Ballpark Bites

Enjoying a hot dog at a Cubs game. (July 2019)

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, it’s time to talk about some baseball snacks! Everyone has their favorite go-to at the ballpark, and there are some ballparks that have specialty snacks. I’m going to talk about some classic staples, as well as some park-specific foods.

Every Park Offerings

No matter what ballpark you go to, there are the staple snacks. You can never go wrong with a hot dog – some parks even offer kosher and vegan options. You can always get nachos – whether it’s the basic nachos or the supreme, novelty helmet nachos. Nachos are such a great option, as you can customize them with what toppings you want (and don’t want). Hopefully the game you’re watching isn’t making your stomach twisted like a pretzel while you snack.

Of course it couldn’t be a ballpark snack post without peanuts and Cracker Jacks – the two most popular snacks at a baseball game, no matter how old you are. There’s something fun about cracking a peanut open with your teeth, then spitting out the shell like you’re a player spitting out sunflower seeds.

Carne asada nacho bowl at Dodger Stadium (May 2017)

Specialty Snacks

While each park has the “find everywhere” foods, there are some foods that can only be found at specific parks.

Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, offer bratwurst nachos. However, instead of the typical corn tortilla chips, ground beef, and nacho cheese (and whatever other toppings you add), the brat nachos have potato chips, ground up bratwurst sausages, and nacho cheese. It seems to be one of those snacks that perfectly describes being in Milwaukee. You can add all the usual nacho toppings as well – salsa, sour cream, etc. This is one (and really the only) Miller Park snack that makes me want to go to a Brewers game – their frozen margaritas are a close second, though.

Dodger Stadium, home to the Los Angeles Dodgers (obviously), has MANY specialty snacks to offer. The most popular is the Dodger Dog. From 1884 to 1957, the Dodgers played in Brooklyn, New York, before moving west to Los Angeles in 1958. The team pays homage to their original stomping grounds with the Brooklyn Dog. The difference between the two? The Brooklyn Dog has a thicker, all-natural casing that snaps when you bite into it. The Dodger Dog is served plain, so be sure to hit the toppings stand before heading to your seat.

To deviate away from major league ballparks for a moment, some minor league parks offer amazing snacks as well. The DuPage Medical Group Field, home of the Joliet Slammers, in Joliet, Illinois, offers a “walking taco.” You pick a bag of chips (typically a tortilla-like chip, so the best choice is Doritos) and can add cheese, meat, and any typical nacho toppings. The toppings are all poured into the chip bag, so your hands don’t get (as) messy. You can also get an order of cheese curds. If you’re not from the Midwest, you may not know the deliciousness of cheese curds. They’re little balls of cheese, typically yellow and white cheddar, that are battered, fried, and best served with ranch dressing to dip them in. Fried cheese dipped in ranch – is my Midwesterner showing yet?

Staying in Chicagoland, we’re getting called up to the majors, and we’re headed to 35th Street – for a trip to Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox. However, if you ask a Chicagoan where the Southsiders play, they’ll rarely call it that. You can get anything from Sox Park to The Cell (the park was named U.S. Cellular Field from 2003 to 2016); some still call it Comiskey. However you refer to the stadium, the food is incredible. One of my favorites that I get are the elotes. A popular food that is often sold from a street cart, an elote is an ear of cooked sweet corn slathered in a spicy mixture of mayonnaise, crema, and chili powder and then sprinkled with cheese. Its so incredibly simple, and SO. GOOD.

I know this is a ballpark food post, but I can’t talk about the Sox without giving an honorable mention to Fantastic Freddie’s, a sit-down restaurant a few blocks from the ballpark. Freddie’s has some of the best Italian beef on the South Side. They also offer hot dogs, Polish and Italian sausages, and chicken sandwiches. The best part of Freddie’s is that they offer gelato and Italian ice – the perfect treat on a hot summer day on a walk to the ballpark.

From Sox Park, you can jump on the Red Line and head north to Wrigley Field, home of the (2016 World Champion) Chicago Cubs. One special thing that happens at Wrigley during the summer is the “Chef’s Corner” series, where popular Chicago chefs (like Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard of The Girl and the Goat, and Graham Elliot) have a stand in the right field concourse for a few days and can feature some of their food. My favorite has been Rick Bayless, mostly because I grew up watching his cooking show “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” One food that you can only find at Wrigley is the Hot Doug’s stand – and you can only get it if you have a bleacher ticket. Hot Doug’s is a specialty hot dog stand, and they are a fan favorite.

We can’t be in Chicago and talking about baseball and food without talking about a Chicago Dog. Hilariously enough, there is an AAIPB (American Association of Independent Professional Baseball) team in Chicago aptly called the Chicago Dogs. The Dogs play at Impact Field in Rosemont, a suburb of Chicago near O’Hare Airport. Naturally, the staple at Impact Field is the Chicago-style hot dog, provided by The Wiener’s Circle. The components of a Chicago-style dog? A steamed poppy-seed bun, yellow mustard, sweet relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear, chopped onion, sports peppers, and celery salt; often referred to as “drug through the garden.” Other fun food includes a foot-long grilled cheese, chicken tenders, and (more) elotes – but none outshine the Chicago-style dog.

Enjoying a Chicago Dog while watching the Chicago Dogs (July 2019)

If anyone needs me, I’ll be looking up how to make bratchos and watching baseball highlights (or maybe just the 2016 World Series again).

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