It happened in an organic way, with no one overtly trying to take credit for the quiet revolution, first seen in casinos, then airports, and now ballparks and stadiums. Suddenly, after years of mediocrity for sake of a bigger goal, people realized that there is no excuse to serve crappy food, and that big name, professional restaurateurs will always deliver a satisfactory experience that customers will pay a premium to eat. The idea that Vegas should just be about gambling and shows (or strippers, your choice), airports should be about the destination and not the journey and sporting events only about the on-field action is outdated and single-minded. Now, instead of just the buffet to go with your black jack, there is Boulud; there is Shake Shack before you board for Shanghai; and just as exciting, now there is Momofuku (and many others) when you’re watching the Mets.
Baseball may be “America’s pastime”, but eating is not far behind, and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, has come a long way, from peanuts and Cracker Jacks to filet mignon and herbed kale. The 2016 food offerings at CitiField are filled with a who’s who of the New York City food scene, and will be just as much as an attraction as the conference winning team, at least for me. While the choice of whom to cheer for is clear (LET’S GO METS!), what to eat is a trickier proposition; while this food is not cheap, given the lines at Fuku in NYC, the price of a nose bleed seat is now an easy way to sample David’ Chang’s spicy fried chicken sandwich and numerous other iconic NYC bites.
I was lucky enough to eat my way through the 2016 food options at Citi Field, and below is my round- up of most of what I sampled, as well as some additional offerings.
Papa Rosso from Union Square Hospitality Group: New York City is a pizza town, and Papa Rosso is a proper ambassador of what we do best. The high quality, locally- sourced ingredients, chewy/crunchy crust and individual size make these pizzas the perfect game time meal, in another league (baseball joke) from the greasy slice on the corner. Also on offer are Italian ices, a nostalgic favorite but in elevated flavors like chocolate black cherry.
PRESSED by Chef Josh Capon: Capon is known as a master of meat, but at his grilled cheese stand he also offers an imPRESSive vegetarian option called The Ultimate Grilled Cheese: herbed boursin, muenster and havarti cheese, with herbed kale pesto and broccoli rabe on sourdough. How fancy is that?! As good as that was, I was drawn to the Pepper Crusted Bacon Grilled Cheese, with Monterey Jack, aged white cheddar and Swiss cheese, roasted tomato jam on sourdough. These sandwiches are big, and a mix of an old-time favorite and serious chef skills.
FUKU by David Chang: Unless you have been in a media blackout until opening day, you have heard that David Chang is bringing his much in demand FUKU spicy fried chicken sandwich to Citi Field. This behemoth can be comfortably devoured with one hand, leaving the other hand for cheering for the home team or flipping off the visitors. I actually ate more than one of these at the field last week, of which I am both proud and ashamed. Also on offer are Milk Bar cookies, a sweet ending to either a loss or victory.
Tribeca Grill– I am not sure that I would have sampled this sandwich had an old friend not handed one to me, because I was blinded by flashier names and more naughty treats, but the red-wine braised short rib sandwich from Tribeca Grill was one of the best things I ate that day. Solid, filling, steak sandwich that is just rich enough…
Pat LaFrieda: Speaking of steak, Pat LaFrieda, the king of name-brand meat, has some serious steaks available at his namesake Chop House, including the hand cut Pat LaFrieda 38 oz Prime Reserve Black Angus Tomahawk Rib Chop. If a Tomahawk of meat is not your stadium style, there is always the original Filet Mignon Steak Sandwich, one of my go- to steak sandwiches at sporting events. The sweet vidalia onions and beef au jus give this sandwich some extra love, and the locally baked bread holds up nicely to all the meat and sauce.
Blue Smoke: Blue Smoke has been smoking the competition at Citi Field for years, and their mac ‘n cheese with pulled pork was a naughty little treat that is sure to be an Instagram favorite as well. This was delicious but I am not sure how much of it I could eat and stay awake for the half time show… (joke, i know there is no half time in baseball; I also know there is no crying in baseball.)
Shake Shack: This Shacktastic empire from Danny Meyer debuted a new burger for the 2016 season, the Smoke Shack: Cheeseburger with Niman Ranch bacon, chopped cherry peppers and ShackSauce, which is sure to be a crowd pleaser. ShakeShack has fans from all over the country, so this will be a popular stop for the home team and visitors alike. The Smoke Shack is as delicious as it is pretty…
Other noteworthy vendors and bites:
Rao’s: Rao’s tasty sauces and Italian bites are the closest most of us are getting to actually sampling the food at the brick and mortar Rao’s, so this is a solid bet for a red-sauce fix.
Pig Guy NYC: Bacon on a stick, enough said.
Premio: Call me traditional, but you can never go wrong with a Premio sausage and pepper sandwich at a baseball game.
To wash down all of this goodness, Citi Field offers 75 different types of beers- foreign, domestic, super-local gluten free, etc…
Also new for 2016 is a partnership between Citi Field and Coca Cola, so Coca Cola, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Smartwater, Dasani, and Gold Peak Iced Tea will all be on offer…
Ballpark standards (Nathans, fries, Mr. Softee) are of course available as well. Swing batter batter…