I’ve been a baseball fan since birth. Some of my earliest memories are watching the Expos on my dad’s lap, with him getting me all riled up every time Tim Raines stepped on the field. I can remember listening to the games at our summer trailer on the radio, called by Dave Van Horne and Ken Singleton. That passion has never left me, and over the past few years I’ve made it a special point to visit at least one new ballpark every year.
There was no doubt that during our weekend getaway that we were going to be taking in a game with the Phillies. My wife was initially giddy that the announced starting pitcher for the Mets was Bartolo Colon. For some reason, nearly every other time we visit a ballpark, Colon seems to be starting for the opposition. Like the rest of the free world, we’re amazed that a 300 pound, 43-year old man, who has roughly 1 pitch in his arsenal, continues to mow down hitters year after year. So, when his start was pushed up a day, we were crushed that “Big Sexy” would not be making an appearance at our game.
Once the rains of disappointment had cleared up, we decided to pre-plan our concession trip. Quality food is critical to a good baseball game. In fact, it’s become a nationwide phenomenon. Every year, stories are printed about new fare from around the league – with some of this year’s fun new offerings include a sweet potato waffle chicken sandwich available in Houston, to ceviche in Miami. Yes, you can go to a ballgame and order ceviche. Long gone are the days of the standard hot dog and sad looking nacho platter.
Our hotel manager was insistent we get the Crabfries from Chickie’s and Pete’s. Crabfries are unique to Philadelphia, and the locals are crazy for them. It’s your standard issue french fry, heightened with a heavy coating of Old Bay seasoning, and served with a side of their signature creamy white cheese sauce. My wife waded through the insanely long lineup, and was served their smallest serving of fries available – which was big enough to feed a family of 4. I’m amazed that Crabfries haven’t caught on elsewhere, especially along the Eastern seaboard. The Old Bay seasoning brought me back to dinners in Cape Cod, scarfing seafood and enjoying the sea air. These were crispy, well seasoned, and delicious.
While she was getting her fries, I’d followed the trail of BBQ smoke and found myself in line for Bull’s BBQ. Bull’s BBQ is run by former Phillies player Greg Luzinski, who traded in his cleats for charcoal, and has been serving up his take on barbecue classics for years. Being a huge fan of all things BBQ, I went for the $14 sampler platter which gave me one of each of their sandwiches. I topped the pit beef and turkey sandwiches with their BBQ sauce, and made my way back to my seat.
The highlight of the trio was the pulled pork. They’d taken great care to remove all of the fatty bits, leaving behind tasty, perfectly cooked pieces of porky goodness. The sauce was sticky and sweet, and had helped add a little caramelized texture to the sandwich. The turkey was good, moist and flavorful, with a hint of smoke. The beef had dried out a bit – but the sauce helped bring it back a bit. Still, getting a true BBQ experience in a ballpark? I love 2016!
As the innings crept on, my wife went to grab her soda re-fill, and picked up a pretzel. Usually, our pretzel experiences have been limited to Auntie Anne’s, so it was nice to sample something else. These had been brushed in a healthy coating of butter to help the salt stick to the pretzel, and if you can get past the grease on your fingers, you’re left with an extra flavor layer that’s fantastic. You can’t ever go wrong with a hot fresh pretzel, and Philadelphia’s got their act together.
What I liked best about the food at Citizen’s Bank is just how nicely it’s all laid out. When you walk through the front gates, the options are all available in front of a huge picnic area, behind the outfield stands. You’re not stuck trying to figure out where the best and most talked about concession items are hidden, because they’re right in front of you the second you walk in. The designers clearly knew what they were doing when they put this together before the 2004 season, and I was very impressed overall.
And most importantly, the Phillies won, so everyone went home happy.