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Raising the bar on ballpark food

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Baseball season is in full swing and once again it seems ballparks have been upping the game when it comes to the food, with everything from a Dungeness Crab Sandwich at AT&T Park in San Francisco to an eight-pound burger for $59 that serves eight Washington Nationals’ fans.

Purists can still get their familiar favorites, of course, including hot dogs, beer, peanuts and Cracker Jack. In fact, one stadium found out the hard way what happens when you take away a favorite ballpark food. The Atlanta Braves AAA team the Richmond Braves replaced Cracker Jack with Crunch ‘n Munch a few years ago and, to add insult to injury, altered the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to reflect the change, as St. Louis Post-Dispatch food writer Daniel Newman wrote. Fans got vocal in their opposition to the change and Cracker Jack soon made a comeback, but in addition to the short list of must-haves is a growing roster of more sophisticated offerings that reflect Americans’ changing tastes and foodie culture.

A number of menus feature new dishes that mirror national trends, including bacon on a stick at Texas Rangers Globe Life Park, chicken and waffles at Yankee Stadium and Poutine Fries at AT&T Park.

Some ballparks are increasingly seeking out local options that give fans a flavor of the home team’s city, as Forbes reported. Some teams are even finding ways to get the fans involved, including the New York Mets, whose stadium already boasts a lineup of local favorites including Shake Shack. At Citi Field, three New York City eateries are the finalists in a contest to open a new restaurant inside the park. The public had until last Friday to vote for their favorite, and on July 5, fans will find out which of the three contenders — Greek eatery Corfu Grill, Asian fusion concept Ceetay and baker Lady M Confections — will be the newest local eatery to win a spot at the stadium.

Ballpark food has never been touted as the healthiest in the world and many of the newest options are incredibly indulgent, but a growing number of stadiums are also offering healthier options and catering to special diets and dietary preferences.  The increasingly sophisticated menus at some parks include an array of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Philadelphia Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park tops PETA’s list of vegetarian-friendly stadiums, with a menu that includes plant-based versions of chicken patties, chicken fried steak and barbecued beef sandwiches.

The stadium also makes the list of Gluten-Free Philly’s roster of Major League ballparks with gluten-free versions of traditional favorites like hot dogs and beer, lighter fare including fresh fruits and vegetables and fancier fare such as the Achiote Basted Grilled Mushroom Burrito at A-Zona Grill at Arizona’s Chase Field.

Fare not only ranges in flavor from park to park, it also ranges in price. The average price of a ballpark hot dog rose 14% between 2010 and 2014, according to data compiled by Statista, but the price varies widely from one stadium to the next, ranging from $1 at a Cincinnati Reds home game to $6.25 at Citi Field. As fans opt for more complicated dishes, the price can climb, as Huffington Post reported recently on a list that included a grilled cheese and candied bacon sandwich for $19 at a Pittsburgh Pirates game and a two-foot long smothered hot dog for $32 at Globe Life Park.

What’s the most unusual food you’ve seen at a ballpark? Tell us about it in the comments.

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