Ballpark Food: Home Runs and Strike Outs

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This weekend the New York Times ran a splashy story on the nation's increasingly satisfactory ballpark eats.

The writer, Peter Meehan, is thrilled with his "chance to jump from the local hot dog beat to the national one," although he praises nary a hotdog in his ten-city, 12-ballpark tour. Meehan does, however, encounter copious tastiness. At Seattle’s Safeco Field, he delights in a fresh, meaty Ichiroll, a spicy tuna roll named after the Mariners' center fielder, Ichiro Suzuki. He also approves of the Sea Dog, a 10-inch-long baton of cod meat, battered, fried, and served in a hot dog bun with some tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

But Meehan strikes out, too. In Chicago, he tries mushy corn that tastes like "furniture polish." His crab cake sandwich at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a "horror." As a Baltimore native myself, this comes as sad news. I have never eaten at Charm City Seafood. If, as Meehan says, the crab cake is "tepid, soggy, and fishy, like a sponge that had been used to clean fish," I guess it's no big loss.

The accompanying interactive map advises fans what to order and what to avoid at all 30 major league baseball stadiums, from Kansas City to Miami. In the latter's Dolphin Stadium, Jonathon Vigliotti recommends Argentine empanadas from Maggie's Empanada Bistro &mdash beef, eggs and olives stuffed into a crispy shell &mdash and warns against the Cavery's cuban, which is smothered in "too much neon yellow mustard." The eight bucks better "could've been spent on a beer."

Meehan did not venture to every ballpark, so others fill in where his road trip left off. Among others, Wade Evans reports from Houston, Nick Bunkley from Detroit, and David Shneer from Denver. They love sizzling beef fajitas, gyros, and mini-doughnuts, and frown on rubbery chili cheese dogs, Little Caesars pizza, and stale nachos, respectively. But I am skeptical. When there are myriad contributors and scores of goods to sample, it's hard to know who and how much to trust.

Meehan disparages San Francisco's garlic fries, accusing them of limpness and mealiness. Alaina, here at Serious Eats, maintains that they are worthwhile ballpark eats. Alaina is also a fan of the Ghirardelli hot chocolate (and coffee), that vendors hawk from backpacks. Perfect for a chilly San Francisco day. But missing from the the NY Times article.

So, serious eaters, we ask you: What do you eat and drink at the game? What do you love? What has left you wishing you had stuck with Cracker Jacks and peanuts?

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