Opening Day eats and more

Camden Yards expands its menu to include more gluten-free options and local fare

  • Are you ready for Opening Day?
Are you ready for Opening Day? (Greg Fiume, Getty Images )
April 09, 2010|By Laura Vozzella,

Number-crunching baseball fans who flock to Camden Yards today will eat this up: 9,200 hot dogs, 4,500 pounds of french fries, 3,700 soft pretzels, 2,500 Boog's pit beef sandwiches and 1,500 hamburgers.

But the food stats that the Orioles throw out every year, based on how much gets gobbled up at Oriole Park on a typical Opening Day, don't tell the whole story this time.

There's no telling how many gluten- and casein-free Asian noodle salads, "Turtle Bites" or Attman's coddies and knishes fans will down because no one's had the chance to eat them at the ballpark before.

Those dishes are just a few of the new options meant to fill out the Orioles' menu roster with more local flavor, healthful choices and food-allergy awareness.

"We've come a long way from hot dogs and peanuts," said Orioles spokeswoman Monica Barlow. "Those are certainly available, too. For people who are looking for alternatives to that standard fare, they do have that option at the ballpark this year."

The bigger, broader menu isn't the only upgrade that fans will notice at Oriole Park. The Maryland Stadium Authority has installed some new seats, so all lower-level seats have high backs and cup holders now. (Only the seats along the first- and third-base lines had those high backs and holders last year.)

The letters that used to designate seat rows have been replaced with numbers, a switch intended to make it easier for fans to find their seats. On the club level behind home plate, the Orioles have installed a display case for World Series trophies and other awards.

And there is something new for kids at the program stands that sell Orioles Magazine and the media guide. Orioles Kids Magazine, which costs $3, has puzzles, games and player Q&As. (What is right fielder Nick Markakis good at, besides baseball? "Ping-Pong," he says. "I can beat anyone at Ping-Pong." What is minor leaguer Jake Arrieta's favorite ice cream? "Anything by Ben and Jerry's.")

But the concession-stand changes are probably the most noticeable change at the ballpark. ARAMARK, which runs food service at Camden Yards, has brought in several local restaurants.

"We were trying to give the ballpark a sense of place from a food perspective, so you know you're in Baltimore," said Nick Biello, ARAMARK's general manager at Camden Yards.

And you know you're in Baltimore when the ballpark frank comes wrapped in bologna. The meat-on-meat delicacy was the invention of a 1930s Baltimore Jewish deli. (Some credit Nathan Ballow, others Attman's.)

Attman's will serve the bologna dog, as well as chicken soup, salads, knishes and coddies. Deli sandwiches on the menu include corned beef, pastrami, Reuben and the Cloak & Dagger, a corned-beef-coleslaw-Russian-dressing concoction. For dessert, there are chocolate-top cookies and rainbow cake, the Baltimore confection that combines chocolate, jelly and enough colored layers of poundcake to spell Roy G. Biv.

Attman's had a booth at Oriole Park for a few years and still operates four in M&T Bank Stadium. But those menus have been limited to a few deli sandwiches and drinks. Attman's is able to offer far more in Camden Yards this year because instead of a booth it will operate out of 200-seat restaurant inside the park, in the space once occupied by Pastimes Cafe.

"The top 20 or 30 things we sell [at the deli's Corned Beef Row location], it's going to be there [at the ballpark]," said Marc Attman, who owns the restaurant with two sisters.

Attman's will be open during every home game, as well as Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this month. Starting in May, the plan is to serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week, year round.

Camden Yards will also offer food from the Greene Turtle, including cheeseburger sliders and "Turtle Bites," which are basically chicken nuggets. Hightopps Backstage Grille will have a booth with wrap sandwiches, mac-n-cheese and cheese steaks. Prices for all the new menu items have yet to be announced.

A stand called Charm City Market will cater to fans with food sensitivities. Last year, people with gluten intolerance had to settle for a gluten-free pretzel. This year, the Charm City Market stand will sell hot dogs and sausages on gluten-free buns, a gluten-free crab cake, even gluten-free Red Bridge beer. The stand also will offer casein-free items, such as hummus and vegetables.

"People who have specific needs, we're trying to reach out and meet them more than halfway," said Biello, the ARAMARK general manager.

Camden Yards had not had a lot of requests for gluten-free items, Biello said, "but as a corporation, ARAMARK saw that as a need area for us. We dove in headfirst and really have committed to it.

"What's surprising to me is how tasty the food is," he said, noting that they blind taste-tested the gluten-free items at the park.

"That's great. I could eat that," he recalled saying after a taste. "It says, ‘gluten free' but I think it's going to appeal to other people."

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