On Thursday I headed down to Nationals Park for the annual Nats Sneak Peak (#NatsSneakPeek19) event profiling what’s new at Nationals Park – community initiatives, giveaways, new merchandise, and most importantly, all of the new food options available at the Park beginning in 2019.
First up: The newest ways Nats Park will stay green. Nationals Park has been one of the most environmentally baseball stadiums since opening in 2008, and that will continue in 2019. First, Solar panels have been installed on both parking garages at the park to account for 10% of the park’s electricity needs. Next, starting this season ALL food-service wear (plates, cups, cutlery, straws, trays and more) is compostable. The Nats are also in compliance with the new DC law of having no single use straws, which means paper straws and open lids like at Starbucks. (The paper straw in one of the drinks had been in for an hour and was still perfectly usable and intact.)
The newest additions to the fan experience: What was once only for Season Plan Holders, Red Carpet Rewards is now available for all fans. It’s basically a point system that you earn using the MLB.com Ballpark App to redeem for tickets, memorabilia, suites experiences and more. There’s a variety of ways to earn points, but basically the more games you go to the more you’ll get, in addition to voting for who will win the president’s race, scoreboard codes and more. Speaking of the Ballpark app, this is the main way the Nats want you to buy, scan and share your tickets. Nats plan holders can access their eCash from here and even add tickets t their Apple wallet for easy access. There will also be scavenger hunts and augmented reality activities (updated each month) throughout the year on the app, perfect for families.
Most importantly: FOOD OPTIONS
First off, let me preface this by saying I attend between 15-25 Nats games a year and a season plan holder, I’m more than happy to try new things at the park, but hesitant because hey, it’s expensive and to be honest I don’t want to overpay and not like what I get. So my tip to everyone that scoffs at buying food in the park is this: you can bring food into the park! I thought this was common knowledge, but some people are shocked when I tell them that. Now, onto what’s new.
The first options I tried were from Hank’s Oyster Bar: Oyster Po’boy, Fish and Chips and Fried Shrimp. First off, seafood in the 95 degree and humid DC heat doesn’t exactly call out to me as a good option, but then again, what DOES sound good in that heat? Starting with the Po’boy, this thing was fresh including the perfect amount of bread/oyster ratio, would definitely order this in the park again. Fried Shrimp were exactly what you want, no complaints there. The Fish and Chips are another solid option and a good change up for the Chicken Tenders and fries fan in your life. Sidenote, these may be the best fries in the ballpark, they’re thinner and crispier than the normal options. Next up was Bao-Bao – House steamed buns with Korean inspired fillings. I had the Hoison Pork and Char Siu Chicken buns, and both were amazing – perfectly spiced with cabbage slaw to cool things down a bit, not to mention the steamed buns were perfectly light and fluffy. DC Empanadas was offering up Buffalo Chicken and Spinach & Feta options. These were one of my favorite options of the day, simply because in addition to tasting great, they’re easy to handle! The less messy, the better in the middle of a summer day in DC.
Saving the best 2 for last: Medium Rare and CHIKO. A DC staple with 4 locations, Medium Rare knows what it does right, and only does that. If you’ve never been, the prix fixe menu is: Bread, Salad, Steak and Fries. And that’s what you essentially get with their new stand at Section 136, the Medium Rare Steak Sandwich. Steak, fries and their secret sauce on a roll perfectly executed and I now have a new go to when I head to the park.
The winner of the day was CHIKO, a combo of Chinese and Korean flavors from chefs Danny Lee and Scott Drewno. I tried the Bulgogi Hoagie, Korean Wings and Chilled Peanut Noodle Salad. Korean barbecue is booming right now and it was awesome to see a twist on bulgogi on a hoagie. Think Philly cheesteak-like texture of meat combined with a soy or chili sauce based marinade – super flavorful and perfect for a sandwich that CHIKO has made. The Korean Wings were better than any wing I’ve had at the park with a perfect glaze and crunch. The chilled salad is good, it doesn’t appeal to me but know that veggie option is always good to have on hand.
Finally, 2 more things that will make getting food way easier at Nats Park have been added. The first is Caviar, an app that will let you order food and pick it up from the Caviar stand at Section 106. The food options will rotate throughout the year with restaurants not available elsewhere in the Park, including Tiger Fork, Mason Dixie, Duke’s Grocery and Toki Underground. Next, maybe my favorite thing I heard all day: Square terminals for concession hawkers on the concourse and running up and down sections! If you’re like me, you usually don’t have cash on hand unless you make an ATM trip before heading to your seats and can’t buy anything from hawkers since they’re cash only – not so anymore. Square terminals let you pay with a card, smart phone or apple watch and the transaction takes just 2 seconds and has the option to tip. Over half of the hawkers around the ballpark will have them on hand.
All in all, Nationals Park has always had plenty of options from food , drink and payment options and this year seems to be no different. What are you looking forward to most, Nats fans?