With the crack of a bat and the crunch of a roasted peanut, baseball season has returned and in Phoenix that means thousands of fans packing into Chase Field in Downtown Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Besides being a great stadium to catch a game, Chase has plenty to offer Valley's baseball fans. It was the first major league stadium to include both a pool and hot tub and has nearly a quarter-mile of concession stand area. That's quite a lot of ground to cover, but if you know where you're going you can make a successful food run in less time than it takes for the crowd to take its seventh inning stretch.
Craft Beer at Game Seven Grill
This 20,000 square-foot restaurant is new to Chase this year and offers a full menu that includes "the hottest wings in baseball." The restaurant opens three hours before game time and the kitchen closes about an hour after the game begins. It gets pretty packed so if you want to get a table, call ahead and make a reservation or be prepared to wait.
However, the best bang for your buck can be found at either the outdoor beer garden or inside at the bar. Neither requires reservations and both have plenty of standing room available even right before the game. And unlike at all of the other places inside the stadium, Game Seven Grill offers a fairly large selection of premium and craft beers both on tap and in the bottle. If you're with an out-of-towner, guide them to the Camelback IPA, brewed locally by Phoenix Ale Brewery. It's available on tap and for just $6 will beat anything you're going to find inside.
Red Corn Chicken Taquitos at Macayos
The limited menus at the three Macayo's locations within the walls of Chase offer the kind of deep-fried finger-foods that taste best when your feet are sticking to a dirty stadium floor.
We went for the red corn chicken taquitos, a good buy at $8 for six. They'll come out extra-crispy and buried in a layer of sour cream, cheese and sprinkled with a diced tomato mixture similar to pico de gallo. The combination of super crunchy corn tortilla, shredded chicken, sour cream and cheese pairs perfectly with a tall glass of cheap beer.
Green Chicken Tamale at ReyGloria's Located behind section 137
This family-owned tamale stand isn't just famous with Chase Field regulars, but with baseball fanatics across the country - and this is where you'll get some authentic south of the border eats. A former Chase Field security guard won over owner Diamondback's owner Derrick Hall with his traditional tamales, earning him his own concession stand in the stadium. Thus RayGloria's was born.
The menu is short with just three types of tamales to choose from: red or green chile or green chicken. All are safe bets but we enjoy the heartier green chicken. A single tamale will make s good snack, but if your looking to make a meal out of it opt for two or even three. They keep the masa moist in steamers during the game and unwrap the tamales to order. Each comes covered in a blanket of shredded iceberg lettuce and salsa with a side of sour cream. The salsa packs a punch but is a slow burn that will have you reaching for the cooling sour cream after a couple bites.
Candy Shop Popcorn at Burger Burger Located on the Insight Diamond Level, section 214
To satisfy your sweet and salty tooth head up to the second level of the stadium where the private suites are located. At Burger Burger you can get a variety of dressed-up burgers and fries, but they also have a selection of candy shop popcorns, a modern twist on the class baseball snack Crackerjacks.
You'll have to choose among tempting flavors including dark chocolate, peanut butter and chocolate malted milk ball and we couldn't pass up the peanut butter variation. For $6.50 you'll get a brown paper lunch bag-sized portion of gooey peanut butter smothered popcorn. As you make your way through the sugary clusters you'll come across unbroken chunks of peanut butter cup as well as lightly coated clusters that provided a salty interlude.
Sonoran Hot Dog at Red Hot Grill Located behind sections 126 and 320
Arizonan's love their bacon-wrapped hot dogs, which is why it only makes sense that you can pick enjoy one while watching America's pastime live. The $7 Sonoran-style hot dog from Red Hot Grill comes wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon and covered in pico de gallo and ranch-style beans. They finish it off with an artistic drizzle of mayonnaise.
The pico de gallo is fresh and bright, a nice symmetry to the smoky barbeque beans. The bacon plays second fiddle to the hot dog in this dish, which features a thick and juicy dog that we'd be happy to eat on its own. The only downside about this hot dog upgrade is the mess. The insubstantial buns were clearly not designed to hold such a hearty dog leaving beans and mayo pretty much everywhere. Be prepared: Have napkins on hand.
The Snakebite at Jack Daniels liquor bars
There's a list of four cocktails found at the bars of Chase Field, the most popular of which they'll tell you is the Snakebite. All four will run you $11 but come in tall glasses. The Snakebite is a punch-like cocktail of Absolut berry acai vodka, red wine, club soda and sour mix with a skewered grape and a few pieces of melon floating on top. The red wine and sour mix keep things from being too sweet and you'll probably be able to down the whole thing in less than an inning.
Loaded Nachos at Gluten-Free stand Located behind section 107
Gluten-freers will be happy to know Chase has an entire stand dedicated to gluten-fee eats and drinks. That's right, they even carry gluten-free beer. The stand has a nice selection of gluten-free snacks including a pulled pork sandwich and hot dogs though your safest best would be the loaded gluten-free nachos. They use corn tortilla chips that wouldn't contain gluten in the first place, but come from individually-wrapped packages meaning those with serious gluten allergies probably don't need to worry about cross contamination.
They'll ask you just what you want smothering your chips and we suggest skipping the overly sweet barbeque pulled pork. The beans, nacho cheese and sliced jalapeños are just fine on their own.
Indulging in one - or two, or a few - of the specialty items available at Chase is an adventure in its own right but there's nothing as satisfying as cracking roasted peanuts during a baseball game. At the Diamondback's stadium a bag will cost you $4 and the best part is you don't have to leave your seat to get them since walking vendors will come around hawking them throughout the game. Throw the shells on the floor, share them with your neighbors, it's a rite of passage when it comes to the sport.
Buffet at Arizona Baseball Club
This might be the best-kept secret of Chase Field. Take the elevator up to the second level and work your way over to the section behind left-center field. That's where you'll find the Arizona Baseball Club, a buffet restaurant open to anyone with a ticket to the game.
For $34.99 enjoy all you can eat privileges off an impressive menu. Chef Michael Snoke changes the selections with every series and takes his inspiration from the visiting team's hometown. When the San Diego Padres were in town, for example, he offered anchiote braised pork loin street tacos to channel the flavors of southern California. They also offer high-end options you wouldn't expect to find at a baseball stadium buffet like a selection of local cheeses, Queen Creek antipasti and Queen Creek olives.
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The best part of the experience is that no matter what you paid for your ticket to get into the stadium you can make a reservation to sit on the patio at the Arizona Baseball Club. And reservations are recommended for patio seats.
Tailgate on a Plate at Extreme Loaded Dogs Located behind section 208
When it comes to stadium hot dogs this one might just be our favorite. There are plenty of quirky hot dog options from Extreme Loaded Dogs, but this is one of the most popular and memorable of the batch. Like the name implies, the hot dog comes loaded with everything you might enjoy at a typical tailgate: sweet and tangy barbeque beans, barbeque sauce, cheese and three little mounds of potato salad. The foot-long wiener is best enjoyed with a fork and knife and though the prospect might sound strange, this tailgate really works.