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It's a Whole New Ballgame

Non-traditional foods step up to the plate

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"When we lose, I eat. When we win, I eat. I also eat when we're rained out." — Tommy Lasorda, LA Dodgers former manager

Baseball season is in full swing, and stadium concession stands around the US are hawking the usual hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Game-goers are pretty much like good old Tommy - eating is part of the experience of the game. But stadium fare has gone way beyond the old standbys. At San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium, the specialty is fish tacos. Dodger Stadium in LA features fast-food Japanese (probably not Lasorda's first choice when he was managing) and at San Francisco's SBC Park, fans can partake in steak taco salads, tortellini, and a 40-clove garlic chicken sandwich, which undoubtedly gives the Wave a whole new meaning. Brisket of buffalo sandwiches are on the menu in Denver's Coors Field and the Astrodome in Houston has foot-long jalapeno sausages on a stick.

In Chicago, Harry Caray sang, "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack." He probably never expected that Comiskey Park's claim to fame would one day be the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Fenway Park, home of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, dishes up clam chowder (New England-style, of course), and sausage is the major league choice at Yankee Stadium. At Three Rivers Stadium, fans can get a Pittsburgh-style cheesesteak, and the Maryland crab cake sandwich is a hit at Oriole Park.

Vegetarians can step up to the plate at ballparks around the country. Most of the major league stadiums offer some choices that may not necessarily be organic, but are nonetheless meatless. Besides the usual choices of French fries, popcorn, peanuts, pretzels, potato chips, pizza and ice cream, it's possible to get veggie wraps and sandwiches, garden burgers, and tofu hot dogs. Some ballparks, like the H.H.H. Metrodome in Minneapolis, even have some strictly health-conscious concession stands. There are some stadiums that experimented with vegetarian foods but low sales caused them to discontinue the items. At those places, non-meat eaters will have to be content with fries and the like — as long as the spuds are not cooked in the same oil as meat products.

Local baseball fans seem to crave the traditional favorites. Hot dogs, burgers, popcorn and peanuts are the top sellers at Knights Stadium, where fans devour 800-1,000 dogs per game, on average. This year, Levy Restaurants (operators of Bistro 100 uptown) has become the stadium's official concessionaire. Along with the regular lineup, they'll be offering All-American BBQ from locally owned Sonny's Barbecue and a full-service Southwestern Nacho Bar. Vegetarians can get a veggie burger or choose from a variety of gourmet salads.

Whether you go for a healthy salad, an artery-clogging nacho platter, a better-not-ask-what's-in-it hot dog, or simply a bag of popcorn, half the fun of a baseball game is rooting for your favorite team while spilling food all over yourself. So this baseball season, head on down the road to Knights Stadium or take a trip to a major league park — and eat. It's the All-American thing to do.

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