At this ballpark, calamari trumps the hot dog
SAN FRANCISCO — It's the seventh-inning stretch here at San Francisco's shiny new, waterfront AT&T Park, and it's time to sing. "Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd, buy me some peanuts and...." Only here, the sole park in the country where fans queue up in kayaks to catch homers over the fence, there are a few new words that could be added to the anthem. "Szechuan green beans and tofu," for example, or "fresh fruit smoothies," or "whoopee pies, cha-cha bowls, and a pu-pu platter."
Not exactly standard-issue Dodger Dog and a Coke. But this isn't L.A., and it isn't Boston, where the "Sausage Guy" reigns outside Fenway. Here at Giants Stadium the range of food is so gourmet that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently voted it the most "vegetarian friendly" ballpark in the nation. "People's awareness of the quality of food and the level of culinary expectation is higher than in other places," confirms Tom McDonald, vice president of marketing for the San Francisco Giants who play here.
When the park opened in 2000, it set out to re-create the neighborhoods of San Francisco. Edsel Ford Fong's offers Asian specialties, Joe Garcia's dishes out Mexican fare, and more than a few spots hawk Italian food. The Farmer's Market stand offers fresh produce while the Fresh Catch offers lobster rolls, clam chowder, and fried calamari. There are latte machines at every turn. It's impossible to stroll through the promenade without a rumbling stomach. Fans who pay for a higher priced ticket get access to the first-floor Field Club eateries, where the pastries and the pu-pu platters are, and where they can browse concession marquees while still keeping an eye on the game via numerous flat-screen monitors.
The Giants are not alone in appealing to the new gourmet fan. Mr. McDonald says parks all over the country have called for advice in helping to attract the casual fan, the folks who might just as easily spend their dollars at Disneyland or at the movies rather than attend a ballgame. "We know the rabid statistics-taking fans will come," he says. "It's the others we need to pull in."
Sam, a baseball scout who won't reveal his last name, stands with a chicken-and-apple-sausage sandwich in hand as his eyes follow the game. He's been to every ballpark in the nation and says the food here beats them all. "It's great," he says barely taking his eyes off the players. "Now, I'm happy."
A nearby mother and son who've driven from San Rafael echo the sentiment. They're downing a beef brisket. "My dad usually brings me to ballgames," says Mark Carlson, a young teen. His mom, Cindy, now comes just for the eats. "Premium food at a clean new ballpark," she says. "What a great idea."