Top 5 Stadium Food Classics

May 16, 2011 12:00 pm

You can always rely on these stadium food staples

hot dog
Photo: roboppy on Flickr
Green Bay brats are fine and all, but nothing beats the hot dog for go-to stadium food
 
portrait of Lang Whitaker
Lang Whitaker
 

I’ve been to sporting events all over the world and have sampled various regional specialties. There’s something fitting about eating a fish taco while taking in a Padres game in San Diego, or munching on a brat while trying to stay warm at a Packers game in Green Bay's storied Lambeau Field. But these regional stadium foods are usually specific to a place. Today we are here to consider the foods readily available at all stadiums across the USA. At some point down the road we’ll bite into the more exotic items, but for today, let’s talk about the best stadium food staples.

Here’s my Top 5 Stadium Food Classics:

5. Cracker Jack  I always thought it was odd that the famous song line goes “Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks…,” because there are already peanuts in Cracker Jack. When I was a kid, I was mostly into Cracker Jack for the prize, but I eventually grew to appreciate the salty/sweet combo that comes from the combination of popcorn and caramel—scoring the occasional peanut is just a bonus. Cracker Jack is also terrific as a stadium food because it comes in a box, so you can snack, then close it up and set it on the ground for a while before returning to it.

4. Pretzels In some ways, pretzels are like a blank canvas (one sprinkled with salt). You can top them with mustard, or dip them in cheese—if you prefer to use your pretzel primarily as a condiment vessel. I appreciate the mustard and cheese, but I actually like the pretzel on its own merit: the crusty shell, the chewy interior, the pebbles of salt that magically adhere to the outside.

3. Nachos One of the messier stadium foods, particularly when they serve them with the cheese already on the chips. Not to mention how the “cheese” on most nachos at stadiums is actually some sort of “cheese sauce,” usually of questionable integrity. But I don’t eat nachos because I’m looking to be gourmet. And whether it’s actually cheese or not, that “cheese” has to be about 50 percent fat of some sort. And fat pretty much always tastes good, no matter what form it’s in.

2. Roasted Peanuts The salt and the crunch are a perfect combination. But what I really appreciate is the work involved with getting inside the peanut shell, which is almost a natural way to regulate your consumption—you can’t just tip a bag back and pour them into your mouth. Peanuts are also perhaps the best sharing food at sporting events, so they get points for being economical.

1. Hot Dogs This mystery mixture of some combination of meats wrapped in soft white bread is, to me, unparalleled. And I know there are a lot of different toppings out there, from sauerkraut to relish to ketchup, but I like my hot dogs with just plain mustard, which gives a little heat and that vinegary bite.

So, that’s my list. What gets your pick as best stadium food?

Lang Whitaker is the Editor At Large of SLAM magazine, a contributing editor to Antenna Magazine, a contributor to NBA TV and the co-host of NBA.com’s Hangtime Podcast. His memoir, "In The Time Of Bobby Cox: The Atlanta Braves, Their Manager, My Couch, Two Decades, and Me,” was released March 1.


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