By Suzanne Corbett

Home Plate Nachos at Busch Stadium photo courtesy the St. Louis Cardinals/Busch Stadium

The wait is over! Cardinals baseball at Busch Stadium is here, and the fans are hungry for action – on the field and at the concession stands. After all, what’s a ballgame without a hot dog and beer?

Ballpark concessionaires today pitch more than red hots, peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Chefs at Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village cater to fans who appreciate trendy fare blended with classic home plate specialties. The result has made ballpark dining an adventure.

“Our fans are becoming foodies,” said Vicki Bryant, vice president of merchandising and event services for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, who explained how chefs have created menu choices designed to score big.

A few of the craft brews featured at the new 1764 Public House Pub  photo by Suzanne Corbett

“We have so many exciting changes in food and beverage, which begins with our new 1764 Public House Pub, an old-style pub featuring only craft beers. There will be 28 draft and can craft beers, 13 of which have never before been served at Busch Stadium.”

Some of the craft beers included on that coveted list are an India pale ale from Springfield, Missouri, a wheat brew from Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery, and Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Big Wave golden ale. A good number of Anheuser Busch In-Bev craft beers are counted among the new taps – good news for the craft beer enthusiast. However, if you’re not a craft beer fan, take heart. Remember, this is Busch Stadium, where cold Budweiser and Bud Light will always flow.

Speaking of Budweiser, look for the opening of the new Budweiser Terrace in the right field corner, where anyone can hang out and grab a cold one. While enjoying that drink, pair it with a handheld from the new open pit barbecue grill.

“We’ve made renovations by Gate 2, where you’ll find our new pork street tacos with Coke-infused barbecue sauce,” Bryant said. “We also added a third Grab ‘n’ Go Market with a self-serve, top-your-own sundae option. And we’re thrilled to bring another hometown favorite to Busch: Gioia’s Hot Salami Sandwich.* All this, with the return of Cardinals Nation Food Truck, is going to make this season exciting.”

The Bacon Wrapped Dog photo courtesy St. Louis Cardinals/ Busch Stadium

While stadium food service operators across the country have upped their game, the fact remains that the baseball experience, especially at Busch Stadium, is all about the hot dog, nachos and a cold drink. But that doesn’t mean those classics can’t get a makeover. Consider the bacon-wrapped hot dog dressed with sautéed onions and peppers, or Cardinals Nation’s favorite concession, nachos. Busch sells more nachos than any other stadium in the major league, so it’s no surprise that the overloaded Home Plate Nachos served in a home plate-shaped box, along with a build-your-own nachos option, are the menu’s MVP.

Beyond the major league, the Gateway Grizzlies and the River City Rascals, the area’s two Frontier leagues, have stepped up to the plate with their own game-changing grub.

Forget the diet while watching the Rascals at CarShield Field in O’Fallon, Missouri, and try the Rascals Bypass Sandwich, which stacks a fried chicken patty, white cheddar and raspberry jam between two funnel cakes dusted with powered sugar and dripping with maple syrup. Or, simply opt for the Funnel Fries, a spin on the classic funnel cake.

The Bypass Sandwich photo courtesy River City Rascals

For the ultimate caloric bomb, head to Sauget, Illinois, to GCS Credit Union Ballpark, home of the Gateway Grizzlies, for Baseball’s Best Burger, built on a grilled Krispy Kreme donut topped with bacon and cheddar, or order up Baseball’s Best Nachos, layered with all the ingredients of a Philly cheesesteak. The Grizzlies’ decadent Baseball’s Best food series earned a slot on USA Today’s Top Ballpark Food List, and also includes the Best Hot Dog and Best Bratwurst, each designer-dressed with add-ons and condiments. So order up, eat up and play ball!

 * There has been a menu change up at the ballpark since press time.  Gioia’s Deli owner Alex Donley announced after the Cards’ home season opener that the Hot Salami has been pulled from the stadium’s food roster.

As Donley explained in his official release, “As all of you Gioia’s Fans know, we are dedicated to the quality and customer service of our product. It was brought to our attention that the service and product quality standards that we adhere to were not met at the home opener.  Sadly, we cannot have 100% assurance that our quality standards will be met at the ballpark, therefore, we are not going to allow our brand or products to be sold through that channel.”

To make it up to anyone who was disappointted during their ballpark experience, Gioia’s is offering anyone who brings a ticket stub from the home-opener into any of their three stores will get $2 off their sandwich. Now that’s what I call playing ball the right way – with integrity.

 

Corbett is the author of “The Gilded Table,” “Pushcarts & Stalls: The Soulard Market History Cookbooks” and “Unique Eats and Eateries of St. Louis.” She can be contacted at suzannecorbett@me.com.