Today is opening day at the new Yankee Stadium, which makes this a good time for a short discussion of the new ballpark’s culinary achievements. Across town, Citi Field debuted this season with an impressive food program, including venues run by Danny Meyer, Drew Nieporent, and Dave Pasternack. In the Bronx, the offerings are significantly less exciting, and if you want to know why, one restaurateur affiliated with the new Citi Field put it like this: “The Yankees, it’s like they’re telling Frank Sinatra he has to pay you to sing. The Mets are paying us. They got what they needed to do to get us here.” (To wit: We hear that even the visiting celebrity chefs at Yankee Stadium will be paid in tickets, not cash.) But still, the food is better now than it ever has been — no longer are chicken fingers your only option. Here’s a look at the spread; just don’t try to order during “God Bless America”.
The Food Court, Third Base, Field Level
The food court is a great, open area, surrounded by the stands and food vendors on three sides (the exterior wall of the stadium is on the fourth). There’s pizza and deli-type fare, as well as noodles, sake, and sushi; the inevitable Bronx Roll is an inside-out roll of spicy salmon and cucumber around rice and avocado, topped off with spicy mayo. Mike’s Arthur Avenue Deli has hot sandwiches — meatball, chicken, and eggplant parms, among others — and baked ziti and zeppole (six for $12; 1,066 calories). Famiglia Pizza sells a slice that’s more or less a slice. While you’re chowing, enjoy the inspired décor — a dozen jumbo photos of Yankee legends eating.
Johnny Rockets/Brother Jimmy’s/Lobel’s Left Field, Field Level
The best single food item in the entire stadium is Lobel’s USDA dry-aged sliced-steak sandwich on a house-made bun. In left field, Lobel’s, the Hermés of meats to La Frieda’s Gucci, has a life-size diorama fashioned as an aging room complete with real working butchers, and next to it a cart where you can get the sandwich. The meat is salty and rich and served sliced, medium rare. It would be the stuff of legend in Manhattan, let alone Yankee Stadium. Avoid Johnny Rocket’s chicken fingers (they’re better unbranded elsewhere), but do get an order of Brother Jimmy’s fried pickles, the best of what the BBQ mini-chain is offering.
Carl’s Steaks/La Esquina Latina, Garlic Fries, Right Field, Field Level
Here’s your chicken-finger pick-up spot, and they’re good. Carl’s Steaks made the trip from the old stadium, but has expanded into a full kitchen on location and out of the horrendous capacity issues of yore. La Esquina Latina, a glorified and underperforming burrito joint, serves one types of megaburrito, the Moe’s Homewrecker Burrito. Best bet there is the Cuban sandwich. Garlic fries are unhealthy and junky as all hell, but pretty damn good.
Sliders-Fries-Chicken, First Base, Field Level
No brand names, but straightforward sports food: beef, chicken, and buffalo-chicken sliders; steak sandwiches; and Nathan’s hot dogs and crinkle-cut fries.
… and the rest
All levels feature variations on these concepts, and it appears that you’ve got myriad options on all levels.
Hard Rock Café: It’s a tourist trap to begin with and this one has no view of the field. But in the rain, it’s one of the few fully sheltered areas open to the public.
NYY Steak: No view of the field here, either, and you need a reservation. 646-97-STEAK (78325).
Beer Garden: Center field, in full view of the action.
Legends Suites: Ticket-holders have access to several buffets prepared by guest stars like April Bloomfield and Morimoto.
Front Row Field Views: You’ll find them only at Mohegan Sun Club in center field and the Audi Club on the H&R; Block Suite Level (yes, they’ve sold naming rights to everything but the urinal cakes), but, excruciatingly, both are membership-only and involve heavy sign-up fees.
Melissa’s: This fruit stand is behind the main entrance. If the lines and chaos don’t become oppressive, it’s a welcome addition.