The best food at Citizens Bank Park, from cookie dough to Crabfries, Questlove’s cheesesteak, and the donut burger
We scored the most creative ballgame snacks to see which would hit a home run and which would be better left on the bench.
When it comes to stadium food, ballparks may be the all-stars of professional sport. Gone are the days of peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and stale popcorn that tastes like it’s been kept in a basement for five years. Now you can score crispy waffle fries covered in crab dip at Camden Yards; baos and wontons from soup dumpling juggernaut Din Tai Fung at Safeco Field in Seattle; and even a steak sandwich from revered Manhattan butcher shop Lobel’s at Yankee Stadium.
So how does the selection at our own beloved ballpark stack up? We made a midseason visit to Citizens Bank Park to sample some of the stadium’s newest, and shall we say, most creative offerings — and one trusty classic — to see which snacks hit it out of the park and which would be better left on the bench.
Each item was scored on a five-point scale in five categories:
Portability: How easy is it to eat this crouched in a stadium seat or standing in the concourse?
Appearance: Does this look and smell like a dish you’d like to eat?
Taste: Would you order this in a real restaurant?
Satisfaction: Does this fulfill your criteria for good ballpark food?
Originality: Were you impressed by this item’s originality?
Here’s how they fared.
Curry cauliflower lettuce bites
Harry the K’s, just below the left field scoreboard; $11
Score: 91 out of 175 points
These curry cauliflower lettuce bites, made with fried chickpeas and coconut milk, are one of a handful of new vegan offerings at the ballpark this year. Sadly, they didn’t hold up under scrutiny because of how hard it was to eat away from a table. But more damning than that was their “underwhelming flavor.” Tasters complained about a “lack of a significant taste outside the curry powder” and “dryness.” “I wanted it to be crispy,” said one person. “I get what they’re trying to do, but this is not ballpark food.” “You should definitely have a drink with this,” said another. But the bites did win some points for making some tasters feel healthy. “I don’t feel gross after eating this,” said one.
Tandoori chicken wings
Pass and Stow and Harry the K’s, next to the third base gate and just below the left field scoreboard, respectively; $12
Score: 95 out of 175 points
Hopes were high for these tandoori chicken wings: The jumbo wings are marinated in yogurt, then tossed in a combination of tamarind, scallions, and Kashmiri peppers, which clock in at 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville units, or roughly the same heat level as a poblano. But this dish lost points for being “too big” and “impossible to eat without being messy.” “These should’ve packed more of a punch but they didn’t,” said one taster. “Eating this is kind of tedious,” said another. “But the skin is cooked to perfection.”
Hot chicken sandwich
Pass and Stow, next to the third base gate; $13
Score: 106.5 out of 175 points
Philly’s no Nashville, but our tasters nonetheless expected a better performance from this hot chicken sandwich, a fried chicken cutlet seasoned with a Nashville-inspired spice blend that’s tucked into a Martin’s potato roll with dill pickle slices and an herb-heavy coleslaw. “It could be spicier,” said two tasters. “This is basic,” said another. Others found positives in different elements of the dish, including the potato roll (which one taster thought to be “very lovely and soft”) and the generous side of house-made potato chips. “Amazing chips,” one said. “Five for the chips.”
Boardwalk Eats, left field plaza; $14
Score: 111 out of 175 points
This bacon cheeseburger made with a glazed Boardwalk Eats donut and spicy cherry pepper jam divided our tasters. “Put anything between a donut and it’s trying too hard,” said one taster. “I hate it,” said another. “It was a hard no from me. It feels wrong.” “It aggravates my stomach,” said one particularly incensed taster. “I want to speak to whomever came up with this.” But not everyone hated the sweet-and-savory treat, which earned top marks in the originality category. “Surprisingly savory,” said one. “It’s so weird it’s good,” said another.
Edible cookie dough
Jane Dough, kiosks behind sections 110 and 142; $6 for a small
Score: 113 out of 175
The most prominent virtue of this cup of chocolate chip cookie dough — an ice cream alternative (with optional soft-serve) — may be that there’s no risk of melting. “Incredibly easy to carry,” one taster wrote. In fact, it was the sole item to attain a perfect score in any category (in this case, portability). “A cool twist on a perfect sweet,” said one. “An honest dessert,” said another. “Tasty and easy to eat.” But some found the execution to be a bit half-baked. “It tasted like a bland sugar cookie,” said one. “It should’ve been much colder,“ another wrote of its scoopable texture. “It felt like pre-chewed food.”
Questlove’s vegetarian cheesesteak
Sold at kiosks behind sections 108 and 135; $14
Score: 120 out of 175
Earlier this year, when the Roots drummer and Philly native Questlove unveiled his vegetarian cheesesteak — Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat doused in a cheese sauce, mixed with peppers, and stuffed in a chewy-soft Amoroso’s roll — naysayers and skeptics came out of the woodwork. After all, Philly’s already sizable fleet of vegetarian and vegan cheesesteaks haven’t done much to diminish the lines snaking around Pat’s, Geno’s, Jim’s, and the like. But this rendition of Philly’s signature sandwich won a handful of our tasters over. “I was very surprised by how much I liked this,” said one. “Surprisingly delightful,” said another. “I was stressed and nervous to try it but it was great. I would order one of these in real life.” Of course, some meat lovers can never be swayed. “It lacks a satisfaction element,” one taster lamented. “It lacks the heartiness and after a while [the vegan meat] can get a little tasteless.”
Cheesy bacon tater tots
P.J. Whelihan’s, Ashburn Alley (outfield concourse); $16
Score: 133 out of 175
It’s really hard to go wrong with tater tots. It’s even harder to go wrong with tater tots tossed in a cheese sauce and topped with bacon bits, scallions, and shredded cheddar, served in a plastic Phillies helmet (a delivery system/souvenir that won these tots lots of points for portability). Although some tasters were unimpressed with the tots’ straightforward appeal, most agreed that it deserved runner-up status anyway. “Very flavorful,” said one taster. “Not original but still delightful,” said another. “The portion, though, who is it for? A small army?” Eminently shareable, the tots might have performed differently if durability had been a factor — one taster worried the cheese sauce had made the spuds soggy by the time the hat was passed her way.
Chickie’s and Pete’s, sold at kiosks behind sections 208, 219, 225, and 319; $9
Score: 138 out of 175
Carbs win the day. You probably saw this one coming, but Chickie’s and Pete’s Crabfries were Citizens Bank Park’s winningest ballgame snack. It’s a tried-and-true pick for a reason: The fries’ crinkles catch the salty crab seasoning, and the slick white cheese sauce is irresistible. “Always solid,” said one taster. “Fun and lovely and salty,” said another. “Crab fries are *chef’s kiss* with or without the cheese. But give me the cheese.” Non-Philadelphia natives tasters were a little confused by the lack of real crab (“it didn’t taste like crab!”) but admitted that it was “perfectly portable” and “a yummy enough ballpark treat.”
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