|Doesn't Anyone Eat Hot Dogs Anymore? - The Evolution of Ballpark Cuisine|
Written by Laura K. Nist (Contact & Archive) on July 07, 2003
Doesn’t anyone eat hotdogs at the ballpark any more? At one time hotdogs were a staple at all American ballparks. As a matter of fact, sausages (as they were called back in the day) became the standard food at ballparks as far back as 1893. This tradition is thought to have been started by Chris Von de Ahe, a German immigrant who owned the St. Louis Browns. No one knows for sure how or when they became more commonly known as hotdogs although there are several theories. The baseball related theory says that the word originated in 1901 at the Polo Grounds on a cold day in April. Vendors were said to have been selling hot dogs from portable hot water tanks shouting "They're red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they're red hot!" A New York Journal sports cartoonist who witnessed the scene supposedly drew a cartoon of barking dachshund sausages nestled in rolls, not sure how to spell "dachshund" he wrote "hot dog!" and so the name was coined. Unfortunately, historians have not been able to locate this cartoon so the story remains unproven.
In any event baseball and hotdogs share a long history. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes, believe it or not, that is a real organization) an estimated 25.9 million hot dogs will be consumed in major league stadiums this year. 25.9 million? Placed end to end they would reach all the way from Yankee Stadium to Dodger Stadium.
Obviously quite a few people still enjoy a hot dog at the ball game. But even the hot dogs have evolved. Sure you can still get the traditional Dodger dog in Los Angeles but how about a fiesta dog at Minute Maid Park, which is grilled and topped with red and green jalapeños, corndogs at Turner Field, bratwurst at Miller Park in Milwaukee and kosher dogs in Chicago.
Apparently sports fans these days are more diverse and have more sophisticated palates; many fans think that it is nice to have different options such as Mexican food, pizza or Chinese food although, admittedly, sushi or even soup and a salad at a baseball game is a concept that baffles me. Well, maybe sushi is a poor example because I wouldn’t eat it at an upscale restaurant either. It just seems particularly odd to be eating those types of food at a ballpark. Other unique food choices at ballparks around the country are such items as fish tacos in San Diego, gyros and catfish sandwiches in Detroit, barbecued pork or fried bologna sandwiches in Cincinnati and "Ichirolls" in Seattle (not sure but I think that is some type of sushi.)
Perhaps part of this evolution of cuisine has to do with the influx of Latin American and Asian players and concessionaires are trying to cater more to their fans’ tastes? Or maybe the vendors are more in tune with regional cooking. Pro Player Stadium in Florida serves local delicacies such as conch fritters and Cuban sandwiches filled with pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles on Cuban bread, Coors Field offers Rocky Mountain Oysters (I’m afraid to ask what those may be), they have crab cakes at Camden Yards, lobster at Fenway Park and the Vet sells Philly cheese-steak sandwiches.
In addition to becoming more diverse, society has become more health conscious and many people are looking for healthier selections when eating out – even at ballparks. Some of the healthier options that we have seen at stadiums around the country are grilled chicken, vegetable platters, veggie wraps and fruit salad.
Catering to those fans that prefer a more epicurean experience, in some parks there are upscale restaurants where you can watch the game and have a great dinner. Pac Bell Park offers the more urbane fans the Acme Chophouse, PNC Park in Pittsburgh has the Outback Steakhouse and Atria’s Restaurant and the Sky Dome in Toronto has four restaurants to choose from or perhaps for a more intimate dinner you can order room service and watch the game from your hotel room. If that sounds too refined for your tastes you may be interested in dining at the Rays Bullpen Café in Tampa where they offer picnic-style seating directly behind the bullpen. Or perhaps you’d enjoy dining poolside in Phoenix.
It’s all about choices.
So, the next time that you go to a game, whether you are craving hotdogs, peanuts, nachos or one of the more exotic offerings that can be found at most stadiums these days, you should be able to find a selection that pleases you. After all, one of the greatest things about America is the right to choose.
As for me? I’ll have a hot dog and garlic fries, please.