Details/Photos from new food stands at Nationals Park

Nationals Park Sushi - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

Sushi made to order at South Capitol Sushi

Nationals Park Sushi Menu - South Capitol Sushi - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

The Washington Nationals unveiled more than a half dozen diverse new food options to Nationals Park fans on Friday, and the early buzz was almost universally positive, despite several stands selling out of signature items.

In previous years, many of the stadium’s ethnic and “upscale” offerings had been isolated to the Scoreboard Walk and restricted Club level, but the newest concessions have brought more variety to the main concourses where most of the park’s foot traffic occurs.

Directly behind the Nationals’ dugout boxes at Section 129 is a new stand called South Capitol Sushi, where maki sushi is rolled to order.

Selections include vegetarian and cooked options, but bright, fresh raw tuna and salmon were on hand to be sliced to order for the spicy tuna and salmon avocado rolls. As a bonus, at $8.00 each, they looked to be a relative value considering the quality of the ingredients on display.

Nationals Park Sushi - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

South Capitol Sushi – Section 129

Lines were forming as early as 11:00am at the new Nationals Park outpost of “Top Chef” celebrity Mike Isabella’s G Gourmet Sandwiches behind section 136 along the first base line. The trimmed-down menu features five items from the 14th Street restaurant, including a hot chicken parmesan sub that was drawing raves in the stands, a delicious but very messy hot roasted cauliflower sub with romesco and pickled vegetables (extra napkins required), a cold stuffed Italian hero, and the eponymous “Drewno,” a delicious (if pricey) house-made kielbasa with sauerkraut, named not for the Nat’s reliever, but for Chef Scott Drewno from DC’s The Source.

If you’re hungry, the G Italian hero is easily the largest sandwich served at any of the Nats Park stands. The Italian meats are high quality, but they are inexplicably dressed not only with oil and vinegar but also mayo. The sandwiches were so popular that Isabella, who was on hand for opening day, ran out of food and had to shut down the stand by the fourth inning.

G Sandwiches by Mike Isabella at Nationals Park - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

G Gourmet Sandwiches by Mike Isabella – Section 136

G Sandwiches by Mike Isabella at Nationals Park - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

G Gourmet Sandwiches by Mike Isabella Menu

Mike Isabella's G Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich Nationals Park

Mike Isabella’s G Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich (extra napkins required)

Mike Isabella's G Italian Hero Sub Sandwich Nationals Park

Mike Isabella’s enormous G Italian Hero

Mike Isabella's Drewno G Sandwich Kielbasa Nationals Park

The Drewno features house-made kielbasa and sauerkraut

Nationals Park G Sandwich Chicken Parm by Mike Isabella - Photo by  MAURA JUDKIS Washington Post

The G Chicken Parm Sandwich (Photo:Maura Judkis/Washington Post)

On the third base side of the main concourse behind section 114 is the new Chesapeake Crab Co., offering a simple menu of crab cakes, a crab grilled cheese with brie on sourdough, or crab “snack chips,” an upscale take on nachos featuring Old Bay kettle chips, crab queso, roasted corn and tomato salsa.

Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. - Washington Nationals Park - Stadium Food

Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. – Section 114

Menu: Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. - Washington Nationals Park - Stadium Food

Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. Menu

Crab Grilled Cheese - Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. - Washington Nationals Park - Stadium Food Options

Crab Grilled Cheese with Brie on Sourdough

Crab Nachos - Photo by Scott Allen Washington Post

Crab Shack Chips (Photo: Scott Allen/Washington Post)

Vegans, vegetarians, and those looking for healthy options will welcome the new Field of Greens food stand behind section 113 on the third base side. The extensive menu includes cold salads, vegetables and fruit, plus a number of soy-based imitations of more traditional ballpark food, such as burgers, hot dogs, and even a cheese steak.

Field of Greens - Vegan Food - Washington Nationals Park - Vegetarian Option

Field of Greens – Section 113

Field of Greens Menu - Vegan Food - Washington Nationals Park - Vegetarian Option

Field of Greens Menu

Nationals Park Vegan Food Stand - Field of Greens - Veggie Cheese Steak - Washington Nationals Stadium

The Veggie Cheese Steak at Field of Greens – Section 113

Grilled Portobello Sandwich - Washington Nationals Park Stadium - Field of Greens - Vegan Food Stand

The Grilled Portobello Sandwich at Field of Greens – Section 113

Salads at Washington Nationals Park Stadium - Field of Greens - Vegan Food Stand

Veggie Chop Salad, Greek Salad, Fruit Cup, and Veg Out Cup at Field of Greens

Burrito fans can herald the return of Bullpen Burritos to Nationals Park. Bullpen Burritos was a fixture at the stadium when it opened in 2008, but the stand disappeared in 2010. Now it’s back, featuring made-to-order steak, chicken or vegetarian burritos and burrito bowls, with a choice of toppings including rice, beans, guacamole, roasted tomatillo salsa, and pico de gallo.

Nationals Park Bullpen Burritos

Bullpen Burritos – Section 140

Bullpen Burritos - Photo by Scott Allen/Washington Post

Bullpen Burritos Burrito Bowl (Photo: Scott Allen/Washington Post)

Fans up on the 200 level can now add a thai noodle stand, including vegetarian option other than the Shake Shake ‘Shroom Burger, to the popular food choices along the Scoreboard Walk. Intentional Wok can be found behind section 233, and offers a simple menu of pad thai, drunken noodles, or veggie noodles, all cooked by batch in woks and served in classic takeout food containers with chopsticks.

Nationals Park Chinese Food Stand - Intentional Walk - Washington Nationals Stadium Food Stand/Cart

Intentional Wok – Section 233

Nationals Park Chinese Food Stand - Intentional Wok - Stadium Menu

Intentional Wok Menu

Nationals Park Chinese Food Stand - Intentional Walk - Washington Nationals Stadium Food Stand/Cart

Pad Thai at Intentional Wok

Chinese Food Container at Intentional Wok Nationals Park

Intentional Wok serves noodles in traditional takeout food containers

And it doesn’t stop there. The Nats added another location for Ben’s Chili Bowl behind section 141, and adult beverage choices also received an upgrade, with two new carts serving local craft beers that will change throughout the season, plus several new outposts (near sections 113, 130, and 306) offering pre-mixed cocktails with barrel-aged bourbon.

To be clear, there have been good food options at Nationals Park for years. If you haven’t had Ben’s Chili Bowl Half Smoke, you haven’t had the full Nationals Park experience. The shawarma and falafel at Max’s Kosher Grill behind section 143 continue to be the sandwiches to beat in the stadium (but being strictly kosher, they are not open on Fridays and Saturdays). Jammin’ Island Barbeque makes great jerk chicken and ribs. Hard Times Cafe Cincinnati chili still warms the soul on cool evenings (and has the fastest service in the park), and Fluffy Thoughts Bakery behind section 135 is the undisputed dessert king. The Scoreboard Walk restaurants from Union Square Restaurant Group (Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, Box Frites, and El Verano) remain incredibly popular, and the team’s outside food policy is still the best in professional sports.

However it’s safe to say that until now, interesting and healthy food options for the average fan remained the exception in a sea of bland burgers and chicken fingers. The plethora of interesting new options should help both attract more fans and smooth out the lines at all of the food stands throughout the Park.

So what have you tried and what do you recommend?

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.

Outside food policies at Nationals Park

Food Policies - Can you bring outside food to Nationals Park?Many of us have had questions this spring about whether there will be new policies at Nationals Park regarding outside food, cameras, or other restrictions. To date, nothing has appeared on the team’s web site.

Miss Chatter to the rescue! She has dug up the policies, and here they are:

All food items must be contained in single serving bags within a soft-sided container or cooler that does not exceed 16″ x 16″ x 8″. Metal, plastic or glass containers of any kind (except for factory-sealed, clear plastic water bottles, no larger than 1 liter, baby food, empty water bottles and juice boxes) are prohibited at Nationals Park. Only one bottle of water per person will be permitted.

Regarding food, “single serving bag” sounds quite broad and lenient. You think this mean we can bring in a wrapped hoagie as long as it’s not 16″ long?

Even for those of us eager to sample the new food vendors this year, it’s awfully nice to know that you can bring in a big bottle of water.

UPDATE: The written policies have not changed, but in practice, the enforcement has been quite friendly.

For example, multiple sealed water bottles are permitted, as long as the total doesn’t exceed 1 liter per person for all the people in your party, and even that is relaxed on hot summer days. In other words, if you have a family of four, and have a backpack with 8 half-liter bottles of water, they aren’t going to turn you away.

Outside food is similarly lenient. Yes, you can bring in a 12″ sub if you like, or a bag of burgers from Five Guys. As long as you’re not bringing in a big igloo cooler full of food, you’re probably fine.

Flickr photo by Scott Ableman

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