Most Americans would agree that hot dogs and baseball are a match made in heaven. Like peanut butter and Fluff, lobster rolls and Maine, or Big Papi and homers, they just seem to go well together.
Of course, it helps that hot dogs are pretty much the perfect baseball snack: they’re compact and manageable, yet delicious, filling, and just the right amount of unhealthy for a lazy day at the park. Plus, they can be decked out with all kinds of toppings, from chili and cheese to just plain ol’ mustard. Their popularity also means that many of us have fond childhood memories of devouring a dog or two down at the nearby ballpark, all the while keeping an eye out for those ever-elusive foul balls.
For the luckiest among us, it wasn’t just any old ballpark that we got to go to—it was THE ballpark: the home of the legendary Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park.
As the oldest park in the league, Fenway has seen many changes, both inside and outside its walls. The streets and buildings around Fenway have evolved over the more than 100 years since its opening, and the park itself was given a face lift in 2009. Fenway modernized its facilities and signage, but was very careful to still maintain that old-fashioned, BoSox charm.
In the same year, Fenway parted ways with the manufacturer of its famous Fenway Franks and began the rigorous search for a new supplier. Eventually, the park settled on Chelsea-based Kayem Foods, a company with strong ties to New England and popular, high-quality products. Kayem was excited to be the new keeper of the Fenway Frank, and it set out to give the Frank’s recipe a bold makeover that—just like the park’s own face lift—still respected the dog’s long history.
The New Fenway Franks
It’s hard to say when exactly, but at some point after the park’s 1912 opening, the Fenway Frank was born. Hot dogs had been being eaten at baseball games since the late 1800s, so it’s likely that Fenway served its first dogs right from the start, but precisely when the Frank became the icon that it is today seems to be a mystery. No matter its backstory, the Fenway Frank became a Boston staple and is today known to be a popular fan favorite.
It’s because of this that Kayem didn’t take their decision to revamp the Fenway Frank lightly. The company ran a series of careful taste tests during the new recipe’s creation, ensuring that the Frank would still be well received by its loyal fans, like it had been for decades. Eventually, the new Fenway Frank was approved, sporting a slightly bolder flavor thanks to Kayem’s special concoction of spices and meats.
Cooked to Perfection
Unlike many ballpark hot dogs, which are usually either steamed or grilled, Fenway Franks are instead boiled and grilled (ever-so-slightly). This method allows the Fenway Frank to retain all the juiciness of a boiled dog, but still have the snap of one that’s been gently grilled.
The final step for the Frank is to be lovingly placed into a classic, New England-style, split-top hot dog roll. After that, it’s left up to you to customize your frank. Deck it out with a heap of relish, keep it simple with a squiggle of yellow or brown mustard, or just enjoy the bold flavors of a naked frank.
Let’s Be Frank
With many Red Sox fans making it a point to eat one (or two… or three…) each game, it’s no surprise that Fenway Franks have always been a big seller at Fenway Park. But after Kayem threw fans a curveball with their new recipe, how did sales of the Frank fare?
Well, the numbers speak for themselves: during the 2013 World Series, Red Sox Nation ate an astounding 15,000 Franks per game! Then, in the 2014 season, more than 800,000 Fenway Franks were consumed! Based on those totals, it seems like the Fenway Frank’s new flavor was nothing less than a home run.
Fenway Franks are sold in and around Fenway Park, as well as in grocery stores throughout New England.
When was your earliest encounter with a Fenway Frank?
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.