With the 2016 season just getting under way the National League Champion, New York Mets introduced an all-star dining lineup for Citi Field last week, which as far as this baseball fan/eater is concerned has the best food of any ballpark in America.
#1 Fuku spicy chicken
I was particularly excited for the rookie debut of heavy hitter David Chang’s Fuku spicy fried chicken sandwich, which has had New York City foodies buzzing since it launched last summer to Cronut-worthy lines.
I told the chef David Chang that I waited far too long to try this sandwich, and it was so good I had two. The juicy bird was infused with just enough habanero to get my attention. An addition of some spicy Ssam sauce really kicked the whole thing into gear, while secret recipe Fuku butter, a mayo-like concoction spiked with pickle brine, really tied everything together.
The creator of the fried chicken sandwich, which is available behind Section 102 on the Field Level Concourse, counts himself a Mets fan. “My roommates in college were two Long Island boys who grew up loving the Mets,” Chang recalled. He also noted that while many cooks root for the Yankees he has had a deep antipathy for the Yankees since he was a kid.
“I’ve been here for 20 years now and I feel like if I can root for any team in New York it’s the Mets,” noting that he embraces the team’s perennial underdog status. “Making this food here at the stadium I finally feel like a New Yorker. Is that weird to say?”
#2 Shake Shack’s smokeburger
Shake Shack, which is located in Citi Field’s Section 139, debuted the Smoke Shack, a cheeseburger topped with smoked Niman ranch bacon, chopped cherry peppers, and Shack sauce. The fiery, juicy burger is as smoking as Noah Syndergaard’s fastball. Also new from the Danny Meyer organization is Papa Rosso, which will be selling Neapolitan-style pizzas, including a fontina, pecorino, ricotta, mushroom and rosemary creation also out of Section 139.
#3 Mama’s Italian special hero
Leo’s Latticini (aka Mama’s of Corona) and its signature Italian heroes have become a much a tradition at Mets games as the seventh-inning stretch to that Italian-American favorite tune “Lazy Mary.” Mama’s Italian special hero—pepper ham, salami, homemade mozzarella, with mushrooms and peppers—is available in Sections 105 and 415. I tried to feed Ms. Met a Mama’s cannoli, but she demurred, pointing to her waistline.
#4 Rao’s steak pizzaiola sandwich
Rao’s, an exclusive East Harlem Italian restaurant, also has an exclusive location in Citi Field, the Excelsior Level, which requires a separate ticket. This year it debuted a lovely steak pizzaiola hero made with slow-roasted beef short rib cooked with peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes.
#5 Pat LaFrieda’s tomahawk chop
Pat LaFrieda, the butcher behind many of New York City’s finest steaks and burgers, has several offerings at Citi Field this year, including a decadent tomahawk rib chop that’s available at Pat LaFrieda’s Chop House in the DeltaSky260 Club. LaFrieda’s filet mignon steak sandwich with Monterey jack cheese, sautéed onions and beef is available in Section 139, at the Promenade Level Food Court. Pat LaFrieda’s Burgers are also available in Sections 112 and 123. Meat mavens also won’t want to miss Pig Guy’s bacon on a stick available in Section 105.
As one can see from this year’s culinary scorecard, ballpark food has moved well beyond hot dogs, though those are still available throughout out Citi Field along with fancy grilled cheese sandwiches from Pressed by Josh Capon (Sections 125 and 318), smoked bologna sandwiches from Blue Smoke (Section 140), and beef barbacoa tacos from El Verano Taco. The latter are cooked in beer with ancho, adobo and Guajillo chilies and topped with roasted tomato salsa, radish, cilantro and lime. I’m saving them for a decidedly Queens victory meal.