Let The Great Hot Dog Challenge Begin!
Hot Dog's and Baseball via Adobe Stock

A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.

Humphrey Bogart 1

Hot dogs and baseball seem to go hand in hand, even though neither has hands per se. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) estimated that 18.3 million hot dogs would be enjoyed at baseball stadiums in 2018. Another 4 million sausages were expected to be sold as well.2 Hot Dogs are sold in all stadiums and are a staple of the sport. So, I figure, why not rate the hot dogs I eat in each ballpark. I’ll eat at least one hot dog and report as I go.

By the way, check out NHDSC’s great MLB Hot Dog guide.

Hot Dog and Baseball History

The origin of the hot dog we eat at ballparks’ is an oft-debated topic. According to the NHDSC, it is likely a descendant of a “widespread common European sausage” brought to America by “butchers of several nationalities.”

The first use of the hot dog bun is also up for debate. There are stories that a German immigrant sold dogs with buns from a pushcart in New York’s Bowery in the 1860s. Most disagree with the idea that the hot dog served on a bun for the first time at St. Louis “Louisiana Purchase Exposition” in 1904. More than likely the hot dog bun merely is a descendant of the German practice of eating so-called “dachshund sausages” with bread.

The “Columbian Expedition”
via Wikapedia

The essential fact is to note is that the hot dog was popularized at 1893’s Chicago “Columbian Expedition.” The same year, Chris Von de Ahe, a German immigrant, bar owner, and owner of the professional ball club the St. Louis Browns introduced the hot dog to baseball parks in 1893 in St. Louis. 3

The rest is as the kids say, “history.” From then on the hot dog and baseball were synonymous.

The Great Hot Dog Challenge

Those who have met me or have seen my picture will admit that I like to eat. I also love hot dogs and agree with Bogart’s opinion. However, I’ve never eaten at Ritz. Assuming the Ritz is/was an excellent place to eat, I agree.

There, I said it; I like a good hot dog. I feel a great weight lifted now that I have admitted this deep dark secret. As much as I love the Pat Lefreida Steak Sandwich at Citi Field, just give me a good old hot dog. I’ll be fine. You can have your ballpark sushi, garlic fries in San Francisco or the Blooper Burger in Atlanta. Just give me a good hot dog, and I’m fine.

The key word is “good.” A bad hot dog is an abomination of all that is holy. It’s a waste of the $5 -$10 you pay to eat the horrible thing. Moreover, you can’t get the time you spent purchasing the hot dog back. It follows that mediocre hot dogs are bad as well.

Haute Dogs and Fries – “BANH MI” Hot Dog
from Nationals Park

I already had my first MLB dog of the season at Nationals Park on opening day. The dog of choice was the “BANH MI” from Haute Dogs and Fries. I also include in my rankings my spring training hot dog adventures. I had two – a “Dean Dog” at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL. I don’t remember the name of the other, but I had it was a grilled 12-inch dog with peppers and onions with brown mustard at First Data Field in Pt. Saint Lucie, FL. It was a good, possibly above average dog. However, the bun broke, and I dropped part of the dog onto my shirt and camera. Thus, it was disqualified from the contest.

Ranking Criteria

via Adobe Stock

I fully understand that everyone will have an opinion about what constitutes an excellent hot dog. It might be a bit more challenging to define the criteria for judging hot dogs across the country. What are the most appropriate toppings? Does the dog need to be in a roll, or can it be on a stick? What type of meat is appropriate? Do chicken, turkey or veggie dogs count?

These are my criteria for what constitutes a great hot dog:

Unique

I want a hot dog unique to the stadium. Sorry, Nathan’s, you make a pretty good hot dog, but I can get a Nathan’s dog in many stadiums. So, I’m not including you unless your hot dog is my only choice. I feel the same about a dog from the Shake Shack. I love Shake Shack, but it is in many stadiums and thus, disqualified from my challenge in my mind.

Beef or Pork Only

Only Pork or Beef
via Adobe Stock

For argument’s sake, I’ll accept that one can make a hot dog out of turkey, chicken or vegetables. However, these dogs belong in another category, and I can only eat so much. I’m sticking to beef or pork.

Not Sausage

Yes, a hot dog is a descendant of and has all the fundamental elements of a sausage. However, at a ballpark, you have a choice of a hot dog or a sausage. I’m judging hot dogs not “sausages.” Caveat – I’ll bend my no sausage rule for a Milwaukee Brat.

Crisp Skin

I want the dog grilled on a flat surface so that it gets a little charred and crunchy. Steaming and boiling are out.

Sturdy Bun

Looks Good
via Adobe Stock

The bun is oh so important. It needs to have some crust; texture and it also needs to be sturdy. However, the bun can’t overwhelm the hot dog. The dog’s texture and taste needs to merge with the bun.

Assembled When Purchased

The dog loses points if the counter people don’t transport it from grill to bun in front of me.

Brown Mustard and Unique Toppings

Brown Mustard
via Adobe Stock

A tasty topping makes a hot dog unique and beautiful. In general, some sauerkraut is all I need on top of my hot dog. However, for this contest, I’m looking for something unique in each ballpark.

To me, the real condiment question is “how good is the mustard?” I don’t like yellow mustard; I don’t even understand yellow mustard. Honey mustard is fine, but I don’t see how it works with a hot dog. I’m looking for good brown mustard.

Chili Dogs Need Not Apply

A Chili Dog
via Adobe Stock

Chili Dogs are wonderful, but they are out, sorry. At some point, you’re eating something someone did to the dog and not just the dog. My rule of thumb: if it drips or is so unwieldy you need a knife and fork it’s in another category.

Now – the true aficionados at the NHDSC will argue that you shouldn’t eat a chili dog with a knife and fork. It’s not necessary, and it is embarrassing. Instead, there is a five-step method to eating the chili dog:

  1. Positioning – give yourself a lot of room.
  2. Grip – use two hands one on each end of the dog and don’t squeeze too tight. A tight squeeze will allow the juices to slip out and thus make a mess.
  3. Level Lift – keep it level, so the chili doesn’t fall out.
  4. Enter – you need to put the dog in your mouth at a 45 to 60-degree angle.
  5. Bite – using your canines so that you can bite right through the skin for an explosion of tasty juices. 4

I understand the theory, but I’m still not including the Chili Dog in this discussion. I just want to have a good dog.

My no chili rule is why I chose the “BANH MI” Hot Dog from Haute Dogs and Fries and not the “iconic half-smoke” from Ben’s Chili Bowl when I was at Nationals Park.

There’s a point where a hot dog crosses from an easy sandwich to a meal requiring a knife and fork. The division is between toppings that are additive to the dog as opposed to a meal that just includes the dog. Chili tends to put the hot dog on the wrong side of the line. My opinion only.

Hot Dog Rankings (To Date)

Dog Stadium UniqueCrispyBun ToppingsEasy
To Eat
Randy Jones
Bacon
Wrapped Dog
Petco Park
San Diego, CA
Above
Average
Above
Average
Above
Average
Above
Average
Yes
Schneider’s
12 Inch
Rogers Centre
Toronto, ON
AverageAbove
Average
Above
Average
ExcellentYes
Monster DogEstadio de
Béisbol Monterrey,
Mexico
Above
Average
Above
Average
Above
Average
Above
Average
Yes
RWB DogGlobe Life Park
Arlington, TX
Above
Average
Above
Average
AverageExcellentYes
BANH MINationals Park
Washington DC
Above
Average
AverageAbove
Average
ExcellentYes
Jumbo DogGlobe Life Park
Arlington, TX
AverageAbove
Average
Above
Average
AverageYes
Dean DogRoger Dean
Stadium
Jupiter, FL
AverageAbove
Average
Above
Average
AverageYes
H&F Burger
Hot Dog
SunTrust Park
Alanta, GA
AverageAbove
Average
Above
Average
AverageYes
South
Philly
Dog
Citizens Bank
Park
Philadelphia, PA
Above
Average
AverageAverage
-Too Big
Above
Average
Yes
Ken Hoffman
Dog
Minute Maid Park
Hoston, TX
AverageAverageAverageAverageYes
Slaw DogMarlins Park
Miami, FL
Average
– Basic
Nathan’s
Below
Average
AverageAverageYes
Dodger DogDodger Stadium
Los Angeles, CA
AverageBelow
Average
Below
Average
AverageYes
Crafty DawgAngels Stadium
Anaheim, CA
Above
Average
Above
Average
FAILToo
Much
It
Broke
12″ Dog?First Data Field
Pt. St. Lucie, FL
AverageAbove
Average
FAILAverageIt
Broke

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  1. https://www.selfhelpdaily.com/quotes-about-baseball-hank-aaron-jackie-robinson/
  2. Note that this and most of the other factual information in this post comes from www.hotdog.org.
  3. Information for this section from “Hot Dog History” at https://www.hot-dog.org/culture/hot-dog-history
  4. https://www.hot-dog.org/culture/how-properly-eat-chili-dog

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