Four-Person Hot Dogs and Other Unique MLB Foods, Part I

By: Michael Engle

For many Americans, today marks the unofficial start of spring.  Unofficial because to baseball enthusiasts, Opening Day of Major League Baseball is really when the fun begins.  (If you are an Oakland Athletics or Seattle Mariners fan who forgot to wake up for the two games in Japan, your season has already started.  In fact, your team is 1-1 with 160 games to go.)

While most teams use Opening Day to debut the newest free agent acquisition or the prized rookie from Spring Training, ballparks will occasionally debut new food items.  The most hyped concession of the upcoming season is, without a doubt, the one-pound, two-foot-long, four-person "Champion Dog."  Topped with Texas chili, shredded cheddar cheese, and sauteed onions, this $26 tube-steak, served on a wooden cutting board, is already the talk of the town at the Ballpark in Arlington--home of the Texas Rangers.

Since peanuts and Cracker Jack have become ubiquitous cliches (although participating in the seventh-inning stretch over "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" will never feel passe), and because most people won't be able to get to Texas to try the Champion Dog, let alone form a foursome to tackle it, it begs the question: What are the best and/or most unique eats among Major League stadia?

Here's a list of unique eats available while watching this all-American sport...

No trip to Cincinnati, OH is complete without sampling Skyline Chili.  According to Uni Watch, Skyline is indeed available at the Reds' Great American Ballpark.  Skyline's signature dishes include the "3-Way" (shredded cheddar cheese over the chili, all over spaghetti), the "4-Way" (add your choice of onions or beans to the 3-Way), the "5-Way" (add both to the 3-Way), and the "Cheese Coney," which is a Kahn's hot dog topped with mustard, onions, Skyline chili, and cheddar.

Do you like pretzels?  Two National League ballparks have their own twists on the classic carbohydrate.  Busch Stadium (home of the St. Louis Cardinals) sells a "bratzel," which is a pretzel wrapped around the entire length of a bratwurst.  (Have some spicy mustard on the side for dipping--it's recommended but not included.)  Meanwhile, for purists who enjoy some creativity, the Washington Nationals sell pretzels shaped like the curly 'W' on the team's caps.

The Minnesota Twins recently moved from the Metrodome to their newly-constructed, open-air Target Field.  Instead of settling for simple fare, the Twins opted to raise the culinary bar at the new stadium.  The lack of a roof not only creates a chance of a rain delay, but a chilly atmosphere in April.  To fight the cold weather, they recommend the wild rice soup, which is made from northern Minnesota rice by a local grocery chain.  The Twins' focus on local ballpark cuisine is further epitomized by Kramarczuk Deli; located a mile away, Kramarczuk makes bratwurst, kielbasa, and Hungarian sausage, which are grilled to order and served with homemade coleslaw.  For the more upscale yet local appetite, the Vincent Burger, was once on the menu but it has been cut from the 2012 roster.  Invented by French-born and Minneapolis-based chef Vincent Francoual, this re-interpretation of the "Juicy Lucy" featured braised short rib meat and smoked Gouda cheese within the hamburger patty.

Thanks to  Uni Watch for their help with ball park food finds. Check back tomorrow for Part II of our list of unique ball park eats! 

What's your favorite ball park food?

Photo: joshbousel

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