When the 2013 Major League Baseball season opens this week, all eyes will be on the field. Well, for the first inning or so. At that point, the aroma of grilled hot dogs, barbecue sauce, garlic fries, crab cakes, and clam chowder will lure even the most diehard bleacher creatures to the food stands that line the corridors. While peanuts and Cracker Jacks remain ballgame staples, there's a world of serious eats at every ballpark in the U.S. Honestly, you can find a fantastic meal anywhere the national pastime is played. Here are our top picks for the discerning baseball gourmand.
Citi Field, Queens, NY
Although the New York Mets have played second fiddle to their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, for the past few years, the team's new stadium, which debuted in 2009, takes the pennant for unparalleled food options, including grub from Danny Meyer's Shake Shack. "I was torn between a giant sandwich from Hot Pastrami on Rye and authentic Mexican tacos from El Verano Taqueria," says Budget Travel's Assistant Digital Editor, Kaeli Conforti. "Then I spotted Blue Smoke. Pulled pork sandwiches and beer at a baseball game? Absolutely."
Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO
The Kansas City Royals' fans are blessed with the finest BBQ in baseball, and the KC Ribeye sandwich piles onions and mushrooms on top of steak and the barbecue sauce for which the city if renowned.
AT&T Park, San Francisco
The defending world champion San Francisco Giants play in a decidedly foodie town, so it's no surprise that the eats at their ballpark are staggering. "Two indelible sensory images from the park: the sight of kayakers paddling around McCovey Cove hoping to fish out a home run ball, and the overwhelming but delicious scent of Gilroy Garlic Fries!" says Cathy Bennett Kopf, municipal treasurer by day, travel blogger by night (theopensuitcase.com).
Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
The home of the Phillies is known for The Schmitter, layered in cheese, grilled salami, beef, fried onions, tomato, and special sauce. But the park is also considered the most vegetarian-friendly in baseball. My brother John Paul Cappiello, an operations manager for a bank and a singer/songwriter, names the veggie Vedura hoagie, from Planet Hoagie, as his fave. "Roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone—now that I'd wait in line for!"
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
"Nothing beats a Camden Yards Crab Cake on a warm summer night," says Christina Mattson, a broadcast business manager. "They've ruined me for ballpark franks." The crab cakes are made with jumbo crab meat, and local favorite Old Bay seasoning is available, of course.
Fenway Park, Boston
If you've managed to visit Boston and not overdosed on chowdah by the time you take your seat for a Red Sox game, you can obtain an exceptionally rich, steaming bowl of the iconic New England soup right at the park, at Legal Sea Foods.
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
The Yankees have gone upscale in their menu options since moving into their new home in 2009, including the staggeringly tasty Lobel's Prime Beef Sandwich. But for this Bronx native, nothing beats a Nathan's Famous hot dog with mustard. At my first ballgame at the original Yankee Stadium, my dad bought me a dog and, as I prepared to take a bite, he said, "You know, nothing tastes better than a hot dog at a baseball game." I still think so.