Citizens Bank Park hits home run with vegetarian fare

It’s been a disappointing season for Philadelphia baseball fans. After sky-high expectations, the Phillies are struggling just to post a winning record. But at least Phillies fans, no matter what their preferences, can have full stomachs. Citizens Bank Park has been named the top vegetarian-friendly major league ballpark in the country.

On a beautiful sunny afternoon, Citizens Bank Park is packed with fans covered in Phillies gear, and there’s still hope the Phils will beat the Dodgers. Not all eyes are on the field though — plenty of fans are milling around between concession stands, searching for just the right meal.

Jeremy Campbell, Aramark concessions director at the park, remembers the old days of ballpark food.

“Uh, hot dogs, hot dogs and hot dogs,” he says.

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Campbell, who grew up in Boston, fondly remembers trips to the ballpark as a kid.

“You know I remember going there and getting my Fenway frank … eating those hot dogs and it was the greatest thing in the world,” he recalls.

The evolution of ballpark food

Ballpark food’s not what it used to be. Campbell says it’s good that there are so many choices. And being the top park for vegetarians is important, he says.

“You can go over to the taco stand and get a vegetarian beef taco — vegetarian beef, guacamole, salsa, black beans, whatever topping you want. Now you’re having an authentic taco that’s vegetarian,” he says.

“And every time we create a new concept, we take that angle and say, ‘OK, how is a vegetarian going to enjoy this as well?”

After winning the championship title for non-meat fare four consecutive times, the Phillies’ park lost its crown last year. Now it has retaken first place.

At one of the ballpark’s many, many concession stands Amada Armenta, who just moved to Philly from California, as he checks out with a veggie dog in hand.

“I looked it up online and then I asked for directions to this particular stand,” he says.

For some, vegetarian option is not an option

There are also a lot of fans who prefer more traditional fare.

Kristen Keel, who came to the ballpark with some friends, did not consider a veggie dog.

“All-beef hot dogs are among my favorite foods in the universe,” she says. “The all-beef goes so well with beer and I’ve never tried a veggie dog.”

And then there’s Janice and Bob Muller, an outgoing pair of retirees from Delaware.

When they visit the ballpark, they like to sample “everything!” Janice Muller says.

That includes sausage, peppers and onions, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, “especially pulled pork sandwiches!” she says. But vegetarian fare is not on their menu.

“Um, we’re not vegetarian people, so we haven’t tried that,” she says.

Campbell, takes a seat at a table laden with the park’s vegetarian offerings, and the man behind the feast walks up to explain the dishes.

Anthony Campagna describes himself as the “chef de cuisine of Harry the K’s.”

Even a vegan cheese steak

While the crowd cheers nearby, he points to the circle of plates.

“This is our toasted vegetable grinder. This is our eggplant cutlet. Here we have our black bean char-grilled burger,” he says. “And over here we have our classic Caesar salad.”

Campbell points to another plated item on the table. In this town, where allegiances to specific cheese steak empires run deep, there’s a non-meat version at the ballpark.

“Your Campo’s vegan steak. Looks like steak, tastes like steak,” he says. “You know, I don’t solely eat vegetarian food, but I really enjoy vegetarian food.

“I’ve had this, I love it. It’s a special item. It’s something you don’t see at most ballparks,” he says.

Back at a row of concession stands, Jane Murray of Philadelphia makes a beeline to the counter to pick up a veggie dog. She’s sold on the alternative ballpark fare.

“I only eat chicken and I love the veggie hot dogs here and … is it true that this is the most vegetarian friendly stadium in the country?” she says. “We’ve been wandering around looking for the veggie dogs.”

Murray says she considered the black bean burger, but decided that hot dogs — even veggie dogs — are more appropriate for the ballpark.

[View the story “The Phillies season so far…” on Storify]

The Phillies season so far…

I’m looking for an adjective (that I can use on air) to describes the ‪#phillies‬ season. Suggestions?

Storified by NewsWorks · Tue, Jul 10 2012 13:17:31

I’m looking for an adjective (that I can use on air) to describes the #phillies season. Suggestions?Elizabeth Fiedler@EAFiedler rebarbativeDan McQuade@soundofphilly @eafiedler sub-optimalThe Citizens Bankers@soundofphilly @eafiedler "Pathetic" for the performance, "Blithering" for the front office’s response to their play.’Sup Future Employer@EAFiedler sad but true isn’t an adjective per se…MM Partners, LLC@screwball77 @eafiedler Since I couldn’t come up with a smartassed answer, I’ll give you a sincere one: "apathetic"soundofphilly@EAFiedler You asked for an adjective! I wanted to give you my best one. "Bad" would also work.Dan McQuade@EAFiedler I don’t think such an adjective exists. Boring, sad, excruciatingly frustrating, 1961-ish (they lost 23 in a row that year)Patrick Dillon@EAFiedler on air? That’s the tough part. Convalescent.Brendon Shank@EAFiedler again not exactly an adjective, but how about "oy"?MM Partners, LLC

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