Best Baseball Stadium Food
“If you’re gonna pay more for a hot dog or a burger or an order of fries,” New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer proclaimed in a recent phone interview about stadium food, “they better be damn good.” You can’t blame him for being passionate.
Meyer, a lifelong baseball fan, has partnered with the New York Mets to bring versions of his popular Manhattan restaurants to Citi Field, the team’s new stadium in Flushing, Queens. Mets fans can now get “Shack-Cago” hot dogs at his Shake Shack, Kansas City ribs at Blue Smoke (also by Meyer), and slow-cooked pork tacos with tomatillo-chipotle salsa at El Verano Taquería, a taco stand inspired by chef Floyd Cardoz, of New York’s Tabla restaurant.
“It became clear that New York was far behind the curve when it came to food options at sporting events,” said Meyer, who’s had Mets season tickets since 1986. “If we do our jobs well, the food will be yet another reason fans will become excited to go to the ballpark.”
Thanks largely to the Baltimore Orioles, baseball fans no longer have to endure soggy hot dogs and watered-down beer. Since the team introduced regional cuisine to Camden Yards in 1992—think pit beef platters and Maryland crab cake sandwiches—Major League Baseball stadiums across the country have been retooling their menus to reflect a taste of the home team.
At Minute Maid Park in Houston, for example, you can now sample sizzling beef fajitas at Tex-Mex favorite Rosa’s Taqueria, with grilled bell peppers, sweet onions, and fresh cilantro, on a soft flour tortilla made while you wait. At Seattle’s Safeco Field, fans go crazy for Ivar Dogs—deep-fried cod topped with coleslaw and tartar sauce on a freshly baked bun from popular seafood chain Ivar’s. And at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, hungry crowds line up for the roast pork–provolone–broccoli rabe sandwich from South Philly original Tony Luke’s.
“It’s imperative that ballpark cuisine have regional flair,” says executive chef Ed Lake, who oversees concessions at Citi Field, Citizens Bank Park, and Fenway Park in Boston and works with a team of culinary professionals to develop locally inspired menus that reflect a taste of the neighboring community.
So which baseball stadium has the best eats?We surveyed experts, including league officials, restaurateurs (Danny Meyer), chefs (including stadium supplier Aramark’s Ed Lake), and super-fans like Kevin Reichard, publisher of the go-to stadium news website BallparkDigest.com, and everyone agrees: AT&T Park in San Francisco is the champion of stadium food. “It’s got an amazing variety of local gourmet foods,” says Reichard, who’s visited every major ballpark in America. “Even the hot dogs are outstanding.” Among his favorites are the fresh Dungeness crab sandwich served on garlic butter–brushed sourdough, and Palo Alto’s own Gordon Biersch garlic fries made with fresh garlic and parsley. Meyer agrees: “AT&T Park propelled stadium food to the next level.”
And while he’s hoping fans will enjoy the cuisine he’s brought to Queens, don’t expect to see duck confit—or anything else too fussy—at Citi Field. “Not a chance,” says Meyer. “Just because you can shave black truffles on pizza doesn’t mean you should.”
Citi Field, New York Mets
The Stadium: Newly opened Citi Field features a granite, brick, and limestone façade plus a sunlit rotunda honoring Jackie Robinson.
Best Eats: With outposts of his popular Manhattan restaurants, celebrated restaurateur Danny Meyer hopes to score big with Mets faithful. Head to the outfield concourse for juicy pulled-pork sandwiches and Kansas City ribs at Blue Smoke; cheesy ShackBurgers and Shack-Cago dogs at Shake Shack; or slow-cooked pork tacos with tomatillo-chipotle salsa at El Verano Taquería, a taco stand by chef Floyd Cardoz of New York’s Tabla.
Wash It Down With: Brooklyn-brewed Shackmeister Ale, sold exclusively at Shake Shack, and sweet, creamy frozen vanilla custard.
Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies
The Stadium: In addition to the 2008 World Championship trophy, Citizens Bank Park is home to Ashburn Alley, an open-air promenade with concessions, bull pen–viewing platforms, and the Phillies Wall of Fame.
Best Eats: South Philly sandwich shop Tony Luke’s features—in addition to cheesesteaks—a roast pork sub served on crusty Italian bread, topped with garlicky broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. Not into meat? Not a problem: PETA has twice named Citizens Bank Park the most vegetarian-friendly stadium in North America. At Planet Hoagie, try The Poppie, made with fresh mozzarella, roasted eggplant, red peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Wash It Down With: A pint of Stoudt’s American Pale Ale, a hoppy amber beer brewed in Adamstown, PA, sold in Ashburn Alley and behind sections 133 and 139.
PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Stadium: Because of PNC Park’s orientation on the banks of the Allegheny River, most fans enjoy a sweeping panorama of Roberto Clemente Bridge.
Best Eats: A Primanti Brothers sandwich, served behind section 310 in the upper deck or in the “Smorgasburgh” on the first-base side of the main concourse. Created in the 1930s for local truckers who needed an entire meal on the fly, the classic Pittsburgh sandwich features sliced steak, coleslaw, tomatoes, and French fries piled on thick-cut Italian bread.
Wash It Down With: Pittsburgh-brewed Iron City beer, available at the Hall of Fame Club overlooking the field.
Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers
The Stadium: Cool Wisconsin weather is no match for Miller Park’s retractable roof; the ballpark’s signature structure can open and close in about 10 minutes.
Best Eats: In a city known for sausage, it’s no surprise what dominates the Miller Park menus. Pass on the Polish and Italian varieties and order a chorizo bratwurst behind sections 129, 223, 214, 409, and 428. Made by Klement’s—a Milwaukee favorite since 1956—the spicy sausage is served on a bun or with pico de gallo on a soft tortilla. Get an extra kick with Stadium Sauce: created in the 1970s when Milwaukee’s County Stadium ran out of ketchup and mustard, it tastes like a mix between barbecue sauce and sauerkraut juice and is available exclusively at Miller Park.
Wash It Down With: A pint of Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat, purchased at Leinie’s Lodges venues throughout the park.
AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants
The Stadium: At AT&T Park, home runs splash into McCovey Cove, and fans are treated to gorgeous San Francisco Bay views.
Best Eats: Widely regarded by fans, chefs, and industry professionals as having the best food in baseball, AT&T Park features the Crazy Crabz’s fresh Dungeness crab sandwich, served on warm slices of garlic butter–brushed sourdough (kiosk behind the scoreboard in center field); organic strawberry shortcake made to order from the Farmer’s Market Cart (behind home plate); and Palo Alto’s own Gordon Biersch fries topped with garlic and fresh parsley.
Wash It Down With: A glass of Brassfield Estate High Serenity Ranch—a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Gewürztraminer grapes from nearby estate vineyards (sold at the California Wine Cart on promenade sections 106 and 118).
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles
The Stadium: The stadium is largely credited with starting the league-wide trend toward serving regional cuisine in ballparks when it opened in 1992.
Best Eats: Looking for authentic southern barbecue and a big-league autograph? At Boog’s Barbecue, behind the center field bleachers, retired Orioles first baseman Boog Powell is on hand for most games, dishing out generous platters of smoky pit-roasted beef, coleslaw, and baked beans slow-cooked with bacon and brown sugar. Or try a Maryland crab cake sandwich, made with jumbo lump crabmeat served on a kaiser roll from Charm City Seafood behind home plate.
Wash It Down With: A pint of Clipper City Gold Ale, a Baltimore microbrew served on the ground level of the B&O Railroad Warehouse (a refurbished 1900s-era storage house adjacent to Camden Yards).
Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners
The Stadium: With Puget Sound sunsets, Seattle skyline views, and one of the largest collections of public art in Major League Baseball, Safeco Field has been a fan favorite since it opened in 1999.
Best Eats: Try the Ichiroll—a spicy tuna roll named after Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki—and the Ivar Dog, sold at two outposts of Washington seafood chain Ivar’s. Available in sections 117 and 335, the sandwich features a deep-fried cod fillet topped with coleslaw and tartar sauce and served on a fresh-baked bun. Ivar’s also has the best (and perhaps only) wild Pacific salmon sandwich in baseball.
Wash It Down With: A glass of hot or cold Ozeki sake from the Bullpen Market. Or try a hand-mixed vanilla or chocolate shake from Kidd Valley, made the same since 1975 (available in sections 149 and 325).
Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros
The Stadium: A full-size, vintage locomotive runs along 800 feet of track outside Minute Maid Park—a nod to Houston’s historical ties with the railroads.
Best Eats: At Rosa’s Taqueria, in sections 105 and 131 in the main concourse and section 418 upstairs, order a sizzling beef fajita with grilled bell peppers and sweet onions, served on a soft flour tortilla made while you wait. Or head to Larry’s Big Bamboo—a tropical-themed dive bar in the main concourse—for succulent fish tacos: fresh corn tortillas filled with beer-battered cod, sweet chile aioli, and marinated red cabbage.
Wash It Down With: A swirled frozen margarita—the lime-and-strawberry concoction is served in a yard glass and available at kiosks throughout the park.
Nationals Park, Washington Nationals
The Stadium: With its many green initiatives, Nationals Park is the first major American stadium to be LEED Silver certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Best Eats: When President Obama moved to the capital, he made sure to sample Chili Half-Smokes from D.C. diner Ben’s Chili Bowl. Fortunately, the sausage sandwich—created in 1958—is also served at Taste of the Majors, near sections 115 and 314. It’s a quarter-pound beef and pork smoked sausage on a warm steamed bun with cheese sauce and Ben’s own spicy homemade chili.
Wash It Down With: A Capital Cooler, a fruity cocktail with raspberry and sour apple rums and cranberry juice (available in sections 113, 132, and 306).
Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees
The Stadium: The House That Ruth Built, the new Yankee Stadium is not—but the park aims to channel Yankee greats of the past.
Best Eats: Purists may scoff at eating a Mike’s Deli sandwich anywhere but on the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue. The rest of us, however, should order Mike’s famous eggplant parmigiana hero—available in field level section 127—with lightly fried sliced eggplant, homemade tomato sauce, and melted mozzarella on fresh-baked Italian bread (meat lovers can substitute zesty meatballs or breaded chicken cutlets). Then try freshly made zeppole, deep-fried Italian pastries dusted with powdered sugar.
Wash It Down With: A “Mo”jito at Tommy Bahama’s Bar—a blend of rum, club soda, white sugar, and fresh lime juice named for popular reliever Mariano Rivera.