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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?