Opening day at the 'Yard': a few hits, a few misses

April 11, 1999|By ROB KASPER

IT WAS THE BEST OF sausages. It was the worst of lines. That was the scene at the sausage stand as I ate my way around Camden Yards during last week's opening-day baseball game between the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The sausage -- a grilled, foot-long $4.75 number seasoned with garlic and herbs -- was the best thing I ate at the ballpark. It was hot, 160 degrees, according to my instant-read thermometer, and had clean, balanced flavors. It didn't need any help from the mix of onions and peppers that the Italian and chorizo sausages also sold at the stand seemed to rely on.

I had a lot of time to study the other sausages because I spent a very long time -- 16 minutes, 20 seconds -- waiting for my garlic and herb sandwich to be served. It was a stadium eater's worst fear, spending a long time in line, only to reach the end of the line and be told it would "be a few minutes" before your food was cooked.

I considered changing my order, jumping over to the Italian sausages that were ready to go. But I stayed loyal to the garlic sausage, and was glad I did. I would order it again at another ballgame. But only if the sausage stand on Eutaw street, backed up against the warehouse, figures out a way to cut down the waiting time for fans of garlic.

French fries, at $4 a cup, were the most disappointing fare I ate. They weren't hot enough, measuring only 116 degrees on the thermometer. I can't figure out why the fries were cold. Sales at the stand, located on the lower level, roughly behind home plate, were brisk. The line was fast, a mere three-minute wait.

After sampling one tepid fry, I hunted down the condiment station, about 10 yards away, and sprinkled everything I could find -- salt, Old Bay and vinegar -- and tried to liven up the cold pieces of potato. Nothing made up for the missing heat.

With a few exceptions, my eating and drinking foray was strikingly similar to what I experienced in the previous six opening days that I have completed this assignment: high-quality food, pretty quick service, high prices.

The second-best sandwich I ate was the $6.75 pit beef sandwich I snagged at Boog Powell's Eutaw Street operation. The meat was moist and flavorful, even at a temperate 90 degrees. Moreover, by luck of the draw, the sandwich came with a crisp burnt end, my favorite beef part. I also waited only three minutes in line.

I did, however, spend several minutes searching for the horseradish and onions, which had been moved across Eutaw street, next to the warehouse.

The spicy hot dog I sampled lived up to its name. It was hot (148 degrees), spicy and cost $4.25. I also ate some pebbles of an ice-cream-like substance, at $3.50 a cup, billed as "ice cream of the future." Eating it was fun, but the barons of real ice cream, Ben & Jerry's, shouldn't be worried.

On the beer front, the good news was that there are plenty of stands selling a variety of mainstream American, imported and microbrewed beers. The bad news was that it was hard to find a beer for less than $4.

I paid $5.25 for 16 ounces of Oxford Class Ale. It was one of the line of craft beers made by Hugh Sisson's Clipper City Brewery in Baltimore County.

I arrived at the stand on the upper deck on the third-base side, and 30 seconds later I was sipping suds. That is my idea of service. And as I sipped the hoppy, 40-degree ale, and basked in the spring sunshine, it felt like baseball season.

Pub Date: 04/11/99

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