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O.C. Eats

Popcorn, Peanuts, Calamari

Take Your Appetite Along to an Angel Game and Try Everything From Corn Dogs to Sushi or, If You Prefer, Pan-Seared Atlantic Salmon

March 29, 2001|TOM VASICH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If baseball is America's favorite pastime, eating at a baseball game is a close second. After all, what would a ballgame be without mustard-drenched hot dogs, sticky Cracker Jack, an icy drink and the cries of peanut vendors?

Once, those items were all you could get at the ballpark, but as teams provide more fan-friendly perks to justify higher ticket prices and pay for skyrocketing player salaries, there has been a creative burst in baseball concessions. You can still nosh on hot dogs and peanuts at the old ballgame . . . along with garlic fries, sushi and chicken pesto sandwiches with a frosty microbrew to wash it all down. Ballpark eating options these days are seemingly endless.

Going to an Angel game at Edison Field this year will be as much a dining experience as a sporting one. Besides an increased selection of general concession fare, the stadium hosts three restaurants and offers at-your-seat service in the Club and Diamond sections if long lines aren't your thing. And to manage this onslaught of edibles, Aramark, the company contracted to provide Edison Field food services, even employs a head chef, Marco Garcia, to provide creative input and quality control.

According to Jim Rozes, Aramark's regional manager, hungry Angel fans will be in for a treat this season as the regular concessions menu of hot dogs, nachos and the like will be competing with a new lineup of Parmesan garlic fries and sandwich selections you'd more likely see at a local deli--fresh-carved roast beef and turkey and the aforementioned chicken pesto.

Pesto at the ballpark? Pesto is passe if you have a Club section seat ($22 and $35 a ticket), which allows access to Edison Field's brew pub, the Knothole Club, where the Pyramid ale flows and appetizers range from chile-glazed calamari to wok-seared pot stickers, and meals include pulled-pork tortas and chicken and vegetable stir-fry. But after the seventh inning, the Knothole Club opens for all, just in time for a late-inning dessert of bread pudding or a banana split.

For the high rollers sitting in the Diamond Club section behind home plate ($55 a ticket), things are even more festive: a buffet spread with salad, appetizer and pasta sections and entrees of buttermilk-fried turkey breast, pan-seared Atlantic salmon, chipotle-grilled chicken and prime rib. A variation of this buffet is available to selected ticket-holders in the Home Plate Club.

Because baseball is meant to be an affordable family outing, less august fare is featured in the Family Zone beyond the left-field bleachers. Here are some of the staples of the childhood diet: pizza, corn dogs and cotton candy. In addition, Carl's Jr. and Panda Express have booths, selling their familiar hamburgers and dish-and-dash Chinese.

And lest I forget, the ever popular and highly addictive sticky cinnamon rolls will return for another season.

It wouldn't be a stretch then to say that 81 nights a year, Edison Field becomes the busiest and most varied restaurant in Orange County. I can almost hear the new marketing slogan now--Angel baseball: Come for the food, stay for the game.

Still, not all baseball feasting must be done at the ballpark. The stadium area buzzes with pregame dining action as more than a dozen restaurants within a few miles' radius gear up for the season and a flood of fans. Here's an all-star lineup of these pregame activities:

ESPNZone

What it's like: Imagine dying and going to sports heaven, one with 165 TV monitors that flicker nonstop and an endless stream of tourists wearing garish sweatshirts from their favorite home-state team.

The play-by-play: Anchoring the new Downtown Disney, ESPNZone is the cable-sports network's West Coast home, where the "Up Close" talk show is filmed live in the Studio Grill dining section. Next to the grill is the Screening Room, where a small dining area buttresses against a 16-foot-tall screen surrounded by six 36-inch monitors. It looks like a casino sports book. Upstairs is the gaming room, with interactive sports-arcade games and a 30-foot climbing wall. There are three bars and a gift store.

Eating options: Typical pub-style fare with a few more salads thrown in. Some of the food has cute names, such as the Baby Back Back Back Back Ribs, the Two-Minute Drill steak sandwich and buffalo wings made with "En Fuego" sauce. Though the wings aren't very meaty, the sauce is muy fuego, that is, fiery, so be warned. The rack of baby-back (etc.) ribs covers the entire plate, so you'd better be hungry for this one--and make sure to order more sauce on the side.

Reason to stay and miss the game: Mesmerized by watching 14 games, you lose all track of time. Or you get stuck at the top of the climbing wall.

1545 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim. (714) 300-ESPN. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Entrees: $10 to $22. Soft drinks: $2.50. Alcoholic beverages: $4 and up.

National Sports Grill

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