to down my 30th specialty dog. As of now, I have tested and digested the top dog offered at EVERY major league ballpark; and nearly 30 minor league parks as well.

I end my quest tackling the hot dog legends are made of. It is like hunting lizards and komodo dragons and then coming face-to-face with Godzilla. It is the colossus of colonary conundrums: the Boomstick. This is the dog that lit the baseball hot dog world on fire and prompted so many other MLB ballparks to offers a ginormous dose of heartburn on a bun. I have waited years to sample it, and on this day, I went toe to toe with the Boomstick.

It starts with a two-foot long, all-beef Nolan Ryan (yes, that Nolan Ryan) frank. It is one meat torpedo that looks daunting even on the grill. It sits on a potato bun and topped with chili, nacho cheese, jalapenos and caramelized onions. It clocks in at THREE POUNDS. There are dogs that weigh less.

Appeal-eating this hot dog is like seeing Tony Bennett in Concert. Even you are not a fan of his music, he is such a legend you feel compelled to hear him sing. 5

Ingredients-Nolan Ryan makes mighty fine beef, and I love the potato bun. All top of the line toppings. 5

Uniqueness-not the solo giant dog in the majors any longer, but it is the dog that started the trend. 5

Monstrosity Factory-it broke my monstrosity meter. 5

Value-it might seem pricey at $26, but it should feed four fans easily. 5

Overall Taste-nearly perfect, but I think it was the chili that was a little off putting. Close to top score. 4.5
My hungry helpers
With an overall score of 29.5 it lands solidly in sole possession of second place. I, of course, could not eat the entire thing. I found two hungry Rangers fans to help me, and then I still had to chuck about 20% of it in the trash. This is the one time I do not feel ashamed of not being able to down the entire dog.

The Rangers have a great ballpark, and combine it with a historic Boomstick hot dog and you have one Texas-sized adventure. My advice: take a friend, a hungry friend.

Now that my adventure has ended, and I can declare a winner (watch for that in a future blog), I feel a little lost. No ungodly distance to drive overnight in order to get to a ballpark by game time. No adoring fans to sign autographs for. Just about eight pounds of hot dog gut to lose. Ugh. Oh, and to get to work on my next book: “Doggone Good.” You are buying my next book aren’t you?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Houston Astros: Catalina Dog

More indoor baseball at Minute Maid Park, aka the Juicebox. With the heatwave that has inundated the south, no one was complaining. And no one could complain about the specialty dog that the Houston Astros offer up. No one except me of course. It was one of the most unique and tastiest dogs I have eaten after visiting 29 of 30 MLB ballparks. But it is a real chore to get one. It is only sold in the Five-Seven Grille. Harkening to the uniform numbers of Astros greats Jeff Bagwell (5) and Craig Biggio (7). I am a fan of both players, and would be a fan of their in-stadium restaurant if it didn’t take me 20 minutes to just place my order. Everyone else had the same issue. Once the severely understaffed joint did bring me a menu the choice was clear: the Catalina Dog. It is grilled jumbo frank wrapped in a tortilla with black beans, citrus slaw, roasted corn, guacamole, cumin-lime sour cream and queso fresco. It is like eating a healthy taco; except for that processed meat part.

Appeal-just the name sounds cool, and after reading about it you have to have one. 5

Ingredients-all top quality, good-tasting stuff on the inside.5

Uniqueness-no other dog like it in the MLB. Great job. 5

Monstrosity Factor-after reading the price (see below), I was stunned at how little it was. 3

Value-this taco-type dog cost a whopping $13.25. I could have eaten at least two, probably three. Sure, it’s served in some swanky confines and has some haughty toppings, but for that price I want to be filled up. 2

Overall Taste-absolutely delicious. I loved it. 5
The price and size drags this dog down to a 25. Which is a damn shame, I really wanted it to do well. I love the Astros and love this unique, great-tasting hot dog. But the scorecard does not lie. To make matters worse, it is not available to the average fan. They are not going to wait forty minutes to get an overpriced, new-age hot dog no matter how good it tastes. Advice to Houston: serve it in the restaurant AND at a kiosk on the main concourse. And lower the price by three bucks. Then you have a contender.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mobile Baybears: Conecuh Dog

When I lived in Pascagoula Mississippi years ago, I went to Eddie Stankey ballpark to see the Mobile Baysharks of the Texas-Louisiana League. A few years after I left, Mobile acquired a franchise in the Southern League and had a nice AA ballpark built. I really wanted to catch a game there. Well, I finally made it. That new ballpark they built, Hank Aaron Stadium, is now the oldest in the league. Let’s just say it’s been awhile since I first saw professional baseball in Mobile.

But I was not disappointed. Perhaps the Baybears were with the turn out though. On a Thursday night when school just returned to session, I was in the ballpark with about 100 other fans in the seats. It’s kinds of creepy and cool at the same time. It was also a great night to be at the park, and a good night for a dog. I had the Conecuh Dog. Conecuh is a local sausage manufacturer and they supply the frank for the specialty dog.

Appeal-I would have bought one just to figure out what the name means. It looks good in pictures and once the concessionaires showed me one I was all over it. 4

Ingredients-a top quality local sausage and grilled onions and peppers. I would recommend beefing up the amount of onions and peppers by about 20%. 4.5

Uniqueness-other than the name, this is a sausage dog. 3.5

Monstrosity Factor-it is large, but not overly so. A really hungry fan could down two of them. 3.5

Value-for $7 and the size and quality, this is a decent ballpark value. 4

Overall Taste-I expected it to be spicier, but it was still delicious. I especially enjoyed the graininess of the rough cut of the sausage. I would have liked more onions and peppers, but it was still a great tasting dog. 4.5
An overall score of 24 is a good showing for a small-market minor league team. It was one of the few games this year that I had the time to stay the entire game and enjoyed myself so much that I felt compelled to. I guess waiting all those years to get to Hank Aaron Stadium was worth it. And Hank rewarded me for my patience: I got my first foul ball of my trip.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tampa Bay Rays: Mac Dog

Baseball in the only domed stadium left in the Major League Baseball. Tampa Bay is always a unique stop, and I was specifically interested in seeing it they corrected their deficiency I pointed out last year. During my trip last season I pointed out that they have a fabulous selection of condiments on the main concourse for their regular hot dogs, but the selection is a sparse few packets on the upper section where the cheap seats are. All this despite that the hot dog cost the same no matter where you are sitting. Much to my disappointment, the hot dog gap between classes still exists. How hard would it be to roll a condiments cart up there?

So, how did they do with their specialty dog? The Rays offer the Mac Dog. I was reminded of something I might purchase at a McDonald’s so they might would to rethink the name, but it is a macaroni and cheese dog. It consists of a one-half pound grilled Nathan’s frank topped with mac n’ cheese, red jalapeno peppers and crispy onion straws. All this on a very soft and tasty hoagie roll.

Appeal-I know that mac n’ cheese can be good on a hot dog, although some fans do not. Plus, it needs a new name. How about the Shark Dog? 4.5

Ingredients-all top notch, and one of the best buns I have tasted. 5

Uniqueness-there are a few teams that do the mac n’ cheese dog. 4

Monstrosity Factor-another one of those dogs that looked big, but I was pretty sure I could handle it. Not so. I only got about half of it down. Why on earth does this beast come with fries? 5

Value-a pricey $15. 3

Overall Taste-few complaints from me, although I think the frank actually overpowers the dog by being too much meat. 4.5
A very respectable showing of 26 for the Rays. Despite playing in the worst ballpark in the MLB, they put out one of the best dogs. It’s like going into a shotgun shack and finding out that they actually have crystal and fine china. But I am probably one of 200 million people that know the Tampa Bay Rays need a new ballpark. My prediction? By 2020 the Rays will be playing in Montreal. You heard it here first.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Miami Marlins: Magnum Dog

I told you last year I will never bitch about indoor baseball again. My experience in Miami confirmed that promise. Last season I was able to enjoy the Marlin’s modern new ballpark with the roof open. This time, keeping the roof closed saved the game and kept fans from getting soaked by one of Miami’s renowned torrential downpours. What it didn’t save me from was a thirty dollar ticket to see a game in a half-filled stadium.

You know the weird thing about seeing a game in Marlins Park? The fans. This night the Marlins were playing the Red Sox. The cheers were reversed. There was more cheering for the Red Sox than the hometown Marlins. Fans wore more Red Sox apparel as well. Same thing happened last year. It seems the Marlins do not have a large following but do well as gracious hosts for visiting teams. I guess it is the snowbird thing. Lots of folks from somewhere else in Miami. But, damn, it is strange.

After getting my bobblehead fix by staring at the large, plexiglass-encased bobblehead museum on the main concourse I was ready to hunt down the big specialty dog in the park known as the “Magnum Dog.” Once again research paid off. Fans services didn’t know where to find it or that it even existed. I am finding fan services to be less than helpful on my quest. My inquiries outside of the ballpark revealed that the Magnum Dog is only available in the Clevelander. Marlins Park is the only MLB stadium with a nightclub inside, and it has a swimming pool in the nightclub. Swanky. Entry is ten bucks. And it is the only place you can get the Magnum Dog.

Despite the entry folks knowing zip about the specialty hot dog they served in the club they were working for, their manager knew of it and allowed me inside sans the ten clams for entry. Once inside the servers were helpful in ordering up the Magnum. And it comes delivered by attractive, young servers in a version of a Hooters costume.

Appeal-it is certainly a dog to seek out. Especially since it is somewhat of a mystery even for those that work in Marlins Park. 5

Ingredients-a very large Frank’s frank with fresh onions and beer cheese sauce. All top quality. 5

Uniqueness-nice name, but the ingredients don’t do a lot to separate it from its peers. It needs a Miami flair as well. 4

Monstrosity Factor-I couldn’t finish it despite being moderately hungry. The fact that it comes with fries helped. Plus, that is just one big wiener. 5

Value-here is where the Marlins fail. At $16 it is prices to begin with. The fact you have to pay $10 get to get the privilege of ordering it makes it a $26 hot dog, and it feeds only one. 1

Overall Taste-I thought that with that much meat I would get tired of it. I didn’t. It was tasty throughout the amount I could get down. 4.5
Unfortunately, the price does this dog in for a score of 24.5. The Magnum Dog is a great tasting monster but I simply cannot recommend dishing out $26 to get to it and eat it. Miami needs to make this dog available to the regular fans. The Braves have one kiosk stand to sell their monster dog at one spot in the ballpark. I recommend the same for the Marlins. Let the people have access to the best dog you offer.

You will also be happy to know that I DID NOT fall into the pool in the Clevelander.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lakeland Flying Tigers: Hot Dog

Sometimes I can’t believe my luck. After getting into the Atlanta Braves game for one buck I hit Joker Marchant Stadium for a Lakeland Flying Tigers game. Entry one buck, dogs one buck...score!

Ready for another history lesson? The Flying Tigers are the single A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. They have a tiger mascot, but in logos he wears old-school aviation gear. Why? The Flying Tigers were a group of civilian fighter pilots called the American Volunteer Group (AVG) that, under the leadership of General Lee Chennault, flew a squadron of P-40 Warhawks against the Japanese prior to the United States’ entry into World War Two. Their primary mission was to harass and interdict Japanese aircraft that were attacking China. And while there is no connection, Joker Marchant Stadium is built on a site that used to be an airfield that trained pilots during the Second World War. Nice play on the MLB Tigers and historic Flying Tigers. Pay attention kiddos, because this is where it all comes together and I help the Lakeland team out. Help, because they have no specialty dog, although they are working on one. I am not rating their specialty dog because it doesn’t exist. But for a buck their regular dog did taste good.

What Lakeland needs is a dog lineup that is not only delicious but pays homage to their history and heritage. Here are my suggestions for a new dog menu at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Warhawk Wiener-(remember that the P-40 Warhawk was the aircraft the Flying Tigers flew). This would be the regular hot dog. Continue to use the National brand frank and make this the base hot dog. They already have kraut, onions and relish as condiments. Add jalepenos. Not much to change over their current hot dog.

Red Hot Chennault-(named after the fiery leader of the Flying Tigers). Use a Hebrew National frank, add grilled onions and red peppers as an option. Add Sriracha sauce (it is from Asia, where the Flying Tigers operated) and mildly spicy giving to the name “Red Hot” Chennault.

Bengal Brat-a Bengal it a type of tiger, as in Detroit Tigers. On a larger bun (preferably a hoagie bun) add a large, locally-sourced bratwurst, pineapple pico de gallo and chipotle mayonnaise. This would qualify as the Flying Tigers biggest specialty dog.

There you have it, a plan to catapult the Lakeland Flying Tigers to new heights in the world of processed meat. A dog menu that not only gives fans a reason to hit the concession stand but ties in local history as well as the parent club. And damn delicious I might add. I offer this to the Flying Tigers for the low low price of a team ballcap. And my picture on the scoreboard...ok, the picture thing is negotiable.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Atlanta Braves: Grand Slam Dog

Sometimes the internet is the cause of serious distress for me. In this case, gastrointestinal distress. I did my due diligence in finding the Dixie Dog, what I believed to be the Atlanta Braves most monstrous specialty dog. I even asked Fan Services inside Turner Field. Yep, I was on the right track. I found it, ordered it and ate it. It was big and delicious. But while taking a picture of it one of the ushers became curious and asked about my life’s quest. She told me the Dixie Dog was indeed a large and tasty treat, but that I should really try the REALLY BIG dog down at section 220. What? Sure enough, I sauntered down to that area and found the Grand Slam Dog, a dog of titanic proportions that I was beholden to try, even on a full stomach. I do it for science, man.  

The Grand Slam Dog is one-half pound angus beef frank and can be topped with any or all of the following: peppers & onions, diced onions, vidalia relish, bacon, sauerkraut, chili and cheese. I owed to you to test the full meal deal so I ordered one with everything.

Appeal-a decent moniker and the fact that it is all black angus means it is something that fans would seek out. 5

Ingredients-top quality angus beef and pretty much anything else you would need to craft a dog to meet your palate's desire. 5

Uniqueness-the angus beef is what sets it apart. Other than that is a really BIG hot dog. 4.5

Monstrosity Factor-it almost pegged the meter. I could probably eat a whole one and be satisfied for nine innings. After downing the Dixie Dog I only got about half down. It is daunting, but not unslayable. 4.5

Value-at $16 it is overpriced. The leading contender was far less and more dog. 3

Overall Taste-good with all of those toppings. But the thing about the angus beef is that if it isn’t your absolute favorite, you have to chew through a lot of it to eat this dog. I like angus steaks, I think the beef is too lean for a hot dog though. It wasn’t bad, but not quite juicy (read fatty) enough for me. 4
An overall score of 26 is good, but frankly I think the Braves would have done better with just the Dixie Dog (which I think tasted better). Kudos to the Braves for putting a monster on the menu though. I also think this is another illustration of how hard it is to hunt these dogs down. Most vendors and even Fan Services did not know about its existence.

And and extra-special shout out to the Braves for providing fan tickets for ONE DOLLAR that are available two and one half hours before game time. That is a team that wants fans in the ballpark. Great job Braves!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Akron Rubber Ducks: The Three Dog Night

For those of you lacking in American history, here is a lesson. Akron, Ohio was once pretty much the rubber capital of the world. It still holds it own and most of your tires are made in the area. It also used to be home to a large number of toy factories, most of which were made of….rubber. The blown mould toy was invented there (the kind that is hollow inside, usually with an annoying squeaker in it) and the first toy made like that was the venerable rubber duck. The small, yellow kind you secretly have when you bathe. So it should come as no surprise to you the Akron’s minor league baseball team is called…...the Rubber Ducks.

Yeah, I was laughing too….until I saw their specialty dog. Akron proved that they are not only clever in naming their baseball team but their specialty dog as well. It is a kielbasa that is sliced open and a bratwurst is laid inside. The brat is also sliced open and a hot dog in inside of the brat. It is a three-meat monster that is called The Three Dog Night. Awesome name no?

Appeal-how could you not want to try this dog with all of its meaty goodness and interesting name? 5

Ingredients-all top quality meats served on a soft bun with kraut and jalapenos. I have seen party platters with less meat on it. 5

Uniqueness-this is only the second team (the other being the Minnesota Twins) that offers up the hot dog version of the turducken. 5

Monstrosity Factor-it looked pretty big when they brought it out. I figured I would give it a 4.5 since it didn’t look like something I couldn’t handle. Then I picked it up. That is a HEAVY hot dog. In the end I could only eat about 80% of it. 5

Value-This is a deal at $9.50. It is more dog than you can handle and will be the only thing you eat for 24 hours. Best to share with a friend if you are not a glutton like myself. 5

Overall Taste-meat and more meat. The only thing keeping this dog from getting a perfect score is the kraut. Love the kraut, but the juice soaked the bun and made it soggy. I would recommend grilling the kraut to dry it out a bit for the perfect specialty dog. 4.5
WOW! A nearly perfect specialty dog at  a minor league park. An overall score of 29.5 out of 30 is very impressive. It shows what a team can do if some thought is put into their dog. Akron pulls off a major upset on many major league teams with this dog.

It should also be noted that the Akron Rubber Ducks have one of the best and most affordable venues in minor league baseball. Very reasonable tickets and concessions, and a great downtown ballpark with friendly fans. I should also say I feel I have let you down. I know I told you I would check out the Delly Dog that was detailed in a Hot Dog Alert in this blog, but after the Three Dog Night it made me ill to think of eating another bite of anything. In short, the Rubber Duck specialty dog kicked my ass. And speaking of asses, get yours down to Canal Park in Akron and see a game. You won’t be disappointed.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Erie Seawolves: Footlong Hot Dog

Shiver me timbers! Another day, another footlong. If I keep this up I will have eaten a mile of dogs in no time. Which had me wondering on my drive along the Lake Erie coast: what do they call footlongs in countries with the metric system?

Sidetracked by sirens singing the song of beer near the block party that happens every summer Thursday in Erie, I finally made it into Jerry Uht Park to watch the Seawolves for a few innings. Apparently, if in the Erie area, you are supposed to be enamored with Smith’s brand hot dogs. My lunch at a local hot dog shack served them and so does the Seawolves’ stadium. The locals rave about those dogs.

Choices included a few types of sausage, the regular hot dog and the footlong. The footlong is as wild as it gets in Erie, so I plunked down my doubloons and scurried off with my loot of links.

Appeal-when your specialty dog is just a footlong, no matter how good it tastes, it is hard to get excited. 2.5

Ingredients-the Smith’s frank is damn tasty, and the bun was fresh. A little sparse on available toppings. 3.5

Uniqueness-pretty much every MLB and MiLB park has a footlong. 2

Monstrosity Factor-long, but not that thick. I could have easily had two. 3

Value-slightly overpriced at $6.25. Score would have been better if one would suffice as a meal. 4

Overall Taste-like the locals foretold, it was a delight to eat. 5
Without a specialty dog that grabs the attention of consumers, it is hard to crack the 20s on the dog-o-meter. And 20 is what the Seawolves clock in at. They did celebrate National Hot Dog Day (thank you Seawolves) by offering a pirate-inspired Scallywag Dog that was a half of a pound frank with bacon, peppers and onions as well as shredded cheddar cheese. THAT is the dog I want to eat when I hit the gates at Jerry Uht Park. I hope they consider bringing it back full time. A signature dog that embraces the team’s seafaring notoriety would boost its score, and have fans plundering the concession stand.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Toronto Blue Jays: Footlong Hot Dog

The hunt for the most monstrous dog in the MLB goes international. I love visiting Toronto, the only MLB team not in the United States. Cool city and a unique ballpark. Know what I don’t like? The border crossing. I have crossed dozens of borders in my lifetime, including Russia and other not-so-nice places. Facing the Canadian border patrol is the only place on the globe I feel like I am being interrogated by the Gestapo, and I always end up walking away like I am guilty of something, I just haven’t figured out what yet. I don’t know whether to be annoyed or wish that our border security could be as tough.

I ended up at the Rogers Centre without a trip to the immigration detention facility and snagged a sweet seat just behind home plate, albeit about 20,000 feet up. I was treated to a grand slam and a few other homers before I had to bag it out of Canada. What you may not know about Canadians is that they are gagagoogoo for pizza. The Canucks eat more pizza than any other MLB fans. With that, you would think they would have some super dog that is the talk of Toronto in their meat lineup. What they do have is a footlong Schneider’s frank that is grilled at a specialty stand. Not only is it long, it is thick. Lots of meat in this frank. But ultimately, it had issues. Take a look at the photos, it is the picture of what seems the perfect dog. But read on dear reader.

Appeal-being advertised as a footlong doesn’t help. Despite the truth in advertising it needs a name that shakes the cobwebs. How about “The Titanic Toronto Treat?” 4

Ingredients-this is where the real trouble starts. The foundation of a good dog is a nice soft but. This bun was very stale. I informed the vendors, and they explained that the buns had been frozen and there was nothing they could do about it. They were apologetic, but apologies taste lousy on a bun. 3

Uniqueness-it’s a footlong. 2.5

Monstrosity Factor-if you didn’t come too hungry, one dog will dog you. It is a large frank, and if you pile on the toppings it can be a meal. 3.5

Value-the price of $7.60 (US) would be a deal if the bun were fresh. 4

Overall Taste-I had to slather on some chipotle sauce to make up for the dry, stale bun. It was actually pretty tasty if the bun soaked up enough sauce. You know what happens when your bun is stale? The bun splits and you lose your ingredients. 3.5
When you start with a bad bun things go downhill quickly, and that is what drove the overall score of 17 for the Toronto Blue Jays. I will say that that the Rogers Centre has the best selection of condiments in all of baseball. Huge variety and all top quality toppings. If you get a fresh one it would probably be a much better experience then I had. In fact, get two. Hold one for a snack in case the Canadian border patrol place you in the slammer for not being able to recite the last five Stanley Cup winners.