Summer goes with baseball; baseball goes with beer, hot dogs and . . . sushi? Yes, as you might have already heard, these days, there is more than peanuts and Cracker Jack at Angel Stadium. But that’s not to say you can’t find fried foods to rival a country fair or meat stuffed into snappy casings slathered in mustard.
Here are a few choices for ballpark noshing that aren’t Panda Express, Ruby’s, CPK or Carl’s Jr. because—let’s face it—if you’re going to get price-gouged on ballpark food, you might as well make it something that isn’t on every street corner.
You can get the Hideki Matsui roll and standard California rolls at the three park locations of this Ontario-based sushi producer, including the newest stall in the main concourse. The prices? Well, they’re ridiculous everywhere ($6 edamame, anyone?). The quality, however, is far better than I expected, and most are freshly prepared. For the poke roll, rice gets packed not-too-tightly around a yin-yang-shaped center of spicy tuna and mayo-dressed imitation crabmeat. It’s then topped with a layer of peppered ahi and salmon. The roll will set you back $18 for a 10-piece bento box, which includes a perky-citrus-dressed salad and a handful of that costly edamame. Section 122. California roll, $10; rainbow roll, $16; poke roll, $18.
ANGELITO’S FRESH MEXICAN GRILL
If you’re looking for a fish taco or the Angels-themed “Heavenly Nachos,” skip the Angelito’s at Gate 2 and head to the one at the upper concourse. The carne asada torta is this stall’s solitary Mexican item among the typical fare of hot dogs and barbecue chicken—but the dish justifies the Angelito’s name. The formidable, spongy-bunned sandwich is seasoned well regardless of the fact that it’s more of a sloppy-sauced machaca than a carne asada. The charro beans, which come as a side, round out your meal with a satisfying slow-cooked charm and enough spice that it could almost be mistaken for Indian lentil curry. Gate 2. Carne asada torta, $9.75.
MAJOR LEAGUE DOGS
You want a hot dog? This is the place to get one. This new stall is meant to be a whirlwind world tour of wieners. The varieties differ only in the way they are generously topped—but, oh, those toppings! Each sandwich looks more like the aftermath of an avalanche than a hot dog. Listed first is the hometown Halo Dog, a bacon-wrapped wiener. For some reason, the New York Dog is smothered in chili, cheese and onions. Red Sox fans will find their Boston Dog drowned in Boston baked beans and chopped bacon. For White Sox rooters, the Chicago dog gets overloaded with hallowed accouterments of tomatoes, mustard, algae-green relish, a pickle spear, sport peppers and a shake of celery salt. But if you’re going to eat a hot dog, it might as well be the Kansas City; this one eschews the cheap add-ons for barbecued beef brisket as a topping. Section 259. All hot dogs, $6.50.
CLYDE WRIGHT’S TENNESSEE BAR-B-QUE
Named for the Tennessee-born pitcher, this barbecue stand at Gate 1 boasts beef-brisket and pulled-pork sammies, but the thing to get is the turkey leg. The best bargain at the park is sold here (as well as some other barbecue-equipped stalls) and sells out fast. Sure, the price tag will initially seem high, but you’ll quickly discover it pays dividends in flavor and heft. This mega-meat club is 2 pounds if it’s a ton, flaking off easily with just the plastic tines of your fork into tender, well-brined shreds. Charred on the outside, pink throughout, the thing tastes more like ham than poultry. It’s best shared to spread its effects—and its $11.50 price. Gate 1. Turkey leg, $11.50; pulled-pork or barbecued-beef- brisket sandwich, $9.75.
HOME PLATE GRILL
This hot-dog stand will have one of the longest lines if you get there before the National Anthem is sung. Basic foot-long sausages are offered, just as at other vendors, but here, they’re grilled on grates before your very eyes. Their Italian sausage is as sweet as sugar even before you get to the onions and peppers, which are wilted almost to liquid. Go easy on the sauerkraut for the brats; that sausage’s subtleties are easily overpowered. Best to consume it plain, chased with a swig of cold, cheap beer. Gate 2. Bratwurst or Italian sausage, $7.25; Angel Dog, $4.50.
Hot-pressed into a tidy compactness, paninis are perfect for ballparks. One wonders why no one did this sooner (this is one of the newer vendors by Angels food contractor Aramark). There are hoity-toity paninis, such as the Caprese (which PETA cited when ranking the Big A No. 8 in its top 10 vegetarian-friendly ballparks of 2010) and the Angel Club House, which uses focaccia bread. But for the kids (and the kid in you), there’s the Monte Cristo. It’s covered in powdered sugar, sort of like Disney’s, the club’s previous owners. Although not deep-fried like the Magic Kingdom’s, its eggy bread forms a sturdy, ribbed crust of its own, enough so that each bite is crunchy. A sad little packet of blackberry jam subs for compote, but the sandwich is bursting with salty slices of turkey and ham, fused together with melted Swiss and tasting its theme- park-y best. Section 112. All paninis, $9.50.
A fried-chicken finger is a fried-chicken finger, even if it’s called a “fritter.” But when you have it with gravy? Now that’s a meal, regardless of what you call it. Too-often ignored by fast-food joints, sawmill gravy—thick, white, salty and as enriching as blubber—turns out to be great for dunking fries into, too. Katella Grill, a satellite stall from the Orange diner of the same name, seems to have a monopoly on boneless fried chicken at the park, and it does the poultry justice. Protected with an impermeable crust of flour, pepper and salt, the meat inside is moist and billowy hot when you break through the golden-fried shell—crispy until you drunk it in that gravy, of course. Section 129. Chicken fritters with gravy, $10.50.
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If you’d like to pretend you are doing something remotely good for your diet, Chix has grilled-chicken sandwiches. But you’re only kidding yourself with the Fire & Ice Chicken Salad, which is salad in name only. Like most political ads, it’s technically true but wholly misleading. Sure, there are field greens at the bottom of the bowl, even some celery and carrot sticks. But on top of that is a massive scoop of a rich, blue-cheese-dressed coleslaw that probably already accounts for 1,000 calories. Above it all is a mound of delectable Buffalo-wing-sauce-laced sticks of fried chicken they call “twists.” Your diet would’ve been better off with the sushi. Section 102. Grilled bistro chicken sandwich, $9.50; Fire & Ice chicken salad, $9.50.
RUDY’S FRENCH FRIES
Located behind the rocks in the outfield—arguably the most scenic outdoor-dining area at the stadium—Rudy’s does permutations of everything fried potato. They have sweet-potato and good-old-plain (all from frozen, of course) fries, cooked in hot grease to a golden-brown crispiness before being smothered in all kinds of glop: cheese, chili, or the clear fan favorite—chopped garlic. They also give the fryer treatment to something called “funnel fries,” which turned out to be hollow sticks made from cake batter that would’ve tasted like cardboard if they weren’t drenched in whipped cream and strawberry syrup. Call this one dessert, and call it a day. Behind the rocks in the outfield. Chili-cheese fries or nacho fries, $7.50; garlic fries, $6; plain funnel fries, $5.50; funnel fries with strawberry syrup and whipped cream, $7.50.
Angel Stadium of Anaheim, 2000 Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, (714) 940-2000; losangeles.angels.mlb.com/ana/ballpark.