Food, with a Side of Baseball
Baseball—it’s as American as hamburgers and apple pie. And when you’re cheering on the New York Mets at Citi Field, baseball dining is also as Italian as Nicoletta, as Japanese as Fuku and as Mexican as El Verano Taqueria.
Since Citi Field opened in 2009, it’s been dispelling the notion of ballpark dining and drinking as merely boiled hot dogs and warm beer. “Citi Field has become more of a destination beyond a ballpark,” says Patrick Schaeffer, senior executive chef for Aramark, the food service company that partners with Citi Field to bring chefs and restaurants into the stadium. Citi Field’s bountiful dining options lure more than baseball fans to Flushing Meadows–Corona Park; food enthusiasts flock to the diamond all season long. And fans are willing to wait in lines, and turn to TVs rather than spend nine innings tied to their seats.
Citi Field’s all-star food lineup this season includes a number of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) stalwarts such as Shake Shack and Box Frites. There’s Fuku’s spicy chicken sandwich, Josh Capon’s Bash Burger, Arancini Bros.’ rice balls, and this year’s additions: Lil’ Sweet Chick and Wowfulls. There are old-timers like Mama’s of Corona with Italian hoagies and cannolis, and of course Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. Fans craving lobster or filet mignon can head to Catch of the Day or Pat LaFreida’s. And there are gluten-free, kosher and vegan options as well. The food, Schaeffer notes, is “portable and Instagrammable.”
Alan Wunsch, 54, of Danbury, Connecticut, fondly remembers rooting for the home team at Shea Stadium when he was growing up in Long Island. He now travels to Citi Field with his wife and son to watch the Mets play ball. “The whole experience of eating at the game has changed for the better,” he says.
Wunsch’s son enjoys watching batting practice so they often head to the game early, which cuts down on the amount of time they spend queuing at Shake Shack. “What’s great is that the three of us can do our own thing when it comes to food and we get to try places that we don’t have in our neck of the woods.”
Old-timers like Mama’s of Corona and rookies like Nicoletta in Manhattan say having a presence at Citi Field drives people to seek them out beyond the stadium. John Seymour, co-founder and CEO of Sweet Chick (his co-owner Nas hails from Queens), says having a presence at Citi Field with Lil’ Sweet Chick is “magical,” and “part of our love story with New York.” The Citi Field outpost marks their fourth location in the New York area, and their first expansion into the borough.
On the drinks front, Vincent Vazquez, the division manager of concessions at Citi Field, says, “We plan our beer menu out like a restaurant, offering a variety of IPAs, lagers and ambers.” Cocktail lovers can find specialty drinks at the new Jim Beam bourbon bar, and at Tito’s Bar. “We have to speak to the fan who went to Shea and the ones who never saw Shea,” Vazquez says.
This year, fans can also visit a new brewery on Citi Field’s grounds. The beloved Danish Mikkeller Brewing opened its doors in March 2018, becoming the brand’s first U.S. brewery outside of San Diego. You don’t need a ticket to visit the former gypsy brewer; you can sample from the 60 rotating taps and nibble from an eclectic menu featuring empanadas and Nordic fare alike, all while watching the game on TV.
Jonathan Bardavid has looked at baseball from both sides—at Shea and at Citi Field. The 39-year-old grew up in Queens and now lives in Westchester County. “The food at Citi Field is amazing,” he says, “but a part of me is nostalgic for the RC Cola they used to sell at Shea in cups without caps.” He tends to remain seated throughout a game, but says his wife is happy walking around a little more. “Citi Field is laid out great when it comes to buying food because you can still see the game from different points,” Bardavid says.
Aramark’s Schaeffer agrees that baseball is a nostalgic sport. “There’s room for both the new and exciting and the hawkers throwing food down the aisle to fans.” So perhaps new lyrics need to be penned to “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” adding in the myriad culinary offerings beyond peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
New York Mets at Citi Field | @mets
Nicoletta | @nicolettanyc
Fuku | @fuku
Aramark | @aramark
Flushing Meadows–Corona Park
Union Square Hospitality Group | @ushgnyc
Shake Shack | @shakeshack
Box Frites | @boxfrites
Bash Burger | @thechampionofburgers
Arancini Bros. | @arancinibros
Lil’ Sweet Chick | @lilsweetchick
Wowfulls | @wowfulls
Mama’s of Corona | @mamasofcorona
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs | @originalnathans
Mikkeller Brewing | @mikkeller.nyc