Ben’s Chili Bowl Half-Smoke makes MSN’s “Home Run Hot Dogs” list

Yesterday MSN’s Delish.com published it’s list of Home-Run Hot Dogs: The Best Dogs from America’s Baseball Stadiums, and cracking the top 24 was our own Nationals Park Ben’s Chili Bowl Half Smoke, “All the Way,” of course.

I’ve written in praise of the Ben’s Chili Bowl Half-Smoke before. It was nice to see it crack the list, but it definitely deserved a spot higher than #22. Writer Kiri Tannenbaum chose to give higher billing to a variety of dogs topped with oddities like blue cheese, bacon, brisket, tortilla strips, and even mayonnaise.

Comments are open, if you’d like to let Kiri know what you think.

Flickr photo by Steve Masters

George Washington pays tribute to The Masters

On the opening day of the Masters golf tournament, George Washington and the Nationals’ racing presidents decided to pay tribute with a little 4-man golf scramble during the 4th-inning presidents race this afternoon at Nationals Park.


Emerging from the centerfield starting gate with golf ball and club in hand, George went first, hitting the ball down the outfield warning track, then handing the club to Teddy for the second shot.

With the other presidents concentrating on golf, George seized the opportunity to bolt for the finish line, and won the race uncontested.

The Nationals’ victory today over the Phillies was not quite as easy but even more sweet. Ryan Zimmerman’s late-inning RBI double enabled the team to head to New York with a first victory under the belt.

After disastrous starts the previous two Aprils, the embarrassing outpouring of Phillies fans for Monday’s opener, and poor pitching performances in the first two games, the Nats had a major PR problem brewing; but victory cures all ills. As they hit the road, the Nats are just a game under .500, and Teddy is just one win behind the presidents race lead.

Video by YouTube member lfahome

Nationals release half-price coupon for Teddy fans for Thursday’s game vs. Phillies

The Washington Nationals have released a coupon code “for Teddy’s friends”: Order at Nationals.com using Coupon Code “TEDDY” and get half-price tickets in select seating sections for Thursday afternoon’s game as the Nats go for their first victory of the season vs. the Philadelphia Phillies.

The coupon is valid for online orders only, and gets you tickets for half price in the outfield corners ($18), the outfield mezzanine ($15), or the upper infield gallery ($9).

Thursday’s 4:35pm contest is the first of many this year that were scheduled on weekday afternoons in response to demand from fans.

Opening day disaster for the Nats and Teddy

Until the 4th inning, it was looking pretty good for both the Washington Nationals and Teddy Roosevelt on opening day at Nationals Park. Then the bottom fell out.

Pitcher John Lannan lost control in the top of the 4th, gave up the lead, and let the Phillies bat around the order.

Teddy too, looked good coming out of the gate following an exciting new scoreboard introduction in the middle of the 4th. He took a close lead around the final turn, but appeared to pull up lame after high-fiving a fan in the stands. As the other presidents and members of the Nat Pack tried to help Teddy up, Abe Lincoln raced from behind to claim the first presidents race victory of 2010.

With that, the spring hopes of many Washington Nationals fans were muted considerably. Hopes had been running high for signs of both a Nationals team turnaround and an end to Teddy’s losing streak, but the Nats’ pitching could not deliver, and Teddy’s status for Wednesday’s race is now uncertain.

Fans of the presidents race had been hoping that president Barack Obama would perhaps make a presidents race appearance of his own.

Our 44th president was on hand to throw out the first pitch, continuing a long-standing tradition of presidential first pitches in Washington.

Obama, a devout fan of the Chicago White Sox, took the field at the end of an elaborate 30-minute opening ceremony.

President Obama First Pitch Nationals ParkHe approached the pitchers mound wearing a Nationals warm-up jacket, but pulled a White Sox cap out of his pocket and donned it before tossing the ceremonial pitch to Ryan Zimmerman. Much to the dismay of many Nats fans, the First Fan made it clear where his allegiances lie.

Obama left before the 4th inning, and failed to see either the game or the presidents race.

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Some cheers and a few jeers for the new food options at Nationals Park

When the Washington Nationals brought in the Levy Restaurant group to replace Centerplate a year ago, expectations were high for a major improvement in concession variety and service.

Perhaps they needed a year to get their bearings, because Levy has followed the incremental changes of 2009 with a number of very large wholesale changes for the 2010 season that begins today at Nationals Park.

THE GOOD

Nationals Park Red Porch RestaurantRed Porch Expansion. Rows of seats were removed to create more in-stadium dining tables for the centerfield Red Porch restaurant, and the menu was expanded to include new items like a Southwestern Steak Salad that’s big enough for two. You can reserve one of these tables in centerfield for one hour of any game during the season by calling 202.640.7947. [2011 UPDATE: The Red Porch no longer takes reservations.]

Flippin PizzaNo more Papa Johns. Since RFK days, Nats fans — especially Nats fans with kids — have suffered with tiny, doughy, Papa John’s mini pizzas, while Club level ticketholders enjoyed the option of Flippin’ Pizza slices.

Thankfully, Papa Johns has been banished from Nationals Park, replaced by Flippin Pizza stands selling actual slices on every level of the Park (behind Sections 115, 214, and 311).

Nationals Victory Knot PretzelVictory Knot Pretzel. Only available in the Red Loft, this popular item imported from other stadiums where Levy runs concessions is a 2 pound pretzel in a pizza box with three sauces for dipping — a sweet cinnamon creme, a spicy chipotle honey mustard, and savory beer cheese. You definitely want to share this item.

Healthy Cart. Give the Nats high marks for listening and trying. Fans on restricted diets, or who just want to eat healthy — even at a ball park — will find gluten free items, chopped vegetable salads, low fat wraps, and yogurt parfaits at this cart which moved to a better spot on the very busy main concourse behind the 3rd base stands. Alas, on Saturday afternoon, when the lines were 15 minutes deep at every concession stand from hot dogs to beer, the Healthy Cart was the only visible vendor in the Park with no waiting.

THE BAD

Ridiculous waits. You really want to cut these people some slack since it’s the beginning of the season, but 2 years of experience tells us not to chalk this up to “working the bugs out.” As in previous years, we saw people reach the front of the line and still have to wait 5 minutes for simple food orders while a more-than-capacity staff stood around waiting for the next guy to fill the order.

Hard Times Cafe at Nationals ParkReally, people. The limited menu at your food stand is designed to keep things efficient and fast. So why do I wait several minutes for a hot dog after I’ve reached the front of the line? A notable exception continues to be the Hard Times Cafe concession, where every employee seems to understand why they are there, and the line always flies.

Signage.The menu signage continues to prioritize adherence to corporate design standards over actual usefulness. The reimagined Taste of the Majors stand is a case in point. Gone are the wonderful garlic fries and other goodies from major league parks. Now pretty much all they sell is foot-long hot dogs. The menu, unfortunately, lists “DC Dog,” “Phillies Dog,” “Braves Dog,” “Mets Dog”… You can wait in line for 15 minutes to get to the front before finding out what the difference is between these various foot longs. By the 4th inning of the exhibition game, the staff had already given up on explaining the menu, and was just asking people when they got to the front what they wanted on their hot dogs.

Bottomless popcorn. A new gimmick this year is the Bottomless Popcorn available at any Nats Dog stand. For $5.75, you can get a huge bucket of popcorn — enough to make anybody sick. For $7.00, you can get the “Bottomless Popcorn,” which comes with free refills throughout the game. The catch? You can keep coming back for refills, but the Bottomless bucket is about 1/3 the size of the regular-sized bucket. Is this a smart way to please your customers and keep lines short? Adding insult to injury: my sister just asked for the smallest size popcorn, and was sold the bottomless variety.

Nationals Park Chicken & Waffle sandwichThe Chicken and Waffle Sandwich. OK, I’ll admit I haven’t tried it, but I really am scared of this thing. Available at the new Change Up Chicken stand behind Section 130 on the main concourse, it features fried chicken on top of waffles, covered in syrup. Defibrillator not included.

Running out of food. When you charge $11 for a sandwich or $9 for a hot dog, I assume your margins are high enough to account for a little waste, so it’s really frustrating when you run out of food in the 5th inning. The Dupont Deli behind section 227 used to have some very nice salads, but notoriously was supplied with only 4 or 5 of them to last the whole game. This year, the salads have been replaced with hot panini sandwiches — grilled cheese, italian, or turkey. They were out of grilled cheese before Saturday’s game even started.

Nats lose. Teddy disqualified. Good thing this was an exhibition.

A huge crowd filled Nationals Park for this afternoon’s game between the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox. The year’s only exhibition game in DC was meant to be a final warm-up for the season that starts Monday. Nats fans were simply grateful that this one didn’t count.

With Craig Stammen spotting Boston an early lead, and Tim Wakefield shutting down the Nats on the field, the faithful looked to the 4th-inning presidents race for signs that 2010 would be different.

Instead, what transpired suggested that the conspiracy that continues to deny Teddy Roosevelt his first presidents race victory is alive and well.

Teddy had raced out to an early lead over the other presidents when That Cat, who has foiled Teddy numerous times in the past, appeared from the centerfield fence. Chasing down the presidents, the Cat tackled Abe, Tom, and George in succession, but ran into a stiff-arm from Teddy Roosevelt.

Teddy held off That Cat, pushing him to the ground just before crossing the finish line, but Screech stepped in and immediately disqualified Teddy for “unnecessary roughness.” For the first time ever, That Cat was declared the presidents race winner.

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Parking Options at Nationals Park

The Washington Nationals have made some changes to the stadium parking options available at Nationals Park, and for those planning to drive to today’s exhibition game or to Monday’s home opener, it would be wise to take note and to leave a little extra time to get to the stadium.

The free Nats Express parking and shuttle service from RFK Stadium is no longer available, but the team has replaced it with some more convenient and quite inexpensive parking options. These include $5 parking in Lot HH on South Capitol Street under the SE/SW Freeway, and $10 parking in Lot W on M Street SE between 6th and 7th Streets SE.

Washington Nationals - Nationals Park Stadium Parking Map

Last season the private Marc Parc lot on 1st and M St. SW started charging $10 on game days, providing robust competition for the Nats’ official parking, but Marc Parc is raising the rate to $15 this season. The Nat’s new $10 Lot W will be a convenient alternative, and a nice walk down M Street to Nationals Park; however, we predict that the new $5.00 Lot HH will become the most popular, not only because it’s the cheapest Nationals parking option, but because there are plenty of spaces, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll realize that’s it makes for a very easy in-and-out, and the neighborhood walk is nothing to worry about.

We liked Lot HH when it was $15 back in 2008, and were even happier with it when the price dropped to $10 last season. Now, at $5 per game, we just hope it doesn’t fill to capacity before we get there. The location is on South Capitol Street underneath the I-395 ramps — not easy to find if you’re not looking for it, but if you’re heading to the game from Northwest DC or Northern Virginia, it’s very easy to get to from I 395 North. UPDATE: The price increased back to $10 in 2012.

To get to Lot HH from the I-395 N SE/SW Freeway, just take the C STREET SW Exit, follow the ramp up and to the left, and at the end of the ramp, turn right onto Washington Avenue SW. In two blocks Washington Avenue merges onto South Capitol Street. The lot is on the right, after the police lot, just under the highway overpass.

Be sure to leave plenty of time to get to the games. With the National Cherry Blossom Festival filling Metro cars to capacity and causing traffic jams around the Tidal Basin, and President Obama throwing out the first pitch on Monday, expect the bridges to be a mess and the lines at the gate to be long.

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