Orioles fans have learned to live with disappointment. That’s a lesson that will come in handy when trying the new food at Camden Yards this year.
The team gave old vendor Delaware North the axe and hired Levy Restaurants to keep ballpark patrons fed. At a media preview event last month, I gorged myself on the new food options, including an absurd yet kind of awesome three-foot-long hot dog situation called the Yard Dog, plus my personal favorite, a crab dip pretzel “boule” prepared just so.
How, I wondered, would the goods stack up when made not by head chefs for a handful of diners, but part-time ballpark staffers trying to feed thousands of people in under nine innings?
Last week, I headed back to the Yard to eat with the masses. Along with my colleague Justin Fenton, I stuffed my face with everything I could get my hands on. I couldn’t find the Yard Dog and the crab dip boule that Levy had touted at any of the stands I passed in Camden Yards (though apparently I didn’t look hard enough). Nor did I smell the rich pit beef aromas I’d been promised by Boog’s.
We left early, food drunk, just in time to miss Adley Rutschman’s walk-off homer. (Let that be a lesson.) Here’s how the rest of the treats stacked up.
Bmore Chicken Box
I skipped the Buffalo Bird Dog ($11.99), which looked even more of a bummer in real life than it did during the preview. Instead, I grabbed a $15.99 Bmore Chicken Box.
To its credit, this box was loaded with sizable, meaty tenders, and I found the chicken actually tasted juicier than my first experience with it. On the downside, it was also soggy and slippery. “I’m not having a good time,” Fenton said as the skin fell off the tender in his hands. While the preview version featured a side of potato wedges, this bad boy came with super-soggy french fries seasoned in Old Bay that tasted like they’d been sitting out for over an hour. Fenton’s verdict on the side dish? “Not good at all.”
Big Boog’s Pit Beef platter
During the media preview, a Levy rep told me the company planned to bring back real-life smokers to the Yard so that the scent of chargrilled meat would fill the area surrounding Boog’s Pit Beef, one of the most popular stands. Reality must have gotten in the way, though, because I didn’t smell a thing. However, I did fork over $20.99 for a pit beef sandwich and chips.
While the beef I originally tried was medium rare and freshly carved, this version was well done and tasted dry. It desperately needed some tiger sauce, that horseradish-mayonnaise love child, but I was leery of a communal bucket of the condiment that looked like it had been left in the sun too long. Instead, I snacked on some of those uber-salty BTI chips, which are like a thicker and ridged alternative to Utz crab chips.
The Maryland Dog
I wondered if Levy higher-ups had last-minute reservations about their three-feet-of-meat creation, but it turns out it is was only available at the center field Roof Deck bar at the time, which requires its own ticketed seating. Due to popular demand, a Levy spokesman said, it is now an option at Bleacher Grill, too. All I could find on game day, though, was the $12.99 Maryland Dog, a normal-sized beef hot dog with crab dip and Old Bay potato sticks on top. I had actually enjoyed my sample of the Yard Dog a few weeks ago, finding the texture of its sausage complimented the garlicky dip. This down-to-earth successor missed the mark.
Since I was tempted to scrape off the seafood topping and have a normal hot dog, on a return trip to the ballpark I’d probably just pick up a Hoffman’s Jumbo Camden Frank for $8.25 or take my colleague Rachel Mull’s advice and buy one outside.
But with this being Camden Yards, there’s no shortage of crab concoctions for sale. We also snacked on the crab Mac n Cheese dog from Stuggy’s ($15), which has visible flakes of backfin meat on top of the creamy noodles. It was a mess to eat, made worse by the fact that Stuggy’s didn’t seem to have any forks available. While Fenton enjoyed it, it left me longing for a plain hot dog with some mustard.
Charm City loaded nachos
I was disappointed that I couldn’t find my favorite treat from the preview, the signature crab pretzel boule, in my journey of Camden Yards’ stands. (A Levy spokesman said it’s on the menu at the Westgate SuperBook Restaurant and the B&O Fastball Market on Eutaw Street, which I had inadvertently skipped over.) To fill the carb-and-cheese-sized hole in my heart, I instead picked up some Charm City loaded nachos ($14.99), which featured circular corn chips drowning in white nacho cheese and a heaping helping of crab dip that more than slightly resembled cat food.
I found the combination of cheese and crab dip to be overkill ― and am frankly unsure whether this was a mistake on the part of the concessions staff. (When I pointed out I had ordered the crab version, I received a sigh alongside a large dollop of the dip on the side.) Fenton actually liked the dish, though: “I don’t hate it. It looks awful, but it tastes fine.”
So are you going to have a gourmet meal at Camden Yards this season? Unless you’re planning on stuffing a steak into a Ziploc, the answer is probably not.
My advice: Hope for home runs on the field — not in the concession stands.