The All-Stars Of Stadium Snacks
The Olympic Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine. Marcus Bredt/ marcusbredt.de
From the best pie in English football to Baltimore’s crab cakes, we serve up the tastiest game-day grub.
Food and sport: both pillars of any successful society. Without one we would perish, starved of the vital sustenance required to survive. And without the other? Well, we’d be rather hungry, wouldn’t we? But like scrambled eggs and ice cream, or Messrs Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, two successful elements do not always combine harmoniously.
Take the food at many English football grounds, for example. Mid-match fuel is often limited to either a) a tinfoil tray of brown sludge and rock-hard pastry masquerading as a “local [insert random protein] pie”, or b) a Yorkie bar with a price so inflated you’d be forgiven for expecting club shares with your purchase. And on the other side of the Atlantic, the cliché of cartoonishly greasy food is still very much being perpetuated. If there are limits to what man can deep-fry, some US ballparks are making the discovery of them a sport all of its own. Anyone up for Colorado Rockies’ deep-fried bison reproductive organs?
This is not to say we expect a slab of foie gras and a crisp glass of Pinot Gris waiting for us in the stands. Far from it. Sitting on plastic seats shouting random obscenities suits, nay, demands no-nonsense, instantly gratifying fare, but that doesn’t mean the digestive drama has to exceed the action on the field.
To illustrate this, we have scoured the stadium snacks worth travelling for. So sit back, enjoy the game, and fill your boots.
At Citizens Bank Park baseball stadium, you can’t get much more authentic than a good old Philly cheesesteak. This meaty snack began life in the 1930s when Messrs Pat and Harry Olivieri put chopped steak on an Italian roll, selling their pioneering creation near South Philadelphia’s Italian Market. Today, Mr Tony Luke, who “redefined the Philly sandwich experience”, has an incredibly popular stall at The Bank, which offers ribeye black Angus beef topped with American cheese or provolone.
The Lancashire football team may currently occupy 12th place in the League Two table, but “the Shrimps” are Premier League champions in the kitchen after their chicken, ham and leek pie won Best Pie in Football at the British Pie Awards last year. Their secret? Chef Mr Graham Aimson makes each one by hand and sources ingredients locally – rather unique considering brands such as Pukka Pies usually have a monopoly on the savoury snack. The Globe Arena – which sells up to 1,600 pies at just £3 per game – also offers a steak and ale variant. Both are so good they’ve been stocked at Harrods.
The Dodgers may be struggling to defend their back-to-back National League West titles, but their food game is as strong as ever. A little lighter on the stomach (and easier to hold) than, say, their LA Extreme Bacon Dog, the elote (aka corn on the cob) is a rarity in stadium dining in that it’s essentially a big vegetable – albeit slathered in mayo, cheese and powdered chilli. Find it at Think Blue Bar-B-Que in the Left Field Pavilion.
Although the Zoom-Zoom stadium – home to “Koi”, who play their baseball in the Central League – cannot compete with US ballparks in size, the food on offer is arguably more diverse. Derived from the words okonomi and yaki (“what you like” and “grilled”), this is a savoury pancake that comes with optional items such as pork, squid, octopus and cheese. You might even get noodles and a fried egg. Just make sure you add lashings of brown okonomiyaki sauce.
Over the course of a three-hour football match, food is likely to be on the agenda during a visit to the 80,000-capacity AT&T. Although there’s plenty of time to choose your snack, don’t think about it too much – go local and instantly satisfying with some Texan barbecue brisket. And what to wash it down with? A frozen Texas-size cowboyrita margarita of course – made with 100% blue agave tequila.
Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay has always been an East Coast hotbed for blue crab, so if you’re in Baltimore, you’d be mad not to try the crustacean (especially at a stadium which has pioneered local food at ballparks). The crab mac-and-cheese dog at Esskay Gourmet Hot Dogs on Eutaw Street stands out, but we prefer the more traditional form found at the Old Bay Seafood stand at Gate E on the Lower Deck. Eat like a true Baltimorean and ease off on the tartar sauce.
The tickets are cheap, beer flows as freely as the football, and the bratwurst can’t be beat – there are far worse places to enjoy the beautiful game than the Bundesliga, and where better than at the home of mighty Bayern Munich. A firm fan favourite here is the rote bratwurst – a delicious spiced, red sausage, served in a roll. However, one mustn’t overlook local specialities. Said to be invented in 1776 by the cook of Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria, this south German meatloaf roll is best served piping hot with plenty of mustard.