Food - Glutton at Large: Turner Field
A gluttonous food crawl at the ballpark
It had been many years since I visited Turner Field. That was until a friend invited my husband and me to a Saturday night game about a week after the season opener. Twitter was abuzz with baseball, Braves adoration, and, of course, the stadium debut of the hallowed Holeman & Finch burger. Like any self-respecting burger fiend, I accepted the offer.
Not having been since they remodeled in 2005, I was extremely impressed with how grand and polished everything looks these days. Seeing the impeccable, bright green grass, the enormous lights, hearing the echo of the announcer's voices and all of the fan noise was exciting. You really internalize why baseball is such a beloved American pastime. However, being a degenerate food lover means you only care about one thing: the grub.
Turner Field boasts more than 110 food and beverage options. So many choices and the fact that our friends had season tickets, which gives you a 33 percent discount on all concessions (excluding alcoholic drinks), made it far too easy for us to eat more than we should. What began as a simple trip to the ballpark quickly morphed into one long, gluttony-fueled food crawl that hit all the big wigs such as Kevin Rathbun Steak, Holeman & Finch, Dantanna's, and a few more.
First up was Kevin Rathbun Steak at Turner Field. Rathbun was one of the first heavy-hitting chefs to open a spot at the ballpark when the concessions got an upgrade in 2012. His stall, which is located on the Terrace Level, is certainly in line with his steak brand (i.e., lots of wood, bold lettering, and impressive slabs of beef stocked in a fridge encased in white subway tiles). They only sell sandwiches and drinks such as wine on tap, soft drinks, and water. The meat for the sandwiches is cut to order from immense slabs of sirloin, stacked onto a soft, yellow roll, covered in jus and a mild horseradish cream and served with a side of crunchy, thick-cut Lay's potato chips. They carve the meat in slices as thick as an iPhone, but it's so tender biting in is a breeze. The bad news is that the steak was so salty our two meat-loving men couldn't get past two or three bites and ended up tossing the pricey $12 sandwiches. While the guys and I were drowning our salty sandwich dreams in beer, my friend visited Dantanna's stand for the crab cake sandwich. She said she liked that the crab cake was griddled — not deep-fried — which lessens the guilt factor and also makes the entire sandwich less of a grease bomb. It was served on a roll with creamy coleslaw and a tangy rémoulade — nice and light.
We made a beeline for the first Holeman & Finch stand we saw out of pure excitement, but quickly abandoned the line once my husband texted there was a shorter queue at another stand around the corner. There are three in total — one behind home plate and one on either side of the Fan Plaza, in left and right field. H&F doesn't serve anything except for its iconic burger, which comes with a side of fries ($12). You can add a bottle of Coke for $3. Considering the fact that it's mass-produced in much greater quantities than the original, the burger was tasty in that squishable, simple way that makes the Holeman burger what it is. If you haven't had the burger, picture a McDonald's Double Cheeseburger, but made using only the best, homemade ingredients — even the ketchup. Was it a little slopped together and not as relatively picturesque to look at? Yes. Was it still delicious? Absolutely. The fries, however, were limp and soggy after sitting too long in a grease-soaked paper sleeve before they were served. The portion was also paltry compared to what you get at the restaurant. If you want to avoid the long lines, try an H&F Burger Ticket Package for $34 — only 24 of them are offered per game. Each package includes a seat on the special H&F Burger Row section in the Outfield Pavilion, one burger pass printed on commemorative stock, front-of-the-line access (i.e., cutting the line) at the outfield locations, one burger, and an order of fries.
In the main plaza, Braves Brick Oven Pizzeria serves up a decent pie in slices the size of what you'd find in New York. A bright, acidic tomato sauce is spread over a lofty, well-developed crust and topped with gooey, chewy cheese. On the booze front, the choices are fairly standard if you stick to the swill-slinging kiosks peppered throughout the stadium. However, beer lovers should head to the Coors Light Rocky Mountain Beer Garden in Fan Plaza, which serves Coors brand beers and 25 craft beers. At the Braves Chop House you can grab a basic bite to eat and a SweetWater, Sierra Nevada, or a cocktail. There's also a Camarena Tequila bar on the Terrace Level that serves margaritas and tequila. If you are looking to live it up, you can buy access to the exclusive 755 Club. It's the swankiest place to hang out unless you have a club level box. The Golden Moon Casino Level (the club level) is also worth exploring, where an army of dining choices line the hall. Foot-long hot dogs with tons of different toppings, sushi, a self-serve yogurt tap, an ice cream parlor, a few bars, a Mexican concept called La Taqueria, and much more. Not one to resist nachos, I decided the ones from La Taqueria would be my dessert. The toppings were pretty standard and nothing to get excited about. I also had to deduct points for them using red and blue tortilla chips, which, let's face it, are not the best style of chip out there even if they are the team colors. The staff, however, was friendly and the guy working behind the counter on this particular night was a nacho construction savant — multiple layers of cheese, chips, and all.
After all of this eating, we decided it was finally time to sit down to watch some baseball and discovered it was already the sixth inning. So, we settled in for a little while and watched until the conversation quickly turned to funnel cakes. Someone saw a stand earlier, right?