Now that Ryan’s not around to accuse me of shillery, I can say this without fear: Citi Field has the best ballpark food in the country. Of the 50-some Major and Minor League parks I’ve visited, at least.
Most stadiums have one or two good specialty items and then all the standard fare. Citi is really the only stadium I’ve ever attended where I struggle to settle on what to order. It’s usually the tacos, but I at least consider a pair of fine sandwiches: Mama’s Special from Mama’s of Corona, and this week’s sandwich of the week. Hat tip to Eric Simon for buying me one a couple weeks ago.
The sandwich: Pulled pork sandwich from Blue Smoke, multiple locations including two inside Citi Field.
Insider tip: Go to the Blue Smoke on the Promenade level of Citi Field, even if you’re sitting on the lower level. There’s almost never a wait up there.
Bonus tip: The actual Blue Smoke restaurant in Manhattan is worth a visit because the rest of the menu that’s not available at Citi Field is excellent. Try the mac and cheese. It will get you drunk with awesomeness. And their vast selection of bourbons will get you drunk with drunkenness.
The construction: Pulled pork in barbecue sauce with pickles on a brioche bun. I also added fresh jalapenos from the toppings station.
That is, I believe, one of the most underrated aspects of the food at Citi Field — unlimited free fresh jalapenos! You could make a meal of ’em, really. That might anger the Mets, but whatever. They’re still carrying Ollie Perez.
Important background information: I know embarrassingly little about pulled pork considering how much I know about ribs. I need to bone up (no pun intended). I know that there are multiple styles of pulled pork even within the state of North Carolina, and based on the flavor I’m pretty sure the Blue Smoke pulled pork is smoked over hickory.
In other words, expect a post in not too long involving me making some pulled pork. That’s a skill set I obviously need to hone.
What it looks like:
How it tastes: I hope you know already, but if not: Tremendous. Just… wow. And look, maybe expectations are tempered a bit because it’s inside a ballpark, and maybe this would be a little disappointing if I got it at the actual Blue Smoke and it had been sitting under a heat lamp like it was. But I don’t know. It didn’t taste dried out at all.
It tasted like an explosion of smoke and meatjuice and vinegar, with sweetness from the sauce and tartness from the pickles and spiciness from the jalapenos. Damn, that’s just a hell of a sandwich. Straight up.
What it’s worth: Ten dollars is a lot for a sandwich anywhere. It doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable inside a ballpark, but I’m not going to argue that this is a ten-dollar sandwich. I mean, pulled-pork is generally expected to be inexpensive, after all, and one of the best pulled-pork sandwiches I ever ate — from a place called Keith-A-Que off the road in Georgia — cost me a flat buck.
But still, I think relative to other ballpark food — in Citi Field or elsewhere — ten bucks isn’t a terrible deal for this sandwich. The best bargain is those tacos, of course, but the pulled-pork sandwich seems like a steal when you consider it costs about as much as two fountain sodas.
How it rates: Is this really a Hall of Fame sandwich? Hard to imagine at a ballpark, and again, I suspect my perception might be biased by lowered standards. But I have to give it a 90. As for baseball players — there just aren’t a lot of Hall of Famers from North Carolina. This can be Catfish Hunter, because I imagine this sandwich would have a sweet mustache, even if it isn’t made of Catfish and doesn’t require any hunting.