Last week, we tackled the look and feel of the soon-to-be-corporate-sponsored Nationals Park. While it’s lacking in overall curb appeal, we still gave it high marks for the overall game-day experience. Today, I wanted to dive into one of the absolute highlights of the new ballpark — the food.
Typically, when you’re trying to get some food and a beer at any kind of sporting event, the lines are unbearably long and the folks behind the counter are painfully slow. Maybe it’s because the team on the field isn’t very good, so there’s not a ton of people attending games yet, but the lines at Nats Park are a non-issue. Some quick research showed why — there are 48 concession stands, up from 35 at RFK Stadium.
There’s also an amazing variety of eating establishments to choose from — including many with local flavors. The headliner is easily Ben’s Chili Bowl, which has been a staple in the District since 1958. There’s also Gifford’s Ice Cream & Candy, which first opened its doors in Silver Spring, Maryland, back in 1938. Fans in the mood for a taste of D.C. can also enjoy Five Guys, Red, Hot & Blue, and Boardwalk Fries.
Seeing as it was my first night at the park and Ben’s Chili Bowl was staring right at me, I jumped in line and within two minutes was ordering a hot dog and a bowl of chili. I don’t remember exactly how much it cost, but they could have charged me double. The food definitely lived up to the hype. The guys from Skinscast got the same thing and we scarfed it down as if we hadn’t seen food in months. Seriously, you’d have lost a digit if you attempted to take the hot dog out of John’s hand.
The second night, I made sure that my buddy Jason tried Ben’s Chili Bowl and he was equally impressed. And while my wife might not have approved, I went ahead and ordered a chili dog since I was waiting in line with him. Later on that evening, during our two hours of exploring the ballpark during the rain delay, we found Gifford’s. We each decided to get a cone with one scoop, and let me tell you — they’re not bashful about their serving size. This thing was as big as my head, and I would have taken my time and enjoyed every once of it if it weren’t so humid out. Instead, it was a race to finish it before I ended up wearing it.
The biggest downside to your typical dining experience is that you very well might have to sell a child (preferably one of your own) to afford dinner at the park. Beers are $7.50 a draft, which hurts even more when you’re stuck with Miller Lite and MGD at most of the beer stands. They also had Bass and Stella, which aren’t terrible, but it took a little more digging to find some of the better stuff. The most random beer we ran across at the park was Corona. While it’s a common (and refreshing) beverage, we’d never seen it sold in a can before.
While prices were a little excessive, I will tell you that it wasn’t nearly as big of a deal to us because every single person we came across in the two nights at the park we extremely polite and friendly. Call it the anti-FedEx Field, if you will, but these employees didn’t actually look at customers as if they were keeping them from their break. It’s an amazingly simple point, but it’s worth stressing — people don’t mind paying an extra dollar or two as long as the food and service is on point. After two long days at Nats Park, I can say with confidence that they hit a home run in both of these areas.
Bottom line, you can’t go wrong with your food selection at the ballgame. Treat yourself to a chili dog, a beer and maybe even an ice cream. You deserve it, and while you might have to pick up an extra shift or two at work, it’ll be worth it.
Overall grade: A