Home of the Baltimore Orioles
It’s been almost a year since I reviewed a ballpark for this series, but there’s a very good reason. I hadn’t been to an MLB stadium in a very long time. Sure, I’ve been to a handful about which I haven’t written, but I didn’t want to write about Progressive Field when I hadn’t been there in five years. Well, problem solved. I just spent three days at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Camden Yards is often thought of as the first of the new “old-style” parks that open out into a city and provide the comforts of modern life. U.S Cellular Field this is not. Part of Camden’s charm, in my opinion, is it’s cozy dimensions. While the concourses are spacious and only crowded when busloads of children are dumped into them, the seating is very close to the action. I sat in the last few rows of the lower deck all three games and was never very far from the action. Some parks have lots of foul territory, which Camden does not, but they are also built on a very gentle incline to maximize seating, meaning that you can end up quite a ways from the action. Not so in Baltimore.
The stadium features a three tiered design with the lower deck also divided into two parts. I sat in the rear sections of the lower deck and the only real problem was that the upper deck hangs over pretty significantly, obstructing some of the main scoreboard and high fly balls. You still have a great view of the pitcher, plate, and all of the fielders, but you can lose things from time to time. Pretty much everywhere else in the park avoids this type of issue. Overall, as long as you know what you’re getting, the sight-lines are quite good. It actually reminds me a lot of Great American in Cincinnati as far as the shape of the thing is concerned.
The food is pretty standard with the unique options being crabcake-seafood offerings and the Boog’s sandwich station out in right field. The basic offerings were good, but unspectacular and are priced pretty much in line with the average major league park. Ticket prices were reasonable all the way around, although I picked a Mon-Wed series in May, so I can’t be sure that it’s a typical experience.
The fans were a nice mix of enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and the staff was pretty attentive and welcoming as far as those things go. In a basic sense, Camden Yards is a very standard MLB stadium. There isn’t amazing food or really impressive amenities, but from a strict game-viewing perspective, it’s quite something. It’s cozy without being crammed and looks the part of a charming stadium in the heart of an old city.
I’ve been to 8 active MLB parks (Comerica, Wrigley, US Cellular, GABP, Progressive, PNC, Nationals, Camden) and two defunct ones (Tiger Stadium and Sun Life), and I would say that Camden comes out second behind PNC. I always excluded Comerica because I can’t be objective in that case. OPACY is great place to see a game, and even better when your team sweeps the O’s.
Stadium Rater (scale 1-10): 9
Two things should be made clear from the beginning. First, this post is about ballpark fare generally and not about The Nine best particular ballpark treats. Second, I am a man of simple tastes and should likely admit to being a picky eater. Therefore, certain items will miss this list that will seem implausible to some of you. For that, I merely offer to you that this list is obviously meant to be fun and not to be taken particularly seriously. Should you choose to take it seriously, I am prepared to follow up with a 1,200 word post about why I find nacho cheese to be gross.
Among those items that miss my list are: Peanuts, Cracker Jacks, Roasted Almonds, Brats, Burgers, Cotton Candy, and Nachos. Go ahead, sue me.
Many of the prototypical ballpark snacks are members of the salt family and popcorn is my pick of the litter. It doesn’t live up to the artery clogging euphoria that is movie theater popcorn, but if you’re in the mood to munch on something for a few innings, popcorn is the choice. Peanuts are messy and obnoxious for people sitting around you and lack butter, which is an important component of any guilty pleasure.
Downside: Getting a kernel stuck in your teeth for 6 innings and the drive home.
8. Ice Cream
Perhaps you don’t think about ice cream when you think about stadium food, but it’s a nice cool treat to enjoy during a season that takes place mostly during the summer. The quality of the product varies a great deal across the 30 major league parks, so it’s important to only go for it if you’re not getting melty slop. When it’s good, not much refreshes like two scoops.
Downside: It requires a spoon or a cone, which is either too civilized for the park or too messy.
7. Chicken Fingers
Chicken Fingers are the food of the Gods.
Downside: Requires two hands to eat or one hand and a balancing act on your lap. Potential for spills and drops.
6. French Fries
Fries are a solid gameday food because they are easily to eat and often fit in a cup holder. Also, given that fries are generally considered a side rather than a main dish, it’s a lot easier to justify eating more of them. Plus, anything that brings ketchup to the discussion is a winner.
Downside: Some stadiums skimp on quality and serve freezer aisle fries.
5. Snow Cones
First of all, if you aren’t mixing red and blue in your snow cone to make an awesome purple hybrid, you are not living, my friend. Nothing refreshes like sugar water over ice and it’s super fun to eat. It just takes you back to being a kid and the sweetness gives you that much needed boost for extra innings.
Downside: Snow Cones are becoming rarer and have often been replaced by Lemon Chills.
4. The Local Fare
Most ballparks have an option that is generally unique to its local. AT&T Park has garlic fries, Fenway has seafood. I imagine Target Field serves some sort of mind altering cocktail that keeps people cheering for the Twins. In general, you need to go for this option when you’re visiting. While I’m not a big advocate for trying new things, you can get most of these items anywhere and should consider the unique options when you travel.
Downside: Some of it is icky.
The soft pretzel a perfect snack. It’s easily to eat, results in no mess, and is surprisingly filling and satisfying. It’s somewhat customizable with various mustards, cheeses, and degrees of salt.
Downside: There really isn’t one other than that you can get a quality pretzel a lot of places, so you might not want to waste your appetite on one at the park. That’s crazy. Go get a pretzel, I’ll wait.
I’m confident in telling you that pizza is my favorite food. Pizza is awesome. The only thing keeping it out of the number 1 spot is tradition and the fact that it is a little less manageable than the item above it. But seriously, it’s hard to go wrong with a slice of pizza at any reasonably competent park.
Downside: Occasionally messy depending on style.
1. Hot Dog
Of course. The hot dog is the ballparkiest of the ballpark foods. Easy to eat, fun to top, generally delicious even if it is subpar.
Downside: If you eat three or more, you will wake up that night with a stomach ache. It’s science. Two hot dogs, no problem. Three hot dogs? Near death experience.
What are you favorites at the park? What about favorite specific foods at specific parks? Let us know in the comments.