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The Inside Track

Hot Corner

June 24, 2002|David Wharton

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here. One exception: No products will be endorsed.

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What: Dodger Dogs restaurant

Where: Universal CityWalk

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; until midnight Friday and Saturday.

Consider the Dodger Dog.

The trademark wiener is as much a part of Southern California cuisine as a Wolfgang Puck pizza or an El Cholo enchilada. But as an Epicurean experience, its merit is wrapped up in more than a bun.

The aroma and flavor, the hint of grilling, come part and parcel with the ballpark's ambient swirl, the gulps of beer and peanuts, the organ music and, oh yes, the game down on the field.

So the question is: Can the Dodger Dog stand on its own? Can it weather the scrutiny of an undistracted diner?

The Dodgers and Universal are betting it can. They have opened what amounts to an oversized snack bar along CityWalk with a menu that is nearly identical--alas, no beer--and slightly cheaper prices. Even the look of Dodger Stadium has been recreated.

Of course, the dogs are grilled, not steamed. But the only trace of real baseball comes from a television showing games in the small cafe, so the food must go it alone.

On hand when the restaurant opened Thursday, Steve Garvey attempted to make a case for the famed dog. The former first baseman recalled that early in his playing days, he became sick after eating a wiener at--where else?--Candlestick Park in San Francisco. For many years after, he shied away from frankfurters.

It was only later, upon joining the Dodgers as a consultant, that he reacquainted himself with the Dodger dog and thought, "Hey, this isn't bad."

Now he insists that the world is ready for ballpark fare without the ballpark.

"If it wasn't good," he said, "it wouldn't have lasted this long."

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