Like most baseball fans, I want my hot dog hot, my beverage cold, and my time in line short.
For the most part, that is what I found yesterday as I chewed and sipped my way through Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The food and service were good. I have the stop-watch times and the temperature data to prove it. Moreover, I have testimony from fellow eaters and drinkers.
When I got in line at a concession stand, I timed my wait with a stopwatch. When I got my food and drinks, I recorded their temperatures with a thermometer. Finally, when I bumped into somebody I knew, I asked him his or her opinion of the eats. I ate only at concession stands available to all ticket holders.
My shortest wait was 1 minute, 23 seconds for a grilled hot dog at the Eutaw Street courtyard stand across from the B&O warehouse. Applying the mustard at a nearby condiment squirting station added an extra 29 seconds. Still, the $2.75, oversize sausage was definitely the dog of the day. It was hot, registering close to 80 degrees, the same reading my thermometer showed on a test hot dog I cooked earlier at home.
This big, grilled dog was faster and hotter than the $1.75 dog I pulled from a warming chest at a concession stand in the left-field stands. It took me 3 minutes and 21 seconds to get through that line, plus another 32 seconds for mustard.
This season's dogs are supposed to be hotter than the ones sold at Memorial Stadium, but the one I got from the left-field concession was tepid at best. It wasn't warm enough to make the needle on my thermometer move.
My beverages, beer and Coke, were cold. They registered between 32 and 28 degrees -- which was about the reading I got on the test beer I poured in my kitchen. My beverage times also were impressive for Opening Day: 2:28 for a Miller Beer at a first-base concession, 3:21 for the Coke that I scooped up with the tepid dog out in left field, and 2:53 for a draft Bud in Bambino's, the tavern operated on the ground floor of the B&O warehouse.
My Bambino's beer time would have been faster but "Mr. Five Beers and Two Cokes" cut in front of me. If you're out there "Mr. Five Beers and Two Cokes": I never forget a face.
It took me 8:32 to get a bowl of crab soup at a first-base concession. The stand was set up like a cafeteria, and my wait could have been shorter if I had been bolder and moved around people in line waiting at the french fry station. But since it was the first game of the season, my reflexes were slow.
When I did arrive at the soup station, a fresh batch had just been brought out. It was very hot -- 100 degrees on my thermometer -- and very good.
While sipping my soup I talked with Duane McKeever and his son Justin. They had brought their own containers of peanuts and popcorn to the stadium, in part, McKeever said, to avoid lines.
My longest wait in line, 12 minutes, 6 seconds, was where I found the best food, Boog Powell's barbecue stand. It was on Eutaw Street, in a brick courtyard between the warehouse and the right field fence. I got in line before the game started and there were about 50 people ahead of me. The line was moving slowly because at the front was the big former first baseman. He stood there patiently signing autographs, posing for pictures, and waving at old friends who stopped by to say hello to the "Booger."
The wait was also thrilling. Those of us in line almost got hit by two balls that came flying over the right field wall. One almost took out a Beers of the World stand.
Powell's $6-and-change barbecue platter was excellent. This was a serious smoked pork sandwich, with a yellow mustard barbecue sauce. The cole slaw was so-so, but the baked beans were so sweet and smoky they tasted like they came from the South, the nation's prime barbecue and baked-bean region.
While in line for Boog's barbecue, I met Bob Mulfinger of Westminster who testified about the glories of the grilled hot dogs. "They are the best hot dogs I have had since the ones at Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo," Mulfinger said, adding, "I have had two."
Over in Bambino's, Duke Goldberg of Pikesville, a leading member of the Baltimore chapter of the gourmet food society, Chaine des Rotisseurs, said the simple Italian sausage he was eating was top drawer.
And Philip Bernot, the wine sommelier at Hampton's in the Harbor Court, gave a "thumbs up" rating to his cup of beer, "a 1992 Miller."
Skip Dorer and David Desmarais, both of Baltimore and both eating plates of nachos, said the cheesy chips tasted about the same in the new ballpark as they did at Memorial Stadium. But Desmarais did note one change: The new cheese coating seemed to be a brighter orange.