ATLANTA — When the boys — and girls — of summer pack the ballpark, most are there because of their love of baseball. But fans of the Atlanta Braves are equally cheering for the food.
SunTrust Park, and its adjacent retail-restaurant-residential neighborhood, The Battery, blow peanuts and Cracker Jacks out of the ballpark. Instead, folks are grazing through the concession stands in search of chicken and waffles; The Blooper — an explosive sandwich of chicken tenders, a hamburger patty and smoked sausage topped with melted cheese and jalapenos on a bun; the Best Steak Sandwich in the World; and even wine sold by the bottle.
If you go
The Braves offer 15,000 seats priced at $20 or under (36 percent of SunTrust Park’s capacity) and several ticket packages that can be found at www.braves.com/specials. Here’s a sampling:
› Braves Value Pack starts as low as $15 and includes a game ticket, snack and beverage.
› Seating areas are Terrace Reserved, Home Run Porch or Grandstand Infield
› Snack choices are jumbo all-beef hot dogs, nachos classic or jumbo soft pretzels.
› Beverage choices are 22-ounce fountain soda, 20-ounce bottled water or 12-ounce beer. Also, wine is now being served by the bottle for $60 per bottle.
› Coca-Cola Corner seats start at $16 per ticket and include a 20-ounce bottle of a Coca-Cola product.
“Fan friendliness is something we’re focused in on,” says Derek Schiller, president and CEO of the Atlanta Braves.
The 60-acre campus that comprises SunTrust Park and The Battery was once a huge piece of forested land north of downtown Atlanta. It was prime for development, with the only problem being three major gas lines that ran beneath, keeping many developers at bay. But all that changed when the gas lines were rerouted, the ballpark built and the Braves moved in. For the team's third season there, the menu has been expanded to accommodate hungry fans.
Inside the Park
One thing that's been carried over from the Braves' many years at Turner Field before moving to SunTrust Park in 2016 is its outside-food policy — fans can bring in their own food to eat. Make sure whatever you bring fits in a clear, gallon-size container. People are also allowed to bring in a sealed plastic bottle of water. One bag of food and one bottle of water per ticket are permitted. All bags of food will be subject to additional inspection at security gates.
But if you want to try some of the food served on-site, you're in for a treat.
Delaware North, the food and beverage partner of the Braves, has introduced a slew of new items to its roster of concession menus. And with 20 concession stands plus dozens of food carts roaming the park, you'll eat your way through inning after inning.
Here's a taste of some of the new foods you can enjoy at the ballpark.
» The Best Darn Steak Sandwich in Baseball. Fork-tender herbed beef tenderloin is served on a fresh brioche roll with balsamic glazed arugula, roasted portobello mushroom, crunchy fried onions and a deliciously creamy blue cheese sauce. This is what Derek Schiller, president and CEO of the Braves, considers his favorite of all foods in the ballpark.
» A Chicken and Waffle Boat. Is it breakfast or dinner? You decide.
» The Blooper Burger. This massive sandwich is stacked with four cheeseburger patties, a footlong hot dog and chicken tenders, then topped with jalapeno peppers and gooey melted cheese. Just see if you can finish it!
Serving the thousands of hungry fans throughout the season may seem like a daunting task, but Matthew Kimbrough, Delaware North's manager of operations at the SunTrust Club and the Delta Sky 360 Club at SunTrust Park, says the ballpark was built to meet the challenge.
"We have a great team of chefs," he says. "We're not just hot dogs and hamburgers. We have state-of-the-art equipment to handle it."
This year, two restaurants once accessible only through The Battery complex can now be entered through the ballpark.
» H&F Burger chose The Battery and SunTrust Park for its second Atlanta location and is thought by many to have the best burger in town. The Original Burger is two beef patties topped with cheese, grilled onions and pickles. Have it with a side of shaved crisp onions or fries. The veggie burger, topped with kale slaw and garlic aioli, is another option that's unlike any you may have had. On game day, both entrances are open; the rest of the time, gain entrance through the doors facing The Battery.
» Terrapin Taproom has a rotating list of brews served with Fox Bros.' famous barbecue. If you've never had their smoked turkey, you don't know what you're missing. It has a well-deserved following. And now, if you get hungry for 'cue, you don't have to leave the ballpark. You can grab a table from the new ballpark entrance or sit at its new outside bar.
At The Battery
The Battery makes for an evolution in ballparks, says Schiller. Other baseball franchises have come to SunTrust Park and The Battery to see what they can do to their ballparks to attract more people, he says.
There are about 15 restaurants in The Battery, but the number changes frequently as more restaurateurs and chefs are welcomed into the fold. Currently, these include:
» Garden & Gun. You may know the magazine, but now there's a restaurant that mirrors the Southern cuisines, lifestyle and hospitality the magazine showcases. The menu features such Southern favorites as oyster po'boy sliders, pimento cheese sandwiches, BLTs and crab cakes, along with berry shortcakes and Mississippi Mud Pie, darlin'. And where else will you find Mint Juleps on the cocktail menu?
» The Tavern. Even if you can't make it to the game, you can still celebrate the team at this Braves-themed restaurant located a stone's throw from the Chop House gates. The menu is what you might expect — burgers, wings, nachos, chicken tenders and the like. The restaurant is part of Live! At The Battery, a sports bar, gaming parlor and social lounge all in one.
» C. Ellet's. Every neighborhood needs a good steakhouse, and C. Ellet's steps in at The Battery, offering dry-aged steaks; steaks cut to order and sold by the ounce; seafood, raw and chilled; weekend brunch and a special menu on game days. It's the kind of menu you'd expect from award-winning chef Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene, Holeman and Finch). C. Ellet's is open daily for dinner and brunch on the weekends.
» Cru Food & Wine Bar. With more than 40 wines by the glass and 14 interesting wine flights, Cru Food & Wine Bar is an oenophile's dream come true. If you're not sure, ask your server and pair your vintage with an artisan cheese board, stone-fired pizza or cheese fondue, among other offerings. Happy hour happens 3-6 p.m. weekdays. On Mondays, buy a bottle of wine, and the pizza's on the house.
» Punch Bowl Social. This restaurant/game venue is part of a chain that's caught onto the trend of offering good food and great games — bowling, table tennis, billiards and classic arcade games in a 25,000-square-foot building located in the heart of The Battery.
» El Felix. This south-of-the-border restaurant serves Tex-Mex favorites with a twist — fried catfish tacos with avocado crema; fajitas with chili-spiced gulf shrimp stuffed with Monterey Jack and jalapeno peppers then wrapped in bacon. Chefs Ford Fry and Kevin Maxey have done an excellent job with foods that reflect their Texas roots.
In addition, you'll find a Haagen-Dazs ice cream parlor; Antico Napoletana pizza place; The Yard House with great food and classic rock; and wait for it a Wahlburgers.
And there's more to come. Burn, a new concept from Rocky Patel, will be opening soon, offering a mix of top-of-the-line cigars and spirits, along with live music.
Schiller sums it up: "We've reinvented the way a sports experience occurs," he says. "There's a lot going on before people enter the gate and a lot going on inside the gated area."
Email Anne Braly at email@example.com.