M'man "JPinAZ" e-mailed a link to me the other day. It was a post from the Phoenix New Times website titled "Most Unusual Stadium Foods Across America".
My lightly-read blog's been around almost four years. In that time, avant-garde grub and baseball have pretty much become my mission statement. But, before we dive into someone else's list (yes...again) here are my best/worst food and drink experiences from the dozen or so Major League and Minor League ballparks I've visited.
The Top Three
(1) Ben's Chili Bowl -- Nationals Park: While on a business trip to the Washington DC area in April 2008, m'man Josh and I took in a game at the then-newly opened stadium. He recommended the "Half-Smoke" which I later described as "...a gloriously engorged sausage topped with a small pond of chili, mustard and onions. This baby dropped my life expectancy into the late 50s and shaved at least 20 beats per minute off my heart rate."
(2) Gilroy Garlic Fries -- AT&T Park: San Francisco is already my favorite American city, so the garlic fries sold during Giants games amount to
(3) Beer in the Stands -- Kauffman Stadium: In California ballparks, the "beer guy" is verboten. I've heard this is due to food-handling standards, but a quick Google search didn't produce any tangible details. Regardless, if you want a beer in San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles or Los Angeles of Anaheim, you'll have to leave your seat and purchase it on the concourse. In May 2007, my job sent me to St. Louis for a week. I drove 3 1/2 hours across the state to see my A's play the Royals in Kansas City. I bought my first beer from a "beer guy" and tipped him well with some of my surplus per diem. OK, this one's more about the concept than the fizzy domestic suds, but totally worth it.
The Bottom Three
(1) Hot Dogs -- The Diamond: The Lake Elsinore Storm (San Diego Padres' Single-A minor league affiliate) play their home games roughly 45 minutes north of Stately Bootleg Manor. Since 2008, I've made the drive up I-15 for two or three games each season. Their home field is known as The Diamond and features some pretty decent food, including a respectable Italian sausage sandwich and Philly cheesesteak. But, avoid their hot dogs at all costs: mushy texture at first bite and chock full of cheap fillers. First time a hot dog's been associated with the word "disgusting"? First time.
(2) Gates Barbecue -- Kauffman Stadium: From my write-up of the aforementioned May 2007 trip: "My BBQ pork sandwich arrives with a side of Cajun chips and an interminable conversation with the lady behind the counter. The sandwich is stone cold and absolutely saturated under two quarts of sauce. Meanwhile, the chips have been seasoned with the same peppers that are used to make those novelty super-hot sauces. Y'know...the kind you buy and use once before realizing that something cleverly called "Satan's Chipotle Acid" shouldn't be ingested."
(3) Rubio's Fish Tacos -- PETCO Park: Mention Rubio's Fish Tacos around these parts and you're going to get an array of ill-informed opinions. Almost every online review of the ballpark (usually written by out-of-towners) refers to Rubio's as some sort of San Diego staple that you MUST try. On the other end of the spectrum, there are several culinary cynics whose uninteresting palettes can only process cow-filled tortillas. They're both wrong. Fish tacos are phenomenal, but not the ones from Rubio's. Find any anonymous hole-in-the-wall Mexican spot, order one and thank me later.
Now, let's see what the Phoenix New Times considers "unusual". Follow along with this link. (Note: I covered a few of these items in my two-part "Fat from 50 States" post(s). You can find those foods either in Part I or Part II.)
Walleye on a Stick -- Target Field: Battered. Fried. Tartar sauce. Sold. True story: When Mrs. Bootleg was pregnant with Jalen, she had a fleeting craving for fish sticks. She and her aunt went to the store and came back with a box of 132 frozen fish sticks. After eating one (not one-hundred, not one dozen...just ONE) she claimed her craving had dissipated. The final 131 fish sticks were the last fish sticks I've eaten ever since.
Portobello Fries -- Busch Stadium: The inherent density and flavorful smokiness of Portobello mushrooms is enough to stand on its own. Adding bread crumbs, Romano cheese and lemon-garlic aioli sauce to the list of ingredients would get me to go to a game in EAST St. Louis.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich -- U.S Cellular Field: If those Webster's Dictionary creators ever invent a word that's the opposite of "unusual" ("funusual"?) it would apply here. PB&J sandwiches are available at a lot of the modern ballparks. Personally, I haven't been a fan since I was five years old. Peanut butter and jelly in between bread is more "donut" than "sandwich". You might as well fry it up, glaze it down and... Oh, my God. Do THAT, someone!
Crab Cake Sandwich -- AT&T Park: Mrs. Bootleg took me to a menagerie burger spot for my birthday a few years ago. While I ate buffalo, kangaroo and caribou, the wife went with the crab cake burger. She loves crab cakes. In fact, moments after she reads this, she's going to call me on my cell phone and ask, "Why you ain't tell me about this crab cake sandwich?" It's...what she does.
Pittsburgh Cheesesteak -- PNC Park: This appears to be one of the famous Primanti Brothers sandwiches. I'm not sure I trust a place that features sandwich meats such as sardines and bologna, so prominently.
Barbecue Baker -- Minute Maid Park: I've never gotten behind the obnoxiously overstuffed baked potato craze. There's a tipping point in which the potato just gets in the way of everything on top of it. Of course, this does not apply to an order of carne asada fries.
Sonoran Hot Dog -- PETCO Park: Erroneously listed as an offering at the Diamondbacks' Chase Field, this is actually sold at the Padres' home ballpark. It's only available on the second-level "Toyota Terrace" and only as part of the in-seat delivered-to-your-seat menu. Sound like a pretentious experience? It was.