Plat du Jour: Tuesday, April 10, 2012
We’re back from Kauai, always a challenge to realize that every day this week won’t be filled with mai tais, pineapples, beaches, and golf. It’s now time to reflect on the lessons learned from Kauai’s emerging food community and restaurant scene. This week we’ll have a review of what I consider the four main restaurants of Kauai, starting with Merriman’s Poipu today, along with Friday a round up of the markets and food shops visited on the Garden Island, the best tastes of the week, and yesterday’s neighborhood article on Kukui’ula. Tomorrow we will also start our hopefully many articles to come from guest voices sharing their food communities, recipes, and insight on the food and drink world, beginning with the wonderful city of St. Louis, Mo.! (Meet Me in St. Louis…)
While away last week, the calendar turned to April, and for avid baseball fans such as yours truly, that meant opening day finally arrived to end the dark winter season of sports. My beloved Red Sox finally won their first game of the year last night after numerous bullpen collapses over the weekend.
In honor of baseball starting, here are some of my picks for the best foods to eat at ballparks across the country. Since 2003, my Dad and I have visited two or three new stadiums per season, adding up to a total now of 25 present stadiums where we have watched baseball (and eaten). Only Minneapolis, Miami, Tampa Bay, Houston, and Arlington, TX remain on the list (though the two Texas stadiums will not be on that list much longer…). Yes, ballpark food is overpriced and often very unhealthy, greasy, and underwhelming. And it’s a pain to eat in a cramped seat on a hot day or a cold night. But really, it’s baseball. Anything will taste good when you’re at the ballpark (as long as the Red Sox play better than last September!).
Speaking of the Red Sox:
Fenway Park, Boston: I’m a sucker for Fenway Franks. To me they actually do have more flavor, are plumper, and juicy but not too much so compared to other regular hot dogs. Legal Seafoods clam chowder is a great choice in April or the RemDawg (for announcer Jerry Remy) on Yawkey Way. Be sure to have a pint of the Green Monsta IPA by Wachusett Brewing Co. and cheer for A Gon, Papi, and Lesta’. Fenway happens to have exceptional food choices for a ballpark area from the Sausage Guy or Ken Oringer’s La Verdad Taqueria on Landsdowne to Island Creek Oysters, and really any place in the Back Bay is walking distance.
Citi Field, New York Mets: Home of Danny Meyer. That means Shake Shack and Shake Shack lines. No lines though for the excellent bbq sandwiches at Blue Smoke, the only place to get the also terrific Blue Smoke ESB Ale by Brooklyn Brewery. My broadcasting mentor Ted Robinson, a former Mets voice and New York native, led me a few years ago to the Mama’s of Corona stand for the excellent Italian sandwiches there at Shea. The stand is now at Citi Field. Some of the big league’s best food is at Citi Field, and hey at this moment, the Mets are undefeated!…
Yankee Stadium, New York: If you’re in the luxury boxes, I hear the food is spectacular from Morimoto, April Bloomfield, and other chefs. In the regular seating, go for the wok fried Asian noodles in the Great Hall, a Nathan’s hot dog, or the not cheap Lobel’s prime rib sandwich.
Citizen’s Bank Park, Philadelphia: Possibly the best for food and beer outside of San Francisco. Tony Luke’s roast pork with broccoli raab? The Schmitter? All excellent choices. Terrific beer from local stalwarts like Victory and Flying Fish.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore: One of the greatest crab cakes of my life. Baltimore must really know crab cakes if their ballpark even makes one this full of crab. Boog’s BBQ in rightfield is easily the most popular choice.
Nationals Park, Washington D.C.: See Citi Field above for Meyer, Danny choices. The outfield has a great Jamaican jerk chicken barbeque stand, freshly grilled, the envy of everyone around me. Dogfish Head, Flying Dog, and other local craft brews are available, but require a search to the leftfield scoreboard restaurant’s bar. Like at Ben’s Chili Bowl, the half smoke from Ben’s concession stand are only decent, the chili still thin and weak.
Turner Field, Atlanta: A horrid beer selection and the food isn’t much better. Atlanta’s local Sweetwater Brewery is sometimes available at one or two places. Some games the Chick Fil A is open, not that it is an upgrade over hot dogs. In the centerfield plaza, interesting hot dogs can be found such as the vidalia onion relish and cole slaw covered Georgia dogs, or others slabbed with heart attack toppings.
Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati: Every time, the bbq pulled pork sandwich from Montgomery Inn. Nothing else compares. Go to Graeter’s for ice cream after the game.
Progressive Field, Cleveland: Bratwurst with brown mustard. Save room and dine nearby at Lola or Greenhouse Tavern after the game.
PNC Park, Pittsburgh: Beautiful ballpark, poor team. Of course the famed Primanti Bros. sandwiches are the thing to get here, filled with meat, french fries, and cole slaw, all in one. Or think barbeque at Manny Sanguillen’s barbeque pit, the chief pitmaster rival in baseball to Boog Powell in Baltimore.
Rogers Centre, Toronto: Don’t remember any special food. I do remember having a LaBatt Blue for the novelty of it in Ontario.
Comerica Park, Detroit: Terrible food options made me starve myself and eat a stale salad at a nothing Greektown eatery afterwards. The chili cheese coney dogs are signature Detroit though and not too bad for a snack.
Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs: No memory, but probably just had sausages and/or hot dogs. Just drink Old Style, America’s favorite craft brew.
U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox: Home to Chicago’s worst pizza. I love the outfield showers and organ music though.
Miller Park, Milwaukee: Why of course, bratwursts from Klement’s! Miller is acceptable to drink here too.
Busch Stadium, St. Louis: Excellent fresh grilled Italian sausages with peppers and onions. Toasted ravioli? Not that good in restaurants or the stadium. Budweiser on draft. Better idea: bring sandwiches from the Italian delis on The Hill like Amighetti’s and Adriana’s.
Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City: BBQ beef sandwich from Gates BBQ, almost as good as what you’ll find even at Arthur Bryant’s. One of the best ballpark dishes in the country.
Coors Field, Denver: Haven’t found any great food here, the Rocky Mountain oysters taste of nothing but fried batter. The beer selection is excellent with choices from Oskar Blues and Boulder Beer, and even a few beers brewed at the stadium available at the Sandlot Brewery in rightfield.
Safeco Field, Seattle: The Ichi-roll or any sushi. The Ivar’s salmon sandwich is very acceptable too. The stadium to go to for salads too.
O.Co Coliseum, Oakland: I’ve been stuck going to this atrocious stadium since I was one month old. Beer selection is pretty decent, with the likes of Lagunitas IPA up in the West Side Club, open to the public. The bbq sandwiches by Kinder’s are fine, but I always have the Louisiana hot link at the Saag’s Sausages stand.
At&T Park, San Francisco: The premier place to eat and drink in the big leagues. The centerfield plaza’s Krazy Krab sandwich could be a lunch item from Michael Mina. There is a new Anchor Brewery beer garden out there this season, go for the Liberty Ale on draft. There are of course Boudin clam chowder sourdough bowls, excellent sausages at Say Hey! Sausages, and dessert must be Ghiradelli’s ice cream sundaes. A little beer advice: It’s less expensive and the selection up to nearly two dozen craft brews on draft downstairs at the Public House by Willie Mays Plaza. Yes, you have further to walk with the beer, but it’s worth it.
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles: I said this time and time again as a food critic in L.A. Dodger Dogs aren’t good. Sorry folks. Sandwiches from Canter’s are however worthwhile. Last time I was here I just had a pretzel and grapes the choices were so bad. Perhaps Magic Johnson will change this? My greatest food memory at Dodger Stadium was bringing one of my broadcast mentors in the press box, a Giants announcer, a bowl of udon from Sanuki No Sato, since his flight came in late and missed our lunch.
Angel Stadium, Anaheim: Nothing to write home about. The excellent Beachpit BBQ stand is gone now. At least Fat Fire is on draft…at over $11.
Petco Park, San Diego: Excellent fish tacos are all I remember, but everyone seems to eat before or after in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Chase Field, Phoenix: The options are no better at the D’backs home park than at Spring Training parks. The best beer is from Gordon Biersch. Maybe Chris Bianco can serve some pizza, Chris Curtiss some sandwiches, and Nobuo Fukuda some sushi in the future?
Alright, play ball!
Speaking of ballpark food, when I go to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, I’ll have to try this or at least see it. Everything is bigger in Texas I guess.
Chicago Magazine just released its new restaurants issue. Again, I am no expert on the Chicago restaurant scene, but I do appreciate reading about it. Chicago is no second city in food.
And finally this Tuesday, on the plane back from Kauai I read about this super fruit, the kerela (in the final paragraph). Perhaps like they do in Kerala, India, we should have some kerelas before eating that Champion Dog at Rangers Ballpark.
Happy Tuesday, tomorrow we’ll have a review of Josselin’s Kauai, insight on St. Louis, plus Wednesday’s Wine and Beers of the Week!