Baseball is boring (apologies to the Charleston RiverDogs), but going to minor league baseball games is heaps of fun (props to the RiverDogs). And our local team, with their breezy waterfront stadium, knows how to throw a good baseball party.
You've got your boiled peanuts, beer, hot dogs, popcorn, kitchen sink nachos, funnel cakes, Dippin' Dots, and then there are the fireworks, the sumo wrestler suits, the contests, the seventh-inning stretch and the nonstop distraction from what is or isn't happening in the game.
If you couldn't tell, I go for the food. I ate my first lobster roll ever at a baseball stadium; it was the Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park to be clear, so no judging me for paying $19 for their delicious and authentic version, and it's pretty much the only thing I remember about Major League Baseball besides the rabidity of the Boston fans and the Big Green Monster (The wall in left field. That's right. A wall. With a nickname.).
Baseball is weird. And so are some of the hot dogs that they serve at The Joe, the nickname for the RiverDogs' stadium, which was named after former Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. As nicknames go, it's a pretty good one. They even have nicknames for their hot dogs, as the Homewrecker can attest. The naughty moniker refers to the all-beef, foot-long wiener served on a soft bun.
The Homewrecker was introduced about a decade ago and remains as popular as ever, but that hasn't stopped the crew from offering new and arguably better options year after year. To honor their 25th anniversary, the RiverDogs (formerly known as the Rainbows) are serving up the Silver Anniversary Dog, which is an all-wagyu-beef wiener that comes wrapped in edible silver leaf, topped with pork belly and lobster and served with Champagne. It's silly, but I bet they sell a handful of those $175 packages that include two dogs, Champagne bottle service and a table for two.
The first item on my list of new things to try during the RiverDogs' opening stretch, which runs Thursday, April 12, through Wednesday, April 18, is the roasted carrot dog, a smoked carrot stick served in a bun and finished with honey sriracha and cilantro slaw. I think it sounds good, but you might disagree since a carrot has big beefy shoes to fill if it's going to replace a real hot dog, right?
My favorite baseball souvenir as a child was a tiny Yankees baseball helmet, which came heaped with soft-serve ice cream. What a great souvenir! First I got ice cream and then I got a cap for my stuffed animal Tobo to wear for the rest of his life. The RiverDogs' souvenir helmet has a very modern spin on it. Instead of ice cream, they're serving up a harvest salad. They say it's an entire head of bibb lettuce stuffed with seasonal fruit. I'm guessing it's not a tiny helmet. But if I was a kid, I'd eat that salad just for the hat. Totally worth it.
I will definitely order the Wagyu Island Burger with Spam bacon and pineapple chow chow relish. It sounds so Hawaiian. It's being served at the new Landshark Island Burger Shack along with a Coastal Shrimp Burger and the vegan Beyond Burger. It's so nice of them to think of the vegans, who also can eat a fake vegan "hot dog" that comes with black beans and roasted corn.
Other interesting offerings include a brie, apple and honey grilled cheese and a basket of sweet fries topped with a she-crab soup-inspired topping. I don't know about that last one, but even if it tastes awful, the food at The Joe always has made going to a baseball game worthwhile. Last year, the stadium renovated the private boxes into one big Riley Club, which is run by the Indigo Road Restaurant Group, so splurging on group tickets might make for a fun birthday night with your squad. You get unlimited beer and wine and a spread of restaurant-worthy fare. The club is included in season tickets and you can also buy vouchers to use throughout the season.
On Live and Local Tuesday nights, the ball club hosts a farmers market (with samples!) on the concourse and a pop-up restaurant at Murray's Mezzanine (named after RiverDogs' co-owner Bill Murray). Tuesday, April 17, will feature ramen from 2Nixons, a popular local pop-up restaurant from Jeffrey Stoneberger that makes appearances around town each week. For $40, you can watch the game and nosh on some ramen, but you'll have to pay for your own alcohol. Future pop-ups include Pub Fare on April 24 and Rebel Taqueria on May 1.