There are only a small handful of things that I have loved as long as I can remember. Hot dogs and baseball are two of them. I remember my first baseball game: Angels vs. Orioles, 1986, with my dad and brother. I do not remember my first hot dog. (The only dog from my early years that I remember well was a corn dog at the old May Co. where my tooth came out. I refused to eat another corn dog for years.)
So a couple years ago, when I first heard rumor of the Infield - a baseball-themed hot dog stand - coming to Sherman Oaks, I was excited. My friend Hatcher (my partner in my original extravagant food adventure, the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest) and I made plans to check it out on opening day. I picked him up and we headed over to Ventura Blvd only to find a homemade sign postponing the opening. We ate at Fatburger, which was good, but "not anything we really needed to make a special trip for," as he put it.
Then I mostly lived vicariously through other reviews of the Infield. The setup of the place certainly looked cool, but the food didn't look like anything special. The "Twinkie Dog" - a hot dog with fried Twinkies as buns, powdered sugar and Cheez Wiz - just seemed ridiculous. The enthusiasm of driving out to the Valley - one of my least favorite places on Earth - to eat at the Infield slowly faded away.
The other day Elizabeth and I found ourselves out that way, hungry for lunch. It was a hot summer day and the Angels game was on the radio and hot dogs sounded tasty. I suggested we try the Infield.
The patio of the hot dog stand is scattered with tables featuring pictures of MLB stadiums and several actual stadium seats, from places like Angel Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Obviously, the table with the Yankee Stadium picture made Elizabeth happy and she wanted to sit at that one. I refused.
There are more than 30 hot dogs on the menu. It took me a couple minutes to decide. Elizabeth wanted a chili cheese dog. I felt like something a little more complicated. I ordered a "West Virginian," with chili, mustard, onions and cole slaw, and a "Brooklyn Dodger," with Swiss cheese, spicy mustard and sauerkraut.
The wait was only a few minutes. The guy working behind the window was very friendly and gladly offered me a refill on my Diet Coke while I was waiting. All three of the dogs were good, but, as usual, Elizabeth made the best call: the chili cheese dog was my favorite. It was the only of the three dogs on which I felt the toppings were adequate. The chili was delicious. The West Virginian was very good, I really liked the cole slaw, but there was hardly any chili on it. The Brooklyn Dodger could have used more of all three toppings.
The fries were the exact fries you would expect at a place like this, but they were cooked long enough to be crispy, which makes them better than average.
Overall, I liked the Infield, but I doubt I will ever go there again. The price for two drinks, three dogs and one order of fries was eighteen bucks and change, which is a pretty nice deal for lunch for two. (The Slaw Dogs would almost certainly cost twice that much.) But, although I liked the quality of most of the toppings, there just weren't enough of them. The wieners themselves were average. The Infield is a cute novelty and if you're a baseball fan, you should definitely check it out. But if it's just quality hot dogs you're after, I can think of quite a few places you'd be better off going.