Forego The Fancy Seat-Side Service When Dining At The Ballpark.

By Rebecca Cook

SUMMERTIME MEANS BASEBALL, the most celebrated warm-weather preoccupation of all.

And while long-distance viewing from the comfort of your living room is satisfactory for most occasions, there's no substitute for actually being at the ballpark.

Chow ...The sound of the announcer's voice introducing the players, the bark of vendors hawking their wares, the dubbed pipe organ reminding us of another era, the seventh-inning stretch and the obligatory chiming in on "Take Me Out To the Ballgame," the food....

The food? What's so great about hot dogs, the contents of which, once revealed, have driven countless minions into vegetarianism?

If this is your knee-jerk reaction, you're missing out on some major minor-league fun. Ballpark food across the nation has entered a new era, one transcending its plebeian origins of peanuts, hot dogs and beer. Depending on the site, you can find some pretty impressive examples of regional cuisine at the old ballpark.

You might find fresh seafood at some East Coast ballparks, sushi and wine coolers in California, and tacos with all the trimmings in Texas.

And, by the way, what's the matter with hotdogs and beer? It's not the healthiest diet in the world, but if it were irrevocably lethal, baseball fans would have been dropping like flies for the greater part of the last century.

Part of the fun of going to the ballpark is the endearingly familiar food you'll find there, the very same food that was there when you were a kid. I know it's not good for me, but I love the stuff.

In Tucson, the lure of baseball emanates from Hi Corbett Field, home of our very own Tucson Toros. Intrigued by a rumor of seat-side waitress service, I moseyed on out to the ballpark one fair summer evening to see if the food there had kept pace with the times.

For food service, you must sit in the lower box seats, which will increase your ticket cost to eight bucks a person. Check the appropriate boxes on the handy yellow menu, wave it above your head, and theoretically, your waitress will take your order while you kick back to enjoy the game.

Sound good? I thought so too. But in reality, seat-side service is only feasible for those with teeny appetites and an inordinate amount of patience. This was not the case with our group, many of whom had rushed to the ballpark after a full day's work and were eagerly anticipating slaking a powerful thirst and a gnawing hunger.

As we made our selections, we little suspected we were in for a long and uncomfortable wait.

A sign that the times were a changin', perhaps, was that no one ordered the infamous hotdog ($2), instead opting for a grilled bratwurst ($3), as well as a few requests for the grilled chicken sandwich ($3.50). Our other options were a hamburger ($3), Polish sausage ($3) or a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza ($3).

The bratwurst was adequate, though completely unadorned and accompanied only by small packets of ketchup and mustard, which utterly failed to complement or elicit the brat's flavors. Where are the grilled peppers and onions when you need them?

The grilled chicken was surprisingly good, however, consisting of moist and lightly seasoned boneless breast meat served on a bun with shredded lettuce, sliced tomato and mayonnaise.

There's no question that one of us could have walked to the concession stands and returned with food and drink at a faster pace than our server mustered. Nevertheless, we never had to budge from our seats.

Obtaining food and drink thus became a tricky balancing act. If we were truly hungry or thirsty, we decided it was easier to forget the seat-side service and make the trip ourselves.

As the evening wore on, however, the question became moot. Our waitress eventually lost all interest in us, and the most frequent view we had of her was her back and her blonde ponytail, which bobbed perkily as she conversed with her fellow male servers, who were equally impervious to the sea of yellow menus waving frantically below them.

We were forced at that point to take our pursuit of gluttony out to the various concession stands, where we feasted on cotton candy ($1), a soft pretzel ($2), nachos ($2.25), peanuts ($1) and a large lemon Eegee ($2). Disappointingly, there were no Baby Ruths or Butterfingers to be found.

Conclusions: (1) Ballpark food at Hi Corbett tends toward the typical; (2) Unless you're unable to move about freely, the seat-side service is more likely to annoy than satisfy; and, (3) Baseball remains an exemplary summer pastime.

The Tucson Toros' season continues through September 1. For ticket information, call 325-2651.

Chow Scan is The Weekly's selective guide to Tucson restaurants. Send comments and updates to Chow, P.O. Box 2429, Tucson, AZ 85702; or use our e-mail address, These listings have no connection with Weekly advertisers. TW

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