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Forget overpriced nachos drenched in curiously orange cheese, and ditch the disappointing stadium hot dogs.

 

Baseball stadiums across the US are reinventing field-side fare with chef-helmed stands and snacks, and the latest is a pop-up at the New York Mets’ Citi Field from major league meatpacker Pat LaFrieda.

If there is such a thing as a celebrity butcher, LaFrieda is it. A second-generation meat maestro, his award-winning beef is the darling of such discerning New York chefs as Michael White of Marea fame, and April Bloomfield of the Breslin and the Spotted Pig. His 500 or more products are so beloved that the Food Network even cast LaFrieda in his own primetime US television program, Meat Men.

Now LaFrieda is bringing high-profile protein to the Queens ballpark. In August 2012, he launched the eponymous pop-up behind the centrefield scoreboard at Citi Field, where hungry fans wait up to three innings for the chance to sink their teeth into the Pat LaFrieda original filet mignon steak sandwich. Made with hand-cut Black Angus beef, the hoagie serves up LaFrieda’s signature steak alongside sautéed vidalia onions, Vermont monterey jack cheese and beef au jus on a locally-baked baguette.

LaFrieda’s gourmet grand slam is not alone. The same Citi Field concourse has an outpost of Danny Meyer’s US and Middle East burger powerhouse Shake Shack. And, less than 10 miles away in the Bronx, the New York Yankees’ stadium serves an array of Italian-American sandwiches from the rabidly popular Manhattan restaurant Parm. Of particular note is the Fresh Mozz, a Yankees Stadium exclusive that packs house-made mozzarella, marinated eggplant, tomatoes and spicy sauce on a round roll. Prince Fielder aside, it may just be the boldest vegetarian in baseball.

High-end baseball cuisine has spread beyond New York City, with chefs infiltrating concessions stands across the country. In Houston, Texas, Astros fans down beef fajitas on handmade, pressed-to-order tortillas from local restaurateur Bryan Caswell. At the Padres’ Petco Park in San Diego, California, taco tycoon Ralph Rubio serves spicy shrimp burritos and signature fish tacos at a stadium branch of his popular San Diego mini-chain, Rubio’s. In Seattle, Washington, chef Chris Garr created Ivar Dogs for the Mariners’ Safeco Field. Named for Seattle seafood mecca Ivar’s Acres of Clams, the hearty dish tops lightly-fried cod filets with house-made tartar sauce on a freshly baked bun.

Innovative eats are nothing new at the Giants’ AT&T Park in San Francisco, where stands serve up local specialties like Dungeness crabs, Ghirardelli sweets and fries topped with California’s homegrown Gilroy garlic. But at the April 2012 home opener against the Pirates, San Francisco raised its culinary rankings yet again. The stadium inaugurated what will be an annual food truck event, bringing city favourites like Phat Thai, El Norteño and the Crème Brûlée Cart to the field at the start of each season. The Giants defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates that night, but Major League Baseball’s gourmet game is just beginning.

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