Ballpark food hits home run 

Let’s face it. Live baseball — with its $8 premium beers and $110 premium ticket prices — has become an entertainment investment. The Giants’ food concessionaires, Center Plate and Bon Appétit, have risen to the challenge and dreamed up a world of choices to entice fans to make eating and drinking a major part of the experience. Given the current performance of The City’s team, this new pastime at the ball park may not be off base.

Though fans are faced with a mind-boggling array of Asian-, Mexican- and Italian-themed items, the gold standard of mass feeding remains the hot dog. I’m happy to report that most of the dogs I’ve eaten at AT&T Park this season actually have been hot. My top pick is the huge Niman all-beef hot dog ($6.50). At least an inch in diameter, this juicy, well-seasoned dog conquers the breadiness of ball park buns. Also tasty and new is a spicy Niman andouille sausage spiked with plenty of hot pepper ($6.50).

Many griddled sausages come from dedicated sausage carts, usually positioned next to premium beer carts. It’s the pre-wrapped dogs that are lukewarm, the ones I’ve had to wait for while single-tasking counter people fill gargantuan buckets of sodas one by one. Non-premium beer ($5.75 for a 14-ounce cup) lazily foams out of spigots. The Chicago Dog ($6.50), from the sole, slow cart near the escalator to the Club level, still ranks as my sentimental favorite.

Where you sit determines what food options are available, but do not assume that more expensive seats necessarily mean the best choices. In fact, my favorite item thisyear comes from a new stand called Crazy Crabz at the Scoreboard Plaza in center field. Getting to Crazy Crabz entails a big walk around the park if you’re seated anywhere between first and third base. When I did it, during a Dodger game, I wasn’t sure I would make it through alive.

The Scoreboard Plaza, set up with sporty metal tables and chairs, affords a divine view of the yacht harbor, towering palms and San Francisco Bay. The downside is that the wind can whip around the point, and a lot of rowdy drunk kids spill over from the standing-room-only section at right field.

No matter. When you get your thick crab sandwich on buttery griddled Boudin sourdough ($15), all inconvenience disappears. Security makes the fight go away. The wind seems to die down. And there you are, munching your Dungeness crabmeat sandwich with a split of Laurent-Perrier champagne ($13) or a plastic glass of Brassfield High Valley Ranch "Serenity" (all wines cost $7.75 for a 7-ounce pour), a vivacious white blend chosen by concession manager Sandie Filipiak, who has a good wine palate.

This ultra-San Francisco picnic is worth planning during a sunny day game, especially for out-of-town visitors.

Made-to-order caramel corn ($5) mounded into white paper cups is another new hit. Coated in hot, buttery, house-made caramel, the popcorn gets soggy, but that doesn’t prevent anyone from adoring this sticky, addictive confection. Kids and adults are equally susceptible.

Even after a ballpark orgy, a steaming cup of hot chocolate ($3.25), not too sweet or chocolatey, hits the spot on a cold night — even if the Giants don’t.

Patricia Unterman’s San Francisco Food Lover’s Pocket Guide is available at bookstores now.

AT&T park

Location: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco


Recommended dishes: Dungeness crabmeat sandwich, Niman hot dog, Niman andouille sausage, Chicago Dog, hot chocolate, caramel corn

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Patricia Unterman

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