The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Summer 2006 : a hot dog odyssey

Living in Manhattan, I have access to the greatest hot dogs in the entire world. In my opinion, the hot dogs in all of New York are sold from a small takeout counter on West 72nd Street called Gray’s Papaya (made famous — or infamous — by Sex and the City). Before I got on the plane headed back to SMU, I was enjoying my last Gray’s hot dog with my best friend, who also happens to think that the best dog on the island is at Gray’s. We walked to Central Park from the stand and were already on our second hot dog (the establishment has had the “Recession Special” for a number of years now: two hot dogs and a juice for $2.65).

“These are definitely better than the ones in Berlin,” he said, after finishing a bite too big for him to chew.

He was referring to the summer-long vacation we had just taken across Europe, which ended in Berlin. The best food we had on the whole Euro-trip was undoubtedly in a Biergarten called Provost. I ended up getting one classic Bratwurst and one Currywurst. The Bratwurst was served on a thick piece of white bread cut in the center to make room for the inch-and-a-half thick sausage made mostly of pork and beef. Traditionally you eat it with special German mustard that is much spicier than normal Heinz or Grey Poupon. The whole package plus a giant glass of Berliner beer on tap was fantastic.

After my friend commented on the German hot dogs, I began to doubt my own judgment; I wondered if Gray’s Papaya truly was the greatest hot dog on the planet. Coincidentally, I had been planning to go to a baseball game at Wrigley Field during a long layover in Chicago, and one down at Ameriquest Field once I got to Dallas.

“I have to try the hot dogs out there,” I thought to myself. This prompted me to revisit my hometown stadiums before I left for college.

First stop: Yankee Stadium. As soon as I stepped out of the corridor leading to my second tier seat, I immediately felt the same melange of joy, astonishment and humility that I always get when I first see the white arches and checkered green grass of The House that Ruth Built. In terms of food, however, there is something to be desired. Most New Yorkers I know praise the Yankee Stadium hot dog above all others, but that is certainly a Yankees-win-column-size overstatement. The hot dogs are too small, greasy and messy for their price of–get ready for this–$5.95.

If you think that’s outrageous, compared to the money you’ll shell out for mediocre seats and a twenty-ounce soda–$40 and $5 respectively-it really doesn’t seem that bad. There are a few upsides to the expense of the whole experience: 1. No seat is a bad seat at Yankee Stadium 2. The hot dog is still good enough to be worth about four dollars 3. You are guaranteed to see the home team win.

Next I visited Shea Stadium, the home of the now-steamrolling Metropolitans. As stadiums go, it is not the best. It could be called the GMC Yukon of baseball stadiums; it is oversized with few luxuries and not very attractive, but in the end it gets the job done. The food, however, is twice as good and half as expensive as its New York counterpart.

Its specialty is the Italian sausage, a dish, I would find out later on my trip, that is a staple of most stadiums. Nobody–but nobody–does it like Shea. The Italian sausage is a tougher, thicker sausage, closer in style to the Berlin Bratwurst. Put that hefty dog on a thick white toasted bun, sprinkle grilled red and green peppers, sauteed onions and finally, drizzle just the right amount of ketchup and mustard on it and you have the Shea Italian Sausage. It is, in my opinion, the perfect meal to accompany an afternoon in the ballpark.

After the perfect baseball meal it was only fitting to go see the perfect baseball stadium: Wrigley Field. When entering the home field of the Chicago Cubs, you step back a hundred years to when stadiums were small enough to see into from nearby rooftops, Jumbotrons didn’t exist and everyone in attendence adored the game.

There is the famous ivy-covered outfield wall and red brick behind the batter’s box that gives Wrigley personality. The food at Wrigley has just as much personality as the stadium-—which may or may not be a good thing.

After asking at one of the many stands surrounding the corridors to the field for a “Chicago-style hot dog, please,” I was handed a big cardboard box with a paper plate in the center, and a wiener with grilled onions. I was directed to the nearby condiment station, expecting ketchup and mustard; instead I found mustard, pickle relish, tomatoes, lettuce, banana peppers, jalapenos and the all-important celery salt. It was by far the messiest hot dog I have ever eaten.

In the end, I didn’t fall in love with the Chicago-style dog, but I could certainly see how someone could (I suppose the same way someone can fall in love with the Cubs–not my cup of beer, but to each his own).

My last stop was what I would soon find to be the Six Flags of baseball stadiums. Ameriquest Field (formerly the Ballpark in Arlington) is a baseball-themed amusement park complete with picnic tables behind the outfield, sponsored entertainment stands and fireworks for every home run. The food there fits perfectly into the motif. In short, you can get anything you want from a bucket of chicken wings to fried catfish.

As far as hot dogs go, they had roughly a dozen different kinds. I tried the Cracked Black Sausage. It was very similar to the Italian Sausage I was used to getting at Shea, but had an overpowering taste of black pepper. The ketchup, mustard, onions and peppers masked the taste of the pepper a bit, but not enough for me to order another. Unfortunately, on my way out of the game, I saw a sign for a “Loaded Big Dog,” which included all of the basics plus a hefty helping of chili. That very well could have been the hot dog to beat Gray’s. “Next time,” I promised myself.

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