In the last few years, MLB stadium food has moved leagues beyond the days when the most exciting option was a hot dog that might have been made of beef instead of pork, or been a whopping foot long, rather than the standard 6 inches. Now, rather than a homogenous menu of little more than meat in buns across all the parks in the MLB, stadiums have unique options that make them as much of a destination for food as for sport.
In the modern era of exciting ballpark food, stadiums have gone in one of two directions; either they tend to come up with most bizarre options they can find for shock value and Instagram marketability, or they tend to go upscale.
Yes, we’ve reached an age where burgers are stuffed inside of pizza and hot dogs are topped with mac and cheese and Cracker Jacks. But at the same time, ballparks are filled with outposts of famous local restaurants and have menus designed by celebrity chefs the likes of Eddie Huang, David Chang and Andrew Zimmern.
Here are nine stadium restaurants where you can get famous regional fare or items created by celebrity chefs:
Ben’s Chili Bowl | Nationals Park | Washington, D.C.
There’s nothing more American than baseball – or so the saying goes. Well, how about going to a baseball game…while eating a hot dog…in our nation’s capital? The half-smokes from Ben’s Chili Bowl at Nationals Park are no ordinary dogs. The moderately spicy half-pork, half-beef dog smothered in chili, onions and cheese is the city’s unofficial dish, and Ben’s is the city’s most famous half-smoke destination, slinging the dogs since 1958. The original location of the iconic late-night eatery is such an institution that it’s about to get its block of U Street renamed “Ben’s Chili Bowl Way.”
Fuku | Citi Field | New York
When it comes to outposts of famous local restaurants, nobody does it bigger than The Big Apple’s Citi Field. Not only does the home of the Mets have a location of beloved NY joints Shake Shack, Nicoletta, Two Boots, Rao’s and Bao Haus – it’s also got a location of Fuku – David Chang’s fast-casual chicken joint. Chang – arguably the city’s most famous celebrity chef/restaurateur/TV personality/food magnate – opened the newest addition to his restaurant empire as a slightly more upscale answer to Chik-Fil-A in 2015. Now, rather than visiting one of the three locations in the city, you can just grab a crispy fried dark-meat chicken sandwich with fries and a side of Chang’s famous Ssam sauce from section 102. And for dessert, stop by Chang’s Milk Bar.
Tony Luke’s | Citizens Bank Park | Philadelphia
In Philly, the tourists and the travel shows will have you believe that when it comes to Philly cheesesteaks, there’s only one real choice: Pat’s or Geno’s. And while those two institutions have been around since 1930 and 1962, respectively, in 1992 Tony Luke opened a Southside cheesesteak shop that took the city by storm. But the truth is – and Philadelphians, please don’t hate me – that while Tony Luke’s does make one of the best cheesesteaks around, the Philly cheesesteak in general is grossly overrated. So, while you can get one at Tony Luke’s in the park if you must, you’re better off getting the roast pork sandwich, Philly’s hidden culinary gem. Tony Luke’s version of the roast pork is widely regarded as one of the best sandwiches in the city – and its undoubtedly one of the best options in the park.
Primanti Bros. | PNC Park | Pitsburgh
There are certain foods that define a city: Minnesota’s Juicy Luicy, New York’s pizza, Chicago’s hot dogs, to name a few. But rarely are such iconic dishes tied so cleanly and directly to one restaurant. However, the Primanti Bros famous Pittsburgh sandwich fits that bill. The original Strip District location of Primanti Bros opened in 1933, and it’s still open 24 hours. What makes this sandwich special – the thick-cut fries and vinegary slaw inside the sandwich of various meat options, provolone cheese and tomato bookended by Italian bread – seems far from innovative in today’s world of ramen burgers and “fat sandwiches.” But you had better believe that 85 years ago shoving your sides inside the sandwich was revolutionary. And while it might be tame on a spectrum of ballpark food that includes deep-fried hot dog-stuffed pickles and Cheetos-topped pork sandwiches, it’s still a local icon that will keep you sufficiently stuffed into extra innings.
Skyline chili | Great American Ball Park | Cincinnati
In 2013, Deadspin famously called Cincinnati “the worst regional foodstuff in America,” and “a horrifying diarrhea sludge” – which probably only made Cincinnati even prouder of this spice-laden brown meat sauce traditionally served over a bed of spaghetti and topped off with the kind of bright orange shredded cheddar you’d find at Taco Bell. Skyline is the undisputed king of Cincinnati chili (sorry, Goldstar), and, in addition to its 100-plus locations in the region, it’s got five locations at Great American Ball Park, where you can swap that s’ketti for a hot dog (another popular iteration). Love it or hate it, you’ve at least got to try it while you’re in town – if only to find out what horrifying diarrhea sludge actually tastes like.
Herbivorous Butcher | Target Field | Minneapolis
A decade ago, asking a stadium concession stand about its vegan options would have been laughable if not sacrilegious; those that stuck to plant-based options were relegated to soggy fries and over-salted popcorn. Now, at least in Minnesota, we’ve moved leagues into the future. At Target Field, not only can you find great veg-based food at Hot Indian Foods, but The Herbivorous Butcher – one of the most revered vegan restaurants in the country – dishes out Vegan sriracha brats and Italian sausages. That’s nothing compared to the dozens of ‘meats’ at its ‘butcher shop’ in the city.
Andrew Zimmern’s Cantten | Target Field | Minneapolis
Also at Target Field, fans can find a selection of great stadium fare from Andrew Zimmern – and the options are far from Bizarre. At the celebrity chef and TV host’s eponymous stand, Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen, you can find upscale ballpark food like crispy bacon on a buttered bun with jalapeño jelly and vinegar slaw, as well as a Korean fried chicken sandwich with grilled pineapple and chili lime slaw.
Texas Smoke | Minute Maid Park | Houston
If there’s one food most of us think of when it comes to Texas, it’s BBQ – namely brisket. And at Minute Maid Park, you can eat a bona fide Texas hero created by a bona fide Texas hero. Bryan Caswell has been littered with accolades from the likes of James Beard, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine. The former Food Network star – who’s often found in the kitchen donning an Astros hat – has taken his talents to Minute Maid Park, where fans can chow down on chopped beef sandwiches or carved brisket at Texas smoke, or get a more simple burger and fries at his newly opened The Caz.
Public House | AT&T Park | San Francisco
San Francisco is right up there with New York when it comes to its real estate prices and its food scene – and among the chefs responsible for SF’s culinary prowess is James Beard award-winner and Top Chef Masters finalist Traci Des Jardins. The celebrity chef’s contribution to AT&T Park has more to do with booze than food; Public House has a selection of craft cocktails and ciders, but its real prowess lies in its beer selection. The stadium bar has more than 75 craft and imported beers, including a great local selection. Of course, if you’re hungry, you can always choose from a variety of classic bar food items like wings, mac and cheese and spicy pulled pork sliders.