Beyond Cracker Jack: What to Eat at Nationals Stadium

The ballpark reimagines stadium fare with custom hot dogs, celeb chef outposts and chillin’ brews.

Since 2008, the Nationals have played ball inside the first major U.S. stadium to receive LEED accreditation. No surprise the concessions here are LEED certified, too. This means “sustainability” brought to an array that goes way beyond peanuts and Cracker Jack.

Ground Rules

Google “Washington Nationals concessions,” and up pops the link to a roster of vendors listed by section and numbering (we counted, so you don’t have to) 41 brands on the main concourse, 31 on club level and 21 on gallery level. Eating happens at stadium seats, picnic tables on the concourses and sit-down tables in the premium “clubs.”

Pinch, Nationals Park, Washington D.C.

Baseline

Beyond the traditional favorites like Nats Dogs, Enzo’s Pizza and funnel cakes, fans find local inspirations like Ben’s Chili Bowl (the soul food gathering place and President Obama favorite) and, new this year, Pinch “Gourmet Chinese” Dumplings, District Doughnut, On Rye (the Reuben, babka ice cream sandwich) and Haute Dogs & Fries (with alternative toppings like Vietnamese banh mi).

Gourmet hot dogs from Haute Dogs

Ben’s Chili Bowl, Nationals Stadium, Washington D.C.

Food by the Famous

Contemporary tastes factor at outposts of two celeb chefs. New York’s Danny Meyer puts his mark on four eateries: Shake Shack, so popular for its burgers (no hormones) and frozen custard the space has doubled; Box Frites with Belgian-style fries and “gourmet” dogs; Blue Smoke with pulled pork, spare ribs, the Shroomburger and shakes; and the kiosk El Verano Taqueria with quesadillas, chili-marinated skirt steak and green mole chicken.

“Top Chef ” All-Star Mike Isabella spins three sites off his local restaurant empire: G for inventive Italian sandwiches (cauliflower anyone? Chicken parmesan?), plus the “Drewno” (Isabella’s homage to a chef friend) with house-made kielbasa, and then two new Isabella spots, Kapnos at the Park serving watermelon lemonade cocktails and Greek gyros (falafel, cheesesteak)
 and next door Catchfly with 
St. Louis ribs, Southern fried “popcorn” chicken, banana pudding and mint juleps.

Fried chicken gyros

MLB Fairplay

Taste of the Majors specializes in foods from other ballparks, always a signature item or two dear to visiting teams and sometimes their city’s brews. Past tributes include a Miami Cuban, a Philly hoagie, 5-way Cincinnati chili, New York pastrami, San Diego fish tacos and a San Fran shrimp platter.

Free Agents

Gluten Free caters to that dietary practice with a chili cheese dog, loaded nachos, Larabar cherry pie, dark chocolate bars and beers. Vegetarians relish veggie burgers at, among others, Boardwalk Fries, Grand Slam Grill and exclusively veg Field of Greens (the last with a vegan crab cake and Portobello burger). Also note: Max’s Kosher Grill offers falafel and sandwiches.

International

Global tastes rule: Lebanese at Shawafel with its Zatar fries, shawarma and falafel sandwiches; Caribbean at Jammin’ Island BBQ serving smoky jerk chicken and ribs, red beans and rice at patio tables; Asian fare like drunken noodles and pad Thai at Intentional Wok or spicy tuna or salmon avocado rolls at Sushi Capitol.

Home Runs

Ben’s Chili Bowl touts its half-smoke as the “official”
 D.C. food; Chesapeake Crab Company puts its namesake shellfish to cakes, nachos and grilled cheese; Fluffy Thoughts sells cupcakes like red velvet with cream cheese frosting. Virginia Country Kitchen has two outlets for fried chicken, mac and cheese, country ham biscuits and Virginia wines. Note: VCK’s Virginia Crunch—popcorn, Virginia peanuts, smoked bacon and Bourbon caramel sauce—nods to that legendary Cracker Jack.

Fluffy Thoughts bakery, Nationals Stadium, Washington D.C.

Brew Scene at Nationals Stadium

A map tracks domestic, craft and import brews. District Drafts, at several locations, pours from Atlas Brew Works, DC Brau, 3 Stars, Port City Brewing Co. and Mad Fox.

From gate opening until
 30 minutes before first pitch, the Budweiser Terrace serves beers for $5. After that, prices rise, but any time ascend the stairs while singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” each step inscribed with a line from the lyrics.


Tips for Nats Noshing

What fans need to know about tickets, tours, parking, VIP tables and bringing their own nourishment.

Tickets

Costs of the 43,000 seats vary by game, regular seats from $10 in Right Field Terrace to $145 or so in Dugout Box Premier. But pricier tickets (up to $400) provide “luxury sporting experiences,” creature comforts and rare sightlines.

Delta Sky360 Club, behind home plate (some seats closer to the batter than the pitcher is), is the priciest. It offers a “gourmet” buffet, draft beer, house wine and soda, complimentary in-seat food and beverage service plus access to the Delta Sky360 Club, PNC Diamond Club and the Norfolk Southern Club (stretching from first to third base on club level).

Home Plate Box includes food and beverages (draft beer, house wine and soda), in-seat food and beverage service and access to the PNC Diamond Club.

PNC Diamond, a climate-controlled indoor venue, spans two floors, the lower level behind home plate. Included: food from chef’s tables, beverages from a private bar, in-seat food and beverage service, access to the Norfolk Southern Club.

Full Disclosure

Allowed: clear, factory-sealed plastic water bottles (one per person) at most one liter, juice boxes, food items in single serving bags within a soft-sided container or cooler, insulin containers and baby food. Not allowed: (per security searches) bags larger than 16-by-16-by-8 inches, metal or glass containers, hard coolers or ice chests and alcohol that’s not purchased at the stadium complex.

Nursing babies and their moms have a private lounge with air conditioning and toddler play space on the mezzanine, section 23.

Tours

Guided walks depart from Center Field Gate, at 10:30 a.m. on days with night games, at 11:30, 1:30 and 2:30 on many non-game days. Adults $15; military, kids older than two, seniors $12. 202.640.7369

Parking

The Metro (Navy Yard-Ballpark) deposits fans at the entrance to the stadium, but those who prefer to drive have several lots from which to choose. Lots “B” and “C”—the priciest at $47-$49—are located at the stadium and open three hours before game time. Others located within walking distance open two and a half hours before, with prices ranging from $20 to $44. (See map with locations and purchase passes ahead of time.) Metered street parking (free on Sundays) is also available.

Jean Lawlor Cohen
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