by Holly Brown
The month of June has meant nothing more than sports for the entirety of Northeast Ohio. In one of those beautifully timed, yet completely unintentional coincidences, this June marked my first written endeavor into that beautiful place where food and sports culture meet. It is in this realm, particularly under the eaves of baseball, that the quintessential American culinary tradition is simultaneously honored and taken to its limits.
T minus 3 hours to first pitch, I am running down the sidewalks of East Exchange, ticket vouchers in hand, and hand in rain jacket sleeve to prevent any dampening of said vouchers. I don’t bother to avoid puddles because they’re everywhere and unavoidable. I am sad, but I am hopeful. If there is one thing I have learned about rain in Northeast Ohio, it’s that it takes off just as aggressively as it shows up.
With the world still looking considerably damp, Ryan and I head toward Canal Park, still pulling for things to dry. By the time we reach downtown, I throw caution to the wind and my raincoat in the trunk. I’m doing this with the rain’s supported absence or not. I march indignantly to the box office. When I flash my vouchers, the very nice holder of tickets asks,
“Do you want any seats in particular?”
Ryan and I instantly looked at each other, not exactly sure what kind of seats to ask for, having never been inside Canal Park. We both shrug and mumble.
“Best available then?” Nice holder of tickets asks.
“Yeah” I say, relieved that he stepped in.
“Great. These are first row, right behind home plate.”
It is at this moment that I realize I could get used to the perks of journalism. Instantly, thinking about this article makes me hungry and hot damn I am in luck because I am here to eat as much as to watch baseball. We head to The Game (the restaurant, not the game itself though that is also impending) for some much needed pre-cheering-and-beer sustenance.
The Game is perfectly placed, as close to the confines of Canal Park as one can be without physically being inside. To my utmost delight, the rain retreated, leaving nothing but it’s smell to mingle with the light pink evening sky. The perfect night to sit just off the porch with the sliding glass wall gone and a pristine view of the soon to be filled field. A band played just feet from our table. For the first time this year, I felt summer in my bones.
It is not often that I am able to look at a menu and know instantly exactly what food item I need to get. However, when I saw The Squealer I knew it was going to happen.
“You know you have to get that, right?” Ryan asked me, not directly referring to The Squealer itself though both of us knowing full well that The Squealer was exactly what he meant.
“I know,” I almost sighed. Reading the description of the thing was decadent enough. Was I truly up to The Squealer challenge?
Let us begin with the hot dog, it’s as American summer as watching a baseball game. Grill that bad boy up, throw it on a bun, top it with mustard, ketchup, relish and you’re good to go, yes?
Nope. The Squealer is a whole ‘nother beast, my friends. Take that hot dog, now imagine it half a pound, a foot long. Cut open that hot dog and stuff it with not only pulled pork but also cheddar cheese. The meat and cheese stuffed dog is then wrapped in bacon, deep fried, drizzled with barbeque sauce, and sprinkled with shredded cheddar.
I fancy myself a connoisseur of these kinds of beautifully gluttonous dishes, but this may take the prize of most monumental. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly intimated. I played it cool, ordering The Squealer with surety and continuing to sip on my beer.
When my Squealer arrived, I was ready for it. Fork and knife in hand, I cut into it, poised to indulge sporting event style and love it. Lord was I right. Cheesy and crunchy, with a tangy barbeque sauce interlude and that heart warming, belly lining delight that cannot come from anything other than that which is deep fried. The Squealer was what it promised: all of that in excess, a baseball fan’s dream. In one sitting, I could only take down half of the massive dog, however to be fair we also ordered mozzarella sticks.
Belly full of endless hot dog delicious, we waddled into the park, beers in hand to take our prime seats behind home plate. From this place, I could see particles of kicked up dust, hear bats crack, jeers and cries and yells of celebration and dismay. I could feel the force of fans behind me but before me was only field and sky and game. On this June night, I felt simultaneously part of the field and part of the crowd. This was one Akron experience that I had longed for, and though the Rubber Ducks lost, it will go down as one of my favorite nights in Akron.
Holly Brown’s first baseball game was at Fenway Park sometime around 1996. She was much more excited about the lemonade than anything else. You can follow her on Instagram @downtownholllybrown. Food pics for the win.
(Featured photo of Holly Brown by Ryan Whipple)