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.

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From 3 feet of meat to a dry pretzel: Camden Yards’ best (and worst) ballpark eats

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

The Baltimore Orioles hospitality staff unveiled their “Bmore Chicken Box” during a media preview in Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday, March 29.
The Bmore Chicken Box, complete with potato wedges, was ready for its closeup at a media preview. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
How did the Bmore chicken box at Camden Yards stack up against the version I tried during a media preview?
In real life, super-soggy french fries accompanied equally damp pieces of chicken. (Christina Tkacik/The Baltimore Banner)

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

Big Boog’s Pit Beef sandwich is on display during a media preview in Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday, March 29.
The Big Boog’s Pit Beef sandwich available to media was medium rare and juicy. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
A dry pit beef sandwich would have benefited from tiger sauce. But would you take chances with a condiment that's been sitting in the sun for hours?
The pit beef sandwich bought during a game was dry as a bone and would have benefited from tiger sauce. (Christina Tkacik)

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.

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The Maryland Dog

The Yard Dog is on display during a media preview in Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday, March 29.
The Yard Dog shown at a preview was three feet long but shockingly tasty. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
At a media preview, the Orioles and Levy Restaurants introduced a Yard Dog with three, footlong hot dogs topped with crab dip and potato sticks. The item was missing in action during a follow-up trip to the ballpark; in its place, the more down-to-earth Maryland Dog, which was a normal-sized hot dog topped with crab dip.
The shorter Maryland Dog was more practical but less delicious. Who says size doesn't matter? (Christina Tkacik)

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.

The crab mac and cheese hot dog from Stuggy's is a major draw for ballpark goers and boasts actual flakes of crab meat.
The Crab Mac and Cheese hot dog from Stuggy’s is a major draw for ballpark-goers and boasts actual flakes of crab meat. (Christina Tkacik)

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.

Banner staffers share their tips for making the most out of a trip to Camden Yards

The Buffalo Bird Dog is on display during a media preview in Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday, March 29.
I was not a fan of the Buffalo Bird Dog, even when it was at its best. But the bun was at least toasted and the celery fresh and green. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
The perplexing Buffalo Bird Dog somehow looked even worse in the wild. (I did not try it.)
The perplexing Buffalo Bird Dog somehow looked even worse in the wild, with the unmistakable coating that comes from food left under a heat lamp. I did not try it. (Christina Tkacik)

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.”

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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.

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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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