By Ed Kowalski
First, in the interests of full disclosure and complete transparency, a confession:
As someone who makes a fairly comfortable living preparing food for hungry sports fans at an NHL arena, and as someone who travels to other sports venues regularly – both for business and pleasure – I know a thing or two about stadium and arena foods. I have witnessed firsthand, and have been intimately involved with, the changing landscape of culinary offerings at stadiums and arenas across ‘Merica. Long gone are the days of peanuts, hot dogs, and Cracker Jack as your choices while watching a game. Now celebrity chefs like Michael Symon and Jonathan Sawyer have ventured into the world of sports, and iconic eateries like Primanti Bros. have concession stands at their local stadiums.
I present my Top 5 Stadium/Arena Foods:
5. The Hot Mett, Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH (Reds)
This made my list for two reasons: as a child, when my beloved Big Red Machine would play the villainous Los Angeles Dodgers (my dad’s favorite team, at the time), it was time for a family outing to a ball game, where I would always eschew the hot dogs my brothers would eat in favor of this spicier, German-style sausage. The second reason? It’s just damned good, especially with mustard and grilled onions.
4. Crab Mac & Cheese Dog, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD (Orioles)
An all-beef hot dog, split down the middle and stuffed with creamy mac & cheese, topped with fresh lump crab meat and a couple shakes of Old Bay seasoning. The single best thing to shove into your face-hole at an Orioles game.
3. The Boomstick, Globe Life Park, Arlington, TX (Rangers)
A gargantuan TWO FEET of beefy goodness, topped with chili, nacho cheese, jalapenos, and caramelized onion and nestled snugly atop a potato roll, this behemoth is gonna set you back nearly $30, but it’s supposed to feed four people. Rrrrright…..
2. The Hogmolly, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Panthers)
Sliced smoked beef brisket, BBQ sauce, fried onions, pickled jalapenos, and cole slaw. Coupon included for 25% off your next angioplasty (kidding). This would have been ranked higher, but I felt deceived by the name, as there is no actual hog to be found on this sandwich.
1. Fifth Third Burger, Fifth Third Ballpark, Grand Rapids, MI (West Michigan Whitecaps)
Mom and Dad usually didn’t have much in the way of a budget for eats when we’d go to see the Reds play (usually enough for a hot dog and soda for each of us). For $24, they could have fed all 3 kids (plus one) by ordering this monstrosity of a burger, which has been featured on Man vs. Food. Five 1/3 pound burger patties with a kitchen sink of toppings and shoved between a bun the size of the hubcap from a 1958 Edsel. There is a challenge of some sort that involves eating this in its entirety by yourself, but I’m not that hard up for a T-shirt.
This is, by no means, a definitive list of the best stadium foods, simply the ones that I have enjoyed most in my travels.
What are YOUR favorites?