Sunday, June 26, 2011

Buy Me Some Peanuts And Cracker Jacks…And A $13 Hot Dog

Petco Park
19 Tony Gwynn Dr.
San Diego, CA

“A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz”
-- Humphrey Bogart

Ah, yes. A warm spring evening at the ball park with a cold beer in my left hand and a hot dog in my right.

I have to agree with Humphrey on this one. That’s as close to perfection as you can get.

Most business travelers throw their luggage on the hotel bed and immediately head to the nearest expense account steak house.

Of course, Suit757 doesn’t have an expense account.

So on those rare evenings I get to town before opening pitch, you’ll find Suit757 at the local ball park.

From the big leagues to low A ball – it doesn’t matter.

Major Leagues. Minor Leagues. Instructional Leagues. If there is a game in town, I’ll be there.

What else am I going to do? Sit in the Comfort Inn watching American Idol?

I don’t think so.

As luck would have it, it just so happened that my trip to downtown San Diego coincidently coincided with a three game Padres homestand against my beloved Cincinnati Reds. And my room at the Comfort Inn was only three blocks from the ball park.

How lucky is that?

Well, as they say in Ireland, “The lucky make their own luck.”

I was especially excited because Petco Park was one of the few major league parks I had yet to visit.

Opened in 2004, Petco lacks the cozy, retro atmosphere of slightly older ballparks in Texas and Baltimore. And it can’t boast of the spectacular skyline and waterfront views of parks in Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

But Petco is not without its own quirky charms and personality.

For example the historic Western Metal Supply Company building was incorporated into the design of Petco Park.

I think that’s kind of cool. Especially when Johnny Gomes and Chris Heisey launched home runs into the building’s balconies during the first game of the homestand.

But this is supposed to be a blog about good food and beer – not baseball.

And I’m happy to report a little of all of the above can be found at Petco – if you look hard enough.

The corporate triumvirate of puke beers – Bud, Bud Light and Miller Lite – is ubiquitous at Petco. And at $7.75 for a 24 ounce draft, it’s no bargain, but still better than you’d expect at a big league ball park.

You’d think in a sparkling new ball park in a state like California that takes so much pride in good microbrewed beer would offer something more interesting.

Sure enough I found two lonely beer stands that sell San Diego’s own Stone Pale Ale for $8.50 for a 20 ouncer. Definitely well worth the extra coin and effort.

While you can get your standard peanuts, Cracker Jacks and hot dogs at Petco, the park also offers some interesting culinary diversions – like fish tacos.

Okay. Fish tacos might not be exactly traditional ball park fare, but they are traditional to San Diego.

Always on the look-out for something unique, I shelled out $4.75 to try one.

The lonely fish taco concessions girl acted like I was the first fan of the season to order one.

Not a good sign.

The best I can say about my Petco fish taco is that it didn’t give me food poisoning. But let’s just say Wahoo’s and Rubio’s have no fear of being put out of business any time soon.

As soon as I polished off my fish taco, I stumbled upon perhaps the most ambitious specimen of ball park fare ever conceived – a $13 “Sonoran Hot Dog”.

Would you pay $13 for a hot dog?

Well, I’m here to testify, you would for this one.

Worth. Every. Penny.

Sonoran hot dogs aren’t exactly native to San Diego. Rather, they come from the Sonoran desert of Mexico and Arizona.

Devouring Sonoran hot dogs at a road side stand in Tucson while wearing a suit in the 100 degree desert heat ranks as one of my life’s premier junk food experiences.

If opening up our southern boarder to a flood of Mexican immigrants means more Sonoran hot dogs for me, I say bring ‘em on. The more the merrier.

These babies are that good.

That being said, Petco’s $13 monstrosity is a roided up Barry Bonds version of the traditional Sonoran dog served in southern Arizona.

Is it possible for a spicy half pound tube of meat to be an after thought?

It almost is when you consider that this giant hot dog is grilled, stuffed into an immense catcher’s mitt of a potato roll and then smothered in raw onions, tomatoes, spicy jalapeño verde sauce, pinto beans and tortilla chips.

And did I mention that this mammoth dog is wrapped in bacon?

Oh, yeah.

Let me repeat.

A half pound hot dog wrapped in bacon. And buried under an avalanche of spicy goodness.

Like I said. Worth every one of those 1,300 pennies.

So it may not be as traditional as peanuts and Cracker Jacks. And I may have taken a significant portion of my $13 meal back with me to the Comfort Inn in the form of stains on my Barry Larkin T-shirt, but Petco’s Sonoran hot dog is part of what makes a night out at a major league ballpark such a dogone fun splurge.

Especially when the Reds win in the 11th inning.

Humphrey is right on. It beats the heck out of the Ritz every night of the week.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

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