America’s Real Best Ballpark Food

We’re talkin’ ballpark food for this week’s Who Cooked It Better, inspired by the New York Times’ Travel Section. Food writer Peter Meehan had the enviable assignment of traveling to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums and sampling their many edible offerings. Of course, this being the New York Times, the baseball food they cover is less beer and pretzels, more Champagne and edamame. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather not sample the eel nigiri while sitting in the bleacher seats. In fact, I’m pretty sure that half the things on the Times list would get you a bloody nose if you’re sitting anywhere outside the executive suites. I’m not saying you have to always go for that slimy boiled hot dog that’s been sitting in warm water for god knows how long, or the “nachos” that are served in a plastic bag. But if we’re going to call it America’s pastime, it must surely be consumed with some sort of food smothered in cheese, grease, and other glorious fatness.

So while the Times writes for the black AMEX crowd, we’ve been scouring the Times online commenters, who are weighing in on the less fancy eats that the story chose to ignore.

Here’s our alternative list (with many thanks to all the angry NYT commenters) of America’s greasiest, cheesiest, most heart-stoppingly amazing ballpark food. Read through to the end to cast your vote for the best.

Washington Nationals – Ben’s Chili Bowl Fully Loaded Half Smoke

Photo: This is Gonna Be Good

It’s unclear how the Times got through a visit to the new Nationals Park without smelling out the offerings from DC’s legendary Ben’s Chili Bowl. I’m still not sure exactly what half-smoke means, but hotdamn it is some kinda tasty sausage. Ben’s fully loaded version is topped with chili, chopped onions, grated cheddar and yellow mustard. Don’t even think about not siding this with some of the world’s best cheese fries.

Baltimore Orioles – Boog’s BBQ Sandwich

Photo: malliavale

Times commenters are up in arms that the article missed the pit smoked pulled pork sandwich offered at Camden Yards. You won’t find a brioche or baguette slice here – the plain old doughy roll is only along for soaking up the gooey Jack Daniels BBQ sauce. Bonus: It’s served up by former Orioles first baseman Boog Powell.

Chicago White Sox – Elotes Corn

Photo: Electojosh

The Times says to avoid everything at the Sox’ new stadium, and let’s just say we hope their reporter doesn’t find himself in a back alley on South Side Chicago, because these people are pretty passionate about their corn. Dissed by the paper as “mushy,” and “overcooked,” the corn in question is fresh roasted on the cob, and then sliced off and topped with salt, butter, lime, red pepper and mexican white cheese. Sounds a little healthy for baseball – we could do with some pork fat drizzled on top – but elotes sure looks like great summertime eats.

New York Mets – Mama’s Italian Special Sandwich

Photo: Gothamist

True Mets fans know that when the game gets boring, the place to head isn’t the Nathan’s hot dog stand, but the Mama’s of Corona outpost on the field level. Thinly sliced pepper ham and Genoa salami are piled on an Italian roll, topped off with fresh mozzarella and olive oil. Mini containers of roasted red peppers and mushroom served on the side almost push this one into the “fancy enough for the New York Times” category; you’ll just have to reserve those for throwing at the umpire.

Cleveland Indians – Stadium Mustard

Photo: gezellig girl

OK, I’m not quite sure what all the Indians fans are talking about here, but holy crap these people enjoy their mustard. The “Stadium Mustard,” is perhaps the most mentioned item in the Times comments, and there is nary a word of hot dogs, burgers, or anything else to put it on. What’s the deal here, Cleveland? Do you drink it straight from the bottle? Layer it on a hot dog bun? Do tell, cuz whatever it is, I’m about to order a case.

Your votes please…

[poll id=”16″]

You may also like


  • 'Duk June 10, 2008  

    Yeah, I can’t believe that guy trashed the food at The Cell. There is no better smell on Earth than walking onto the concourse and smelling the Kosher dogs and onions. Best ballpark food around.

  • Yvo June 10, 2008  

    Ok. I haven’t been to that place yet at Shea but will now make a special go on… Sunday! I’ll arrive early. Will report back.
    And the new Citifield will have Shake Shack!!!

  • gansie June 10, 2008  

    I’m pumped to try the gelato at Nats park.

  • Andrew C June 10, 2008  

    God bless Stadium Mustard.
    No, you don’t drink it, but you can put it on about anything. Obviously, hot dogs. The comments are right: it’s not about the hot dog or what you’re putting the mustard on, it’s the mustard. I feel a little weird going to a game these days (not living in NE Ohio anymore) and not having stadium mustard.

  • Scott Janssens June 10, 2008  

    The author has a point about the Chicago stadiums. Best’s Kosher and Ballpark Franks are in the minors when compared to Vienna Beef Franks.

  • BS June 10, 2008  

    that is huge news about ShakeShack. As I refuse to recognize corporate ballpark names, I’m going to call it SheaShack.

  • Drew June 10, 2008  

    The only problem with Mama’s at Shea is that fans without a field level ticket can’t access the field level. So be prepared to get shook down like a criminal…

  • Brian June 10, 2008  

    Drew they do have Mama’s throughout the stadium. They have various stands that sell them in the other levels. It usually behind home plate off a cart

  • brian June 10, 2008  

    that guy is not me

  • Ben June 10, 2008  

    Try going further West (wanted to make a West of the Mississippi comment but you got Chicago, jerks), the food in CA is varied (though not always healthy, I think I remember Anaheim having horrid health standard reviews. . . . ). Here in CO you can get Rocky Mountain Oysters, or a good ‘ol buffalo burger or brat. Mmmm, yummy.

  • Chris June 10, 2008  

    How did you forget the Bank? Tony Luke’s roast pork sandwiches? Turkey Hill soft serve? Where’s your Philly pride??

  • mo boiler June 10, 2008  

    i’m surprised it didn’t get more respect, because the half-smoke is money. easily the best ballpark food i’ve had on the east coast – even better than the cheesesteaks at citizens bank park.

    that said, the fajitas from rita’s taqueria at minute maid park in houston are the absolute best ballpark food i’ve had. AND if i remember right they were like $4.00, a lot cheaper than most “premium” ballpark items.

  • M June 10, 2008  

    you’ve obviously never been to KC. the bbq is second to none. they sell Gates at the K, which in my opinion, isn’t even the best in the city- but it would still destroy anything else in the nation, i guarantee it. wash it down with a boulevard wheat, pale ale, or zon (summer brew) and you’re in heaven. you’ll forget you were watching a bad game.

  • Jeffrey June 10, 2008  

    Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia: Tony Luke’s roast pork sandwiches and cheesesteaks, Chickie’s & Pete’s crab fries and “The Schmitter.”
    Food Network viewers agree:

    2007 Viewer’s Choice: Best Ballpark Eats
    Camden Yards (Baltimore)
    AT&T Park (San Francisco)
    * Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia)
    Safeco Field (Seattle)

    * Winner,3151,FOOD_28456_61089,00.html

  • 80 Proof June 10, 2008  

    Good call on the Schmitter. Covered on ES a while back for an Eagles game.

  • Matt June 10, 2008  

    I’m from Cleveland. I went to an Indians/Angels game in Anaheim last year and ordered a brat. I guess I forgot that I wasn’t at home … there wasn’t any stadium mustard. I threw the $7 brat away and got nachos instead.

    The stuff becomes essential after awhile.

  • RyPay June 10, 2008  

    The garlic fries at AT&T were phenomenal as long as you don’t mind the fierce breath after.

  • Paul Mannino June 10, 2008  

    Can’t believe you don’t have the Crazy Crab sandwich from SF on the list. With garlic fries, it’s hard to beat.

  • Jean Shorts June 11, 2008  
  • Chris June 11, 2008  

    We were very very close to a meeting of two of the items on this list. During the second half of the season last year, the Nationals had Stadium Mustard available at condiment stands at RFK (in packets, unfortunately, but nothing is perfect), and as soon as I heard they were going to be having a Ben’s at the Natty, I had been dreaming of a chili half-smoke with some stadium mustard on top.

    Unfortunately, there is no stadium mustard to be found, but those chili half-smokes from Ben’s are still spectacular, and (note to any out-of-towners who may be coming through DC and decide to take in a game) you don’t have to wait in the absurdly long lines at the Ben’s stand to get them, because the half-smokes are available at every hot dog stand in the park.

  • H Diddy June 11, 2008  

    Im so glad to see stadium mustard made it on here- I buy it every time im in Cleveland (ie this upcoming weekend, anyone need a bottle?) It’s the BEST MUSTARD EVER. i would sneak it into the nats new park just to put it on a half smoke.

  • Maidelitala June 11, 2008  

    did you all hear the story about stadium mustard vs. the original ballpark mustard on NPR… apparently the real stuff is not the stadium mustard sold around the country in bottles… it’s the story of a very sad business partnership falling through for mysterious reasons.
    congrats on the USA TODAY mention BS!

  • DAD GANSIE June 11, 2008  

    right on chris & jeff we”ll pick philly….however, bs’s food looked great too do you eat gelatos at ball games?? I guess nat fans do or missed placed philly fans when there’s not much else doing…huh gansie??

  • Yvo June 12, 2008  

    To the guy who said if you don’t have a field level ticket you can’t get to field level at Shea – actually my understanding is if you arrive early enough, you can… like an hour before game time?

  • Yvo April 3, 2009  

    I am going to keep coming back to this list as I go through the nation’s ballparks. I am going to Pittsburgh soon. I don’t see anything about Pittsburgh. Anyone, holla?

  • Bradley Cromes April 9, 2010  

    Just for the record, the mustard served at The Jake (yes, I’m still calling it that) is Bertman’s Original Ballpark Mustard, not the Stadium Mustard you’ve got listed here.

    Yes, it makes a difference.

    That is all. Great piece!

  • Pingback: Nationals Park : The Feisty Foodie April 27, 2010  
  • Pingback: The 24oz Beer Can | Endless Simmer July 28, 2010  
  • Joe Mamma October 5, 2010  

    I can’t believe the salmon tacos at Raley Field in Sacramento didn’t make the cut. I don’t know what the chef uses, I think a cilantro aioli, tequila and shredded radish, but it is to die for. Also I hear they roll all the meatballs for their meatball sandwich from scratch. Good stuff!!

  • Dan Leavitt November 9, 2011  

    Back in the late 80’s we made a yearly trek to the former Milwaukee County Stadium to catch The Brewers when they were still in the American League. Naturally, good Miller beer and hot dogs were always the preferred choice. At that time most vendors at Milwaukee County had a mustard that was the best of any ball park across the country. It was not the bright yellow style or a spicy brown style, but a light brown, mild and slightly tangy style. We have been to the new Miller Park, but I have not found this tasty mustard at any of the vendors stands.
    Does anyone remember this great condiment and is it available from any food outlets. Any feedback would be appreciated

Leave a comment