Foodie: James Beale, The Sports Complex
Address: 1 Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Team: Philadelphia Phillies (MLB)
Mark Twain's wife, annoyed by his constant swearing, once decided to cure him of the habit by swearing herself. Twain listened to her for a while before delivering his response: "The words are right, but the rhythm is wrong."
The food at Citizens’ Bank Park, the home of the 2008 World Phucking Champions, is like that. The names – Tony Luke’s, Rick’s, Chickie & Pete’s, and McNally’s are among the big boys, thorough enough to impress even the most dyed-in-the-delph locals. But if it’s natural rhythm and cadence you’re after, your best bet might be the stadium-food standbys.
The truth about Stadium food at CBP is that – aside from the surprisingly excellent Bull’s BBQ, where you can cop a Turkey Leg that could double as a club in a pinch and catch Phillies legend Greg “The Bull” Luzinski mingling with the crowds outside– it’s made for outsiders. Is it dope that Tony Luke’s is making your sandwich? Yeah, of course, but smart locals are copping one from the original half a dozen blocks away and bringing it in anyway. I’ve heard plenty of people rave about McNally’s Schmitter, never the native Chestnut Hillers who grew up drinking beers at the original McNally’s while their fathers sat at the other end of the bar and pretended not to see them.
Not that this is wholly a knock mind you, Tony Luke’s worst is better than Shea “home of the NL East runner ups” Stadium’s best. Critics ranging from the New York Times to the Food Network to Philadelphia Weekly have noticed, naming the Bank as the shining star of stadium gluttony. Besides, the Phils do do typical stadium fare better than most. Per ounce (and really, is there any other way to drink beer?), the Bank sells the cheapest beer in major league baseball, along with a nice cross section of higher-end drafts.
What wins CPB awards may be the big names and myriad vegetarian options (most veggie conscious stadium in the bigs – who knew?). But what separates it from rest is the options. The tourists have their cheesesteaks, the suburbanites have their schmitters, the yuppie’s can sit in Harry the Ks, and the 20 gamers can enjoy a beer with Greg “The Bull” Luzinski at his BBQ stop.
As for the have-to-mentions:
- Dollar Dogs. The Bank’s aren’t awful as far as stadium dogs go, but they aren’t noteworthy either. Still, what the dogs lack in flair they make up for in volume – the Phillies have ‘dollar dog nights’ maybe a half dozen a year, when college students hit the tailgate early and end up ankle-deep in hot dog wrappers – it that sounds repulsive, skip the date and catch the next game. If it sounds like the perfect way to spend a summer night; well, cop a rack, set up in FDR, and join the happy crowds in the cheap seats.
- Crab Fries. I’m going to get raked over the coals for saying this, but sprinkling old bay seasoning on normal fries really shouldn’t increase their price by $4.
- Rick’s Steaks. For the visitor who needs the “authentic Philly cheesesteak” and isn’t afraid to wait for it. Even at the ballpark Rick’s is Rick’s, so order a wiz wit and act proud that you know how to talk like a real, live local.
- McFadden’s. An in-stadium bar that lets the clever drunk get around the 7th inning cut-off, McFadden isn’t an awful option for what it is. Come for the shots, stadium, and camaraderie during the playoffs and for a postgame order of wings during that mid-august series against Cincinnati.
- Harry the K’s. I touched on it before, but Harry the K’s is the rare stadium bar/overlook that you can sit at all game and not feel totally out of place. New stadiums often get knocked for their specialty locales, where non-fans go and drink white wine with their backs to the action. Not true of the K’s.
- Everything else. For all the effort the park puts into local food and flair, it’s a shame that none of it can be had on the second deck. If you’re in the terrace level and want a cheesesteak you’re either eating the generic, or making a full inning and a half trip downstairs. If you’re not there early, or set with gorgeous seats, you’re better off drinking your dinner.
Still, all the faults with CPB are faults of standards, which may tell of just how elite the food really is. Maybe the rhythm is wrong, but I’ll be damned if they phucked up the words.