I’m fighting off a food coma as I write this.
I just scarfed my way through a preview of Camden Yards’ new concessions as we, the hungry hordes of local media, were unleashed “Supermarket Sweep”-style on tables of crab chips, pit beef sandwiches and a triple-footlong hot dog topped with crab dip. (The crab dip never stood a chance.)
Chef Adam Carter of Levy Restaurants, which replaced Delaware North as the ballpark’s concession provider this year, introduced the new bites. Carter is a Harford County native who named his dog Camden and even worked at the ballpark a few years ago before joining Levy. Such local cred comes in handy, especially when it comes to crab.
Crab cakes weren’t part of the media preview, but Carter said those sold at Camden Yards will be homemade. And more items could be hitting the menus throughout the season. “More will be revealed,” he said.
We only had a few minutes to snack before Orioles reps were kicking us out and sending us to check out the rest of the ballpark, including the new sports lounge replacing Dempsey’s where fans can place bets on their phones and a high-tech B&O market designed to reduce wait times in line by at least one half. It uses video cameras and artificial intelligence to tell that you bought a $14.99 can of beer. Creepy? Yes. But would you rather wait in a 10-minute-long line during a crucial inning?
So I had to eat fast. Fortunately, that’s one of my greatest skills. What I didn’t learn — and what representatives for the ballpark and for Levy Restaurants declined to tell me — is how much everything will cost. But we’ll find out soon enough: The Orioles home opener versus the New York Yankees is April 6.
Here are my rankings of the offerings on deck, from best to worst items.
Signature Crab Pretzel Boule
Basically just a fancy name for a crab dip bread bowl, this was the first item I went for and I have no regrets. I don’t have a side-by-side comparison, but I’d be willing to bet that the new, garlicky crab dip is at minimum 10 times better than the old kind I’ve eaten on french fries at Camden Yards in the past. Executive chef Dan Doyle told me it got an upgrade under Levy and it shows — and if there’s one thing you want to do right in Baltimore, it’s crab dip. A cheesy crust adds extra flavor, and notches on the pretzel loaf allow you to pull it apart easily, making it a good choice for sharing. But you probably won’t want to. Even in my food coma, I would go for seconds.
[ Orioles fans expect great things in 2023. Pundits? Not so much. The players are mostly trying to stay focused. ]
Big Boog’s Pit Beef
In a world of ever-changing ballpark food, it’s nice that you can still count on Boog’s. Orioles left fielder and first baseman Boog Powell launched his barbecue stand on opening day in 1992, making it fair to ask whether Camden Yards would still exist without his signature pit beef sandwiches. This year, Doyle said, staff will bring smokers on-site to ensure that the aroma of grilled meats entices guests to the ballpark.
A slice of pepperoni pizza from 1729 Pizzeria was surprisingly on point, with well-seasoned sauce that Carter said is housemade, plus a respectable thin crust. Too many times concession food can err on the bland side; I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case during my visit. I would make a beeline for this stand on a follow-up trip to the ballpark.
My colleague Krishna Sharma told me this Cuban sandwich was surprisingly delicious, with roast pork reflecting hints of cumin. Well-toasted bread, juicy pickles and tangy mustard balanced out the bite.
The Yard Dog
Every ballpark needs an item that tows the line between being ridiculous Instagram porn and actually tasting surprisingly good. The Yard Dog, which combines three footlong hot dogs with crab dip and Old Bay potato sticks, is that item. It looks insane and tastes good, though eating it may mean you will fall asleep before the seventh-inning stretch. It probably helps that the crab dip is so good you could put that stuff on anything.
Bmore Chicken Box
Another new offering from Levy Restaurants is a take on Baltimore signature: the chicken box. It was nicely presented with hot sauce and a roll, but the best part was the wedges, which, like everything I tried, were appropriately seasoned and also well-fried. The chicken itself was slightly dry, but had a nice, crispy exterior. (Could I just have the potatoes?)
BTI Crackin’ Crab Chips
Crab chips are crab chips, for the most part, but I liked that the version sold at the ballpark is thicker than the usual and has enough salty seasoning to help you replenish electrolytes on the hottest of midsummer game days. The flavor — and name — come from Bill’s Terrace Inn in Essex.
O’s Pretzel with cinnamon sugar
I liked the design of this pretzel, modeled after the Orioles logo. But the pretzel base was just too dense and dry to support the cinnamon sugar topping. I’d rather try the salty version and load it up with mustard.
The Buffalo Bird Dog
Essentially just a chicken tender with some hot sauce and ranch in a bun, this was one of my least favorite items from the media preview. Despite the name, there was no dog — hot or otherwise — found here. Though I liked that the bun was toasted, the chicken was a little dry and the celery shavings just looked sad. It needed more hot sauce. Maybe they should have just poured crab dip on it instead.