When coming up with new food options for the ballpark, RiverDogs food and beverage director Mike Liedl applies extra points to items that win at practicality.
Will fans be able to carry the dish in one hand while carrying a beer in the other and walking down stadium steps? Can it be balanced on one’s lap or easily handled if the need arises to dodge a foul ball? It’s probably better if silverware isn’t required. A hot dog, for example, checks all of these boxes.
“You can’t have something that’s going to get soggy after five minutes and it’s falling in the fan’s lap,” said Liedl, who joined the RiverDogs less than a month ago. “You can’t have something too large or clunky, so fans can’t carry it around. Finding the right vessel is a big part of it.”
Ahead of their opening home game on April 11, the Charleston RiverDogs unveiled a “playful” alternative to ballpark mainstays such as plastic trays and disposable boats.
A full-sized plastic doggie bowl is the chosen vessel for new menu items such as the Dog Bone Bowl, which features smoked pork rib with barbecue sauce and a side of baked beans.
That also goes for a variety of loaded bowls at the new Bowls and Strike stand, where fans can create their own bowl or go with featured combinations, such as chicken and waffles or shrimp and grits.
“I think fans today are getting tired of always coming to a game and just getting a hot dog,” Liedl said. “You want some variety.”
Other new menu items include a pimento grilled cheese; steakhouse fries topped with macaroni and cheese, jalapeno bacon crumbles and barbecue sauce; as well as a vegetarian bratwurst. There’s also the Mediterranean Healthy Nachos, featuring blue corn chips topped with hummus, pico de gallo and feta cheese, served in a RiverDogs souvenir helmet.
To go with easy-to-eat snacks, the RiverDogs teamed up with Rusty Bull Brewing to create the BellyItcher Ale, a blonde ale with light caramel flavors.
It makes for “a very crushable beer,” said Rusty Bull brewer/owner Brian Bogstad.
The BellyItcher Ale will be available on draft and in 16 ounce cans at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. It will soon be on tap at Rusty Bull's taproom in North Charleston.
“It's something we want to support and keep making," said Ben Mayer, also a Rusty Bull owner/brewer. "Your local baseball team wants to collaborate on a beer ... that’s like a dream. Only it’s not a dream. We actually got to do it."
Speaking of things to sip on, a new beer shake option will be on tap this season. The Strawberry Lemonade Beer Shake is made with Natural Light’s strawberry lemonade flavor called Naturdays, which has an ABV of 4.2 percent.
Liedl describes the pink-colored drink this way: “You don’t taste the alcohol in it. But if you finish the shake, you might feel it a little bit.”
“The RiverDogs have a history of doing fun twists on ballpark food,” he said. “We'll keep doing that and changing things up. If you come to a game early in the season, you’ll find different things later on."