As Pitcher List’s resident gourmand, I’ve been tasked with ranking the top 20 foods in baseball. It’s no easy task, which is why I’ve turned to our Pitcher List community to help me out.
To create the list, I first narrowed the scope to MLB teams to keep it manageable and scoured each team’s website to get a sense of their featured and most popular foods. This means that my highest recommendation for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ “pizza cheeseburger,” in which a cheeseburger’s buns are slices of pepperoni pizza, will have to wait for a follow-up article. Some teams made this easier than others (Mets: “here’s a list of all of our concessions, where you can get them, and where we sourced the ingredients;” Pirates: “hello, we have food here, probably”).
I then searched Twitter, food and ballpark review sites, and Google to learn what other people said. I have not personally tried all of the items on this list, but have sampled a good share of them and tried both to use that to inform my rankings, but also not overly weight it. As an example, I rather enjoyed the Primanti Brothers sandwich at PNC in Pittsburgh, but it’s very difficult to find a positive review of it online! I couldn’t in good conscience include it.
For my criteria, I considered three major points of interest:
Creativity- That is, creativity with a purpose. As any Midwestern state fairgoer will tell you, there is no shortage of crazy concoctions meant to appeal to the adventurous (or influencing) eater. It’s important that we’re not just ranking the wildest ballpark foods, but rather ones that offer a new twist to classics, added value, or simply found a way to distinguish themselves.
Local Flavor- When every ballpark looks different, it should feel different, too. The ambiance, including its food and beverage options, should reflect that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a tray of nachos that you can get at any high school football game in the country, but for a food to make our list, it gets bonus points for reflecting the culinary culture and preferences of locals.
Ballparkiness- This will likely cause the most controversy on the list, and I admit it’s subjective. A food item’s ability to be consumed while watching a baseball game enhances both the food and the experience at the ballpark. This typically means hand-held or easy to eat. I’m not here to Costanza my way into national tv infamy. As a result, you won’t find Seattle’s Din Tai Fung (Section 132!) pork wonton soup, even though it would win a straight-up food competition (I prefer Dough Zone anyway).
In some cases, one factor outweighed the others and you’ll see exceptions to the above criteria. If you’re upset that I left something out or with any of the rankings, the only fair thing would be for you to personally fly me out to your local park and pay for my seat and make me sit there and watch a June baseball game while sampling the best your city has to offer. I promise I will give it a fair review.
With those caveats in mind, here are the 20 best ballpark foods in MLB.
20. Boomstick, Texas Rangers
Watching the @Rangers' "Boomstick" hot dog get made will make you want to move to Texas: http://t.co/2KsbBsWfTp pic.twitter.com/fhmb8R3EdA
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 28, 2015
“…a two foot long all-beef hot dog loaded with onions, jalapeño, and chili” –Eater Dallas
What the internet says: “My belly hurts just considering having this insanity more often than at ballgames.” (via Reddit)
My Take: I want the boomstick. I’ll share it with up to three other people, but I want to walk up to the stand and order the boomstick alone. As I’m walking to my seat, dads will turn their heads and say “hungry, are ya?” Yes, I am. This one scores a 20/10 on the “local scale” with its sheer Texas size and the chili. Maybe it’s gimmicky, but it’s one I can get behind and makes sense with my expectations of a ballgame in Texas.
19. Chesapeake Fries, Baltimore Orioles
At @Orioles games: Chesapeake Crab Waffle Fries pic.twitter.com/gm3gb6RDSX
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 9, 2017
“Crab dip topped waffle fries are mourned by fans at the end of the season.” –Forbes
What the internet says: “the chesapeake fries were fire” (via Twitter)
My Take: I haven’t had these, but bet they are fire. Details are pretty sparse on the O’s official website, but it sure looks like the crab dip is topped with Old Bay. Old Bay fries in general are great, adding a tang and kick you didn’t realize your fries were missing. Crab dip on top of it is like Maryland poutine. On a side note while researching these it seems a lot of Marylanders order these on the side of their crab-dip topped hot dog, which while I respect, seems like overload to me.
18. Churro Dog, Arizona Diamondbacks
'Churro Dogs' to grace Arizona Diamondbacks ballpark this season http://t.co/w6Y3G8W5fU pic.twitter.com/6ze3prSKB5
— For The Win (@ForTheWin) March 4, 2015
“The churro dog is a warm cinnamon churro sitting inside a Long John chocolate glazed donut, which is then topped with frozen yogurt, caramel, and chocolate sauces.” –ESPN
What the internet says: “The execution itself isn’t anything life-changing, but the concept is so over-the-top that you’re probably better off dropping $8.50 on one at Chase Field than trying to gather the ingredients to build your own in the comfort of your kitchen.” (via Phoenix New Times)
My Take: I tried the churro dog last year, and it was like one of those straight-drop waterslides. Fun, and glad I did it for the experience, but probably would not do it again. I like everything in the churro dog. I like them all together, even, but Arizona is hot (even with the roof closed at Chase) and you have to really be diligent to eat the churro dog before it melts completely.
17. Skyline Chili Cheese Coney, Cincinnati Reds
Wake up! It’s Opening Day AND Free Coney Day! Stop into your nearest Skyline Chili and enjoy 1 Free Cheese Coney with the purchase of a beverage. (Participating locations only) #SkylineFreeConeyDay pic.twitter.com/5PIjJlIs6P
— Skyline Chili (@Skyline_Chili) March 28, 2019
“…hot dog in a steamed bun with mustard, covered with our original secret-recipe chili, diced onions, and a mound of shredded cheese.” – Skyline
What the internet says: “Adding mustard to the coney dog makes for an interesting contrast with the chili and onions.” (via TripAdvisor)
My Take: Skyline gets a bad rap, I think unfairly at times. I don’t feel particularly strongly about the spaghetti vs not debate, and the “my stomach!” jokes are overplayed. But as a topping on a hot dog, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better combination of the sweet spices of the chili combined with the vinegary sharpness from the mustard and the shredded cheese to add salty richness. The hot dog here is almost just the vehicle for the rest of the dish but adds a little more bite and hardiness than a mess of chili (with or without noodles) would provide on its own.
16. TB Cuban Sandwich, Tampa Bay Rays
#Rays reuben Cuban sandwich pic.twitter.com/WsmuFtNi9v
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 27, 2018
“Roast pork, black forest ham, soppressata, and swiss cheese” – Rays
What the internet says: “It is always more Red Sox fans there than Rays fans. Their Cuban sandwich is pretty good” (via Twitter)
My Take: I am a Cuban sandwich lover and purist. Pork, ham, and swiss on Cuban bread, or it’s something else. That said, I am intrigued by this idea of adding soppressata and feel it’s not too much of a deviation to add another pork product on there. What is soppressata, anyway? Basically just cured ham, right? I’ll allow it and take two, please.
15. Smashburger, Colorado Rockies
Rockies also introducing @Smashburger to the Coors Field rooftop this season pic.twitter.com/92FMDs1KwT
— Aniello Piro (@MediaByAP) April 4, 2019
The fast-casual chain smashes its burger patties when they come off the grill (it’s what gives them their signature carmelized char). –5280.com
What the internet says: “Could Shohei Ohtani hit a homer to the rooftop? “Smashburger is in play,” Bud Black says.” (via Twitter)
My Take: Every ballpark has a signature burger, or eight. It’s not the fault of the burgers themselves, but it’s hard to stand out in a field as crowded as this one. In fact, a much larger list than this one could be made of just ballpark burgers alone. Consider this entry an appreciation of Smashburger, who does the thinner, charred patty well. It’s not as unwieldy as your bacon-peanut butter-fried onion-insert local variation here monster burger, but a significant step up from the traditional hockey puck patties ballparks used to sell. If you prefer the similar Shake Shack burger at Citi Field to this one, feel free to insert it here but I’ve had better luck with Smashburger’s.
14. Poutine, Toronto Blue Jays
Poutine at a Jays game! pic.twitter.com/m7ugHyu6aX
— Leezer Beam (@pickleknee) March 24, 2016
“…classic cheese curd and gravy poutine…” –Spoon University
What the internet says: “We’ve reached the point of the season where I could tweet “I love poutine” and there’d be at least five replies ripping the #BlueJays” (via Twitter)
My Take: There is little available anywhere about the Blue Jays’ traditional poutine sold at the Rogers Centre. What mysteries do you hold in your great Northern expanse, Toronto? The Blue Jays seem to offer various culinary twists on poutine, such as a “dessert poutine” of churros and ice cream, or a vegan buffalo cauliflower version, to which I say: I will try all your poutines. But fried cheese, gravy, and french fried potatoes are a difficult combination to imagine not getting right, so I’ll give the Jays and their secrecy around the national culinary delight the benefit of the doubt.
13. Walleye Basket, Minnesota Twins
What a perfect day for some Walleye at the @Twins game!!! pic.twitter.com/rXCRtbXftY
— Mac’s Fish • Chips • Strips (@MacsFishChips) August 3, 2017
“Walleye is the go-to for fried fish in Minnesota, and one of the most sought-after in our 10,000 lakes.” – Mac’s
What the internet says: “Dip your french fries and this golden and shatteringly crisp battered walleye into tangy jalapeño lime tarter sauce, a new take on an English classic.” (via Pioneer Press)
My Take: Why isn’t fish and chips more of a thing at baseball games? To paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm, we’ve been so busy trying to figure out what we could deep fry we never stopped to think if we should. Sometimes classics like fried fish are classics for a reason. It’s hard to improve upon, and the walleye at Target Field has some meatiness to the bite and complements the crispiness of the batter well. Walleye is the state fish of Minnesota, and if you search “walleye twins” on Twitter you get a lot more posts about people fishing for walleye while listening to the Twins on the radio than you do about the ballpark food itself, which feels comfortingly Minnesotan.
12. Brisket-acho, Kansas City Royals
Of course, we can't forget the masterpiece that is the Cheesy Corn Brisket-acho on the #ALCS menu! #TakeTheCrown pic.twitter.com/9d47eDEuu6
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) October 13, 2014
“Chopped brisket, BBQ baked beans, cheesy corn, cole slaw, and BBQ sauce all over a bed of corn tortilla chips.” (Royals.com)
What the internet says: “The saturated chips had congealed into a nearly drinkable sweet-salty slurry. It was delectable.” (via MLB.com)
My Take: As with burgers, every stadium has its local spin on overdone nachos, but the Royals’ version best combines local flavor with profiles that meld together. At first glance, it may seem this is a “kitchen sink” approach that just throws barbecue classics in the same dish, but they all work. If you’re in Kansas City, you’re probably seeking out the city’s better barbecue joints anyway, but I won’t hold that against the ballpark version here. The brisket is really the leading ingredient, while the chips provide some needed crunch, at least for the first few bites.
11. Turkado, San Diego Padres
Thanks to @boardnbrew_ and congratulations to @nicibentivegna! Hope you enjoyed that Turkado! 😍🥪 https://t.co/LHAIXxELct pic.twitter.com/uomUvdQBOr
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) June 17, 2020
“…turkey breast and jack cheese topped with avocado served on sourdough…And not complete without secret sauce!” (Padres.com)
What the internet says: “Worth paying for a ticket in petco park to get a sandwich at this location! Their avocados are grown [in] the park!!!! Their sauce is good too” (via Yelp)
My Take: San Diego has the lowest floor of all ballpark food options in the majors, and there are a lot of contenders at Petco considered for the list. Board and Brew is a local favorite sandwich shop, and the simple Turkado just hits right at the game. I believe the special sauce that comes with the sandwich is a version of a fry sauce (ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickle juice), but it does complement the turkey and makes the sourdough bread a bit less toothsome.
10. Frozen Custard, Milwaukee Brewers
Last frozen custard of the season. Thank you Miller Park. #Brewers pic.twitter.com/LOCHW0CU
— Sarah Barshop (@sarahbarshop) October 4, 2012
What the internet says: “You do NOT want to miss the frozen custard! It was one of the highlights of the night!!!!” (via Trip Advisor)
My Take: Wisconsin loves its frozen custard, a creamier version of ice cream. (Oh no, it’s butter, isn’t it? That’s the secret? [Googles it] Okay- it’s egg yolk). The kind you’ll find at American Family Field isn’t the same you’ll find at the drive-in burger and custard places around town but is rather somewhere in between soft-serve and custard. Still, it’s enough to distinguish it from the regular soft-serve / milkshake fare you’ll find elsewhere in the majors and you can still get it in a mini helmet, adding to the nostalgia factor. It only comes in three flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and swirl, but I’ve never heard anyone complain.
9. Chocolate Malt, Kansas City Royals
Thx u @Royals for finally bringing out the Frosty Malts… #Traditions pic.twitter.com/dthkiKDnxh
— Cheeba Jones (@CheebaJones) July 26, 2016
What the internet says: “It’s not a Royals game w/o a chocolate malt off a wooden spoon.” (via Instagram)
My Take: Formerly ubiquitous across all ballparks across this great land, chocolate malts have been crowded out by escalating arms race to provide outlandish, social-media-shareworthy frozen treats, and…Dippin’ Dots. [Ed. note: I deleted an additional 2,000-word screed against Dippin’ Dots here]
And THAT is why we cannot allow Dippin’ Dots to overtake our frozen treat landscape, comrades!
Back to the malts, the Royals seem to be one of the few holdouts to provide wooden-spoon malts and I applaud them for it. The chocolate malt comes frozen like a brick, to the point where you have to wait for it to melt a bit, lest you snap your flat wooden spoon (real ones know), but to me, that’s a feature in July, when every other ice cream will start to melt before you even get to your seat. Mr. Rob Manfred, sir, please bring back chocolate malts across baseball.
8. Fenway Frank, Boston Red Sox
Which unique @KayemBrand Fenway Frank recipe would you like to have served at Fenway Park? Vote now! https://t.co/UFwiCHlCdJ pic.twitter.com/ZZHDjebI2l
— Red Sox (@RedSox) June 25, 2018
“Steamed, grilled, or rolled hot dogs wedged inside a classic New England-style bun” (National Hot Dog and Sausage Council)
What the internet says: “Unlike many ballpark hot dogs, which are usually either steamed or grilled, Fenway Franks are instead boiled and grilled, (ever-so-slightly). This method allows the Fenway Frank to retain all the juiciness of boiled dog, but still have the snap of one that’s been gently grilled.” (via New England Today)
My Take: I have had your stadium’s classic hot dog, and I’m sorry but it is not as good as the one in Boston. I can’t speak exactly to whether it’s the boil-then-grill method described above that gives the Fenway Frank its distinct texture and taste, but I’m certainly going to try to recreate it at home. The bun also helps here, as it’s closer to split-top toast than a traditional hot dog bun, which adds a nice buttery structure to the smoky dog.
7. Cheesesteak, Philadelphia Phillies
Burnt Ends Cheesesteak at @Phillies: Smoked Gouda 🧀 Sauce + Caramelized Onions (Cred: @philliesphood1) [Bulls BBQ, LF Plaza] pic.twitter.com/taV8B5EwhB
— Kari Steele (@KariVanHorn) September 22, 2021
“…thinly sliced ribeye steak on fresh, locally baked bread, accompanied by grilled onions and sweet bell peppers and your choice of “Wiz” or provolone.” (GoldBelly)
What the internet says: “Load up your cheesesteak with onions, peppers, provolone and wiz” – (via Foursquare)
My Take: If you’re going to Philly, you’re getting a cheesesteak. The reviews generally seem split on whether you stop at Tony Luke’s or Campo’s at Citizens Bank Park, and I’m not wading into that at all. It does seem like Campo’s typically has a shorter wait, if that matters. Maybe just have one, though.
6. Tipsy Polish, Milwaukee Brewers
Got food. The Tipsy Polish#BlueJaysDadWeekendatBernieTheBrewers pic.twitter.com/QZh3UbmGAW
— Blue Jays Dad (@BlueJaysDad) June 25, 2022
“Carmelized brandied onions, brown mustard, tater tots and pickled cherry peppers.” (Journal Sentinel)
What the internet says: “Fresh cheese curds at a Brewers game? Yes. Yes very much yes. Especially on their polish sausage” – (via Reddit)
My Take: Like a cheesesteak in Philly, you’re in Milwaukee for the sausage. You can get versions of the five racing sausages throughout the park, but if choosing just one I’d go with the Polish. It’s smokier and less spice heavy than its Italian or German counterparts at the park, and the cherry peppers give it a nice bit of heat that’s somewhat balanced by the crisp starchiness of the tater tots.
5. Corned Beef Sandwich, Chicago White Sox
Amazing corned beef at the @whitesox vs Cubs game. ⚾️#CrosstownClassic #goWhiteSox pic.twitter.com/CpovMg24zh
— Kelli • Whiskied Wanderlust (@WhiskiedWander) July 26, 2016
What the internet says: “Hubs #whitesox food update 2: Giant corned beef sandwich” (via Twitter)
My Take: The sandwiches here are not inexpensive, but the deli sandwiches in the 100 level on the first base side are enormous. Every time I go to a White Sox game I think I’ll venture and try something else, but end up with those piled-high sandwiches. They’re served with a pickle and chips that taste freshly-made and kettle cooked (though I can’t confirm they are).
4. Chicago Style Hot Dog, Chicago Cubs
#FoodieFridays are back, and we’re kicking it off with a classic Chicago Style Hot Dog! pic.twitter.com/zycCY8Wbms
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 13, 2018
“…fully dressed with mustard, relish, chopped raw onion, sliced tomato, a kosher pickle spear, sport peppers, and celery salt…” (Eater Chicago)
What the internet says: “To this day, best hot dog I’ve ever had. The layered condiments add such a complexity of exploding flavors with every bite. Can’t wait to go back and get another!” -(via Reddit)
My Take: Earlier, we said Fenway Franks are the best “regular” hot dogs in MLB, but the Cubs’ Chicago-style dog is the best “specialty” dog. The poppyseed buns are a nice component to the condiment-heavy sausage and give it an almost “everything-bagel” note. The Chicago dog is another case of a unique combination (at least, if you’re not from Chicago) coming together well and not just thrown on for the sake of making a bigger dog. At least as of a few years ago at Wrigley, you could add your own toppings to the dog, so you can go heavier on the peppers if you want more heat, or double up on the pickles for a bonus snack. Either way, just load that bad boy up with ketchup like a real Chicagoan, and tell ’em Sean sent you!
3. Pat LaFrieda Filet Mignon Sandwich, New York Mets
Pat LaFrieda's Steak Sandwich back at Mets games for another season pic.twitter.com/UrdksCWXct
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 28, 2014
“100% black angus seared filet mignon topped with Monterey jack cheese and sweet caramelized onions, served with a secret au jus on a custom-made and toasted French baguette” (MLB.com)
What the internet says: “The steak is so juicy and tender. The cheese is warm, salty and at the perfect amount of meltiness finished on crisp Italian bread. I swear I could eat 5 of these! So worth it and if you have patience definitely wait on line!!! I love all LaFrieda products” (via Yelp)
My Take: Multiple people commented on the need to include LaFrieda’s sandwich at Citi Field on the list. Reviews suggest that it’s big enough for two people to share, so maybe you can take turns with a partner alternating between watching the game and waiting in line for the sandwich, which seems substantial in many online reviews.
2. Wowfulls, New York Mets
Weekends call for two things: a Wowfull and a view 😉
📸: @.marusik_nyc pic.twitter.com/IRqNuKWQEz
— WOWFULLS (@wowfulls) August 4, 2018
“Crazy Vanilla Rainbow Ice Cream topped with Fruity Pebbles & Rainbow Sprinkles drizzled with Chocolate Sauce, Pocky Sticks & Powdered Sugar” (Mets.com)
What the internet says: “Fans will wait in a 20-minute line to get their hands on this Rainbow World Ice Cream. Perhaps because they’re enticed by the aroma of the freshly made bubble waffle cone that you can smell a mile away.” (via Delish)
My Take: Sold. Wowfull’s Instagram might be the best in the majors. I like how a paper cone is provided as well so you’re not relying on the waffle itself to contain all that ice cream, making this a more reasonable “overload” dessert than many of baseball’s other colossal frozen treats. Again, this is a stadium experience that seems from reviews to have a significant wait time. With two of the top three in our countdown and several other offerings considered for the final cut, the Mets might have the best food options in MLB.
1. Gilroy Garlic Fries, San Francisco Giants
Gilroy Garlic Fries and a brew while catching Giants vs Pirates.#sundayfunday #sunday #baseball #dadsareawesome #beer #goodtimes #eatingisgood #fries #garlic #garlicfries #gilroy #gilroygarlicfries #oraclepark #foodwithaview #smokinghotdad #lovefries pic.twitter.com/Hn978U3XFF
— Smoking_Hot_Dad (@Smoking_Hot_Dad) August 14, 2022
“You’ll smell these before you see them and good luck resisting their oily, garlicy charms. They are the iconic Oracle Park dish…” (Giants.com)
What the internet says: “I always get the Gilroy Garlic Fries when I go to a Giants baseball game. The Gilroy Garlic Fries are fragrant and has garlic in every bite. It’s a must! Mounds of garlic and parsley are topped on the fries. I would suggest eating these quickly after you buy them because once they turn cold they’re not as tasty anymore. Eat them while it’s warm. Make sure you bring some gum or mint after eating these garlic fries.” (via Yelp)
My Take: These are the best fries I’ve ever had, and I’ve tried so often (unsuccessfully) to recreate these in my kitchen, which I can’t understand. They are after all just fries, garlic, and parsley. Apparently, the “garlic capital of the world” is in nearby Gilroy, California, giving these fries their name and inspiration. In researching the reviews for Gilroy’s at Oracle Park I was shocked to discover that there is somewhat of a controversy on if these fries are in fact, good.
I believe this is attributable to the phenomenon helpfully described by the Yelp reviewer above, in which some patrons are getting their garlic fries cold (either due to waiting in line or the temperature dropping significantly after the sun goes down at Oracle). My suggestion is to make a beeline for the fries as soon as you get into the park when the temperature is warmer and also the fries are more likely to be fresh and not have sat out for a bit.
Honorable Mention of Foods We Wish Would Come Back For Consideration:
- Schmitter Sandwich, Philadephia
- Cheeto-lote, Los Angeles (Dodgers)
- Ham Biscuit (Washington)
- Full Count Cristo (Brewers)
Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)
Toronto can be a good place for poutine, though Rogers Centre is about the worst of the options the city has to offer.
Honorable Mention or maybe dishonorable – the grasshoppers in Seattle
Ketchup on a Chicago dog, huh? I gotta try that!
The Garlic Fries at the San Jose Giants minor league games are 100x better than their SF cousins. Also the crab sandwich at SF Giants games is really good, bummed it didn’t make the list.
RE: the Cuban Sandwich at the Trop, they’re serving a variation of the Ybor City Cuban Sandwich which adds salami to the ham and roast pork combo. It’s a good upgrade to the Miami Cuban Sandwich