The Birds may lose, but an eater can win

April 09, 2000|By Rob Kasper

IT WAS A BAD ballgame, but a good lunch. That's my quick take on my opening-day eating excursion at Camden Yards. In fact, I ate two lunches -- a pit-beef sandwich and beer, then a grilled Italian sausage with onions and peppers, chased with a lemonade. As an intermezzo, I had a cup of french fries.

The best thing I ate was the $6.75 pit beef. This sandwich, which I grabbed at Boog Powell's stand on Eutaw Street, revved my engine. The beef tasted of smoke, and that is high praise in barbecue circles. The sandwich was so appetizing that I ate about a third of it as I waited for the cashier to ring me up.

Let the record show the pit beef was in my hands after one minute and five seconds in line; the pit beef was in my mouth at the one-minute-and-six-second mark; parts of the sandwich made the hand-to-mouth journey until the cashier rang me up at the three-minute-and-15-second mark.

According to the instant-read thermometer I took to the ballpark, the pit beef was 100 degrees. That was just right. You don't want pit beef cold, but you don't want it sizzling, either.

It was early during the feel-good part of the proceedings. The Orioles were ahead of the Cleveland Indians, and the buzz created by the pre-game appearance of former Orioles Earl Weaver and Brooks Robinson was still in the air. Or maybe it was another buzz, one I got from the beer, a 46-degree, $5.25 Oxford Amber Ale, which I bought after a one-minute-and-35-second wait at the microbrew stand down the left-field line.

As I stood along the edge of the concourse sipping the suds, I was surrounded by guys with cell phones calling their offices. "It is very important that this gets done today," the guy standing next to me said in his best "I-am-the-boss" tone. Then he put his cell phone back in its holster, and went back to the revelry.

Getting the french fries was an adventure. The cashier at an upper-deck concession stand behind home plate had run out of change. While the cashier looked for change, folks waited in line at her abandoned cash register. I was amazed that the guy at the front of the line didn't flee without paying. The fact that he didn't was a testimony, I thought, to the high morals of Baltimore fans.

Then it hit me. The guy wasn't there because of high morals. He was waiting for big change. Before the cashier left her post, she had taken a big bill from him, a $50, I think. We waited in line seven minutes until the cashier got change.

When I got the $4.25 fries, they were hot, 152 degrees, but they needed salt. I searched the condiment stations of the entire upper deck looking for salt. I found a packet at the Upper Deck Deli. If the french fry stands don't load up on extra salt and extra change -- basics in ballpark food -- it is going to be a long season.

I got a $3.50, 49-degree lemonade from a stand on the first-floor concourse. Service was fast -- no waiting in line.

Finally , I went hunting for a grilled Italian sausage sandwich. The game was in the seventh inning, and two sausage stands on Eutaw street had already closed.

When I got to the Grille Works stand in the right field corner, I saw the last portion of cooked peppers being served to the guy in front of me. Luckily for me, the cook put more peppers on the grill, and after a seven-minute wait, I had my 158-degree, $4.75 sausage, topped with cooked peppers.

The Orioles ended up losing. But with the exception of the french-fry adventure, the eating had gone well.

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