Earlier this month I was invited to check out the “Foodie Tour” at Orioles Park at Camden Yards. As a fan of both baseball and stadium food, how could I say no? Now in his second year at the ballpark, Executive Chef Joshua Distenfeld has brought many new concession options to Camden Yards, emphasizing the use of fresh ingredients and local inspirations. Distenfeld brings over 25 years of experience with him, having previously worked as the executive chef at Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack outside of Philadelphia, and the Radisson Hotel in Rochester. I spoke with Chef Distenfeld before attending the game and he told me his absolute favorite new menu item is the bacon on a stick, sold at Jack Daniel’s Stand. Bacon... on a stick? Yes please! As I walked into the stadium on a rainy Saturday evening, the energy in the air was palpable. Go Orioles!
The lines were long before the game, as eager attendees waited to sample the wide variety of food choices. The smoky smells of barbeque hit me quickly, making me very hungry. I stopped first at Boog’s BBQ on Eutaw Street to sample the pit beef sandwich. The meat was incredibly tender and had a wonderful flavor. I have to say I wasn’t a huge fan of the barbeque sauce. But lucky for me the sauce is served separately so that customers can add as little or as much as they want. I’m glad I tasted the sandwich before adding the sauce and I would definitely order this sandwich again by itself.
Next up was Chef’s favorite, the bacon on a stick! I have to say, as I waited in line for the Old Bay and maple syrup-coated treat I was wishing I could also sample the beer butt chicken. It looked absolutely incredible! I decided not to order it, knowing how much food was still awaiting me. As soon as I tried the bacon, I completely forgot about the chicken. Thick, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, it reminded me of pork belly from a restaurant. I couldn’t really taste the Old Bay but the grilled, smoky bacon flavor more than made up for it. This wound up being my favorite dish of the evening and I would most definitely order it again!
Next, we made our way over to Stuggy’s to try their Crab Mac and Cheese Dog. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a big stadium dog topped with mac and cheese and crab. Only in Maryland, right? I added some Old Bay seasoning and gave it a go. There was a LOT happening with this hot dog. The flavors and textures were nice, but I think I’m more of a hot dog traditionalist. I can see others loving this, but I probably would not order this again. There were some other really tempting hot dog options at Stuggy’s and I think I’ll be sampling those next time I visit the park.
Right next to Stuggy’s is Gino’s, home of the Camden Giant: a Gino’s hamburger topped with a Maryland crab cake, cheese, lettuce and a pickle. Say what? I was dubious, to say the least. But I have to say this really surprised me! I’m very picky when it comes to crab cakes and this one was quite tasty. Chef Distenfeld is a bit of a mad genius to think of putting a crab cake on top of a juicy burger but it honestly works. This is Maryland stadium food, no doubt about it!
Finally we made our way over to Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant to sample the rockfish tacos and the Dempsey’s Salad. The fish was nicely cooked, the pico de gallo was fresh and the taco shell was grilled. Very flavorful! I might request the sauce on the side next time because there was a lot of it. It’s entirely possible that I was just filling up too much at this point (I was only taking a few bites of each, I swear!), but I’m not sure I would order this again. What I would order again? The Dempsey’s Salad:
Salad isn’t exactly synonymous with stadium food, but I think this is a great option to have for someone interested in lighter fare. It was full of everything I love in a salad: cheese (aged cheddar), toasted nuts and berries galore. I guess you would call this my dessert at the end of a large tasting menu. I was very happy this was light and I highly recommend it.
Thanks to Chef Distenfeld for a wonderful Foodie Tour! I’m looking forward to coming back in the future and sampling more of these innovative ballpark creations.