Which wiener was the winner? The crusty-rolled spin on the South Philly pork sandwich? The old-school dog topped with pepper hash and pickle? Or the dog topped with cucumbers, onion salsa, and ancho mayo?
First, let me tell you why you're not going to eat a scrapple or potato-hash dog at a Phillies game this season.
At lunchtime Feb. 9, a snowstorm approaching, a dozen Aramark chefs and executives gathered in a conference room at Citizens Bank Park to brainstorm for a hot dog taste-testing three weeks later.
"We need something that 40,000 fans can relate to," said Brian Helmuth, the concessions manager.
Something tasty and fast to assemble.
How about equipment? asked David Lippman, director of concessions. Whatever variety was chosen would need to be cooked properly, in quantity.
What kind of hot dog? asked Glenn Richmond, the senior executive chef. His tablemates launched a barrage of numbers - including which dog to sell. Amarak sells seven different dogs and sausages, from the "kid's Phanatic" dog (known as a 10-1, or 10 to a pound) up to a one-third-pound Italian sausage (a so-called 3-1).
They'd go all-beef, provided by Hatfield, the supplier at the ballpark.
Next came ideas for toppings.
Anthony Campagna, the suite catering chef, favored a dog with Amish-style, house-made relish and bacon.
Rich Freedman, the Diamond Club chef, liked the idea of incorporating beer and bacon in some way. "How about our own bacon?" he tossed out.
"Are you offering to do it?" Chrissy Flanigan, the general manager, asked to giggles.
The ideas flew: a "dirty water" (or boiled) dog; various pickles; ancho or chipotle mayo; onion and beef hash; jalapeño salsa; grilling a dog on a flat-top that could be spritzed with beer infused with caraway (Freedman's idea); a signature Amish-style relish; a signature beer mustard; a Buffalo dog with blue cheese and celery.
A dog topped with mac and cheese.
No one blinked when Richard McFate, the warehouse director, mentioned scrapple and serving the creation on a pretzel roll.
Lippman recalled a dog layered with brisket and coleslaw served at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. "We'd be stupid not to try something with [Cheez] Whiz and steak," he said.
Helmuth wanted something spicy, perhaps jalapeño Cheddar, and bacon.
Concessions manager Grant Farmer's request was specific: a 6-1 with smoked Cheddar, bacon, and jalapeño on a potato roll.
Flanigan liked the idea of a dog tucked inside a regulation Italian hoagie.
Popular was roast pork, bacon, or porchetta. "Pork=party," wrote Dan Smith, an Aramark communications manager who was documenting the brainstorming session.
Edward K. Lake, Aramark's Northeast regional executive chef, laid out his idea: a dog - caramelized by the grill - on a steak roll with docked (cut) ends, topped with long hots, broccoli rabe, peppers, and provolone. "We can bring something in South Philly, but it's not going to work unless it's really South Philly," he said.
At lunchtime March 3, one of Aramark's enormous kitchens at the ballpark smelled like a ball game - minus the beer. Richmond and Freedman, with chef Tariq Lewis, tended a flat-top griddle set up over canned heat that teemed with split, sizzling 6-1s and 5-1s. Potato rolls, steak rolls, and even rolls resembling a soft pretzel sat at the side next to bins of toppings.
Tasters sat at a round table beside bottles of water. One by one, Richmond and Freedman sent out:
A "cheesesteak" dog, in which the meat was chopped into bits and slathered with Whiz.
A pepper-hash dog.
A beer kraut and beer-mustard dog.
A dog on a steak roll with long hots, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone.
An Italian hoagie dog.
A dog topped with bacon as well as bacon-studded potato hash.
A dog topped with steak, American cheese sauce, and onion.
A dog topped with bacon, cheddar, and jalapeño.
A BLT dog with ancho mayo.
Though each taster sampled just a bite, they soon groaned under the choices.
The comment sheets filled. "I want my cheesesteak as a cheesesteak. I don't need a hot dog on top of it," one taster said about the dog topped with steak.
"Great presentation," someone wrote about the beer kraut and beer mustard dog.
"Interesting," someone wrote about the Italian hoagie, "but again [you] lose the hot dog."
The chefs agreed to refine them.
Tasting, round two, was a week later. Six dogs. This time, Freedman and Richmond added a "summer dog" - reminiscent of a classic, vegetable-topped Chicago Red Hot that's been, in Midwest parlance, "dragged through the garden." It had sliced jalapeño, pickled red onion, cucumber, diced tomato, and ancho mayo on a potato roll.
A dog with pepper hash, housemade beer mustard, yellow mustard, and Claussen pickle cut in eighths on a poppy roll.
A BLT dog, with applewood smoked bacon, iceberg lettuce, diced tomato, and ancho mayo on a potato roll.
A beer kraut and beer mustard dog - its beer kraut made of bacon, carrot, onion, beer, and pepper and cooked in Yuengling lager, served on both pretzel and potato rolls.
A broccoli rabe and long-hot dog, topped with Italian roast pork and sharp and mild provolone, on both a seeded and unseeded steak roll.
A potato-hash dog with bacon, sauteed onion, and ancho mayo on potato roll.
One by one, the comments rolled in, and dogs were voted off the table.
The potato hash, a bacon-lover's delight, was nixed because, as one taster opined, "It tastes more like breakfast." The BLT drew fears that it could be messy and slow to assemble. The beer kraut and beer mustard just wasn't a wow, though the pretzel roll was intriguing.
Chefs tweaked the three finalists before public voting began on March 15.
The broccoli rabe and long-hot dog was dubbed the "South Philly."
The pepper hash dog, minus the beer mustard, was branded the "Olde Philadelphia."
The "Citizens Bank Park Summer Hot Dog" was the trade name of the summer dog. The tomato was dropped, and the sandwich was offered on a pretzel roll as a change of pace.
After 6,455 votes online and in person, the winner is the South Philly. It drew 46 percent of the vote, compared with 32 percent for the Summer Hot Dog and 22 percent for the Olde Philadelphia.
The South Philly ($5.75 - a $2 premium over the unadorned version of the dog) will join the roster starting with the home opener Monday at the Hatfield stand behind Section 125 in the concourse.
Contact staff writer Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or email@example.com.