Scoring at the plate: A taste for the game calls for ballpark food

April 05, 1993|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff Writer

You can go generic -- hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts. Or you can go designer -- Boog's, Matte's, Tippy's. That's baseball eating in a nutshell, so to speak.

Camden Yards, for example, is getting its second jock-at-the-grill this season, former Colt running back Tom Matte. He'll serve up barbecued ribs on the Eutaw Street arcade just a smoke puff south of ex-Oriole Boog Powell's barbecue pit, the culinary hit of last season.

But don't look for any sort of food fight between the two bruisers, despite the fact that they're offering similar eats -- and a similar bonus of the chef's autograph.

"We don't look at it as competition. We look at it as two good friends in the same business," Mr. Powell says.

"They're both Baltimore traditions, so we think they'll both do well," agrees Roy Sommerhof, director of stadium services.

Mr. Matte's ribs are actually based on the recipe of his partner, Mike Hart, who describes his sauce as "basic barbecue with the addition of a couple of things I like -- honey, Old Bay and orange juice." The ribs come with corn bread and coleslaw and sell for $7.75.

Mr. Powell's pit-style beef and pork come as sandwiches ($3.75) and platters ($6.75). He promises two new items: chicken, which he'll add to the menu during the second homestand, and a shorter wait in line. "We got another cashier, and we're going to move things along more quickly this year," he says.

A second former Oriole, Tippy Martinez, has lent his name and recipes to the greater good of sports eating -- but you'll have to go to a minor-league Baysox game at Memorial Stadium for a taste of Tippy's Taco Stand.

The ex-relief pitcher and current Towson State pitching coach will be selling tacos, burritos, nachos, salsa and other truly home-grown fare -- the recipes came from his mother, Eva. He promises the same spicy fare he grew up on and the occasional autograph whenever he can attend a game.

Elsewhere in the Orioles' old stomping grounds, Overlea Caterers has taken over the concessions, since ARA moved over to Camden Yards. They'll sell pit beef, sausage sandwiches, chicken wings and -- surprise! -- hot dogs and beer.

The Camden Yards menu is as vast as a food court: There's deli fare, pizza, crab cakes, yogurt, nachos, fruit shakes as well as more classic stadium fare.

"Diversity is nice," says Jay Boyle, general manager of ARA concessions. "In the old ballpark, you didn't have the space and the big main kitchen the way we do here. So Memorial Stadium was a hot dog, soda and beer place -- not like this."

"It's much better than most parks," says Matt Leininger, a YMCA director from Indiana, Pa., enjoying a hot smoked sausage sandwich with everything before Friday's exhibition game. "The prices seem roughly equal, and everything seems fresh."

"And the selection is much better," adds his friend, Vince Culotta, a neuropsychiatrist at nearby Maryland Shock Trauma Center. "Tickets are tough to get, but the food is really good."

A third member of the group -- they went to Penn State together and came to see their team, the Pittsburgh Pirates -- Bill Georgantis, a York, Pa., businessman, thought his gourmet burger was a mite cold. Otherwise, they gave a thumbs-up to the food -- especially Boog's barbecue.

Despite the dizzying choices at the park -- Maryland crab soup ($2.75), pepperoni or cheese pizza ($3.75), deli sandwiches ($4.75) -- the most popular food with which to enjoy the O's remains the same. "I'll get my printouts of sales every day, and your No. 1 sellers are still hot dogs and sodas," Mr. Boyle says.

In fact, baseball fans apparently are traditionalists even when it comes to food: ARA has dropped chicken parmigiana sandwiches from its offerings because "people just weren't ready for that," he says.

New additions are rather classic as well: Vendors will sell hot roasted peanuts from a cart on the Eutaw Street arcade and hand-dipped Edy's ice cream at other stands.

Besides the eat-in-your-seat concessions, the park offers several restaurants in the Warehouse. Past Times on the first floor offers grilled fare, Maryland specialties and kid's meals; Bambino's, also on the Warehouse's ground floor, is a sports bar; and the Camden Club is the ultimate skybox: a members-only, top o' the Warehouse dining experience.

Of course, Jenny Craig cultists, picnic packers and others who want to bring their own can do just that. The park, however, bans glass bottles, cans and alcohol. Coolers are fine, as long as they fit beneath your seat, but remember to use the container entrances at Gates C, E and G.

And if you don't feel like packing up your kitchen, consider the sidewalk vendors outside the stadium. As usual, outside can be cheaper than inside -- check out the freshly bagged peanuts, from $1 to $5 depending on size.

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