Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ballpark Eats

Nearly everyone has their favorite ballpark food. Sports fans identify a particular food item with "their" team or with a memorable moment or time at a ballpark. Non-sports fans often associate with specific foods to help them get excited about going to a game that they're dragged to a few times a year. Even those fans who purport to hate ballpark food for health or sanitation reasons often give ridiculous caveats like, "except for Dodger Dogs - they're different".

There are a few inalienable truths out there about ballpark food that no reasonable person can deny.
  1. Ninety percent of ballpark food anywhere is gross. This isn't even worth discussing it's so obvious.
  2. The idea that ballpark beer is watered down isn't a myth. The reasons for doing so, may still be up for debate however, whether you think it's simply profit margin or latent concerns stemming from Cleveland's famous "10-Cent Beer Night".
  3. Except for a few notable exceptions, any vet will tell you to not get too aggressive with your ordering. At a ballpark, the chicken sandwich will almost always beat the "Tandoori Chicken Kabobs". The [Team Name] Dog will most often be better than the "Smoked Wisconsin Cheddar and Sprouts Sausage". And for god's sake, don't ever get anything with vegetables on it or fresh dairy.
  4. Any stand purporting to sell cocktails or wine is something to stay away from unless circumstances are dire. Even at basketball games, or at an indoor club bar, these stands are a bad idea that will leave you soberly broke.
In the Bay Area, ballpark food is generally unremarkable with the exception of a few tasty items at the park that lately they've been referring to as AT&T. Coliseum food is pedestrian at best (I have high-hopes for many aspects of the new stadium in Fremont, food being one of them and the long BART ride not being one). Food at Warriors games, while not really under consideration because it's not a ball park, is as bad as the outside shooting and lack of rebounding or defense on the court. At Candlestick, with only 8 events per year, they're still serving leftovers from when the Giants left in '99.

That leaves AT&T Park. The overall level of food here is a notch above the other Bay Area venues. The bad food isn't quite as bad. Granted, you will NEVER again order garlic fries after seeing a vat of that garlic like I once did, but overall quality is above par. There are two items that stand out, however.

The Cha-Cha Bowl:
This item found behind the center field bleachers isn't a hidden secret, as it's been written about in numerous places, but it really is good. It's tasty, and the selection of sauces allows you to make it as spicy or mild as you wish. It's hearty, filling up even very hungry patrons. I suspect, with no proof, that it's one of the healthiest items in the park. And it's very eatable on your lap in your seat. You can even put the cover back on it and come back to it after a few innings, which is out of the question with a hot dog.

The Sheboygan Bratwurst:
Easily the tastiest sausage in the park, it used to be only found just outside the left field bleachers, but it's now sold at 3 other places in the park. Simple supply and demand led to its proliferation, I'm sure. The guy who grills them (in full view) at the original left field stand is still the best, however. I'm going to avoid too much gory detail describing sausage on my blog, but you should really check it out. It's not to be missed. It's possible that this is where they originate from, which just about sums it up.

Game on.

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