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By Debra R. Messick

Baseball grub gone wild

“A hot dog at the ball game beats roast beef at the Ritz.” – Humphrey Bogart

Back in Bogey’s day, and until fairly recently, a hot dog represented the quintessential ballpark nosh. But just as the game itself has been nudged into the modern era with updates like replay cameras, the traditional nine-inning offerings of peanuts, popcorn and beer have morphed into a smorgasbord of culinary curiosities and delights – a foodie’s field of dreams, and in a few cases, possibly a cardiologist’s nightmare.

From the sublime (Dungeness crab sandwiches on garlic sourdough with lemon aioli) to the ridiculous (the “burgerizza” – a cheeseburger between two personal pizzas, one pepperoni) today’s fans can satisfy gourmet cravings to their heart’s content and their wallet’s dismay.

According to Bennett Jacobstein, author of “The Joy of Ballpark Food, from Hot Dogs to Haute Cuisine,” the evolution of hallowed but humble baseball fare ostensibly began in the early 1980s, when fish tacos were first offered at San Diego Padres games, and later that decade when the original Yankee Stadium was remodeled with an expanded food stand area. During the 1990s, 12 new ballparks were built, and more space was devoted to allow for a more diverse snack universe. As Jacobstein noted, this decade also saw the rise in popularity of cable TV food shows, which likely also contributed to the public’s clamoring for and acceptance of a wider range of ballpark chow. Especially in the aftermath of the 1994 ball players strike, unique food items were another way of luring fans back to the sport and increase revenues, he observed.

Local boys make good

While there are six major food concession operators servicing the major/minor league baseball realm, local restaurateurs have become noteworthy players, providing additional incentive for today’s fans to belly up to the snack bar:

  • Citizen’s Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies – Tony Luke’s – Cheese steaks, of course, plus roast pork sub on Italian bread with sharp provolone, and garlicky broccoli rabe
  • CitiField, New York Mets – Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke – Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Kansas City Ribs; Floyd Cardoz (Tabla)’s El Verano Taqueria – pork tacos with tomatillo-chipotle salsa
  • AT & T Park, San Francisco Giants – Gordon Biersch – Fries topped with garlic and parsley; Farmer’s Market Cart – made-to-order organic strawberry shortcake
  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles – Charm City Seafood – Jumbo lump crabmeat Maryland crab cake sandwich; legendary Birds’ first baseman Boog Powell’s BBQ platters
  • Safeco Park, Seattle Mariners – Ivar’s – The Ichiroll (spicy tuna sandwich named for former Mariner great Ichiro Suzuki), the Ivar Dog, (deep fried cod), and Wild Pacific Salmon sandwich
  • PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates – Primanti Brothers – classic 1930s full meal sandwich originally created for truck drivers containing sliced steak, tomatoes, cole slaw and French fries on Italian bread
  • National’s Park, Washington (D.C.) Nationals – Ben’s Chili Bowl – Chili Half Smokes (beef and pork smoked sausage combo topped with cheese sauce and Ben’s signature spicy chili
  • Multiple locations – Chef Andrew Zimmern – Korean Batter Fried Pork Belly Sandwich topped with grilled pineapple, gochujang sauce (fermented from soybean, pepper, and rice) and chili lime salt

Hopped-up hot dogs

  • Cracker Jack and Mac Dog, PNC Park – Naan bread nested hot dog covered with macaroni and cheese, cracker jack, salted caramel sauce and fried jalapenos
  • Miami Mex Taco Dog, Marlin’s Park – Soft tortilla wrapped foot long frankfurter topped with a canina’s worth of latin flavored fixins
  • The T.E.D. (The Everything Dog), Turner Field (Atlanta Braves) – pretzel bun encased wiener with beer cheese, chili, popcorn, tortilla chips, French fries, and Coca-Cola infused BBQ sauce
  • Cheeseburger Dog, Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks) – char-grilled burgers chopped and beefed up with minced bacon, pickles, green onion and cheddar cheese all pressed to impress and resemble a hot dog
  • Poutine Dog, Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers) – natural casing Canadian-accented hot dog with poutine ingredients French fries, cheese curds and gravy
  • Freddy Fender, Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros) – deep fried, corn tortilla enclosed chorizo sausage swathed in tequila-braised onions, pico de gallo, cotija cheese and cilantro sour cream

Stickin’ it to tradition

  • The D-Bat, Chase Field – 18-inch bacon wrapped (six slices!), batter dipped, melted cheese infused corn dog on a stick, served with fries
  • Inside the Park Nachos, Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers) – Stick-skewered deep fried beef and refried beans dredged in crushed Doritos
  • Chicken & on a Stick, Rogers Center (Toronto Blue Jays) – Drizzled with maple-Sriracha and a side of broccoli/cabbage slaw
  • Bacon on a Stick, Globe Life Park, Arlington (Texas Rangers) – ¾ inch thick slab maple syrup dipped Hungarian bacon

Your Just Desserts

  • Churro Dog, Chase Field – weighing in at 1,117 calories, a warm cinnamon churro (fried dough pastry) inside a bun shaped chocolate glazed donut filled with frozen yogurt, caramel and chocolate sauces
  • Mitt-shaped pie, Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City Royals) – just what it sounds like, filled with fruit and ice cream
  • S’mores Sandwich, AT & T Park – molten Ghirardelli chocolate and marshmallows between bread slices

Drinking it in

  • Morey Melon Smash, Citizen’s Bank Park – concocted with Tito’s Homemade Vodka with watermelon puree, guajillo, lime, and ginger
  • Frozen Beer Foam, Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles Dodgers) – produced by Japan’s Kirin Beer Co., the flash-frozen foam acts as an insulator to keep your brew nicely “chillin'”
  • Various craft beers, Blue Moon, Coors Field (Colorado Rockies) – Renowned regional favorites New Belguim, Breckinridge, Odells, and Oskar Blues, plus the Coors Co.’s Sandlot Brewery Blue Moon
  • Hrbek’s Bloody Mary, Target Field (Minnesota Twins) – the expected elements (vodka, tabasco, tomato juice, celery, olive, pickle) inventively garnished with beef stick and pizza slice
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