Editor's note: Recently, we asked Post and Courier restaurant critic Deidre Schipani and Lunch Counter gourmand Rob Young to take in a RiverDogs game and to try the food at the ballpark. The concessions feature several specialty hot dogs and newer menu items, such as shrimp and grits. After an evening of eating, their results are in.
Rob: Take me out to the ballgame, and buy me some peanuts and shrimp and grits.
Deidre: Or Dixie Dogs and Grateful Dead Dogs, BLT Dogs and Smokehouse Dogs.
Rob: I have a dog named Sasha.
Deidre: That's really ...
Rob: Awesome, I know.
Deidre: I was going for odd.
Rob: And I'm going for dinner. They've got all sorts of food at the RiverDogs' stadium. Brand- new hot dogs. Buncha weird names. All the old favorites. What is it they say out here? FIG — Fun Is Good.
Deidre: OK, first up: the Asian Invasion, and I'm not talking Hideki Matsui! What do you think, Rob?
Rob: Sadaharu Oh! Oh! Oh! Seriously, that's, ahem, breathtaking. Soy sauce and wasabi, crunchy chow mein noodles. This is the first time my nose hurt from eating a hot dog.
Deidre: Something cooler, perhaps?
Rob: "It's Now or Never."
Deidre: Cute. The Elvis, I assume. And you know, I was ready to bash the King and his eating habits, but I'm pleasantly surprised. This "mock" dog has a banana, peanut butter and honey on a hot-dog bun. Perfect for children, vegetarians and dessert!
Rob: And the obese.
Deidre: Now, the Sloppy Joe — new this season — tops a hot dog with coleslaw. I like what slaw does for cue, but the ballpark version leaves me stranded at second base.
Rob: I like it, actually. Slaw's good, cool and sweet, but not too sweet. And I like the way it douses my Asian Invasion.
Deidre: So, we've all heard everything tastes better with bacon. And the BLT Dog backs it up. Who would have thought that bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and a mustard-based barbecue sauce would jazz up a hot dog to new culinary heights? Now, the Smokehouse Dog (barbecue sauce, bacon and onions) has some competition in the infield.
Rob: True, a couple of my favorites. But the lettuce is a little soggy. Probably from the barbecue sauce. But the Smokehouse — I'm a big fan.
Deidre: The Dixie Dog sounds tasty, topped with pimiento cheese and chili. But if you look into the kitchens of the concessions stands, they're using an IV system of plastic bags to lay on the chili and the cheese.
Rob: Ah, cheese in a bag. Always perfect with box wine. Anyone seen my glass of Franzia?
Deidre: I can't quite pick up the flavor of pimiento here, Rob. What are you tasting?
Rob: Well, Deidre, Velveeta, I think. Something orange and frothy. That is chili, correct? Not my first choice.
Deidre: Want to track down a RiverDog?
Rob: Their signature item. Similar to the Ichiroll in Seattle.
Deidre: It's topped with slaw, mustard-based barbecue sauce and pickled okra. Like a Chicago dog gone South. I like the slaw, but the okra does nothing for me.
Rob: The lady doth protest too much, methinks. The okra and slaw go perfect together. Just like peanut butter and jelly — total BFFs.
Deidre: Shakespeare would be proud. He might even enjoy brandishing this plump turkey leg. Feels like a Renaissance festival, doesn't it? This has great flavor, tender, nicely smoked. A home run for The Joe.
Rob: Delicious. But I'm holding out for the turducken.
Deidre: What we need is a palate cleanser after trying all these condiment-laden wieners. Here's our answer: the plain, ordinary hot dog. I like this one. The perfect marriage of soft bun and seasoned beef. Great snap in this hot dog, like the crack of the bat.
Deidre: The hot dog?
Rob: And the punnery.
Deidre: OK, OK. How about a healthy dog?
Rob: There's such a thing?
Deidre: The Grateful Dead Dog. Think of it as our sacrifice fly.
Rob: Because nothing says healthy like Jerry Garcia.
Deidre: Touche. It's a veggie dog, topped with Whole Foods hummus, Jamaican relish, wrapped in lavash, which is sort of a thin flatbread. And ... they're out. Too bad. Guess some foods aren't meant for the ballpark!
Rob: Unlike the Sweet and Sour Dog with sauerkraut and Jamaican relish. Points for creativity. Another tight combo.
Deidre: Like the shrimp and grits, I hope. We've got grits with sausage gravy, bacon bits — and, hmmm — fried shrimp. Better for breakfast, don't you think?
Rob: Fried fish nuggets? Sort of a Captain D's meets Hardee's. And it's available only to suite ticketholders. I'd stick with the dogs.
Deidre: Well, Rob, as Humphrey Bogart said, "A hot dog at the ballpark is better than a steak at the Ritz."
Rob: He also said, "The whole world is about three drinks behind." I couldn't agree more.