A text from a friend would have drawn a penalty flag for taunting.

Knowing I was on my way to M&T Bank Stadium to try out the concessions for The Baltimore Banner, she sent photos of the spread she’d made to eat after a recent Sunday matchup. “Better than anything [you’ll] eat at the stadium.”

I was determined to prove her wrong, sampling my way through the culinary options at the Bank with the same gusto with which I gobbled the offerings at Camden Yards. Like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, I ate my way through a long list of dishes, emerging as a beautiful butterfly.

Aramark, which manages the food at Ravens stadium, appears to follow the “keep it simple, stupid” principle of feeding the masses. I found basic burgers and hot dogs available at almost every stand. The pizza is Papa John’s, not Neapolitan-style. There was a Subway, a restaurant whose unwritten slogan is: “You have to eat something, so it might as well be this.”

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But simplicity can be a good thing. For one thing, you won’t need a Lamar Jackson-sized contract to afford the fare at M&T Bank Stadium. A pit beef sandwich cost me just $12.59. In contrast, a pit beef sandwich and chips from Boog’s at Camden Yards cost $20.99 in April.

Another observation: The food at Ravens stadium is actually made and served by real people. Levy Restaurants, the company that manages the concessions at Oriole Park, has gone great guns with automation, with touchscreen kiosks wherever you turn. By comparison, the service at the Bank seemed positively farm to table. At stand after stand, I ordered food from a live person. In many cases I could see an actual human preparing the dish in the kitchen. And then a person handed it to me. This resulted is food that generally tasted a lot fresher — and better — than what I’d tried at Camden Yards, where items often seemed to be sitting out for hours.

Okay, are you going to have the meal of a lifetime while watching the Ravens game? Unless Duff Goldman has invited you to his tailgate party, probably not. But serviceable fare that doesn’t leave you feeling like someone’s stolen your wallet? That, you can score.

Hoffman’s American Burger

A cheeseburger purchased at M&T Bank Stadium. (Christina Tkacik)

This ultra basic cheeseburger crystallized everything I appreciated about the concessions at M&T Bank Stadium. Not flashy, not pricey; it doesn’t have a clever double-entendre name or the kind of toppings you want to Instagram about. It tastes exactly like you expect it to. The cheese was appropriately melted. The bun was fluffy and didn’t crumble. The patty was reasonably sized and seasoned, if slightly dry. Best of all, it was affordable at $7.49 — practically a steal by stadium standards.

Cheesesteak

It’s easy to find a decent cheesesteak at M&T Bank Stadium. (Christina Tkacik)

My enduring memory of eating this cheesesteak from Philadelphia chain Chickie’s & Pete’s is attempting to fit the cheese-globbed thing in my mouth as a 1-year-old in noise-canceling headphones looked on in horrified fascination. While the steak itself would have been improved with the addition of fried onions — which The Banner’s own Philly native Paul Mancano tells me typically come with a Chickie’s & Pete’s sandwich — this dish scored points for being made to order and served on a fresh bun. At $11.95, it won’t break the M&T Bank.

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Pit beef sandwich

I’m about as likely to be named the next head coach of the Ravens as I am to become a foodie influencer. For one thing, I frequently forget to grab a photo of my meal before digging in. That was the case with the surprisingly okay pit beef sandwich ($12.59) from Chesapeake Market, which looked like it was going to be dry but tasted fresher and more flavorful than expected. And the accompanying chips? Thick, crispy and tasty. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Cloak and Dagger sandwich

Though Attman’s Deli is no longer at Camden Yards, I was happy to see the New York-style deli chugging away at M&T Bank Stadium, serving up their signature Cloak and Dagger sandwich with corned beef and coleslaw. Is it as good as the version you’ll find at the original Attman’s in East Baltimore, where it remains one of the last bastions of the city’s historic Corned Beef Row? Heck no. The beef was an odd pale pink color and the bread was too thin to support the weight of all that meat and coleslaw. At $19.35, it’s more expensive, too. But is it good enough for a rainy football game against the Indianapolis Colts, which is when I was able to make my way to the stadium? Sure. As a bonus: My poncho helped protect my clothing from the wayward bits of food. (Pro tip: Rainy weather can also mean snagging last-minute tickets on StubHub for as cheap as $10.)

Crab cake sandwich

Will the crab cake sandwich at M&T Bank Stadium score a touchdown with Ravens fans? Probably not. (Christina Tkacik)

Did you know that some Maryland-area McDonald’s restaurants began serving crab cakes in the 1990s? I never had a chance to try it, but I imagine that it tastes somewhat similar to the crab cakes sold at several M&T Bank Stadium stalls. For $18.19, this thing was dry, small and had that “not-so-fresh” flavor of a second-string crab cake. While it may appease visiting sports fans who don’t know their blue crab from their Alaskan kings, true Baltimoreans are likely to turn their noses up at this dish.

Chicken tenders and fries

Probably the biggest disappointment during my “Very Hungry Caterpillar”-inspired sojourn through the Ravens stadium concessions were the chicken tenders ($12.65), which tasted like memories of my elementary school cafeteria. They were bland and chewy, like some sort of soy byproduct, though granted, your kids will probably still eat them.

The only saving grace was that the french fries they came with were fine — on the border of good, even. People might say it’s hard to screw up french fries, but I disagree. You can have soggy french fries. You can have crunchy, too-fried french fries that taste like the chef was trying to salvage them from earlier. You can have fries with too much salt. These fries were totally fine, which was more than okay with me.

christina.tkacik@thebaltimorebanner.com

Christina Tkacik is the food reporter for The Baltimore Banner. A former Baltimore Sun reporter, she has covered the city's dining scene as well as crime and politics. 

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