The Charleston RiverDogs are taking charge of their barbecue offerings this year, installing a mobile smoker and grill near the entrance to Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. Brisket, tri-tip and frog legs will now supplement the park's pulled pork, which will continue to be provided by Sticky Fingers.
"We prefer to concentrate on the less traditional items," says John Schumacher, "food guru" for the team's ownership group.
In addition to the beef and frog extremities, the smoker station will serve a daily special, and local chefs occasionally will be invited to man the pit.
According to Schumacher, the decision to start smoking on-site was sparked by food and beverage director Josh Shea's barbecue expertise. Shea is an award-winning backyard barbecue cook, although Schumacher stresses "he's not going to be chained to the smoker."
Other new items for the 2014 season include a turkey burger and a honey-roasted carrot plopped in a hot dog bun, drizzled with Sriracha honey and topped with cilantro-cabbage slaw. The same slaw will figure into the Sushi Dog, which Schumacher says should satisfy fans' annual expectations for an offbeat hot dog introduction.
"When we threw the noodle at the wall, this is the one that stuck," Schumacher says, adding that the task of coming up with a surprising dog preparation gets harder each year.
The Sushi Dog is a chilled hot dog, sliced lengthwise and garnished with wasabi, mustard and slaw. It's wrapped in a nori sheet before serving.
To make room for the new items, the RiverDogs scratched a few underperforming snacks, including a venison sausage.
On the drinks front, the ballpark is bringing back its boozy milkshakes, which Schumacher describes as a "huge success." In addition to the Palmetto Espresso Porter Chocolate and Guinness Caramel flavors, which made their debut last year, concessionaires will serve a Guinness Kahlua shake and an Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout Raisin Cookie shake.
The Wine Garden will transition into a Sangria Garden, offering one red, one white and one rose-based wine punch. Wines will still be sold by the glass, but Schumacher says the sangria recipe is one of the surest ways to move red wine in summertime.
"It's just amazing," he says. "Ten years ago, wine was never popular in a ballpark. But now, especially in Charleston, people expect it."
The RiverDogs face the Greenville Drive in their home opener on April 7.
Reach Hanna Raskin at 937-5560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.