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April 06, 2022

Ranking the best new food available at Citizens Bank Park this season

Phillies MLB
Citizens-Bank-Park-Food-2022 Shamus Clancy/for PhillyVoice

The burnt end cheesesteak, a new item available at Bull's BBQ this season at Citizens Bank Park.

In a world where chefs, restaurants and eateries are trying to create the most Instagram-friendly dishes possible, it's no surprise that sports stadiums are going beyond the traditional hot dog and burger fare. The Phillies are all about this. 

With a packed house expected on Opening Day for the first time since 2019, the Phillies unveiled some of their new speciality food items at the Pass & Stow joint at Citizens Bank Park earlier in the week. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for this mini taste test. I can think of no thing I'm more qualified to discuss than ballpark food. After trying all the new eats (and a drink!) that were offered, here's my ranking of them:

9. Colbie's Southern Kissed Chicken Sandwich

Colbie's, co-founded by Phillies legend Ryan Howard, has locations in Mount Holly, NJ and Newark, DE. I'm not hating them and certainly mean no disrespect to The Big Piece, but, hey, one of these spots had to come in last place. What hurts their stock a bit for me is that the spicy chicken sandwich market has been oversaturated and companies, both small-scale shops and national food chains, are getting creative here. 

I tried the "Nashville Hot" and "The Big Piece" options. Not that I have the strongest taste buds known to man or anything, but I was hoping for a bit more kick from the hot sandwich. I liked the added bacon option on "The Big Piece," but the Hawaiian buns on both were a little lacking to me. Tasted a bit like a fast food bun. Whatever. Ryan Howard hit a million dingers and was the 2008 NLCS MVP. He can do as he pleases. 

8. Blistered Carrots

I give the Phillies props for offering a vegan and vegetarian friendly option that would typically be hard to come by at a sporting event. I love chickpeas. Find me at a halal cart once per week grabbing a falafel gyro. This dish was okay. It's good for a quick bite at the ballpark. It's not going to be as good of a dish as you'll find at a little spot in the city, but if your diet calls for it, you could do a lot worse than munching on this.

7. Manco & Manco Pizza

This was the most controversial food option that was showcased on Tuesday. There were a LOT of replies to my tweet after sampling it. Let me dive into my thoughts.

I am not someone who has a history with Manco & Manco. I had never tried it previously. I've never gone to Ocean City. My parents didn't have a shore place when I was growing up. In the event that I did hit the shore with friends or other family, I usually ended up in Wildwood, an unsurprising turn of events for someone from South Philly. By the time I was older and looking to "go out" when down the shore, I didn't want to hang out in a dry town and would opt for Wildwood, Avalon or Sea Isle. 

There's no nostalgic factor at play for me with them. If that's true of you, I totally get it. I have cheesesteak places that I adore that are objectively not close to the best steaks in the city. I love them because of the memories they bring about hitting there after an Eagles game or at 3 a.m. after a night hanging out on Passyunk Avenue. Nothing tastes sweeter than nostalgia. 

I tried a slice of pizza from the ballpark. It was only a little warmer than room temperature. It wasn't fresh. It was fine, just as almost every pizza place is fine from Connecticut down to Philly and South Jersey. I'm sure it's a bit of watered down version and doesn't hit the same way as it might be grabbing a piping-hot slice straight from the oven on the boardwalk after several hours spent on the beach. I can only evaluate that once slice though and it was lacking given all the praise I've heard showered upon Manco & Manco over the years. 

6. PB&J Burger

I know people might initially think, "Ew," here, but hear me out. I tried a PB&J burger for the first time a couple of years back from Lucky's Last Chance, which has some of the best burgers in the city. If I was going to try one, I might as well do it from a top-tier burger spot. I loved it! It was a great mix of sweet and savory.

This one? Not at that level, but pretty good! The jalapeño addition is what really made it. It canceled out the peanut butter a bit so that the PB wasn't too overwhelming. This is how to do a sweet-and-spicy combo.

My issue? I just don't like this for a ballpark. I know this will be at CBP because it's a hip, speciality item that's made to be posted on IG stories, but I just can't see myself eating this in the summer at a Phils game. I don't want to wash down some peanut butter with a Leinenkugel's or a Blime in the hostile and humid Philly summer heat. If I'm at a brewery then, yeah, sure, this would be a nice dish. I don't want it at CBP though. 

This was the last food sample I tried and I had already eaten too much. I was so stuffed, so it was bit much to go down, but I did it in the name of hard-hitting journalism to bring you all the food takes you desperately need. It reminded me a bit of drinking around the world at EPCOT. The last country I got to was Mexico. I loved Mexican food and booze. I was just so tired and overwhelmed at that point that it was struggle to put down a single Mexican lager just to say I hit all the spots. This kind of felt like that. 

5. Colbie's Spoon Pie

Colbie's got this one right (see pic above with the chicken sandwiches). Refreshing, not too filling it, good portion size. Perhaps you can get this for your kid this summer instead of a traditional ice cream cone to change things up a bit. This is a spin on a ballpark dessert done right.

4. KLYR Rum

The Phillies have partnered with Pennsylvania-based distillery KLYR Rum (pronounced "clear"). It's a silver rum that's promoted as gluten-free and sugar-free. A rum and Coke was a go-to move for me back in the day. Rum is my preferred summer liquor. Most rums are definitely sugar-filled in comparison to some vodkas and tequilas, so this is a relatively "healthier" (I can't really call alcohol healthy) option. 

The two cocktail samples given were a Sea Breeze (grapefruit based) and a Bay Breeze (pineapple based). I'm not a grapefruit guy. It's a little too bitter for me. I love me some pineapple though. The sample Bay Breeze cocktail went down easy (as did the second sample I had...).

If you want to support a local liquor, KLYR is a good move. 

3. Federal Donuts

You know the deal. They're not new, but still great. The "hot and fresh" FedNuts options aren't as good as their "fancy" limited-edition donuts, but these are a worthy treat at CBP. 

2. Pass & Stow Sausage Sandwich

This sandwich is only available at Pass & Stow, the bar-restaurant that operates where McFadden's formerly resided. I went there for the first time last year. High-quality food. Good drinks. Phenomenal atmosphere. They have great imagery that pays tribute to the Phillies' total history complete with an old-school flipping board. 

If you're going to Pass & Stow before going into the game, this is must-try sandwich. Philadelphia is no stranger to great sausage sandwiches, but what differentiates this one from the rest of the pack is that they  use ground sausage, which makes it feel a tad bit more like a cheesesteak. The mild provolone brought a little tang in the best way possible. Seeded rolls are the GOAT sandwich rolls too. Big fan!

1. Burnt End Cheesesteak 

Yo.

This isn't just a great cheesesteak for a ballpark. This is a great cheesesteak period. Burnt ends are a BBQ staple for me, so it's fitting this is available at Bull's BBQ. Bull's has continuously been one of the most popular eateries at Citizens Bank Park since its inception. This is the best item they've ever had, even better than their pulled pork sandwiches. They took a big swing with the melted gouda cheese and they rocked this bad boy off the brick wall beyond centerfield. 

I loved it. I wish I was eating it right now. 


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