Yesterday’s culinary compendium included copious coverage of ballpark food and regional cuisine, focusing on trips I made to Arizona, California, Ohio and Indiana.
The journey continues today, with a heavy emphasis on what may have been my favorite road trip of 2011: the Carolinas. It all started at Joseph P. Riley ballpark, the home of the Charleston RiverDogs. This is a team that has provided me with plenty of food-based news items through the years (Homewreckers! Pickle Dogs! Pig On A Stick!), and I was excited to finally make my first visit.
The team was ready for me.
Not the best photo, I know, but hopefully indicative of the RiverDogs’ bountiful array of creative food options. Oh, and a Philly Cheesesteak Brat eventually made an appearance.
Here’s a better view of the top-loaded “Kitchen Sink Nachos,” which are served in a pizza box.
But I focused my efforts primarily on the Pickle Dog, making sure to grip the pickle firmly from the rear so that the hot dog would not slip out.
The next day I drove to Myrtle Beach (home of both the Pelicans and the Mermen), and en route I stopped for lunch at “Hog Heaven BBQ.” Apparently, what passes for heaven in the mind of a pig is an afterlife of eternal cannibalization.
Dismayed and confused by this concept, I instead opted for some crab.
I was admonished by various quarters for ordering seafood at a BBQ joint, and I understand those criticisms. But here in NYC a platter such as the above is (relatively) hard to come by, and I have no regrets. None!
I stayed with the seafood theme at that night’s Pelicans game, ordering up some fried clams.
The following afternoon, en route to Kinston, I went to a BBQ joint and actually ordered some BBQ. Bart’s was the name.
At Grainger Stadium that evening, I followed the recommendation of GM Ben Jones and ordered a Philly Cheese Steak, North Carolina style. “Magnifique!” is what I imagine a French fan of Carolina League baseball would say upon biting into the following:
Are there any French fans of Minor League Baseball out there? What a rare subset of fans that must be.
Much less rare is the sight of a Bojangles fried chicken joint in the state of North Carolina. As I was making my way from Kinston to Durham, I patronized the following establishment.
Being a man of perpetual movement, at that night’s Durham Bulls game I ordered a Doritos-brand “Walking Taco.”
That’s nacho typical taco, but it provided all the sustenance I needed until the following morning’s stop at Biscuitville.
Less than two hours later, I patronized another regional fast food chain: Cookout. I’ve since heard from many Cookout aficionados, all of whom insisted that milkshakes should be purchased. Duly noted, but this time around I ended up with a Cheerwine float.
One of the highlights of the following day’s travels was lunch at Zack’s Hot Dogs, a Burlington, N.C. institution.
Since I’m always a proponent of a balanced and healthy diet, the hot dog lunch was followed by a bologna burger at that evening’s Danville Braves game.
The last stop on the Carolina excursion was Winston-Salem. A pre-game meal was obtained a Bibb’s BBQ, located a proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from BB&T Ballpark (domicile of the Dash). And what a meal it was:
That’s about all she wrote from the Carolinas; but fortunately I was able to squeeze one more trip into the 2011 campaign: Maryland, home of the crab pretzel!
More specifically, the home of the cheese and crustacean-laden snack seen above was Aberdeen’s Ripken Stadium. But perhaps an even more anomalous ballpark treat is that which can be found at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium: pickled beet eggs!
The Hagerstown Suns experienced some drama this past season, when a light pole fell onto the field during a storm. This is where the light pole used to stand…or is it? Maybe this mark was made by a huge pickled egg!
Or maybe a huge Krumpe’s donut used to lie on that spot! After the game I went to nearby Krumpe’s Do-Nuts (open 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.) and picked up a few.
My trip, as well as my season of traveling, ended the next day in Delmarva. Needless to say, I did not leave Arthur W. Perdue Stadium on an empty stomach.
That was dinner, consisting of a “Chessie Dog” (half-pound frank with cheese, onions, peppers), Crab Dip (with three bread dipping sticks), and a Scrapple sandwich. But there’s always room for dessert, especially when it’s as appealing as the concoction known as “Sherman’s Gelati.”
And that, as they say, was that. I hope you enjoyed, or at least tolerated, this trip down recent memory lane. It provided me yet another opportunity to revive a season which is in actuality dead as the proverbial doornail, and for that I am grateful.
As part of my desire to milk my road trip content to the largest extent possible, I have been periodically posting odds and sods from my recent journey to the Carolinas. Part One featured crabs and a Civil War landmark, while Part Two highlighted regional fast food and North Carolina baseball history.
And that leads us to — what else? — part 3. This chapter starts with Day 5 of the trip, which started in Durham and ended in nearby Burlington. Let’s repeat that, this time in bold:
Day 5 — Durham to Burlington
I attended an eventful game on Saturday evening at palatial Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), and followed that up the next morning by dropping in on the team’s former home. That would be the similarly-named but drastically different Durham Athletic Park (The DAP), which housed various incarnations of the club from 1926-94.
The ballpark is world-famous as a result of having been featured prominently in the classic film Bull Durham, but fell into disuse after the Bulls re-located to the DBAP. Minor League Baseball, in partnership with the city of Durham, have since renovated the facility and it is now used as a training center for all manner of baseball jobs (more on that HERE).
The DAP also serves as the home field for a variety of youth and recreational leagues (including the excellent Durham Long Ball Program), and on the morning I stopped by I was expecting to tour the facility while one of these games was going on. But, as I later found out, all of the day’s activities had been canceled due to the heat.
Therefore, I was left to wander the perimeter of the stadium by my lonesome. Truly, there wasn’t a soul in sight.
The area surrounding the stadium had a somnambulant vibe as well, fitting for such a soporific Sunday morning.
But at least there were some unexpected patches of city-owned greenery.
Durham to Burlington (home of the Appalachian League Royals) is only about 35 miles, resulting in one of the lightest travel days of the trip. I took my time on this particular journey, first stopping for a late breakfast at reader recommended fast food chain Biscuitville.
The ambiance was a bit lacking, but I was able to obtain a country-fried steak biscuit, grits, and a sweet tea for the eminently reasonable price of $3.94. I really wish I had this in front of me right now:
Upon leaving Biscuitville, I decided to locate some of this “Cheerwine” soda that had been so enthusiastically recommended to me by this blog’s contingent of North Carolina-based readers. I stopped at three convenience stores along the way and while none stocked Cheerwine I did nonetheless obtain some regional snacks.
For instance, I learned that Tom’s Potato Chips offers separate “Vinegar and Salt” and “Salt and Vinegar” flavor combinations.
But the above items were downright healthy compared to this devastating 1-2: Fatback and Fried Pork Skins from Carolina Country Snacks. Even though fatback is hard, unhealthy, and tough to eat I really like the stuff. I ate the whole bag that evening, yet another shameful solitary moment in a lifetime full of them.
And while not specifically a southern treat, nothing washes it all down better than a Mello Yello (in the absence of the still-elusive Cheerwine, of course).
I think the main reason I keep buying this stuff is because I’m in love with the logo, which implies that the double-Ls in both words carry on past the label and into infinity.
I was soon distracted in my Cheerwine search by a series of billboards for a so-called “shopper’s heaven” by the name of J.R’s. The first billboard I saw advertised the store as the “USA’s Largest Cigarette Dealer,” but it only got more interesting from there. “Everything From Brassieres to Chandeliers!” was my personal favorite billboard, with “Awesome!” being a close second. It was duty to make a pit stop.
Shopper’s heaven included cigarettes, dolls, books…
And, of course, Sarah Palin toilet paper.
I was very proud of my personal J.R. haul, which probably sums up me as a person more than I’d care to admit.
Pretty self-explanatory, I think, except for the fact that those “Mr. B’s” peanuts are deep-fried and meant to be eaten shell and all! As a regional snack food aficionado I was very happy to have found them, but it’s an idea that is better in theory than in practice.
The next stop on my detour-laden journey was Cookout, yet another reader-recommended regional fast food joint. The place turned out to be a “Double Drive-Thru,” with no indoor seating.
I ordered a “slaw dog” and — yes! — a Cheerwine float.
My first Cheerwine experience, albeit one compromised by vanilla ice cream. I still don’t know how to describe Cheerwine — it’s like a milder-tasting Cherry Coke with a hint of Dr. Pepper, but with a sparkling effervescence all its own.
Thank You God For America!
Cheerwine appeared in my post on that evening’s Burlington Royals game, a dispatch which also included this image of the team’s men’s room:
However, I have since been informed, by reader Matt Campbell, that the Thome nameplate has gone missing! Observe:
If anyone has any info on what happened to the Thome nameplate, then please get in touch!
But in happier news, it is worth noting that the Burlington women’s bathroom is decorated in similarly appealing fashion. Reader Rebecca Campbell (yes, Matt’s wife) was kind enough to send along these images of a land in which I had not dared to tread:
Could all of this lead to an extensive series of “Bathrooms of the Appalachian League” blog posts? I can only hope! If anyone can assist with this endeavor, then you know where to find me — alone and in front of a computer:
Talk about a change of pace.
I spent Saturday evening within the High Definition confines of Durham Bulls Athletic Park, but an hour’s drive northwest the following day brought me here.
Welcome to Burlington Athletic Park, located in Burlington, NC and home of the Appalachian League’s Burlington Royals. (makes sense, right?) This is not to be confused with Burlington, IA’s Community Field, the home of the Midwest League’s Burlington Bees (both are no-frills baseball destinations, hence my recycling of a post title).
I had a chance to explore downtown Burlington the following afternoon (more on that in an upcoming post), but suffice to say that this stadium is NOT located in a downtown location.
But any deficiencies in the overall ambiance are made up for by the stadium’s affordability and intimacy.
This is the sort of place where 1000 people constitutes a good crowd, and on a rainy Sunday evening that number is bound to be far less.
Strong winds and an overcast sky created a foreboding atmosphere, and the game was delayed approximately half an hour as everyone waited for a thunderstorm that (mercifully) never quite materialized.
Seeking refuge in the visitor’s clubhouse:
Some fans passed the time at the bar located down the third base line, including “Casual Fan” Tug Haines (in black) and Biz Blog reader/heckler/logo aficionado/Durham Bulls season ticket holder Scott Jennings (in blue). Tug’s spending the season traveling from ballpark to ballpark, and this was the second time this season we’ve crossed paths. Scott forwent the Bulls game and instead made the trek to Burlington because Tug and I were both there — a rare confluence of Minor League Baseball travelers.
The players, meanwhile, amused themselves with impromptu juggling and baseball hacky sack routines….
as well as by socializing in front of the home clubhouse.
This is the home clubhouse — a standalone building constructed in 1993 (the previous home clubhouse now hosts the visitors, and the previous visitors clubhouse is now used by the umpires). The marble columns give it an aura of Gilded Age opulence.
Once the tarp was removed, it became time to ascend (what I assume is) the steepest ramp in all of Minor League Baseball and find a seat.
My first vantage point was the bleacher seating behind the plate.
I sat there in order to best observe the choreographed chants of a loose affiliation of Burlington Boosters/opposing team hecklers (of which Jennings was a member).
I went into detail about the various routines in my MiLB.com piece, which includes a bounty of facts and observations from my two-day Appy League sojourn. I’d like to reiterate, however, that THIS was the funniest routine (great work by the aforementioned Tug Haines in getting it on video).
As entertaining as this heckling conglomerate was, I soon departed in order to do what I seem to do best: wandering.
The B-Royals All-Time Team has some pretty big names:
The biggest of which are also immortalized in urinal form:
But if you’re a blogger such as myself, urinal lot of trouble if you don’t provide in-game pictures from multiple vantage points. So here you go:
Concession options were quite limited (hot dogs, pizza, pretzels, popcorn, etc). I went for the nachos, but that’s not the reason I’m posting this picture.
That sparkling carbonated beverage on the right is Cheerwine, a cultishly-adored cherry-flavored soda that is proudly brewed and bottled in North Carolina. I’ll have more on that particular beverage in future posts.
It was a pretty slow evening for the B-Royals, not surprising given that it was a rainy Sunday night. Business at the team store was minimal…
But a mini-stampede did form at the concession stand in the eighth inning, after a slew of $1 specials was announced over the PA.
But while the meteorological conditions were detrimental to business, it turned out to be a good evening for the B-Royals. Justin Trapp’s one-out single in the ninth inning scored Derek Hamblen, giving the home team a 4-3 walk-off win over the E-Twins.
The post-game “Run the Bases” was really funny, consisting as it did of assistant general manager Ben Abzug and a whopping two kids. My pictures didn’t come out, but here’s the aftermath.
After the game I climbed up a ladder and onto the roof, in order to check out the view from the press box.
After the visiting Elizabethton Twins cleared out of the park, announcer Nick DeSanctis gave Tug and I a tour of the stadium’s insides.
To quote the title of my favorite AC/DC song – – “It’s A Long Way to the Top If You Want to Rock N Roll.”
These less-than luxurious pictures are simply the reality of playing Rookie ball in a 50-year-old city-owned facility. All the Appy League players that I spoke with seemed to possess a “happy to be here” mentality, and I imagine they’ll look back on these days with a certain fondness — still in (or barely out of) their teens, away from home, and playing baseball for a living.
The home locker room is pretty swanky, at least by comparison.
Tug got a candid shot of me eying the post-game spread (hamburger steak, potatoes, macaroni and cheese).
Note the sign in the background: DO NOT ASSAULT UMPIRES. Good to know!
Hanging off the exercise bike was this “Princess Dreams” backpack.
The backpack is filled with essential items (gum, seeds, etc) prior to each game, and carried out to the bullpen by the last relief pitcher to have allowed a home run.
As of this photo, Tyler Graham had been the last pitcher to surrender a homer — a 380-foot shot against the Danville Braves.
And that was all she wrote for this particular evening — nothing left to to do but go back to the hotel and get a good night’s sleep. My room was pretty nice, but it couldn’t compare to this: