Article originally posted on www.stadiumjourney.com
Last year was a very good year. Among other things, I had the opportunity to experience 22 different venues for live sporting events.
An essential part of going to any game for me is the food and drink that you can experience in or around the stadium. Before we get too deep into 2010, I decided to make a list to commemorate the best things that I ate or drank as part of the stadium-going experience.
So here it is, my list of the 20 best things I consumed in or around stadiums in 2009:
20. Hamburger, Short’s, Iowa Hawkeyes basketball
I can’t say that it was anything entirely special, but I do appreciate having 100 percent grass-fed beef from Iowa when I’m in Iowa City. Eating local just tastes better.
19. The Beer List, Scotty’s Brewhouse, Indiana Pacers
With at least 50 beers on tap, Scotty’s is a great place to hang out before or after a Pacers game, or even a Colts game. I was fortunate enough to catch a heat wave in mid-November, and sit outside listening to live blues. Definitely a cool place.
18. Soft Pretzel, Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers
I loved the reaction I got when I wanted only salt from the topping bar. Great variety, and a decent pretzel most importantly. Sharing with my son probably helped to push it into the Top 20.
17. Chicago-style Hot Dog, Mustard’s Last Stand, Northwestern Wildcats basketball
Perfect little hot dog stand, loaded with sports memorabilia. It seems like it’s a favorite of visiting teams, too, as there are several pictures from various teams in the Big Ten, as well as local Chicago favorites.
As for the dogs—they’re awesome. Get there early for a pre-game dog and fries.
16. “The Golden Gopher,” Kitty Kat Klub, Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball
When I toured the Big Ten basketball arenas to begin 2009, I made a decision to try and have a drink invented in honor of each campus I visited. Some were complete disasters, and some were pure genius.
At the Kitty Kat Klub, the bartender invented “The Golden Gopher,” a shot of Jaeger surrounded in a moat of Goldschlager. The result was tremendous, and by far the best invented drink on the trip.
15. Cup of Chili, Plum Street Café, Cincinnati Bengals
Although I did not get a chance to sample the famous Skyline Chili during my trip to Cincinnati, I felt like I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some chili in the Queen City. Served simply in a Styrofoam cup and garnished with cheese and onions, the chili at the Plum Street Café was a perfect warm-up on a cold November day.
14. Zeno’s Bar List, Zeno’s, Penn State basketball
First of all, I am in favor of any bar that requires you to go below street level to gain entryway. Zeno’s is the dark kind of bar where students go to “study” while having a few delicious pints and engaging in stimulating conversations.
Beer Advocate grades Zeno’s as an “A+” with 31 beers on tap, and an astounding 275 more available by the bottle. You could spend four years here trying to make it through the list.
13. Wow Bao, Soldier Field, Chicago Bears
An unassuming little stand just inside Soldier Field has the perfect little base for you to pop in your mouth: “hot Asian buns.” Filled with BBQ pork or teriyaki chicken, they are simple, tasty, and affordable. Grab some when you first enter the stadium so you have something to snack on as you make your way around the concourse.
12. Bison Burger, Harry Buffalo, Cleveland Indians
I’m a big fan of bison as a protein choice. It has less fat, calories, and cholesterol than chicken, turkey, or beef, but gives you that red meat satisfaction. This joint is just a couple blocks away from Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena, so go check it out before your next Cavs or Indians game.
11. Smoked Turkey Drumstick, Breslin Center, Michigan State basketball
What a great surprise I came across when walking the concourse pre-game at the Breslin Center. My inner caveman was delighted to see the game tip off with a large portion of meat on bone in my hand. It was frankly a little dry, but by far the best option available. Make sure you get one early as they usually sell out.
10. Muffaletta Sandwich, Cobblestones Bar and Grill, Chicago White Sox
When the server tells you that this sandwich is big enough for two, please believe her. Served on a massive bun, loaded with meat, cheese, and giardiniera, this one is an absolute classic!
9. Ashley’s Beer List, Ashley’s, Michigan basketball
Full disclosure: Ashley’s is perhaps my all-time favorite bar. Their food is decent (try the stilton fries), but I go here for the massive beer list. In a town full of great brew-pubs and bars, this one stands out. The list is too numerous to count, but there are at least 200 options available.
8. Pizza, Jupiter’s, Illinois basketball
Jupiter’s is a place I could have spent a lot of time in if I had been a student at Illinois. Fantastic pizza, with 23 toppings and six sauces to choose from, they also have a great beer list and plenty of room for shooting pool. I had a large with salami, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, and pesto sauce, and was about as happy as I could imagine.
7. Potato Chips with Gorgonzola, Harry’s Chocolate Shop, Purdue basketball
Simple, salty, and satisfying. Harry’s has great food and great atmosphere, but I was especially content with this simple appetizer. They make their own potato chips and then load them with gorgonzola. Have them with a boilermaker (what else?) and you are ready to go.
6. Frozen mojito, Land Shark Stadium, Florida Marlins
I may have rated Land Shark Stadium as the worst stadium that I visited in 2009, but the one saving grace of the Marlin experience has to be that you’re in the Miami sun.
And what could be better than sitting in the sun, watching baseball in Miami than having an icy mojito in your hand. Sure sounds good to me sitting in Chicago in January.
5. Fried Cheese Curds, Kohl Center, Wisconsin basketball
Cheese curds are fresh little nuggets of cheese, sometimes known as “squeaky cheese,” that are part of the bi-product from making cheese. They are generally inexpensive and need to be eaten within 24 hours.
I absolutely love them, and if you would like to deep fry them, then let’s be best friends. On my trip to Madison I had cheese curds on 5 different occasions in the span of 24 hours, but I liked the ones available at the Kohl Center the best.
4. Breakfast Burrito, Taste, Butler basketball
Taste is a great little coffee shop/sandwich shop/brunch spot about a mile away from Hinkle Fieldhouse. The food tastes pretentious without the nuisance of being served in a pretentious way. Which is to say, it’s damn good. I had the breakfast burrito with homemade salsa, and a cup of coffee and began a perfect day of basketball in Indianapolis.
3. Stilton Burger, Goose Island, Chicago Cubs
If there is one theme in my best list, it’s that cheese has a special place in my mouth (if only briefly). There are plenty of options in Wrigleyville, but the one that stands out most is the Stilton burger at Goose Island. It’s big, juicy and delicious. When served with a Honker’s Ale, it is happiness personified.
2. Sardine Tapas, Ceviche Tapas Bar, Tampa Bay Rays
I know that sardines aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love those little stinky fishies. These big beauties were served on toast with a bruschetta topping and a side of olives. I could have spent hours sitting at this quaint little place, ordering everything on the menu, but I’m glad I went with this.
1. Primanti Bros. Sandwich, PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates
I felt like I had to go with an actual stadium offering to conclude my list, and it’s no stretch to place this behemoth in the number one slot as the best thing to enter my digestive system in 2009.
It’s a holy pile of meat, cheese, fries, and slaw on bread for a cool $7. A great deal at a ballpark, and when paired with a cold beer and a homemade pickle, I can picture no better accompaniment to day at the old ballgame. It sure beats peanuts and Cracker Jack.
Paul Swaney is the Co-Founder of Stadium Journey