We’re a few months into the Rainiers season, and I’ve diligently been eating my way through the stadium’s restaurant stands on your behalf.
As this paper’s hired belly, I know a thing or three about dining at Cheney Stadium.
What I know for sure is that I miss the heck out of The Red Hot, the hot dog stand that operated for three seasons at Cheney. It was known for its gourmet dogs and great craft beer taps. Diners can still eat the sausages and drink the beer at the Sixth Avenue Tacoma location, of course, but it’s gone from the stadium.
I do have some good hot dog news. One of the Red Hot’s signature dogs, The Best Dog in Baseball, is still available throughout the stadium, and it’s among the safest bets for dining at Cheney.
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There’s also a new brat stand on the Left Field Terrace worth a visit.
Here’s a tour of what to eat — and what you can skip — when dining around Cheney for the Rainiers and Sounders 2.
7 SEAS BASECAMP
7 Seas, the brewery with locations in Gig Harbor and downtown Tacoma, took over the Basecamp stand this year. Ivar’s cooks up the menu of soups, salads and mac and cheese. 7 Seas offers brews by the glass or can.
Hot tip: On first glance, Basecamp appears to only be open to Summit Club members but go to the side cash register to order if you’re not a Summit Club member.
Find it: At the base of the stairs on the way to the party deck.
On the menu: Salmon chowder, tomato-basil soup or crab bisque by the bowl ($9) or in a bread bowl ($12). Chinese chicken or chicken Caesar salads in a plastic container ($10) or in a bread bowl ($12). Seafood mac and cheese ($10).
The three things you should eat:
Crab bisque: No discernible crab pieces, but plenty of crab flavor in the Ivar’s crab bisque served in a big, toasted sourdough bowl.
Seafood mac and cheese: Like a seafood cocktail accidentally bumped into a creamy bowl of mac and cheese. Tasty, but also slightly incongruous in both flavor and texture. Big, bouncy elbow pasta and a Velveeta-ish cheese sauce came topped with a generous plop of chilled Dungeness crab and fresh shrimp.
Chicken salad: Dynamite ginger-sesame dressing with lots of fresh, crunchy lettuce, cabbage and sliced chicken breast. Who knew you could do the healthy eating thing at Cheney?
R HAUS BRATS
This new brat stand takes over the space formerly occupied by the gyro slinger, It’s Greek To Me. R Haus is speedy and its tasty brats come from Ferndale’s Hempler’s Foods. Having these brats available almost makes up for the exit of The Red Hot. Almost.
Find it: On the Left Field Terrace by the party deck.
Menu: Double smoked or cheddar-jalapeno bratwursts with a choice of toppings, $10 each.
Topping choices: Grilled peppers, onions, cream cheese, sauerkraut, jalapenos, plus serve-yourself mustards and Sriracha mayo.
The verdict: A-plus. The double smoked brat tasted extra smoky, loaded with good, porky flavor that was made even tastier with a smear of cream cheese, grilled onions, peppers, sauerkraut and squiggles of beer and yellow mustards.
This new stand serves hibachi-style meat, veggie and rice bowls. It took over the former home of The Red Hot.
Find it: Near the first-base gate.
Menu: A choice of chicken, beef or tofu rice bowls layered with sauteed vegetables and a choice of fried or white rice, $11 each.
Sauces: Teriyaki, plain soy sauce, hoison, Sriracha, boom-boom and roasted sesame. Sauces change occasionally and are serve-yourself.
The verdict: Pass unless you’re a vegetarian.
The chicken and steak bowls tasted consistently dry on two visits. The steak tasted boiled on one and then dry and chewy on another. The chicken bowl tasted equally dry and flavorless.
Pre-cooked food held in steam tables was the culprit. Madisson Pillman, general manager of Ivar’s Concessions at Cheney Stadium, said the staff is refining the recipes and to expect better results.
“We have recently, two games back, switched to cooking our meat differently and cooking in smaller batches to avoid the meat overcooking while hot holding,” she said.
The tofu rice bowl was the winner of the three.
Layered with rice and sauteed zucchini, peppers, carrots and onions, I kicked up the flavor of the cubed tofu with the serve-yourself sauces offered at the counter. Roasted sesame with ginger was tastiest. The boom-boom sauce was just like that orange sauce served at hibachi places, but with a lot more spice.
BEST HOT DOG IN BASEBALL
Find it: Nearly every stand in the stadium, $8.
The verdict: The Red Hot might be gone, but their hot dog lives on. This snappy hotdog was dressed with sauteed onions and a stone-ground beer mustard on a stadium roll. Tasty.
A FEW MORE DINING TIPS
Vegetarians: Find fried cauliflower “wings” on the menu soon at the Fowl Territory stand (can be ordered as an off-menu item if they’re not yet on the menu, though). A mushroom-grain veggie burger is available at the Kidd Valley stand ($8.25).
Sweets: Find raspberry or pineapple sundaes at the Ivar’s stands for $6.
Fish eaters: I found two seafood preparations I liked this year. Clams and chips stayed consistently crispy, even after sitting under a heat lamp ($11, Ivar’s stand). The Ivar’s dog is a fancy fishwich, but built on a stadium roll with coleslaw and tartar, if you want ($8, Ivar’s stand).
Grounders garlic fries: It’s got enough garlic to leave you smelling for a few days. Totally worth the $7 and found at the Ivar’s, Kidd Valley and Fowl Territory stands.
Here’s a quick rundown of the menus at the other restaurant stands.
Ivar’s: Find three-piece cod and chips, chicken strips and chips, clams and chips (all $11), fish tacos ($10), chowder ($6) or hot dogs ($6.50 to $8).
Kidd Valley: Cheeseburger ($8.75), foot-long corn dog ($8.25), hot dogs ($6.50 to $8) and garlic fries ($7).
The Invincibles Pizza: Oversized slices of cheese or pepperoni pizza ($8), queso and chips ($7) or hot dogs ($6.50 to $8).
Fowl Territory: Fried chicken strips and chips ($11), spicy chicken sandwich or boneless chicken wings ($9), garlic fries ($7) and hot dogs ($6.50 to $8).
Flying Taco: Taco plate with rice and beans or grande nachos ($10.50), quesadilla ($9.75), chips and queso and chips ($7).
Bar-B-Q Stand: The barbecue stand on the Left Field Terrace next to the party deck serves beef brisket or pulled pork sandwiches with a side ($12) or pulled pork mac and cheese ($7).