What to eat? Food and Drink options at Camden Yards

boogs-bbq

Boog's BBQ Pit Beef

At 5’9 and 140 pounds you probably wouldn’t guess it by looking at me, but I love food.  I come from a family where all get-togethers are built around meals and as a result, I’ve adopted that “what are we eating?” mentality into my day-to-day life.  If I am going somewhere, it isn’t just important – it is a requirement – for me to know what food options are available.  A trip to Camden Yards is no exception.  Over the years, I think I’ve done a fairly thorough job of seeing most of what OPACY has to offer in terms of food and drink.  I’ll hit on some of the highlights and lowlights below.

You can’t discuss food at Camden Yards without mentioning, Boog’s BBQ, so I’ll start there.  Boog’s BBQ is of course the namesake concession stand of former Oriole Boog Powell and has been at the same Eutaw Street location since Camden Yards opened twenty seasons ago.  Pit Beef is sort of a Maryland specialty.  Given those two elements – a former player’s endorsement and the pit beef theme – it is no surprise that the Boog’s BBQ stand on Eutaw Street has become such a loved and romanticized part of the Camden Yards’ experience.  For its part, the food is generally very good if not way over-priced.  Every once and a while I will get a pit beef sandwich that is dry and thrown on a stale bun.  On the final day of the season in 2010, Tim ordered a turkey sandwich that he swears was actually ham.  That wouldn’t be all that unusual if Boog’s actually sold ham sandwiches.  Those sorts of instances are relatively rare at Boog’s.  If you like pit beef (or pit turkey and pulled pork for that matter), you’ll be satisfied more often than not.  It is the price that is the killer – a pit beef platter (platters come with beans and coleslaw) and drink can run you upwards of $20 bucks.  A friendly tip – avoid the platter (neither side is very good) and the drink (you can get them elsewhere for cheaper and have a better chance of getting a drink that hasn’t been sitting out for five minutes).

OPACY switched food vendors last season, moving from longtime vendor Aramark to Delaware North.  Aramark is the King of sports venue vendors and as such, they have gained a reputation over the years for poor service and poor quality of food.  I can’t say I disagree with that assessment – Aramark’s food at any venue never struck me as being anything all that great.  In terms of quality of food, Delaware North certainly seems to be a step in the right direction.  The jury is still out on quality of service.  On the whole, lines seemed to move slower during the 2011 season and there were more shortages of food than I previously remember.  However, it was their first year on the job and those kinds of kinks do take some time to work out so I am more than willing to give the benefit of the doubt there.

For my money, you can’t beat an Italian Sausage at a baseball game.  Given the other options, it is relatively healthy and you have tons of options of sausages at OPACY.  There are three das Sausage Has locations on the lower level concourse that serve your run-of-the-mill Italian sausage and hot Italian sausage (I prefer the hot version) with your choice of peppers and onions.  If you are seeking more than just a normal sausage, Pollock Johnny’s behind Section 68 serves a Italian sausages with a variety of different toppings including onion strings, peppers and onions, a special salsa-like sauce, and your choice of dressing including buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, and relish among others.  Honestly, I think the das Sausage House is just as strong as Pollock Johnny’s and more conveniently located.  Plus, it isn’t easy eating a sausage loaded with onion strings, salsa, and peppers without spilling it all over you . . . I speak from experience.

Besides for sausages, two other choices you can’t really go wrong with our Boardwalk Fries and Eskay hot dogs.  Boardwalk Fries can be an occasional miss if they have been sitting out for a long time or you just get a bad batch, but by and large they don’t disappoint.  Throw a little Old Bay on them and I am good to go.  Esskay Hot Dogs don’t need much of an introduction.  If you are able to forget the fact that the “meat” you are eating is some sort of weird, mish-mash of different ingredients, then there are few things better than a good hot dog at a baseball game.  Besides, they are also relatively cheap and small if you are looking to save a few bucks and not pig out on stadium food.

I mentioned my love of food and building my days around meals earlier.  I can definitively state that both of those traits were passed to me from my dad.  My dad lives in Gaithersburg and will usually make it up to Baltimore for 3-5 games a year.  When he does, the first issue is always “where are we going to eat?”  For many years, the answer to that question was the Camden Club.  Located on the 7th floor of the Warehouse, the Camden Club was a casual dining restaurant open before and after games to the public.  The food was your standard fare, but it was a nice (cool) location to sit in and watch the pre-game activities from, especially if you were lucky enough to get a seat by one of the windows.  The Camden Club closed last year.  At Fanfest this past January, my Dad inquired to an usher on the ballpark tour if there were any plans to reopen the restaurant or replace it (I wasn’t kidding when I said that Dad’s mind is always on food) and was told there were no plans.  If you want a sit down eating option in OPACY, the north-end Eutaw St. restaurant is apparently getting another facelift this year for the third or fourth year in a row.  Otherwise, you are pretty much out of luck beyond finding a bench to sit on in the picnic area or new centerfield roof area.

The beer story is, as it is at every park, centered around the prices.  $7.50 for a 16 ounce beer is way too expensive.  At the same time, 99% of the time I am not looking to get drunk while watching a live baseball game.  The idea of downing a few cheaper beers before entering the stadium doesn’t do much for me.  I’d rather have one, two, or three beers casually throughout the course of the game, which unfortunately means having to pay the exorbitant beer prices.  It’s my decision though (nobody is taking the money out of me wallet and pouring the beer down my throat) so I don’t see the sense in complaining about it.  OPACY has a fairy wide selection of beer.  The usual Miller Light, Coors, and Budweiser selections dominate the concession stands and beer vendors.  However, if you look hard enough (especially on Eutaw Street), there are plenty of other selections including about a half a dozen craft beer selections and about as many imports.  In the end, it really comes down to whether you can stomach those high prices.  Even Natty Boh, popular due to its origins in Baltimore and its affordability, is about $7.00 on tap at the Yard.

Last, but never least as far as I am concerned, is the snack/desert situation.  I am a huge chocolate fan.  Another trait passed down to me from my dad was the idea of “cutting the taste” after a meal with something sweet, usually chocolate.  I have trouble going a day without having something chocolate after a meal.  Unfortunately, this is where I find the Camden Yards concessions to be lacking the most.  You have the Good Humor-type ice cream bar selections, as well as Carvel ice cream selections.  However, the variety is somewhat lacking and besides, I’ve never found ice cream products to be all that great for baseball games given issues with melting on hot summer days.  What I’d really like on some nights is a good cookie or brownie.  On those weekday night games where I grab something to eat on my way out the door, I might just be looking for a quick snack around the fourth inning.  There aren’t many options besides large, prepackaged cookies.  The stadium began selling Berger cookies last year, but only on the Club Level, leaving those of us in the less expensive seats desertless.  Selling delicious Berger cookies throughout the stadium would certainly go a long way to increasing the desert/snack selection (if not my waistline).

So there’s my take.  I know I left out a lot of baseball staples like popcorn, cotton candy, nachos, and others, but that’s mostly because I don’t really have much to say about them.  I also haven’t tried as many of the unique Baltimore options (mainly seafood related options) and there’s a good reason for that.  I subscribe to the theory that unless I am at a seafood restaurant or a restaurant that has a reasonably large selection of seafood items worked into their menu, I am not going to risk ordering a seafood item.  No lake trout or lobster salad from the local sandwich shop for me.  The same applies to Camden Yards – I just can’t bring myself to fully trust shrimp or crab cakes being made alongside the fires and chicken tenders at a ball game.  Maybe that’s just me.

What are some of your favorite Camden Yards food and drink options?