As you know, I am a HUGE fan of the South Philly Dog. It’s the most underrated ballpark eat. So when the Phillies and Aramark announced their new 2015 foodstuffs in a blogger-less event a Citizens Bank Park a few weeks back, I was intrigued by the updated SPD– which now includes red peppers instead of long hots and a softer roll in place of the original Italian seeded bun. It’s a whole new wiener, and doggonit, I just couldn’t wait to get my mouth on it.
The SPD now resides at the year-old Frank & Stein behind section 134. Sadly, it wasn’t until the seventh inning on Saturday that I finally got the name Frank & Stein. Ohhhhhhhh, like Frankenstein. Sometimes I’m slow. I didn’t figure out why roofs were slanted until I was in high school (so the rain will run off!). Anyway, that cleverly-named little stand is where you can find both the SPD and the New England Backyard Dog, both of which I highly recommend… for the following reasons:
South Philly Dog
It’s beautiful. Best in show, appearance-wise. Behold the way broccoli rabe and red peppers smother the bashful dog, who nests atop a bed of finely-placed provolone, all inside a soft bun. You’ll notice that the new version looks wildly different than the old one:
The old dog looks like shit in comparison, but while it had its issues, it was still the most underrated item at CBP. The new one improves upon the experience on all fronts. I didn’t even mind that the dog itself wasn’t butterflied– a typically preferred grilling method that allows for a crispy shell on four sides rather than two. On the new SPD, the rabe was fresh, with a somewhat muted bitterness, and piled on high for maximum messiness. The peppers added a bashful sweetness that will remind you of afternoons at an Italian deli in Overbrook Park or Lower Delco. The dog itself bowed down to the powerful flavors of his masters, but still brought with him a salty-meatiness that seemed to say, I’m just going to add a bit of bark to this bite. The cheese was a little less sharp than I would’ve liked, but it’s entirely possible that I was just missing it in the flavor orgy that was taking place inside my mouth. Like a masked Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, I waded through lovely, bare ingredients as they performed what tasted like a ritualistic ceremony of excess. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, but I knew I wanted in. Badly.
This thing is near perfection. It’s better in almost every way possible than the previous version. Score: 8.5 out of 10.
New England Backyard Dog
GET. OUT. OF. HERE.
Stupid. This was stupid good. I wasn’t even going to get one until I saw it on the menu:
Yeah, why not? Let’s play two! Unlike the SPD, which defers to its heritage with a balance of sweet and savory, the NEBD is in your face with its boldness. Wiener. Beans. Cheese. Peppers. All that atop a glaze spread inside of the bun that can only be described as sweet magic. This is what it looks like when you bite into sweet magic:
That’s me, eating magic.
For real, the beans are great, the cheese is there, the peppers bring the heat, but it’s the sweet BBQ sauce in the bun that is a game-changer. It’s so good it’s almost not even fair for all other dogs. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but: NEBD is better than SPD. Score: 9.5 out of 10.
The only bad part of my wiener experience occurred at a water ice stand just a section down from Frank & Stein (get it, like Mary Shelley’s book?!). My wife and I forgot to grab napkins, so as we walked farther down the third base line toward left field, she stopped at the (completely empty on this cold night) water ice stand to grab a handful of napkins. I had these two bad boys, and she had just a regular hot dog because apparently I married a terrorist. Three dogs. $18. This commanded a significant recycled paper commitment. So, she grabbed about 4-6 napkins. A large quantity? Maybe, but it wasn’t gratuitous given the culinary event. The lady at the water ice stand no like:
“You’re gonna take all my napkins,” she muttered to my wife.
We thought she was joking in that playful, sometimes-overly-brusque way so many concession workers joke. We laughed. She wasn’t smiling.
“Wait, did you just yell at my wife for grabbing napkins?” I asked.
“Sure, one or two, but she took a whole handful,” the woman shot back.
“We just spent $18 on three hots dog with toppings whose origins range from Italy to Texas (the ketchup on my wife’s ISIL dog notwithstanding) and you’re going to yell at us about grabbing a few napkins? Are you serious right now?”
She then asked where we got them – as if that mattered in the least and they didn’t come from the very same Aramark that employs her – and mumbled something about never having enough napkins. I rolled my eyes and we walked away.
Here’s my advice: Buy both of those hot dogs from Frank & Stein and get your napkins from the water ice stand next to it. Lots of them. Handfuls! More than you can carry. I’m going to take some every time I walk by that lady from now on, whether I’m eating delicious dogs or not. And you should, too.