“A hotdog is basically a vessel for condiments and whatever s–t you can fit on top of it.”
Sometimes you can say something so simple without ever realizing how it inspires another person. This one sentence spoke to my soul. You see, I too have referred to myself as a slut when it comes to food, but not for condiments; no no no… for me, it was duck fat. Sure, a good old plain-ass hot dog can be delicious in its own right. Whether on a summer day when the sun is at its peak and you’ve been in the pool all day - or when cruising down a busy NYC street on the way to the game, a boring old meat stick with a quick squeeze of mustard is the perfect snack to keep your free hand open for texting, tweets and photos of you walking with said hot dog. We’ve already talked about the history and how these very snacks we speak of were nestled in a warm little bun to free your other hand up for an ice-cold beer. If you don’t know your hot dog history by now, then you haven’t been reading every week my friend.
You know who has been reading every week? Me.
That’s half true as you have been along for the ride, but more to complain than to provide us with anything we can actually use to better our eating experience. Let’s not wander today; this article is important on a couple of levels, but most importantly - creativity. Knowing I was going to spend the week in Florida gave me no less than 15 different minor league facilities to venture out to in search of something cravable, yet unique. Not exactly the kind of descriptive words normally associated with pureed meat jammed inside the small intestines of a sheep, but we aren’t your everyday baseball website and you deserve the best. In addition to that, I am lucky enough to live in between Sarasota and Tampa, which expands the possibilities even more. This is hot dog country and if #thefoodguy didn’t leave his hometown he could easily write reviews for the next two or three years without ever eating at the same place twice.
Eating the beeting
Not really, but I do see a method to my madness coming into play as we progress week after week. This time around it would be no different as we gassed up and headed out to Lakeland, FL. Those who travel for Spring Training know that Lakeland is the home of the Detroit Tigers and you can choke on the stadium name alone. “Publix Field at Joker Merchant Stadium” is exactly what you get when you sell the naming rights to your baseball field to the local grocery chain known for its subs and large Florida footprint. Originally built in 1966 and made over more times than a Kardashian sister, this rather large Spring Training complex seats 8,500 people and homes a few MiLB teams as well. The people of Lakeland take their baseball seriously and have been hosting MLB spring exhibitions since 1934. A small town about an hour outside of Tampa that doesn’t offer much outside of March and April - unless you’re into antique shops and strip malls - boasts a plethora of hot dog choices and inspired by Emy, we picked what we thought was the best “condiment vessel” in a bun. When perusing the menus of each establishment I was trying to think outside of the box. This can’t be your everyday chili, cheese or mustard mountain. And then, like a light shining through the clouds on an overcast day from section 405 at Yankee Stadium, a single ray of light pushed through and illuminated the menu with three simple words. Bavarian Beet Dog.
Nah na na nan na nan na na - Beet Dog! (I know you sang it too)
Le sigh. Is there no end to your immaturity?
Craft and Kitchen will beet your meat
The Bavarian Beet Dog was piled high with sauerkraut, bacon, beets, mustard and siracha aioli and is a steal for $8.00. Served with a side of house made chips this bad boy looked and smelled delicious the second that paper boat was slid across my table. The establishment was “Craft and Kitchen Bottle Shop” located since 2014 in a strip mall on S. Florida Avenue. Nestled in a strip mall with almost no signage we drove right past this place, turned around and tried to find it again. A battery place, a dry cleaner and a massage parlor reminiscent of the one raided for Robert Kraft’s Florida trysts were advertised but no hot dog heaven. On the building the name “Beer Rev” stood out like a sore thumb among the other options and a sandwich board with a pithy joke sat on the sidewalk of an open door. As I entered the building the walls were lined with hundreds of different bottled of craft beer and coolers. A small bar, 25 tapped kegs and a friendly staff. We don’t go into the service and ambiance part too much as we aren’t writing Yelp! reviews and no matter how bad my service might be on any given visit, my name isn’t Karen. Truth be told, the staff was super friendly and accommodating.
Is this the part where we turnip the beet dog a few notches?
As we always do on these adventures, we ordered two hot dogs. The first is always a “plain” or simple version and the second is more like a hot dog if it was dressed as Elton John in the early 1980s. The meat was delicious and although I couldn’t find it in print anywhere, I can attest that these were all-beef hot dogs. The buns were soft and fresh and provided a strong foundation for holding meat and condiments. I was a little disappointed to find out the “classic” dog was served piled high with a whole lot of stuff; relish, mustard, red onions and ketchup all stacked up and then zig zagged to create an artistic presentation. I’ve never really cared what a hot dog looked like as long as it tasted good, but this one was kind of pretty. I am not a huge fan of raw red onions, but I did my duties laid before me and I ate it as it was served. It was good. A good quality hot dog in a place where you might not expect to find one.
Now on to the Bavarian Beet dog. I wasn’t scared of this one, even though it sounded a little weird at first. I don’t hate beets, my mom used to make us eat them as kids and I never really had a problem with that. This thing was more than a mouthful and was bursting with so much flavor. The sweetness of the beet, the snap of the hot dog, the fat of the bacon and the zing of the mustard. For a brief moment I took a little trip to Flavor Town before realizing I’m more Sammy Hagar than Guy Fieri and snapped back to reality, or Lakeland. It was unique in taste and texture and surprisingly all of the flavors danced together without the awkwardness of a high school dance in a dark gymnasium. My compliments to the Chef on this one. So, I will leave you with this - If you’re in Lakeland, FL and looking for a cold beer and a great hot dog for a fair price, look no further then this little strip mall without the good signage.
Stay tuned and stay hungry. #thefoodguy
- Craft and Kitchen: 3234 S. Florida Street Lakeland, FL 33803 PH:863.455.9555
- Rating: Worth the price of admission
- Major League Teams: Spring Training home of the Detroit Tigers
- Minor League Teams: Lakeland Flying Tigers (MiLB FSL) Gulf Coast Tigers (MiLB GSL)
- Other Baseball: Nothing special