7 Of The Best Places To Eat At Nats Park !
Standing inside a ballpark on July 4, in the nation’s capital, with a cool beverage in one hand and something delicious in the other, it’s quite possible you will have unlocked the highest level of Americanness that it is possible to achieve. You will be one with the star-spangled ether. Yes, hot dogs—and maybe a certain half smoke—are the obvious selection to complete the afore-described image. But they need not be. Nationals Park has a wealth of concession options, with team officials bending over backward to make sure there’s something for most every taste and diet. Everything from sushi to burritos is among the 121 options available somewhere along the stadium’s concourses or in the various club levels, where access is controlled. So if you end up here this Independence Day, or any other day, you should do some exploring. Here are several of the best options—some well known, others a little off the beaten path. (We only considered concession stands in the concourse areas—i.e., no sit-down restaurants or places that require special tickets to reach.) Concessions typically open two hours before the start of each game and stay open until the ninth inning. — Scott Harris
(Photo by Josh Bassett)
VIRGINIA COUNTRY KITCHEN: Any Virginia boys and girls worth their salt (raises hand) remember ham biscuits. The ones here tend to fall apart after the first bite, but it’s worth it. A smear of apple butter cuts the salty richness of the ham. The chicken biscuit is pretty good, too, featuring a fried chicken filet. An underrated item here is the Virginia Crunch, a Cracker Jack-like sweet snack enlivened with bacon. If that wasn’t enough to get you there, wash it all down with several of the Virginia beers on tap, or go big with a new item this season: the country-fried steak biscuit. Batten down the hatches.
Virginia Country Kitchen is in sections 114 and 308.
SHAKE SHACK: You better be ready to wait in line—and not just any line, either, but one of those back-and-forth, roped-off ones they have at amusement parks. But if you put in the time, you will reap your reward. Try the SmokeShack, made with cherry peppers, bacon and the famous ShackSauce. The peppers give it a nice zip without overwhelming the beefiness of the patty or the creamy tang of the sauce. The vegetarian ‘Shroom Burger, featuring a “crisp-fried portobello mushroom” at the center, is another good option. But this place is not called the Burger Shack. They also have desserts made with frozen custard, a denser form of ice cream. You can’t go wrong here, but the best choice may be the concrete laced with toffee, chocolate sprinkles and malt powder.
Shake Shack is located in section 241.
JAMMIN ISLAND BBQ : If you want something where the line is a little less DMV-like, you should check out Jammin Island. It also happens to be the best barbecue in the park. If the name of the place got a Bob Marley song stuck in your head, that’s probably not an accident. The signature items here are infused with jerk seasoning, that famously Jamaican blend of herbs and spices. The ribs are succulent, the chicken is moist, and the portions are big. And don’t sleep on the sides, either. The plantains, in particular, are great.
Jammin Island BBQ is in sections 141 and 244
SEE. YOU. TATER: The name is a play on Nats broadcaster Bob Carpenter’s “See! You! Later!” home run call. It’s a new addition to the concessions lineup this year, and it’s already making a big bang of its own. So what might you expect from this delightful pun? Baked potatoes? Boardwalk-style fries? Nope. Chicken wings. It’s true, tater tots are the cornerstone item. Aficionados can indulge in a tot tower, which sees the little spud cylinders covered with everything from crab meat to corn to macaroni and cheese. They’re good, but they can get pretty salty, and may leave some people feeling like they drank from a cement mixer. The smarter money’s on the wings. The Old Bay wings are zesty goodness, as are those done in the classic Buffalo style. They’re meaty, but they’re also messy. Might want to grab a few napkins.
See. You. Tater. is in section 106.
CHESAPEAKE CRAB CAKE COMPANY: Crab cakes are not just for Orioles fans. The Baltimore treat has a pretty solid pedigree in the District, too. The basic crab cake sandwich here—generously portioned but pricey at $17—is available, as are a few other, more light-heartedballs are fun to eat, as are the nachos—house-made potato chips smothered in queso and corn to complement the crab meat. The big winner might be the crab grilled cheese. Picture a tuna melt with crab meat instead of Star-Kist and brie instead of Kraft Singles.
Chesapeake Crab Cake Company is located in section 114.
G SANDWICH SHOP BY MIKE ISABELLA: This mini-restaurant from the Top Chef celebrity—a spinoff of the larger shop on 14th Street—continues a culinary trend of putting fancy (and delicious) spins on humble, everyday concepts. (Isabella also runs two others concessions in the park: Catchfly focuses on barbecue and Kapnos specializes in gyros.) In this case, that concept is the corner sub shop. You’re not getting any flaccid BLT in this place. In fact, you really can’t go wrong with any of the items. Fair warning, though: the lines are long and the prices are higher than elsewhere in the park. Plan accordingly. The investment pays off with the saucy, toothsome chicken parm, held together well with a sturdy, sesame-seeded bun that has itself become something of a celebrity among local foodies and Isabella devotees. The Drewno features house-made kielbasa sausage and sauerkraut. The snap of the sausage and the crunch of the sauerkraut really make it. The best fun on this menu may be the delicious roasted cauliflower sub. Intensely flavorful and as filling as any meatball grinder, it’s probably the best vegetarian dish in the park.
G Sandwich Shop by Mike Isabella is in Section 136.
ON RYE: Everyone loves a good closer. Since the Nationals don’t appear to have one on their team right now, we must instead look to the sweeter side of the concession stand. The best dessert in the stadium can be found at On Rye, which sells the chocolate babka ice cream sandwich. If you’re a cultural know-nothing like me, your biggest frame of reference for the babka is a Seinfeld episode in which Elaine tries to purchase one for a party and is thwarted through various mechanisms. Babka is a dense, bready cake swirled through with either chocolate or cinnamon. On Rye takes two slices of the cake and fills them with vanilla gelato. Last season, these were only available on the club level. But this season, everyone in steerage can have a taste, too. Good move, Nationals. These sandwiches are decadent, but not so heavy that they aren’t refreshing on a hot day. Also on the menu? Push pops. But not those ones with the orange sherbet and Flinstones characters on the side. Gelato is the star again, this time in combination with bourbon and cinnamon flavorings or with bits of black-and-white cookie. Hey, maybe they’re Seinfeld fans, too !
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