Baseball is a game that is identified with food. We even sing about it at every ballpark during the seventh inning stretch: “….buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack…” The famous song was written by Jack Norworth in 1908.
From the early part of the twentieth century until the 1980s, classic baseball fare consisted mostly of hot dogs, ice cream, peanuts, and Cracker Jack. Then ballparks slowly began to sell new items. A proliferation of new food offerings during the 1990s was fueled by the opening of twelve new major league ballparks.
Now, teams around the country sell a variety of exotic food. Some stadiums have gone all out to showcase unique, gourmet-style food. Many parks emphasize regional food as well as having offerings from well-known local restaurants. There are also several ballparks where retired ballplayers are shaping new careers as signature food purveyors.
“The new food era has brought such a wonderful gustatory experience at the ballparks with chef-prepared masterpieces, vegetarian and kosher delights, as well as amped up riffs on the hot dog and sausage,” says Bennett.
The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs to Haute Cuisine begins with the history of the first hot dog at a ball game and concludes with a culinary tour of all 30 major league ballparks including our very own home to the Texas Rangers where everything is bigger including the hot dogs to a pretzel that measures a foot across. Bennett seemed particularly taken with things we might consider average such as Frito Pie and a myriad of nachos. He did miss the fact that the ballpark nacho was actually invented at the old Arlington Stadium.
Regardless of where you enjoy your baseball it would appear that all the parks have gravitated towards “fun foods”, much like we might enjoy at the State Fair like fried cookie dough.
The heartiest diners seem to come from Chicagoland with offerings such as the Cub’s Decade Dog or the Italian Beef, while the Sox enjoy the Cuban Comet and a pork chop sandwich. You may also enjoy Hooter’s wings and strawberry filled churros.
Boston Red Sox fans might have it the best with the addition of Legal Seafood’s Fenway Fish Shack where you will enjoy clam chowder, fried clams and a fish sandwich. The Home Plate Grill will make you a honest-to-goodness lobster roll. There is even a kosher vending machine located in Fenway.
The San Francisco Giant’s fans will enjoy some tasty eating as well with Crazy Crab’z dungeness crab sandwiches and Crab Louie salad. There is also a send up to the worlds rudest waiter, Edsel Ford Fong who was an actual tourist attraction at Sam Wo Restaurant in Chinatown. This stand offers traditional Chinese fare, and a good supply of edamame. This might be the most refined ballpark serving the only lamb sausage known in baseball, and freshly baked biscotti and madelienes at the @Cafe.
Regardless of who’s team you are pulling for, you can be assured of a pretty damned good hot dog and a box of Cracker Jacks to get you through to the seventh inning stretch and beyond. Check out Bennett’s The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs to Haute Cuisine for a pretty good read.