When it comes to ballpark food, I am not particularly impressed with any of it. On most nights, I’ll grab a sandwich — a bigger, better and cheaper sandwich than any I can get at the stadium — and chow down at my seat. If I’m feeling like stadium food, I’ll grab a few hot dogs or a Premio sausage with peppers and onions. After all, I’m at the stadium for the game and not a five-star meal.
But like it or not, baseball stadiums have turned into wannabe food havens. This trend seemingly began in Baltimore when Camden Yards and Boog’s Barbecue ushered in a new era of increased attention to food. Now, around the nation, local cuisine from pierogies in Pittsburgh to cheese steaks in Philadephia and basically whatever you want in Seattle permeate stadiums. There’s just something about cooking for 40,000 people, though, that makes generally reliable meals not that appetizing.
With the two new stadiums in New York City promising everything from fine steakhouse dining to Shake Shack and Blue Smoke offerings, it was only a matter of time before outgoing Times food critic Frank Bruni wrapped his chops around ballpark cuisine. In yesterday’s paper, he unveiled his review, and while the Yankees currently have a better record than the Mets, the Flushing Nine apparently have better food. Bruni writes:
New York is actually playing catch-up, and making a spirited game of it. At Yankee Stadium there are special stations at which all-stars like April Bloomfield (of the Spotted Pig in Manhattan) and Masaharu Morimoto (of Morimoto in Manhattan and Philadelphia) show up occasionally to cook.
At Citi Field there’s an Acela Club under the supervision of Drew Nieporent, one of the restaurateurs behind Nobu. But those dining experiences are available only to fans with premium tickets. I stuck to the (relatively) cheap seats and supped at concessions any fan could approach.
The teams have poured considerable energy into these, too. The Yankees serve not only sushi but also thick steak sandwiches from the butcher Lobel’s of New York. The Mets drafted Mr. Meyer to help with barbecue, soft tacos and more, and they turned to the renowned seafood chef Dave Pasternack to oversee a stand called Catch of the Day. But at the chopping block as on the playing field, it’s easier to devise a game plan than to execute it.
Using an assortment of adjectives restaurateurs would prefer not to see in a Times column, Bruni finds the food an improvement over Shea and old Yankee Stadium offerings but underwhelming nonetheless. At CitiField, Bruni encounters “under-seasoned” pork and “paltry” portions. He finds the Lobel’s steak sandwich at Yankee Stadium to be “overcooked and soggy” and the Johnny Rocket’s burgers “clumpy.” In the end, Shake Shack and Blue Smoke triumph over Brother Jimmy’s and the aforementioned Johnny Rockets.
I haven’t been out to CitiField yet, so I am in no position to judge the food. At Yankee Stadium, I have tried the heralded garlic fries and the Brother Jimmy’s pulled pork. Neither impressed me much. The fries were indeed quite garlicky but also lukewarm and soggy. They were far from crisp or crunchy. The pulled pork wasn’t just under-seasoned; quite simply, it had no taste. It is Brother Jimmy’s in name only.
In the end, the Yankees and Mets and the casual fans of these two teams will be happy with the new and expanded food options. Me? I’ll take a beer, a hot dog and a warm sunny day. I go for the baseball, not the brisket.