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LiA Bespoke Project: Yakyuu For You Extra Innings – Ballpark Food

I hate the Manfred man…

Last at-bats for the baseball project is a short take on ballpark food. First things first – it’s not nearly as overpriced in Japan as it is in the U.S.. $12 Bud and $8 hot dogs gets old pretty fast, which is why I’ve been known to smuggle my own food into the ballpark in the States. That’s allowed in Japan, by the way. Hell, you can even bring in your own beer – you just have to pour it into a plastic cup when you go through security.

What are my favorites in general terms (f0r the record I hate peanuts and never cared much for Cracker Jack)? Beer for starters. I gotta have it when I go to a ball game, so if a park offers a decent microbrew or two as an option that makes the cost more tolerable. Oracle Park (formerly A T & T Park and always Pacific Bell park to me) has good beer options. It has good garlic fries too – “Gilroy Garlic Fries” – and is generally a gorgeous ballpark in a great location.

Wrigley Field is the park where I’ve attended more games than every other ballpark put together, probably. It hasn’t historically been a Mecca for great ballpark food, but has gotten better in recent years (they have Home Run Inn pizza now – ironic given its status as a South Side icon). In whatever era and from whatever reseller, a Vienna Beef polish sausage is the staple here.

What about in Japan? Well, for starters one of the cool things here is that there’s usually a little food alley set up outside the gates representing the visiting team’s hometown. Inside you can a variety of Japanese staples like yakisoba, curry rice, and yakitori (even ramen). And of course American ballpark standards are here too – beer (usually mega-brands only, though those are marginally better than their American counterparts), peanuts, hot dogs, fries. My mood generally runs towards Japanese food when I’m in a Japanese ballpark like Koushien Stadium though.  One of the cool things the Tigers have instituted in the last couple of years is player-themed bentos, though I’ve yet to try one.

Lastly, the “Chicago Dog” – so much a ballpark staple that even Oracle in SF offers it – just what is it? A Vienna Beef (accept no substitutes) frankfurter on a soft poppy-seed bun. Can be grilled (I actually prefer that) or steamed. Traditionally topped with: chopped onions, mustard, dill pickle spear, tomato slices, celery salt, and sport peppers. I confess that despite my Chicago upbringing I am guilty of what many consider heresy – I loathe mustard so I leave it off, and compound the sin by putting ketchup on. But either way, make no mistake, a Chicago dog (and not a New York dog) is the signature hot dog, and  – along with a cold one – the essential ball park delicacy.


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