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

In Praise of the Ben’s Chili Bowl Half-Smoke

I must admit that I was among those uninformed who just didn’t get it.

Don’t get me wrong. When it was first announced that the new Nationals Park would feature Ben’s Chili Bowl among the restaurant concessions, I was pleased. I’d always wanted to pay a visit to the legendary Ben’s, but despite best intentions, had yet to do so.

The crowd in front of Ben’s Chili Bowl at Nationals Park on opening night.

Plus, I figured anything we could call our own and help make Nationals Park a uniquely DC experience was a good thing.

Then I got my first glimpse of the famous Ben’s half smoke chili dog on opening night, along with the horrific lines at the the Ben’s Chili Bowl stand behind the 3rd base line, and thought this doesn’t look that special, and certainly can’t be worth the wait.

Well, let the record state that I am now officially a convert. I took a group of people
from my office to Nationals Park on a chilly May evening, and from our perch that night in section 418, I indulged in my first Ben’s Chili Bowl half smoke (all the way, of course). Perhaps it was the altitude in the upper right field gallery, but I felt a little closer to heaven.

A Ben’s Chili Bowl half smoke “all the way” (with chili, cheese, onions, and mustard) has been a staple of each subsequent visit to Nationals Park.

A word to the wise: If you’re heading the the park an want to indulge yourself, don’t be intimidated by the long lines at the Ben’s Chili Bowl stand. You can get yourself an authentic Ben’s half smoke at ANY “Nats Dogs” stand or cart throughout the stadium.

Extra napkins recommended.

Photos by flickr users Scott Ableman and stvmasters

Five Things That Need Work at Nationals Park

Last week I wrote about 5 things I love about the new Nationals Park. Truth be told, I could have gone on to list dozens more items, from food to views to little design details, but most of these things have been well documented by the press.

Perhaps the best compliment I could give to Nationals Park is that my list of points for improvement is so short, especially when I confine the list to things that the Lerners have control over changing.

#5: Game info on the scoreboard.We know the scoreboard operators will do a better job at keeping up now that they are used to their new toy. That’s not my complaint. The problem is that despite the vastly increased scoreboard real estate, in some cases we don’t seem to have as much info as we had at RFK. Specifically, information about a batter’s previous at bats doesn’t have a permanent spot on the scoreboard and doesn’t stay on the screen long enough. In addition, the pitcher’s pitch count shown does not distinguish balls from strikes — a great bit of info we had on 2 screens at RFK Stadium. If this info appears anywhere, I missed it.

#4: A Sign to Ease the Congestion, Please. The great new food options along the 3rd base line have created a terrible traffic jam in the first couple of games at Nationals Park. The lines have been so bad for Ben’s Chili Bowl that the entire concourse
is reduced to gridlock. Savvy fans have already figured out that this isn’t necessary, so how about educating the rest of the crowd? Put up a big sign with arrows above Ben’s that says “Ben’s Chili Bowl Half Smokes are available at all hot dog stands.”

Nationals Park Fan Photos#3: Update the “Fan Photo” options. The new “Fan Photo” photographers roaming the park are a fun addition that I hope generates some big revenue for the team (look for the photographers in the green shirts). Unfortunately, if they take a photo you like, there is a surprising paucity of nice framing options commemorating the inaugural game or inaugural season. Instead, the outdated offerings include a $150 option framed with dirt from RFK stadium, and a $34 acrylic-enclosed Nationals History that starts “The Washington Nationals have played only two full seasons through 2006…” C’mon Stan. I’d love to throw you more of my fan money, but…

#2: 41,888 Cupholders please. Much was made in the press about how Nationals Park would have 41,888 seats and 41,888 cupholders. Unfortunately, Nationals Park does not deliver on the latter. There were reports of many seats without cupholders. The main culprits are the angled rows where the number of seats is reduced as you get closer to the field, such as in section 110 along the 3rd base line. It seems to me that the team could come up with a solution, such as installing two cupholders on the back of a single seat.

#1: Explain the rules to Teddy! If Teddy is every going to have a chance to win the presidents race at Nationals Park, he can’t be kept in the dark. Last week’s opening night debacle, in which Teddy ran straight into center field rather than around the warning track with the other presidents, suggests to me that somebody on the inside is trying to mislead our 26th president. This is unfair! Teddy Roosevelt is among the smartest and most physically fit presidents in U.S. history. Give him a level playing field and Teddy will win!

Photos from flickr users randomduck, tbridge, Scott Ableman, and afagen

What’s the Strangest Thing You Saw on Opening Day at Nationals Park?

Nationals Park Opening Day photo by Scott AblemanMy son and I had a lot of fun meeting people on opening day at Nationals Park. Even without Ryan Zimmerman’s fairytale-like heroics, it would have been a remarkable night to remember.

It was also a night for spotting local celebrities and a variety of oddities you don’t usually find at a ball game.

For example, it’s not every day you head to the concession stands at a major league ball park and pass by a man with a high-definition broadcast digital camera on a heavy-duty tripod taking photographs of a chili dog. Yet there he was. Obviously one of the big stories for locals was the presence of Ben’s Chili Bowl on the concourse behind the 3rd base line.

On Tony Kornheiser’s local radio show
this morning, Mr. Tony fixated for some time
Don Sutton in a Tuxedo?on the site of Don Sutton wearing a tuxedo. Sutton came down from the broadcast booth to act as “master of ceremonies” for the player introductions. I have nothing but respect for Sutton, the hall-of-fame Dodger pitcher and current Nationals broadcaster; but I have to agree with Mr. Tony. Sutton looked like a waiter from Morton’s in that getup.

What’s the strangest thing you saw on opening day at Nationals Park?

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