When Josh Distenfeld, who works under the auspices of Delaware North Companies Sportservice, was hired as executive chef at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 2011, the park offered mostly standard stadium fare through another food-service supplier. But these days, the options are endless, from bacon on a stick to crab mac-and-cheese hot dogs to Korean tacos. "Thanks to Food Network, people are so into food," says Distenfeld, who worked as the executive chef at Harrah's in Las Vegas prior to coming to Camden Yards. "They know what they like, and we wanted to introduce that into the sports venue. Our food is about Baltimore pride, local farm-to-table, and the Chesapeake region."
Distenfeld's upgrades at some 60 kiosks have hit a home run with fans and made Camden Yards, which earns industry accolades, one of the best places to get food in Major League Baseball. (And yes, he feeds the players, too.) Of course, the chef, who appeared on an episode of Food Network's Chopped, says that working for the O's gives him the home-team advantage. "When they win, we win," he says. "The O's pack the stands, and we give a great product—it's a totally symbiotic relationship." Plus, he adds, "The team's philosophy is to make sure our O's are a healthy team. I feed the opposing teams all the grease."
Here's what's new at Camden Yards concessions this season:
Smithfield's Corner, Camden-style pork burger with BBQ sauce, cole slaw, and fried onions.
Ole, a new stand, offers soft tacos, including pulled-chicken and black-bean.
Esskay Gourmet Hot Dog House (corner of Eutaw St. by the picnic area): Esskay hot dogs gets its own stand. This weiner is consistenly rated top dog by fans and industry insiders.
The Smithfield's Corner (corner of Eutaw St., near Gate A): "We will feature Esskay hot dogs with grilled onions, traditional Polish sausages with sauerkraut, and Smithfield's pork burger," says Distenfeld.
Ole (first-level concourse near home plate): "Until now, there's been no Mexican food at Camden Yards except for specials at Dempsey's," says Distenfeld. "And people love tacos—it's great street food and something you can easily walk around with."
Baltimore Burger Company (corner of Eutaw St., near Gate H): Vegan burgers and vegan hot dogs will be on hand. "We're offering a true meatless burger made of barley," says Distenfeld.
Read All About It
After Bennett Jacobstein retired in 2007 from his longtime job as a librarian at Hayward Public Library in Hayward, CA, he decided to pursue a whole new ball game, taking a job as a cashier at the concession stand at Municipal Stadium, home of Minor League Baseball's Class A Advanced San Jose Giants. Inspired by his new vocation, Jacobstein went back to the books to write his own book, The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs to Haute Cuisine, about the food stands at Major League parks. After traveling to every major-league stadium for the book, Jacobstein gives the food at Camden Yards high marks. "This wasn't meant to be a ratings guide," he says, "but I have a list of what I consider the top eight, and Camden Yards is one of them." Even so, our state crustacean that's served at the stadium left him a bit befuddled. "I liked the soft-shell crab," he says, "although when you're eating, you keep wondering, 'Am I really supposed to be eating the shell?'"
Online Exclusive: An extended Q&A with Bennett Jacobstein