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ME LIKE EAT Contributor: Dining With Mark At Yankee Stadium

April 18, 2011

Once again, ME LIKE EAT is proud to present the thoughts of contributor Hugh, whose recent experience at Yankee Stadium got him wondering what that aftertaste was in what he was eating.

Sitting, and dining, at Yankee Stadium in April, 2011. (credit: Hugh)

Say what you will about the Christmas season, this may really be the most wonderful time of the year. Baseball is just getting underway.

If the new Shea Stadium (or is it Citi Field?) is like a nice, intimate park where players go to play ball, Yankee Stadium is like an office building where men wearing pinstripes go to do professional work. It is also a great New York dining experience. However, one might reasonably argue that the food is merely a side dish to baseball, which is the main.

Like every great restaurant, part of the dining experience is the place itself. The sounds. The smells. The people. By that standard there are few places better to eat in New York than Yankee Stadium. Especially if you are a Yankee fan.

It is true that the stadium boasts all sorts of high end restaurants, sushi, steaks, and a Hard Rock Café. But I am something of a purist, and I believe that food one consumes when at the stadium should be marked by the three ‘F’s – fattening, filling, and fun.

A night at the stadium is expensive. On top of the $85 stated ticket prices (for good seats) is the food and beer prices – at $10.50 for a sixteen ounce plastic cup of imported beer.

Money has an aftertaste. No matter what else, if it costs two dollars when it should cost one, you taste that dollar. So a $20 burger has to be that much better to make it worth it. So for the those reasons, I eschewed the high-end joints and went for the food of the fan. The food what you can eat in your seat with a cold beer. Hot dogs. Peanuts. Popcorn. I also had a cheesesteak- the high end of the food part of my in-seat dining experience.

The gooey, messy Carls Steak cheesesteak. (credit: Hugh)

The Carl’s Steak cheesesteak was excellent. The meat was enveloped by gooey American cheese, and the bread soaked through. It was the highlight of the food.

In second place were the shelled peanuts – I always enjoy tromping through the broken shells during game breaks. The Popcorn, Indiana brand popcorn was excellent. One of our group, though, insisted it was not appropriate for baseball and refused to partake.

The rest of the food, other than the beer, is “Good Luck, Chuck.”

My seats to this game were really pretty good (I was actually a season ticket holder’s guest, so, I lucked out). We had waiter service in our seats. While convenient, it was not necessarily up to Yankee standards.

For example: I wanted a hot dog ($7.50). The server brought back a footlong ($8.50). And the footlong – Hebrew National (an otherwise excellent brand) – wasn’t great. It was served with French’s mustard which, under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium, has a fluorescent yellow color I am unsure is found in nature.

One member of our party ordered a cheeseburger. It was delivered minus ketchup. He described it as “dry.” If Wollensky’s Grill makes a burger rated ten, he rated this a five. “Dry?”

As to the main course – baseball – it is so much better seeing it in person than on television. I love watching football, but generally I would rather watch the Jets with a cold beer, in the warm comfort of home (or a friend’s home, or even a trusty bar), than in the bitter cold of the stadium. The same is not the case with baseball. There is so much good in the stadium that is not translatable to television. The inherent grace and utter beauty of the game itself. The birthday roll and giddy fans on the jumbo screen. The dancing groundskeepers who level the infield to the tune of YMCA. The heckling which starts after the beer kicks in at the eighth inning. And when you leave the game you are sung out by Frank Sinatra.

The Hebrew National hot dog with fluorescent yellow Frenchs mustard. (credit: Hugh)

But in describing the dining experience at Yankee Stadium, I realized something: When you eat at the stadium, unlike at most restaurants, your party shall be joined by your host, who lives there. His name is Mr. Market Economy – let’s call him Mark.

Mark will take a seat right behind you (or maybe in front of you). He wears a Yankee hat, and a team jersey. Mark taps you on the shoulder from time to time and points out the remarkable achievements he accomplished to make your experience at the stadium so enjoyable.

Put another way, when you get to Yankee Stadium, you will be distracted by the business brains who are behind every facet of the experience.

There is business angle behind everything which goes on in Yankee Stadium. Of course, there is a money angle behind every restaurant. Restaurants are for-profit enterprises (hopefully). In most restaurants however, you are not assaulted by the fact that they are trying to get your money.

I could not help but admire it a little.

As a born and bred New Yorker, the old stadium struck an emotional cord: Thurman Munson. Reggie Jackson. Billy Martin. It was the house that Babe built.

The new stadium is the house that Mark built.

His fingerprints are everywhere. The efforts of his team of marketers and brand-managers are nonstop, pounding and often vulgar. A humble beer (ok, a Beck’s) served at Yankee stadium is adorned with the Yankee stamp. Popcorn gets the whole Yankee’s team logo.

But Mark also got a few things wrong. Our seats were very good. I noticed however, that there were swaths of premium box seats near the plate and dugout which were empty, while virtually all of the relatively cheap bleacher seats were filled. Was Mark perhaps too ambitious in his pricing? Dare I say “greedy?” I didn’t dare even think that while at the stadium, for fear of offending him.

Marks handiwork.

Admittedly, part of the fun of being a Yankee fan is complaining about the money. As a Yankee fan, you are almost duty-bound to grumble about whichever player does not merit the ridiculous sum he is paid. It is always useful to decry the latest outrage in food, beer and ticket prices. Many other fans of the sport are religious in their hatred of the Yankees due to the team’s seemingly unlimited supply of money.

An evening at the stadium might be as good a dinner out as you can find in New York. I love going. I love watching the Yankees win. I very much enjoy baseball, it can be served beautifully there. I love the whole experience. You will too. Unless you hate the Yankees.

Just expect Mark to join you at your seats. Make no mistake, he can be a lot of fun. But expect him to want to hold your wallet.

And, from time to time, you may find yourself wondering why Mark keeps calling you by his name.

For additional entries by Hugh, check out his thoughts on The Battle At Nougatine and Hot Dog or Pizza: Which Holds New York’s Soul?

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Shawn permalink
    April 18, 2011 10:57 am

    I’d say YOU were the mark at Yankee Stadium. Concessions net about $30 million annually on gross sales of $100 million (earned one cold hot dog at a time).

    The key concept at Yankee Stadium is “captive audience.” The effect is the same at airport food courts, movie theater concession stands, and amusement parks. In all these venues, security prohibits you from bringing in your own (better, cheaper) food. Once you pass into the forum, you can’t escape without paying premium prices for mediocre products and poor service. You know where else this rule applies? PRISON.

    Imagine if the concession menu showed not only the price for the hot dog, but the future value of your money. I’m guessing you paid at least $50 just for your food and beer (not to mention the $85 ticket). If you average two stadium visits per summer for the next 18 years, I’d conservatively estimate you’re throwing away at least $2600 in compound growth (assuming a 4% return).

    Well, I guess you’re not throwing it away so much as you’re converting that money to shi… energy.

    Think of how many Grey’s Papaya hot dogs you could eat for $2600. And while you’re enjoying Grey’s delicious dog, you could read in The Post about how the Yankees lost (again).

    • Shawn permalink
      April 18, 2011 10:58 am

      p.s. — I’ll be in the city next week. Let’s catch a game.

  2. Hugh permalink
    April 18, 2011 3:21 pm

    As to your conclusion in your first comment, I don’t know if I agree. I know that Mark’s presence occasionally made me suspicious that I was being taken (see my last sentence). But, I also know that money, if used properly, can buy or at least rent joy – and a meal at the Stadium can be a very joyous experience and – for that reason – a good use of money. Indeed, isn’t it a good thing to do to go out and catch a ball game from time to time? Use the time to become entranced by baseball – which when played well is sort of a zen experience – while you down a few beers, have a cheesesteak, and talk trash with good pals about baseball and all of the other important subjects in life? Isn’t that a good thing to do?

    With that in mind, as to your second comment, I accept your very generous and gracious invitation to buy us (highest quality) tickets to a game at Yankee Stadium. For your reference, I prefer field level close to first base.

  3. April 18, 2011 3:35 pm

    nice seats! i am usually in the 230′s if i am lucky, but most likely in the nosebleeds.

    i will gladly give up good food for a winning team. let the mets have their shake shack.

  4. The Anti Hugh permalink
    April 18, 2011 4:30 pm

    You say American Cheese but it is white, could it have been Provolone? Then you make no reference to the Cheese wiz, Provolone debate. I think you are missing a whole point and the rest of your blog is the same old wining about “Stadium food”. Too expensive, Blaa! Blaa! Blaa! To Dry, Blaa! Blaa! Blaa! What are you bothered about the cost of a beer, you brought enough wine for the whole stadium! Who cares about the cost, but are you sure about the cheese? A Burger at a ball game what is wrong with that person!

    • Hugh permalink
      April 18, 2011 11:49 pm

      TT: I lucked out viz the seats. And concur with your thoughts viz Shea (Citi?). Although I like going to Mets games too (why n0t), I imagine being a real fan of a consistently disastrous team must have a really awful aftertaste.

      Anti: Admit I am pleased to have an “Anti”. Imagine you are my mirror image except you have a goatee. It was white American cheese. http://www.carlssteaks.com/ An article about eating at Yankee Stadium that doesn’t discuss the topic of money, is like an article about the Indy 500 that doesn’t discuss the topic of cars. I am pretty sure that I have never had a drop of wine at the Stadium. Finally, Mark put burgers on his menu, and his waiter delivered it to our seats, so – as far as I’m concerned – it’s absolutely fair game.

  5. Shawn permalink
    April 18, 2011 11:28 pm

    We’ll have to agree to disagree as to the relative joy – and investment quality – of stadium cuisine.

    Let’s split the difference. You buy two field level tickets along the first base line (one for me, and one for you) and I’ll commit to buying all the hot dogs, cheesesteaks, popcorn, and beer you’re able to consume between the warm-up and the ninth inning (or until you throw up, whichever comes first). I’ll even pay for the subway ride to and from the stadium.

    Oh, as for the “Cheese wiz, Provolone debate”… the question is moot. No self-respecting New Yorker gets a hamburger at Yankee Stadium. In any case, I’m pleased no one mentioned how dry the SUSHI was.

  6. The Guy With the Tickets permalink
    April 19, 2011 10:36 pm

    Gentlemen (using that term loosely of course), what’s with all the whining. To AntiHugh, what’s wrong with me…what’s wrong with you? You focus on the color of the cheese…blaaa blaa blaa.. stop whining. And as for “Shawn,” i assume you’re a New Yorker, so a respecting New Yorker would order what? ummmmm, gee let me guess, a hotdog? how genuine. If it weren’t respecting, certainly the New York Yankees wouldn’t offer it to it fans. I’m dumbfounded by the level of substance in your commentaries.

    PS: I’m open to any wagers to resolve any issues (i.e. field level tickets)

  7. The Guy With the Tickets permalink
    April 19, 2011 11:15 pm

    see: http://keymancollectibles.com/images/wpe17.jpg

  8. Sam permalink
    April 22, 2011 9:37 am

    Let’s see if I get this:
    Mark drives his Explorer to the Bronx from Syosset and demands a seat in the Gout section. Mark readily sells himself the ticket and the foods/beverages at a tidy profit against himself, and simultaneously eats and plays all positions on the field. The food is decent but the portions are small.
    Did I miss anything?
    Side note: the book “Moneyball” supposedly deals with Mark’s complete conquest of baseball, though I haven’t read it.

  9. Pigiron permalink
    August 10, 2011 4:39 pm

    “Shelled peanuts” means “peanuts that have been removed from their shell”. I don’t think that’s what you meant, is it?

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