City: College Park, MD
Foodie: Brien, East Coast Bias
Venue(s): Byrd Stadium, Comcast Center
Address: University of Maryland, College Park MD, 20742
Team: University of Maryland Football and Basketball
Overcooked, overpriced, and underwhelming are the three first words that come to mind when contemplating Maryland's stadium fare. The school's Dining Services Department (which also runs the cafeterias) provides the majority of the food at both basketball and football games. The choices are uninspired, with minimal contributions from local cuisine.
Hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn left under a heat lamp for hours, stale nachos with congealing cheese-from-a-can, and chewy, often cold soft pretzels
The Poorly Executed
Invariably, I see the funnel cake sign above one of the concession stands and have a hopeful moment ("Funnel cake? I love funnel cake!") before remembering that the stadium funnel cake always ends up being crunchy, with none of the fluffy deliciousness that makes funnel cake wonderful.
I haven't personally tried any of the more interesting (and that is a relative term) fare at Byrd or Comcast due to the exorbitant prices. I do, however, feel comfortable passing judgment on them anyway. Italian sausages, pulled pork sandwiches, and crab cakes are what pass for specialty foods at the Maryland concession stands. Crab cakes sound like a great idea, until you see the price, think about what goes on in the concession stand kitchens, and realize that crab cakes are not appropriate stadium food.
The Abomination Before God
Pepsi. Like the entire campus, Byrd and Comcast only serve Pepsi products. Oh, and no alcohol. At least the University has lifted a multi-year ban on soda cup lids instituted after some idiot pegged Carlos Boozer's mom in the head with a water bottle. The administration has now deemed the fan base mature enough to have cups of soda with a lids on them. Until someone throws another one.
The Attempt to Improve Town-Gown Relations
The concession stands at Byrd Stadium and Comcast Center are either manned by student groups or local sports teams who are fundraising. This sometimes works out well - anybody who has been to a game at Nats Park can tell you that the "professionals" hired by Centerplate to operate those concession stands have roughly the same demeanor as Adebisi from Oz. The "amateur" concessionaires at Byrd and Comcast are much more friendly, polite, and helpful. This sometimes doesn't work out so well when you have some 15-year-old's eyes bulging out of his head as he tries to manage a line 50-people deep at halftime at Byrd Stadium and you end up with Sierra Mist that was supposed to go to the guy two people in front of you instead of the Diet Pepsi you ordered (see abomination, supra).
The Saving Grace
If you attend a University of Maryland sporting event with an empty stomach, there is one item on the menu that will save you from financial ruin and gastric distress: Boardwalk Fries. Maryland's own take on French Fries (doused with apple cider vinegar and Old Bay for the best flavor) is the only redeeming quality to concessions and the University's sporting events. The fries are always hot, salty, and perfectly cooked. The vinegar softens them up a little bit, and the Old Bay makes the whole dish distinctively Maryland. This is the one thing you can't pass up at a Maryland event.
After the Game
Since you worked up an appetite cheering for the Terps (and bypassing the stadium fare), you should treat yourself to some of the finer foods College Park has to offer. Route 1 is packed with chain restaurants of varying quality (DP Dough and Chipotle are my recommendations), but no trip to College Park is complete without a milkshake from the University of Maryland Dairy (also available in the dining halls). The rumor around campus was that the University couldn't sell the ultra-creamy milkshakes off-campus because their high fat content violated FDA regulations. It may or may not be true, but you can't go wrong with a possibly-illegal milkshake. Also, you have to hit up Ratsie's (with a name like this, you can't go wrong) for some pitchers of Yuengling and calzones. Or, say hello to Maryland's own legend, Cluck-UPac at Cluck U. Go for the atomic wings, stay for the guy who looks like Tupac brought back from the dead who randomly sits in on Maryland classes just to get some free education.
City: College Park, MD