“Let’s go Nats” sounds an awful lot like “Let’s go Mets” doesn’t it?
It’s no secret how much I love baseball. Perhaps slightly lesser known is my desire to visit – and eat some amazing ballpark food from – each and every one of the 29 MLB stadiums around the country (and one in Canada)… and blog about each stadium and its food (of course!). In any case, I started the journey timidly back in May, with a trip to PNC Park in Pittsburgh with my boyfriend. It was a good trip, but I couldn’t help but wonder how much MORE I would be able to eat and see by myself. During our ‘visit’ to [new] Yankee Stadium, I was pretty sure I’d see more – and EAT more – if I visited a stadium by myself. So I considered the possible stadium choices in the northeast, for a simple day trip alone.
Most people thought I was crazy when I explained I was going down to DC for just the day, returning on a ‘red eye’ bus trip. Perhaps, but it was a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world! You don’t make memories by being afraid to do things, you have to go out and live life.
Besides, I took it as a sign, as fate! that when I looked into the Nationals’ schedule for the week I planned on taking off… they were playing the Mets. Come on now, that is totally a sign.
Plus, I scored a ticket behind the visitor’s dugout for $60. Oh hey there Mr. David Wright, I see you…
After a lovely meal at Jaleo, I decided, somewhat stupidly, that Google Maps told me Nationals Park wasn’t that far from the restaurant and I could totally walk the short distance. I’m from NYC! We walk everywhere! Well, don’t do it. It’d been chilly in the morning in NYC, so I’d quite absentmindedly worn jeans, but when I got to DC, it was incredibly sunny! Imagine that – sun in the summer? That still happens??? The sun beat down on me as I walked, and I was miserably hot and sweaty during the hour, hour and a half it took. It wasn’t a far walk, mind you… but through some very residential areas that were “deserted” in so much everyone must’ve been at work. But, no worries, when the stadium suddenly popped up as I walked up a block, I was surprised by how close it was to a residential area, and how BIG the stadium looked.
And how many Mets fans were standing outside the gates, waiting to be let in!
Once I got inside, though, it was clear the stadium wasn’t that big, but there was a parking garage attached, adding to its outside dimensions.
I’d read about the Hard Times Cafe online, but opted to bypass this.
And this, too. I was actually telling myself how stupid I was for eating at Jaleo. I should’ve saved the stomach space for the stadium. Stuuupid.
Life-side statues of the running presidents! (I think they’re life-size. They were my height or taller!)
The first big stand I saw as I walked towards right field was Teddy’s Barbecue. I hadn’t read about it so I thought it must not be very interesting…
Despite my seeing a huge smoker to one side with lots of wood, and how DELICIOUS the damn stand smelled. It turns out this is a new stand. I have to go back. This is my kind of food. Plus, Teddy and I share a birthday. Gotta show him some love! Funny enough, as I peered at the menu above, and walked around the stand with no line, there was a man standing at the smoker, turning something inside it. He saw me and called out to me, “Try the Rough Rider!” and held out a giant slab of meat towards me. My jaw dropped, and I blurted out, “That’s way too big for me!” and he laughed kindly, then turned away.
I should have listened to him, but more importantly, I should have snapped a picture.
But, as it turns out, inside the little magazine they’d given out at the gates as I entered, there was an exact photo of what I’d seen. Seriously, guys. It was the same man (Chef Pollard, as the caption says), doing exactly that – holding out a giant rib towards me. I want to – no I need to eat that rib. I WILL be back, and this time, MY TEAM WILL PREVAIL.
I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I…
When I saw this stand slightly beyond Teddy’s BBQ, I started snickering like the juvenile I am. “Perhaps this is why they get in trouble so frequently,” I thought. Senators Sausages, giggle giggle. Yeah, I find humor in these things, but hell, if you can’t laugh in life, what good is it living?
The first Ben’s Chili Bowl stand I passed, though it wasn’t open yet (thus the complete lack of people…).
I’d arrived at the stadium super early and watched the Nationals warming up, while I sat in the stands and tried to cool down. Those anti-bacterial wipes come in handy for wiping your face when you’re all sticky, by the way! I took some pictures but I just don’t feel the need to share them, since I don’t recognize most of those players.
I should also note here that I arrived extremely early, and wound up entering through the centerfield gate. As I attempted to go to my seat, just to check it out, I discovered that the only part of the park open this early – 2.5 hours prior to the game – was between the foul poles, fair territory. Far center field. Boo… I could’ve sworn that when I looked it up that morning on my BlackBerry, it’d said all gates, but I just checked and it does explicitly state only certain centerfield sections will be open 2.5 hours prior to the official game time. No big deal.
Except when 1.5 hours prior to game time came, the Mets came out to warm up and for a little batting practice, so I ran to my seat and ran to stand behind the visitor’s dugout, and ran to stand within uhhh 50 yards of David Wright (thus the photograph above). I couldn’t get a good shot of him, but he did look straight at me at one point *SWOON* and just I was totally amazed that I was finally standing so close to this man I have adored from afar for so long. It was, in a word, amazing, and I didn’t even talk to him or really get that close. I’m kind of afraid of the day I actually do talk to him (which I am positive will come, honestly). Will I stutter? Will I make a complete ASS of myself? Will I just make him incredibly uncomfortable? I hope not. I sincerely hope not.
That sign above says NATS FANS 10 … I was wondering what it means. Is it for what, all 10 Nats fans??? ;P
Though I say that to demonstrate my disdain for this team (hey, they’re in my division, so their successes and failures directly affect my team), I have to tell you that – especially given this past season, laden with injuries, and the past two seasons ending in major collapses – people always note (or mock…) how hard it is to be a Mets fan; it isn’t easy to root for a team that almost inevitably lets you down, that can be so close to the playoffs but still not make it, that lets things get down to the wire – and then FAILS, not just fails but IMPLODES and EPIC FAILS… I can’t imagine how much harder it is to be a Washington Nationals fan. Though the team itself isn’t new, per se, it IS new to the DC area, having come from Montreal starting with the 2005 season. In addition to that, aside from once, the team has finished dead last in its division every season since coming to DC… and usually close to 30 games behind the division leader! I mean… at least the Mets get close (before they EPIC FAIL). So I have to give props to the Washington Nationals fans that I met – they were nice to me, despite my wearing Mets gear and cheering loudly when my team got a hit or pulled a nice play – and were gracious enough not to laugh in my face when the Nationals won.
But seriously, at some point I couldn’t really tell what everyone was screaming…. it sure sounded like “Let’s go Mets” to me! And there was a very large number of Mets fans (people wearing Mets gear) in the stadium, disproportionate to the location… Considering it was a Wednesday night game, anyway…
While I was watching batting practice, this woman standing on the sidelines watching… I swear every single Met walked up to her to say hello, give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I was really mind boggled. Here’s my somewhat snarky feeling, though: clearly she isn’t/wasn’t that close to any of them that she’s standing on the sideline (which is open to the general public, provided you call ahead of time and request this privilege and they aren’t filled up yet). So yeah, she knows them all and has met them enough times that they recognize her and know her name, but… she’s not friends with them. You can insert your own naughty conclusions here, because I try to keep this blog PG…
I’d read online about these amazing ice cream sandwiches at Gifford’s, so as soon as I could, considering what a hot day it was, I ran over to the stand, only to discover…
they no longer make it, sniff. I asked anyway, and one girl said they didn’t have it and she’d never seen it, while the other girl said they no longer had it. I guess they used to… awww. I wasn’t super hungry so I passed on any ice cream, knowing what I still had to eat ahead of me…
I was curious about this stand that claimed to have all the signature items from the other teams’ stadiums in the Nationals’ division. Citi Field doesn’t have a signature item that I would consider a “New York icon” of food – no pastrami sandwiches on rye, no amazing thin crust pizza (sorry Cascarrino’s but you don’t quite cut it), so… what do they have at Taste of the Majors that is really a quintessential NYC food item?
See, I understand the Philly cheesesteak, duh. Cuban sandwich from Florida, k, I get it. Atlanta BBQ, sure, I can see that. (Aside from Philly, never been to the other two places, but I know there’s a large Cuban population in Miami, and I’m guessing Atlanta, being part of the south, has its own BBQ tradition. I could be wrong, but at least they make sense to me.)
But… a “NY meatball submarine”??? What…the…heck?!?!?! That doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever! I did not order it – nor did I see anyone ordering it (though I wasn’t exactly looking, to be honest) – but seriously??? That’s almost insulting!!! NYC is home to plenty of amazing food, some of which can be considered signature and only available in NYC… and plenty of it they could have attempted to copy in Nationals Park. But a meatball sub?! Come ON, dude…….
Anyway, the one thing I was told repeatedly when I mentioned a trip to Nationals Park, what I’d heard about for eons before I ever thought I’d be visiting the park, what I was told repeatedly to go eat,…
Do you know who was on line next to me as I waited patiently? Why, hello there, Mr. President. While I understand you are in a hurry to get back to making executive decisions, and yes, you are indeed the leader of the free world, that and $1 will get you absolutely nothing. No you can’t cut me on line! No one comes between Yvo and her food! Are you crazy?! I don’t care what you can do to my credit rating! No! Wait, you want to give me what? A ride in Air Force One? National security clearance? NO IT IS NOT ENOUGH YOU CAN WAIT WITH THE REST OF THEM. Oh… well maybe you can wait behind me. Okay, settled.
Lucky for me, someone on the Midtown Lunch forums had mentioned to me not just the half smoke, but told me to get nachos. These weren’t even on the menu, but I saw behind the counter that there was stacks of boxes already set up with nachos in them, waiting to be sauced/cheese’d. Have I mentioned yet how hot and sticky it was out? I don’t think I could have stomached an order of heavy fries with the works; nachos, on the other hand…
Here’s a photo of the person on the left saucing up my nachos – she asked me if I wanted the chili on the chips and seemed really surprised when I said yes. I don’t know where else they would have put the chili – in another separate cup, or mixed in with the cheese? I have no idea! and the person on the right is loading up my half smoke.
Some half-smokes being cooked on a griddle – I think that’s what you call these flat top cooking surfaces (for shame, Yvo!).
Look at that…
Right after I paid, I snapped a quick shot.
Then I went back to my seat nearby and plopped down, and took some more pictures. I was a lil nervous trying it… first cuz it was pretty big and I wasn’t sure how to get it in my mouth, and second cuz, well, it was really messy. Was I going to pick it up and stuff it in my mouth, and get it all over my pink & white Mets jersey??? Was I going to use a knife & fork? (Actually, I’d asked the cashier when I was paying, “So, how do I eat this withotu getting it all over me?” and she’d laughed merrily, then looked at me, quite seriously, and asked, “Did you get a knife and fork?” so I guess that answered my question…)
Here are the nachos in natural light, looking gloriously chili’d up.
And side by side. Doesn’t look so dangerous, does it? Well, they kind of were.
While I couldn’t stop eating the chips with the cheese, they were actually kind of spicy (yes, I’m a spicy-food-wuss, so they probably aren’t that bad at all…) and my mouth soon began to tingle. Luckily, I’d also gotten an “Honest Tea” to drink, which was actually pretty good (I know you can get them in NYC, but I hadn’t yet tried them) – I got the lightly sweetened green tea with honey. That helped tame a little bit of the heat.
Now, for the half-smoke all the way? Yeah, it was good – like a sausage with cheese, chili, I think mustard – y’know, it tasted like it was. Did it change my life? No… Was it delicious? Yeah, sure, it was tasty, but I mean… I don’t get the hoopla over the darn thing. Is that sacrilege? Is that unpatriotic? Well then, oh well. It tasted good, I would eat it again, but I probably wouldn’t go too far out of my way to get it. I would probably take other people to get one, if they hadn’t had one before, though. Oh… and it didn’t set off my wussy spicy factor as much as the nachos… weird, right?
(Speaking of patriotic, can you tell me if this is weird, lame, or just really… I don’t know the word? Lately, when I sing along to the national anthem at ballgames, when I get up to this part: “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free…” I actually tear up. I think it’s because I’ve been singing it a lot – been going to a lot of games, obviously – and because I really start picturing the origins of the song; someone sitting in a boat during a battle, it’s night time, guns are firing over him, and he isn’t sure who’s winning or who’s won the battle because it’s too dark to see if the American flag is still flying… but then another cannon goes off, lights up the sky and what does he see? “… that star spangled-banner yet wave…” – I’m sure this is a slightly inaccurate memory of the true origin, but that’s what I remember from when I was a kid learning about it in school. I also feel this strange swelling of pride during the salute-to-a-soldier portion of games at Citi Field. Gahhh. But yeah, that part of the anthem totally brings a tear to my eye; it’s almost like, Team America, f* yeah!)
This is a picture of David Wright’s first at bat, second pitch. Why second? Because you see those people walking down the aisle in the picture? They were standing right next to me, blocking me, during the first pitch. Which was a strike, as the picture shows. *grumble* I was really annoyed by that; common courtesy dictates not moving in the aisles/rows until the current at-bat has finished. Jerks.
Then this guy walked by, and I started cracking up and had to agree loudly, “Oh, hell no it’s not.” I’m not sure what he was vending, but yes, that’s the uniform of the vendors at Nationals Park. Ladies & gentlemen… obesity, a nationwide epidemic that starts with this sentiment. Naw… just for fun.
While I’m not one for cotton candy so much – especially blue, I don’t know who it was that told me in no uncertain terms a few weeks ago that blue & pink taste the same, but you are wrong, wrong, wrong!!! Pink totally tastes fruitier and cherry/fruit punch-y, while blue tastes blue-raspberry/blueberry/icky to me. Hmph. Anyway, I’d never seen a BUCKET of cotton candy like so, I had to take a pic! It’s amazing and wondrous, if I were a kid, I’d bug the heck out of my parents to buy me this EVERY time I was at the park! But as an adult, I want to know how many calories is in that thing…
If you sign up to be a designated driver – ie, not drinking AT ALL during the game – they give you a voucher for a free small soda. They do this at Citi Field as well – and probably other ballparks – but I can’t find the Budweiser stand at Citi Field!!! (Budweiser sponsors this promotion.) Anyone know where it is? Not a bad deal – the small soda is like $4-5, and I don’t usually drink at games anyway… and they enter you into a drawing to win something as well. Good times. (I didn’t win.)
See in the back left there – it’s the Presidents race!!! Those statues I took a picture of above come to life and run around the ballpark! Poor Teddy Roosevelt never wins; I think the statistic is out of 70+ races he’s never win. He doesn’t win usually either… so maybe that’s why he got his own food stand, a delicious smelling BBQ place (see above as well). Hahaha.
A Nats Dog Value Pak sounds like a pretty good deal, yeah?
As I was leaving… after an insane loss by the Mets to the Nationals, come ON! the Nats are the worst team in our division!!! – I was walking out of the park and saw this. I don’t know what it means. Alright, I figure it means the Pope came to the park, for what, I’m not sure, did he throw the first pitch? But anyway, it just amused me further as we continue to separate Church & State in this country. Hahaha… yes I’m snarky and what?
This was an extremely fun trip – going by myself to a ballpark in another city, eating everything in sight, and just enjoying baseball with food… combining my two passions, I’m not really sure what could be better. Any ideas?
Let’s go Mets!!!
At this writing, the Mets are 10 games back from division leaders the Phillies, at .468 and 9 games back of the wild card race. By the time this post goes live, they may be out of the race completely, or they may have a really good fighting chance. I guess I’ll see. But as a Mets fan, there’s one thing first and foremost: ya gotta believe!!! and believe, I do. 🙂
After I wrote this, I later stumbled across this video and need to share it with you. Poor Teddy! Poor, poor Teddy!