EVERETT — It doesn’t get much more classic than the combo of hot dogs and a ball game.
But the forward march of progress slows for no man, as they say, and fans at AquaSox home games this season have been treated to some of the most cutting-edge ballpark dogs around.
Frank’s on 3rd, the one-stop shop for concessions behind home plate at Funko Field, has been serving up Northwest-made Fletcher’s dogs since time immemorial. Delivered fresh off the grill in a pristine bun, they’re the perfect canvas for a bit of experimentation: load it up with classic ketchup and mustard swirls, layer on the sweet relish, or if you want to get really controversial, drizzle on some mayonnaise.
But Liz Cox, who heads the AquaSox catering team, saw untapped potential among the rows of dogs rolling out each game. Sure, the ballpark dog is a classic, but how could she make it into a once-in-a-lifetime experience?
Enter the Opponent Dogs ($9). Cox created a formidable lineup of limited-edition hot dogs inspired by five teams facing off against the AquaSox on their home turf in the 2023 season.
“I wanted the Opponent Dogs to be something different that fans would remember and look forward to throughout the season,” Cox said. “And judging by how it’s gone so far, people are loving a little something different each time they come.”
The promotion kicked off in April with the Sasquatch Bacon Dog — loaded with smoky baked beans and a thick slab of perfectly crispy bacon — while the Eugene Emeralds were in town. Cox said she aimed to capture the flavors of a summer cookout among the pines — all in one convenient, handheld package.
But like any good summer fling, it isn’t meant to last. The Opponent Dogs are only available while their namesake teams are in town, and once the dust clears on the diamond, they’re gone. Some fans have been devastated that they can’t get their hands on a poutine dog all season long, Cox said, but they have something to look forward to: The prized poutine dog will make a return during the Vancouver Canadians’ next home stand, and so will each of the other dogs.
After all the dogs have had their day, Cox isn’t ruling out a revival next season if their namesake teams return to Funko Field. Some fans are already clamoring for favorite Opponent Dogs to get permanent spots on the Frank’s menu, but Cox didn’t want to make any promises — there’s still a vast wealth of inspiration out there, waiting to be tapped.
Overwhelmed by the sheer variety of options? This food writer’s got your back with a ranking of each Opponent Dog so you can plan your next day at the ballpark accordingly. Not a baseball fan? Me either. But having tasted each of the Opponent Dogs, I can tell you the trip to Frank’s on 3rd is worth the price of admission.
But be warned: For many of these confections, you’re gonna want a fork and knife.
5. Eugene Emeralds Sasquatch Bacon Dog
The first of the Opponent Dogs to make its debut this season, this backyard barbecue-inspired creation is a celebration of the basics. Frank’s ladles baked beans over a thick, crispy slice of bacon, then tops the whole dog with a healthy helping of shredded cheddar.
Cox said she created this dog to highlight some classic components of a summer cookout, and it definitely hits those notes in a nostalgic, satisfying way. But I have a terrible secret to admit: I’m just not a fan of baked beans. When I spoke these words aloud, both Cox and Herald photographer Olivia Vanni were genuinely stunned.
But being the consummate professional that I am, I didn’t let that stop me from sampling the dog and appreciating the sum of its parts. The Sasquatch Bacon Dog took me back to camping trips of summers gone by, with its smoky notes from the bacon and the rich baked beans, and it felt like a complete, filling meal without going over the top. But when pitted against its fellow Opponent Dogs, I simply enjoyed other flavors more.
The Sasquatch Bacon Dog will next be available June 28 through July 3 as the Emeralds return to Everett for a home stand against the AquaSox.
4. Hillsboro Hops Cheesy Mac & Cheese Dog
This dog really came out of left field for me (pun intended). As a lifelong fan of all things macaroni and cheese, I was looking forward to this sample the most. I was shocked to realize it didn’t instantly top my list on that merit alone, but that isn’t a mark against this cheesy delicacy — the other dogs are just really, really good.
Topped with a generous helping of mac in a complex, faintly spicy white queso sauce, this dog instantly took me back to a favorite childhood dinner: hot dogs cut up into Kraft mac and cheese. But Cox’s creation uses Seattle favorite Beecher’s mac, making it a more grown-up, satisfying take on the nostalgic meal.
The real kicker, pushing this dog firmly into a whimsical territory that gives it a little more extravagance than your average ballpark dog, is the garnish of crushed Doritos chips. If you’re craving a little more kick, you can ask for Hot Cheetos atop your dog, too.
Thinking about all that gooey goodness got your stomach rumbling? You’re in luck, because the Hops are in town for a home stand that started Thursday and continues through the weekend.
3. Spokane Indians Jala-Cream Onion Dog
You know the Seattle dog, but Cox wanted to bring the West Side spirit to a dog honoring the AquaSox’s Eastern Washington rivals. The Spokane-inspired dog is nestled in a thick layer of cream cheese, then topped with tangy pickled jalapenos and not one, but two kinds of onion — crispy fried ones and their raw, deliciously pungent counterparts.
The combination of the cool, creamy cheese against the crispy and spicy onions and the pleasant burn of the peppers make this an instant classic in my book, and it’s been a favorite among fans, too, Cox said. It made the top of Olivia’s list handily, though not without some serious introspection.
It’s definitely the most easily handheld option on this list, with the only real obstacle being the jalapeno slices toppling off into your lap. And it’s the dog I can see myself returning to time and again when I’m craving something special but not wanting to dig into a full meal. But in the end, the Jala-Cream Onion Dog lost out to two rivals who won big on the novelty factor.
The dog will return along with the Spokane Indians for a six-night run starting August 1.
2. Vancouver Canadians Poutine Dog
This dog was the subject of much speculation and excitement before it ever hit stands, Cox said. When she was first brainstorming flavors to pay homage to the AquaSox’s northern neighbors, she took to Twitter to ask fans to guess what they’d see on a Canadian-inspired dog. There were the obvious answers — Canadian bacon being the first idea for many — and the obscure ones, with at least one fan guessing Cox would try to incorporate coffee and doughnuts as a tribute to Canadian cult favorite chain Tim Horton’s.
“I did consider doughnuts for a second, truthfully,” Cox said. “But that just seemed too over the top.”
The finished product is a little over the top in the best possible way. A handful of crispy french fries are piled atop the hot dog, then topped with Beecher’s white cheddar cheese curds. The whole thing is then doused in a surprisingly delicious brown gravy, making it a glorious mess you’ll definitely want to grab some extra napkins for.
This dog bears the authentic Canadian seal of approval, becoming a favorite of Vancouver players, Cox said. It’s also gained a cult following among AquaSox fans, because regardless of which side of the border you call home, who can resist the allure of cheese, fries and hot dogs?
The Poutine Dog will next hit Frank’s from June 6-11, but be warned: Cox said lines get especially long at the concession stand when this dog comes to town.
1. Tri-City Dust Devils Taquito Dog
I never saw this dark horse rising to the top of the pack, but one bite and I was hooked. You really can’t beat the crunch of the crispy, deep-fried taquito paired with the savory hot dog, and the fresh, spicy pico de gallo on top really steals the whole show. A drizzle of bright sour cream ties the whole thing together and makes you feel for a second like you’re digging into a beautifully plated, gourmet meal — before temptation kicks in and you devour it in short order, that is.
Cox said she was inspired by the hot, arid climate of the Dust Devils’ Central Washington home to bring in some Tex-Mex flavors to this dog. It’s been a surprise favorite among attendees, she said, because she fully expected the Poutine Dog to beat out all others in fans’ hearts.
But I can safely say — and I’m sure plenty of newly minted taquito converts would agree — this dog elevates two gas station mainstays to a delicious, hearty meal with perfectly balanced flavors and textures. I never thought I’d wax poetic over taquitos and hot dogs, but the Taquito Dog is just that good.
Catch the Dust Devils and their dogs between June 18 and 23. I’ll be thinking about it until then.