Suddenly it’s Dog Days at Nationals Park

Teddy in the lead on Pups in the Park DayOver five hundred canines were among the nearly 30,000 in attendance Saturday night at Nationals Park, as the Nationals hosted their second “Pups in the Park” day for 2011.

Sadly, the game was a dog as well — a third consecutive one-run loss filled with missed opportunities for the Nationals.

Lacking a real dog to accompany him, Teddy Roosevelt made up his own for the 4th-inning presidents race. Teddy competed while carrying a balloon-animal dog, which appeared to weigh him down in the home stretch as Thomas Jefferson took the win.

The popular Pups in the Park promotion allows a limited number of fans to buy $5 tickets for their canine pets, and sets aside a special section with relief areas and other dog-specific amenities.

To meet the demand, the Nationals added a third Pups in the Park day on Saturday, September 24. Tickets are available at Nationals.com/pups.

Pup photo courtesy JudyMayka.
Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome
.

Shake Shack burgers, Box Frites fries highlight revamped Scoreboard Walk at Nationals Park

26,759 fans came to Nationals Park Tuesday to welcome the home team back to DC, and the evening didn’t disappoint as the Nationals followed their winningest road trip in years with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Miller Lite Scoreboard WalkMiller Lite Scoreboard WalkShake ShackShake Shack at Nationals ParkShake Shack at Nationals ParkShake Shack's 'Shroom BurgerShake Shack Concrete Take Me Out to the Ballgame with chocolate truffle cookie dough, peanuts and caramelBox FritesGarlic-Parmesan FritesEl Verano Taqueria at Nationals ParkEl Verano Taqueria at Nationals ParkElote Corn on the CobBlue Smoke at Nationals ParkBlue Smoke Pulled Pork at Nationals ParkBlue Smoke Kansas City Spare Ribs at Nationals ParkBlue Smoke's Salty Peanut-Jalapeno Chocolate BarNationals Park Scoreboard WalkFans had been drawn in by the return of Ryan Zimmerman, a $2 ticket promotion, great weather, a big draw opponent, and the long-awaited debut of the revamped Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk behind the right field bleachers.

The myriad updates to the popular Scoreboard Walk include a 4,000 square foot lounge area with artificial turf, chairs, sofas, trees, plants, and a large number of stylish new “shade sails.”

The sails stretch over the lounge area as well as the queue lines for each of several new dining options, providing sun protection when waiting in line on hot summer days. These new lounge and queue areas are all within view of the big new TV screen that premiered this season behind the outfield scoreboard.

As nice as the improved amenities are, the buzz on Twitter and in the Park tonight focused on the four new restaurant options that line the Scoreboard Walk. After tonight’s debut and a sampling of all the menus, it’s safe to say that Nationals Park food options rank among the best in the majors, albeit at some fairly steep prices.

No stand was more anticipated than Shake Shack. The most famous of the four new options from Union Square Restaurant Group, Shake Shack features hot dogs, fries, shakes, and natural Black Angus burgers. The burgers live up to their reputation, with a nice coarse grind that highlights the flavor of the meat more than the predecessor at the same location — DC’s Five Guys Burgers and Fries. A single is $5.75 and a double runs $8.75.

Shake Shack also features the Shack-cago Dog, a mostly authentic Chicago-style split grilled Vienna Beef hot dog smothered in relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, pepper, mustard and celery salt. If you’ve never had a Chicago dog, this is pretty close to the real deal, though Shake Shack opts for a potato bun over the traditional poppy seed variety. It’s a bargain at $5.75.

The sleeper and my personal favorite of all the new food options may be the ‘Shroom Burger, a portobello mushroom split and filled with muenster cheese, deep fried, and served on a burger bun. Truly decadent and delicious for $7.75.

For the first time since Giffords Ice Cream left Nationals Park this spring, fans can get once again get a milkshake in the stands at Nationals Park. Shake Shack’s namesake treats are made from frozen custard and come in four flavors.

At $5.75, the shakes are indeed quite good, but the buzz was around the Concrete, a dense cup of custard blended with chocolate truffle cookie dough, peanuts, and caramel. A straw will do you no good with this concoction. Price: $6.75 plus a week at the gym.

Shake Shack has fries on the menu, but spud connoisseurs will likely shuffle down a few feet to Box Frites, where fresh cut fries can be ordered by the box with your choice of toppings or dipping sauces.

The movie theater-inspired pricing gets you a reasonable-sized portion for $7.25, or a family-sized box for $8.00. You only get to choose one of the five dipping sauces (additional sauces are a whopping $2.00 each). Blue Cheese was the surprise runaway pick among our group of tasters. Chipotle ketchup is a fine second choice. Rosemary Ranch, which sounded promising, tasted like liquid pine tree.

But for the ultimate in decadent fries, the consensus pick is the Garlic-Parmesan Frites, which are light on the garlic but heavy on the parmesan, and more than suitable for sharing at $9.75.

If cholesterol just isn’t your thing, then the new El Verano Taquería offers some fresh options and more welcome variety to South Capitol Street.

The simple menu features three types of tacos served in soft corn tortillas with lime, cilantro and fresh salsa.

Options include medium rare skirt steak, carnitas, or chicken “mole pipian,” a braised green concoction. The combo platter has all three and is a lot of fresh variety for $10.25.

El Verano Taquería also offers “Elote,” or Mexican grilled corn. This classic street food is a steamed ear of corn dipped in a lime-spiked mayonnaise sauce, rolled in crumbly cotija cheese, and dusted with cayenne pepper for $4.75. If you like your food spicy, the Elote is your best bet at the ball park. Consider yourself warned.

The new restaurants facing the Miller Light Scoreboard Walk feature distinctively designed facades, and none stands out more than the new Blue Smoke Barbeque, with an attractive weathered wood veneer that’s visible over the right field stands from about half of the ball park. Nice touch.

Nationals Park needed a good pulled pork sandwich to replace the departed Teddy’s Barbeque, and Blue Smoke delivers with a flavorful if slightly dry version for $8.75. Make sure to get extra sauce. There is no pulled chicken option, but you can get wings — one of the few dishes I did not manage to try.

It will be interesting to see if the Barbecued Beef Bologna sandwich takes off in DC. This southern staple features pickles and raw onions atop a single thick slice of bologna that’s been grilled and topped with barbeque sauce for $7.75.

It tasted like… well.. bologna.

Blue Smoke’s signature item is Kansas City Spare Ribs, which were meaty and nicely carmelized. They are a fine choice, but with three modest ribs running $10.25, and relatively light on smoke flavor, it left me longing for the Rough Rider at the dear, departed Teddy’s Barbeque.

The surprise treat of the night? Blue Smoke’s Salty Peanut-Jalapeño Chocolate Bar. It isn’t very spicy, but the complex dark chocolate and salted peanut flavors are more than satisfying, and it’s certainly the only $4.75 desert
at Nationals Park that’s suitable for sharing.

Nationals’ COO Andy Feffer took a lot of heat today for appearing to imply that the new Scoreboard Walk was more important than the game.

I find it hard to believe that any journalist actually believes that. Others have more legitimately complained that the new restaurants are not DC-centric. While I agree with the latter criticism, I can’t deny that the fan experience has been improved.

What do you think?

Confirmed: It was a Phillies fan

We can put the controversy to rest. Tonight at Nationals Park, I spoke to usher Jasmine Holloway, who was in charge of Section 135 Thursday night when the fan was ejected for punching Thomas Jefferson in the middle of the presidents race.

“He was definitely a Phillies fan,” Jasmine told me. “He was just wearing a black shirt, but when he got here, he sat with a bunch of friends who were wearing Phillies gear.”

Jasmine said she had just recently shown him to his seat when he got ejected. “He didn’t show up until the third inning,” she said. 

The Phillies Fan Controversy

Yesterday was the biggest traffic day in our blog’s short history, surpassing even that notorious date in 2009 when Potato Pete leveled Teddy Roosevelt in Pittsburgh, and the way today is trending, the record may fall fast.

Why all the excitement? Wednesday night’s appearance of a super-sized John F. Kennedy certainly drew a ton of attention, but the headline that followed last night stirred the pot to a degree not usually seen in our harmless little world.

Quite a few Phillies fans, as it turns out, have taken offense.

After being named Worst Sports Fans in America this month by GQ Magazine, some of the Phillies’ faithful are crusading to correct what they see as an unfair stereotype.

So when I published Phillies Fan Ejected for Punching Thomas Jefferson, I was pilloried for jumping to conclusions.

Well, pilloried might not be the right word, but the boo-birds did come out of the woodwork, calling it bullsh–, calling me an ass and a jerk, calling DC fans classless and drunks, and otherwise generally dishing the brotherly love.

Yes, the headline was intended to be provocative. But even though Bob Carpenter had said on the MASN broadcast that it was a Phillies fan, and all evidence supports the allegation, I noted in the write-up that the fan in question was not, in fact, wearing Phillies gear.

Will anybody step forward to verify the fan’s identity? As the comments continue to pour in here, the question has since been taken up by discussion forums up and down I-95, plus Dan Steinberg’s DC Sports Bog, Half Smokes, and Yahoo’s Big League Stew (which contributed the photo illustration above).

Or as a fan on MLB.com pointed out, “Maybe it was just a fan trying to finally get Teddy Roosevelt a win in the race.”

UPDATE:
Confirmed.

Changes for 2011 at Nationals Park

The new-look Nationals begin their first extended homestand at Nationals Park tomorrow, bringing a 4-5 record and a renewed sense of confidence to face the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers beginning Tuesday night.

It’s an exciting time to be a Nats fan. The many changes on the field have the Natosphere buzzing, and fans heading to Nationals Park have a number of off-the-field changes to look forward to as well. Some of the highlights:

R.I.P. Natstown

With Stan Kasten officially out of the way, the Nationals Marketing department appears to have gotten its act together for 2011.

As we first saw when the new uniforms were announced, and observed on opening day, the team’s cacophony of colors, logos, and slogans has been wisely narrowed to a simple focus on the “Curly W” and the color red.

Yes, the seats are still painted blue, but that remains the exception as the curly W and the new, brighter red have taken over the flags, banners, uniforms, scoreboard, and ad campaigns for the team. For a team still building its identity, it’s a welcome evolution of the Nationals brand.

Accordingly, the original block “Nationals” logo has disappeared, as have all references to “Natstown.”

If you are an official citizen of Natstown, it appears that your passport will not be renewed.

In-between the action

Every new season brings a few changes to the complement of “down time” distractions for the casual fan. Among those is the player’s annual selection of personal walk-up music. If you’re wondering why you’re hearing Guns n Roses and Metallica at Nationals Park, take note. Some of the team’s newest players have brought a little different edge along with their walk-up themes.

Most front-and-center is the addition of radio personality Sarah Fraser to the in-stadium entertainment crew. As I wrote previously, I think she’s a real upgrade and hope readers agree.

Most exciting to fans of the presidents race may be the return of the “classic” racing presidents. Last year, during the All Star Break, the presidents received a significant facelift, with no explanation offered by the team.

It was the last we’d seen of the original, more menacing-looking presidents — until now. The “classic” presidents reappeared at this year’s auditions, and on opening day reclaimed their position as regulars at Nationals home games. Meanwhile, it appears that the “new look” presidents have been relegated to emergency backup and other command appearances.

Where to Park Yourself

New casual seating areas have been added outside the Red Loft, near the Miller Scoreboard Walk, and behind the centerfield plaza, in what was formerly the Kids Zone.

For those driving to Nationals Park, the team’s two discount parking options remain in place at lots HH ($5.00) and W ($10.00), but the private MarcParc lot at M and Half Streets has raised its
rate to $20/game.

Lots of Food Changes

Pastrami at Nationals Park? For the fourth time in as many years, the Taste of the Majors stands have been revamped, but the latest version of the menu is the truest to the original concept — with specialties from around the Nationals League East: a Philly hoagie, Atlanta Chicken and Waffle, Miami cuban sandwich, and from New York, that grilled pastrami on rye.

I can report that the latter was made with authentic Romanian pastrami and swiss, but despite coming right off the grill, was cold as ice.

Fans of the Rough Rider are mourning the elimination of Teddy’s Barbeque, but for a limited time, the popular stand has reemerged in a tent at the Miller Scoreboard Walk. You can get pulled pork and pulled chicken, but alas, no Rough Rider.

The tent will disappear soon, as soon as New York’s Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, Box Frites, and El Verano open behind the Scoreboard Walk.

Also new to the scoreboard walk is Jammin’ Island BBQ, adjacent to the Red Loft, featuring jerk chicken and jerk ribs cooked on an open grill. The menu mirrors some new options being offered to Club and Suite ticketholders in the Stars & Stripes Club, but it’s pricey for an outfield stand, with combo platters costing as much as $16.00.

Other new items at the Stars & Stripes Club include barbeque chicken nachos, braised short ribs, sweet potato fries, pork wingettes, and fish & chips.

Nationals Park regulars know that the most reliably speedy food line can always be found at Hard Times Cafe in the otherwise busy left field concourse.

This season, Hard Times has expanded to two additional locations within the main concourse, behind the first and third base lines. The stands offer all of your Hard Times favorites except for Chili Mac. This should put an end to the oh-so common question “Where’d you get those nachos?”

Along with Budweiser, two other long-time sponsors — NJ’s Curly W Pretzels and Giffords Ice Cream — appear to have completely disappeared from Nationals Park, leaving the Ben’s Chili Bowl Half Smoke as the only remaining local signature item (sorry Hard Times, your chili recipe is from Cincinnati).

The former Giffords stand has been replaced by Breyers Ice Cream, which features a knockout Caramel Cookie Dough, but alas, no more milkshakes.

There is one bit of good news for Nats fans looking for a local treat. The popular but elusive DC food truck District Taco has just been awarded a license by the city to park on the street near the Nationals Park centerfield gates on game days.

District Taco offers outstanding homemade tacos, burritos, and quesadillas that put Chipotle to shame.

The Nationals do allow outside food, as long as it’s packaged in a single serving soft-sided container (no hard plastics). Let’s hope the line at District Taco isn’t too long.

Race photo courtesy of Flickr member afagen.

Nats offer fan chance to man the presidents race finish line

The Washington Nationals announced their first “insiders night” to be held on April 29 when the Nats take on the world champion San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park.

The team is taking entries now through April 15 for the associated insiders sweepstakes, from which winners will be selected to throw out the first pitch, announce “Play Ball” to start the game, or hold the finish line for the presidents race.

Entry is free.

Photo courtesy of Flickr member afagen

New Nationals Park Co-Host Sarah Fraser

Personnel changes in the Nationals Park dugout were the main topic of discussion in the Natosphere this opening weekend, but outside the dugout, another newcomer was introduced to the stadium faithful.

Nationals Host Sarah FraserLong-time Nationals in-stadium host Clint Khoury has a new partner-in-crime for the NatsHD segments that appear on the Nationals Park scoreboard before and during the games.

Listeners to The Kane Show on DC’s Hot 99.5 FM will recognize the the Nats’ new self-described “Hype Girl” as Sarah Fraser, co-host of the top-rated morning drive program. Fraser also hosts her own late morning block called simply “The Sarah Show” from 10am-12pm. She also appears weekly on NBC 4’s “Daily Connection,” and has filled in as a traffic reporter on WTOP news radio.

A native of Maine, Fraser, 28, moved to the District after graduating from Mt. Holyoke College. On her website HeyFraz.com, she writes that she is taking classes at the DC Improv and working toward her debut as a stand-up comic.

Yes, I know the baseball purists would prefer to do away with in-game hosts altogether, but NatsHD pays the bills, and the kids and casual fans love it.

Sarah Fraser and Ryan ZimmermanThe co-host job has been a revolving door since Nationals Park opened, but if this opening weekend was any indication, the Nats have finally found a great counterpart to Clint.

Fraser is focused and full of energy — in this fan’s eyes, a definite and welcome upgrade!

Photos: Sarah Fraser

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,039 other followers

%d bloggers like this: