Raley Field has officially upped the ante on what Sacramento residents and visitors consider ‘ballpark’ food. Home of MiLB The Sacramento River Cats, Raley Field took it upon themselves to entirely re-vamp a baseball tradition… the concession stand.
They completely gutted six food-alcove interiors on the concourse, encouraged the respective owners to design & build their own, themed “storefronts” and then invited the media in to see & sample the fruit of their collective labors.
The result? Fetching Deliciousness.
The first ‘storefront’ on our tour–guided by Executive Chef Tim Benham & River Cats president Jeff Savage–was at The Coop & Kennel Pub, complete with dark-stained wood, Kelly-green walls, beer on tap and a branded-oak-barrel sign. Their proffered sample loquaciously named “Irish Nachos”, a crisp pile of thick-cut potato slices drizzled in creamy cheese sauce and sprinkled with fresh scallions and a heady, beefy mixture commonly found in Shepard’s Pie.
Next stop: Cadillac Diner–looking a dive straight out of the fifties–with glinting, rounded chrome, burgers frying, polished counters and records on the wall, proudly offering burgers, hot dogs and old-fashioned shakes.
Their special was the Clint Eastwood, an all-beef hot dog adorned with Red Hot Sauce and cool blue cheese, an impressive step-up from the simple ball-park dog.
Oso’s Mexican Cantina was next in line, with a menu apparently in high-demand among Raley Field attendees, according to team president Jeff Savage. The weathered tin awning, fire-red accent lamps and exposed brick decorations lent the storefront a pleasant Cal-exico charm.
The Pollo Asado Taco: marinated chicken on a pillow-y flour tortilla heaped high with tangy, medium salsa, Pasilla cheese and fresh, chopped cilantro. It was indeed a light, zesty alternative to burgers and hot-dogs.
The Golden Spike Chophouse offered a barbacoa burger on fresh buns, a spicy take on a ballpark standby.
When I asked Chef Tim Benham–whether the storefronts offered kosher and gluten-free options–he was quick to assure me that The Golden Spike was working on just such a menu item, to be available by season opener. Face aglow, he reeled off wonderful-sounding ingredients: a falafel burger topped with feta cheese & a fresh cucumber-yogurt sauce. He wasn’t the only one enthralled by the description; I may have to return to Raley Field, just to sample it.
At each storefront, employees in themed costume stood greeting all visitors with cheerful faces and shouted welcomes.
The tour wouldn’t be complete without a nod to its namesake, the Raley’s storefront, which sported weathered planking, a colorful veggie mural, platters of sandwiches and a ruby-red sign.
The employees within hawked mouth-watering made-to-order “specialty” sandwiches, like smoked turkey with Peppadew cheese & chipotle sauce on focaccia bread.
Almost stuffed to capacity, we headed to the last stop, for dessert. The Sweet Spot offers ice-cream and other cool desserts, perfect for the warm spring days and the hot summer afternoons of Sacramento. Decked out in robins’-egg blue and white trim, the smiling folks in straw hats stood behind a phalanx of old-fashioned root beer floats. The tall glasses harbored a Tahitian Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream so thick that spoons were provided instead of straws.
A brief, subdued hush fell over the corporate reps and collective media as we set aside our cameras and partook. All the gourmet choices notwithstanding, the favorite snacks of American baseball were still present all round, in unapologetic variety, including peanuts and cracker-jack:
Not only did Raley Field listen to its numerous visitors but it allowed visible and tangible transformation of ballpark cuisine to take place upon its echoing concourse.
Now, saying “take me out to the ballgame” in Sacramento means one can have a gourmet ‘foodie’ experience while sitting under the shady brim of a baseball cap, cheering at the top of one’s lungs at The River Cats’ season-opening game tomorrow night.
Article by L. R. Styles. Photographer: Steven Styles/Belator Media