Tagged: Food And Drink

Secret Stadium Sauce at Miller Park

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Wisconsin is brat country, something I learned too late
after my first trip to Miller Park.

While I liked Miller, I was a little bit miffed at the low
quality of the hot dog. I believe at the time I declared it to be the worst dog
I’d ever had at a ballgame, and I liked Wendy Selig less afterward for it.
(This was in 2001 when she still owned the Brewers.) As far as I was concerned,
there was no excuse for a ballpark in Wisconsin to have a lousy hot dog.

It became a theory of mine after learning that Milwaukee is
the only ballpark that sells more brats than hot dogs that the lesser dog was
intentional, as a way to get folks to buy more brats. I was probably wrong on
that one, although I’m not yet totally convinced.

Sausages at Miller Park are available in four varieties for
varying tastes. There is the Wisconsin brat, the Italian, the Polish, and the
Mexican chorizo. The four flavors are very different, but according to most
accounts, the one thing that makes them all taste better is the Secret Stadium
Sauce.

Secret Stadium Sauce is a Milwaukee institution, carried
over from the days at Milwaukee County Stadium. It is a blend of water, tomato
paste, corn syrup, vinegar, a blend of spices and capsicum.

The story of its creation is one of necessity being the
mother of invention: close to 40 years ago, the team’s concessions were running
out of ketchup and mustard, so a stadium vendor named Rick Abramson put
together a concoction of ketchup, mustard, smoked syrup and barbecue sauce,
slapped it all together, and became president of Delaware North Companies
Sportservice. Now there’s a company that recognizes genius when they see it.

Since that time the Secret Stadium Sauce has become a Milwaukee institution, with its own Wikipedia entry and Facebook page even. Indeed, baseball authorities Tony Kubek and Bob Costas would
trade off broadcasting duties when announcing games in Milwaukee, so they could
each enjoy their brats with Secret Stadium Sauce without enduring endlessly
long seconds of delay between bites.

Like the Stadium Mustard in Cleveland, the Secret Stadium
Sauce is available in local grocery stores in Milwaukee, which means that there
is also no shortage of it in the world-class tailgating scene of Miller Park
parking lots.

Condiments – bringing people together.

The Primanti Bros. Sandwich at PNC Park

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One of the many things that make the baseball experience
much better today than 20 years ago is the food.

I still get a hot dog at almost every game I go to. I guess
it’s a matter of making sure that I’m doing my part to ensure that hot dogs are
always available at ballgames, and protecting a tradition in a sport whose
charm lies in its history.

But of late I’ve been much more eager to try the local
offerings at a ballpark, whether it is the Tony Luke’s cheesesteak at Citizens
Bank Park in Philly, the Ben’s All-The-Way Chili Dog at Nationals Park in Washington,
or the Shackburger at Citi Field in New York. As I detail in Ballpark E-Guides,
there are many, many food choices at nearly all ballparks these days, and many
of them have that signature item that reflects the local flavor.

Well at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, that item happens to be a
Primanti Bros. sandwich. I have yet to have one at the park itself, but I have
tried it in one of their restaurants. A Primanti Bros. meal includes the
sandwich on Italian white bread with fresh-cut fries and coleslaw. Nothing
unusual, until you see that the fries and cole slaw are actually piled onto the
sandwich! Hey, it all ends up in the same place, right?

The legend I originally heard was that truckers would
frequent the restaurant but often did not have time to eat the fries and slaw
with their sandwich, so they were all packed together. Well, that’s not quite
right, as the Primanti Bros. website describes here.

Still, a popular and unusual food item in a city is always
worth checking out, and if it’s available in a gorgeous ballpark, hey, triple
play.

I have read opinions of people that suggest getting your
Primanti Bros. sandwich elsewhere at any of the many locations in greater
Pittsburgh, since it’s less expensive, the portions are slightly bigger, and
reportedly it’s just a higher quality sandwich elsewhere.  But if you want to spare yourself the trouble
of finding another place and make a Primanti Bros. sandwich your meal of choice
at the ballpark, it’s perfectly adequate.

And if you spend some time sitting with a Primanti and an
Iron City beer (more on that in a future post) at beautiful PNC Park, this
Pittsburgh place will really grow on you.

Miller Park Tailgating

Wrigley Field in Chicago is surrounded by eating and drinking establishments. 90 miles north in Milwaukee, Miller Park is surrounded by a parking lot…which on game nights becomes a huge eating and drinking establishment.

 

While researching Miller Park for an upcoming guide (which hopefully will be available this summer), I had yet another kick myself in the head moment. I visited Miller Park in 2001, the year it opened, and I had no idea about the requirement of tailgating. Is that even possible to do? I was one of the first to arrive and parked close to the park, waiting for the gates to open. But all I had to do was turn my head. Talk about tunnel vision.

 

The tailgating scene at Miller Park, by all accounts, is like no other in baseball. Maybe it’s the high price of beer and brats inside the park. Maybe it’s the location of the ballpark away from downtown and the amount of fans that simply drive to games. Maybe it’s the state of Wisconsin and its bratwurst culture. It’s most likely all three.

 

Brewers fans take their tailgating seriously. On game days the grills get fired up almost as soon as the parking gates open three hours before game time, and sometimes even earlier than that. Tents are set up, frisbees are tossed around, music is blasted, and of course, brats are grilled and beer is iced. On Opening Day or on other big days, some people even put together an elaborate bathroom setup. People in discussion forums asking about Miller Park are told to get themselves a disposable grill, some charcoal and some Usinger’s or Klement’s brats. Which kind? It doesn’t apparently matter.

 

The Brewers are kind enough to encourage tailgating at Miller Park, which may be part of the reason they are ranked as one of the best teams in baseball for fan value. There is a Klement’s Sausage Haus stand outside that provides not just brats and beer for the unprepared but a clean bathroom for the over-prepared. They have pavilions set up across from the Sausage Haus that can be rented by groups. (OK, so they sell parking lot space at a premium price. What team doesn’t?) The lots have coal bins to dump hot coals before leaving. Last I read, they will even let you leave your car in the lot to take a cab if you’ve had too many, so long as you go and get it by a required time the next day.

 

The Klement’s folks even send out a “Brat Patrol” to single out a group of tailgaters for special treatment each game; they give them prizes and feature their group on the scoreboard for that night’s game.

 

The whole spectacle is so popular that some folks don’t even plan to attend the ballgame; they simply have a few cold ones and a brat or two, and then head to a Bluemound Road bar nearby to watch it. Given the generosity of Milwaukeeans, who are even known to share their brats and beer with strangers in the lot, these people may be making out like bandits.

 

There’s only one unwritten rule: don’t bring Budweiser.

 

Yet another reason to arrive early to a ballgame.