Ah, the smell of fresh-cut grass, the rosy gleam of the manicured infield, the warm kiss of a gentle evening zephyr, the crisp crack of northern white ash on horsehide—the sights and sounds and flavors of summer.
As another season of baseball gets underway, fans everyone are asking the same question. No, not Does my team have a shot at the postseason? but Have you seen the price of tickets?
Sad but true, sports fans. The cost of enjoying America’s favorite pastime up close and personal now requires taking out a second mortgage. Here in New York, where both major league baseball franchises are working to defray the costs of a new stadium, expect to shell out a minimum of $150 a pop for a seat anywhere but in the nosebleed section.
To add insult to injury, they soak you to the tune of $6 for a run-of-the-mill hot dog and another $5 for a bottle of water. You can do better. This two-part series will explore dining options hors de parc that won’t require an arm and a leg on top of the price of tickets. Part 1 will focus on options in the vicinity of Yankee Stadium. In part 2, we’ll head over to the area around Citi Field.
You can’t get any more pro-Yankees than a restaurant whose website is solely a repository for ongoing Bomber news, without so much as a hint that a menu exists. That would be Yankee Tavern (72 E. 161st Street, 718-292-6130). In business since 1923, and purportedly the aftergame retreat of choice of Gehrig, Ruth, and later Berra, the tavern today
is a meeting place for diehard fans, who congregate on game days to help Joe Girardi strategize, drink, and nibble. The menu is largely sandwiches, wings, a few pastas—sports bar fare. Prices are tame.
Old school, two-fisted Italian (pronounced “eye-talian”) grub is the stock in trade at Giovanni’s Restaurant on the Grand Concourse (579 Grand Concourse, at 150th St, 718-402-6996). You got your linguine in clam sauce, your eggplant parmigiana, your chicken cacciatore, your veal rollatine wrapped around prosciutto and mozzarella in a winy mushroom sauce. Main courses average in the high teens, which is approximately what you’d spend on dinner in the stands. You can use the half-mile walk from Giovanni’s to the stadium to work off at least a few of the 4,000 calories that three courses of this too-solid food provides.
The website of Sam’s Soul Food Restaurant & Bar (2998 Concourse Village East, 718-665-5341) informs you that the establishment’ “is strategically located” only minutes from Lincoln Hospital. I’m not sure why the management deems that assurance necessary, especially in light of the wholesomeness of the food they serve. Sam’s is all about barbecue—barbecued chicken, barbecued ribs. You can also get very good smothered pork chops, meat that has been braised to fall-off-the-bone tenderness, presented to you in a thick, peppery gravy. The most expensive item on the menu, fried shrimp and grilled steak, is $17.95, but the majority of main courses come in at or under $10.
A neon sign in the window advertises “Oxtail-Fish-Curried Goat.” That is pretty much all you need to know about Feeding Tree (92 Gerard Avenue, at Evans St, 718-293-5025), a no-nonsense purveyor of reliably gutsy West Indian fare. Those curries emblazoned in the window have much in common with their East Indian counterparts, emerging as thick stews in which chunks of the headlining meat are buried. If you really want to immerse yourself in the culture, opt for the ackee, a fruit indigenous to West Africa (you’ll swear you’re eating scrambled eggs), or the spinach-like calaloo. Virtually all dishes are available in three size rankings, of which the medium will sate most hearty appetites, meaning you can feast here for under $9.
- Take me out to the ballgame: Where to eat before the game (Part 2)
Click Subscribe at the top of the page to have my articles sent directly to your e-mail inbox. Follow me on Twitter or join me at Facebook. You can also reach me at [email protected] or by posting a comment below.