Play Ball! Use Vegetable Toppings to Create Your Own Opening Day

Monday, April 4 is Opening Day for Ohio professional baseball teams. Kick off the season with ballpark hot dogs, featuring vegetable toppings. Whether your students are Cincinnati Reds or Cleveland Indian fans, the new items are sure to be a hit!

ErinEllen_hotdog trays_Creekview

Creekview Intermediate (Marysville, Ohio) held a baseball-themed spirit day that included the Chicago Dog and the Fenway Frank.

Ball Park Days

Across the country from neighborhood to professional league stadiums, hot dogs with toppings are popular concession stand items. Clubs create regional specials that can become as popular as the team mascot.

In school meals, hot dog toppings can move vegetables off the side of the tray (the sidelines) and into the game. The strategy takes advantage of the popularity of the hot dog and encourages kids to re-imagine the vegetable as a fun festive topping that adds flavor to their dog.

We took the name of popular ballpark hot dogs as our inspiration and reworked the toppings to meet the taste and menu requirements of the school lunch program.

The Big Red Smokie: Cincinnati Reds fans love their Big Red Smokies. Instead of a smokie dog, top off the hot dog with a smoky red topping like red peppers or a Pico de Gallo.

Chicago Dog: Traditionally served with pickles and sliced tomatoes, this version features a crisp cucumber relish of diced cucumbers and tomatoes. Click HERE for the recipe.

Fenway Frank: Fenway Franks are featured in Boston stadiums; this version of the hot dog is served with coleslaw and baked beans. Yummy!

Rockie Dog: No need to travel to Colorado for this dog – serve hot dogs with grilled peppers and onions (and for the brave – add sauerkraut).

Signature Dog: Serve the hot dog with a chopped pineapple salsa made with diced onions, red pepper, and lime juice. Click HERE for the recipe.

Create Your Own: Ask students to create a signature dog using the team mascot or local professional team name as inspiration.

Tips for Promoting Vegetable Toppings

In addition to having some fun with the menu – our goal is to increase vegetable consumption.

Try these tips to grab students’ attention and encourage selection of the topping:


Use displays to capture students’ attention.

  • Give the pair a cool name
  • Place the topping on the tray or in grab-and-go cups within the same serving station
  • Offer samples of the toppings to students waiting in line
  • Use simple signage, with a food model, to illustrate how to pair the items
  • Place the model at eye-level

It’s a Hit

Three intermediate schools stepped up to the plate recently and gave Chicago Dogs and Fenway Franks a try. The toppings were a big success – 42% to 48% of students who selected a hot dog also selected a vegetable topping.

Surprisingly, though, the most popular topping varied by building. Toppings must be like baseball – we all have our favorites!

To add vegetable toppings to your menu, download the following signs and recipes:

Ballpark Franks

Build a Burger

Pizzazz your Pizza

Recipes: Slaws and Salsas

Recipes: Relish and Hummus

Contributors to this post include:

Little Miami Local Schools

Rachel Tilford, Food Service Manger

Darlene Oeder, Kitchen Manager

Kelly Oeder, Lorri Lykins, Brooke Barrett and Kristi Hess

Marysville Schools

JoAnne Morbitzer, Food Service Director

Laura Hayes, Kitchen Manager

Pat Nicol, Rhonda Lawrence, Mary Feurer, Shirley Falatach and Traci Paver

Sycamore Community Schools

Jessica Johnson, Child Nutrition & Wellness Director

Kellie Eick, Kitchen Supervisor

Barb Mink, Felice Chapman, Lisa Mandell, Ruthie Craven, Stephanie Reisert and Terry Town


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