shake shack

A Shake Shack at Nationals Park?

In 2012 the Nationals inked a deal with chef Danny Meyer and the Union Square Hospitality Group of Citi Field fame. As a result Nationals Park now offers goodies familiar to Mets fans. The popular Shake Shack and its Shackburger are available, along with the El Verano Taqueria tacos, Box Frites fries, and the Blue Smoke BBQ’s pulled pork sandwich. All of these items are found in the center field area of Citi Field.

This may be why the Five Guys folks were not offered a new contract after three years of their popular burgers and fries being available at the D.C. ballpark. When asked about it, the Five Guys people didn’t know.

I'm a little unhappy about it. Just a little. I don't like this trend.

When I go away on vacation, when it’s time to eat I like to try something I can’t get at home, or at least something that the area is known for. It mildly irritates me when we visit someone on vacation and they either insist on making dinner for us or going to a mediocre chain restaurant. (We recently visited in-laws and had dinner at Golden Corral. Golden Corral! I don’t even like Golden Corral when I’m home!)

This definitely applies at the ballgame, especially nowadays with so many local places represented. I live in the Philly area, so I can get a cheesesteak just about anywhere.

If a food stand in Atlanta is offering a “Philly Cheesesteak”, I’m not going anywhere near it. I’ll have a Georgia Dog. In Milwaukee it’s a brat with Secret Stadium Sauce. In Pittsburgh I’m all over the Primanti Bros. sandwich and an Iron City. I’ll happily drink a Natty Boh just to know I’m in Baltimore. Maybe teams shouldn’t necessarily gear their food items to the ballpark road tripper, but how about to proud locals?

I’ve got no problem with chain restaurants being at more than one ballpark. I’ve seen Subway, Papa John’s, Johnny Rockets and other chains at a few places. Most people couldn’t tell you where these restaurants originated, so it’s not like they’re laying claim to any local flavor.

But Five Guys did start in D.C., so it’s perfectly appropriate to have them available at the D.C. ballpark. Chick-Fil-A got started in the Atlanta area, so it’s fitting for them to have a presence in Turner Field.

I’ve got nothing at all against Union Square or any of their food. I’ve had a Shackburger and it was certainly good, although I don’t know if it was worth the long wait. Foodies rave about the bologna sandwich and chipotle wings at Blue Smoke, the garlic parmesan fries at Box Frites, and the taco combo at El Verano Taqueria. Already all four have become Citi Field institutions.

But that’s just it. Leave them at Citi Field. Nationals Park already has both Ben’s Chili and Hard Times Café, two fantastic local eateries that undoubtedly bring it on game day. They are part of what makes Nationals Park a great ballpark. With Five Guys along for the ride Nationals Park had a great mix of local food items. They will now have to compete with New York taste.

What would a visiting Mets fan’s reaction be to seeing all of his or her own home ballpark items being offered in another city? What fun is that?

Why the Nationals did this is inexplicable to me. There doesn’t seem to be any civic pride. Five Guys didn’t deserve to be booted in favor of a New York chef.

Imagine if the Orioles refused to offer a contract to Boog next year, and instead signed a deal to bring Lobel’s sandwiches, Carl’s Cheesesteaks, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ and other Yankee Stadium eateries to Camden Yards. I’ll bet O’s fans would just love that.

I don’t mean to kick the Nationals too much here. They’re a great organization in many respects. They’re bringing up good ballplayers and they’re spending money trying to win, and their tickets are still mostly affordable. It’s a team I could pull for.

And it’s not like the food is bad. It isn’t. They have a great selection. But to fill up a Washington ballpark with New York concessions is just wrong. At least it seems so to a semi-foodie who takes trips to other cities to see ballgames.

Shake Shack at Citi Field? Sure. I’ll wait in line. It's a great burger. But a Shackburger at Nationals Park? No thanks. I'll take the Ben’s Half Smoke.

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