If you're a Baseball Person, walking through the concourse of a stadium and seeing that massive expanse of emerald turf for the first time each year fills your soul with the feeling of potential. For a northerner, baseball invokes the potential for warmer weather ahead; interrelationships of the celestial bodies be damned, the real first day of spring is opening day.
But when I walked into Rangers Ballpark in Arlington earlier this week, and first saw that glowing grass laid out in a soft blanket of green, I sensed a different feeling of potential. The smell of browning meat was in the air, and I sensed potential for acid reflux.
Earlier this month, the Rangers announced several upgrades to the stadium geared at enhancing the fan experience. Vandergriff Plaza brings new concessions to the outfield, the Batter's Eye Club brings new air-conditioned seats that you probably can't afford, and there's new food to eat, too. A press event staged on Monday showcased most of the new offerings. Here are a few dishes that worked better than others.
Mexican Tapas, $12 The Rangers call them tapas, but they should probably be called picadas -- small, handmade rounds of masa topped with black beans, chicken, beef or pork, salsa, cojita and other pretty things. These snacks won't beat the treats you'll find at Mesa in Oak Cliff, but they're not bad. Definitely better than a box of Cracker Jacks. Unless you're seven.
Chopped Brisket Sandwich, $11.50 The brisket offered at the stadium is tender but a little dry, so it's best chopped and topped with a ladleful of sweet barbecue sauce. Sliders with shredded meat are pictured, but you really ought to find the chopped brisket, full-sized version of these sandwiches. Smokehouse 557, a standalone operation in the Vandergriff Plaza, which takes its name from its distance from home plate in feet, features this sandwich. Use your nose and follow the plume of smoke.
Tacos, $9 Stadium officials claim Rangers Ballpark is the only stadium that sells a handmade tortilla taco. They use the same Dr. Seuss-inspired machine you see at many Tex-Mex restaurants to bang out flour tortillas by the thousands. Get yours filled with the chicken tinga over the pork. And grab some butter for that extra tortilla they toss in the basket.
Frito Pie Hot Dog, $9.75 Do I really need to say anything? It's Frito Pie on a hot dog. They use a rustic Texas-style chili reminiscent of loose meat as a topping, and they add processed orange cheese and Fritos. I'm not sure how one should eat the thing. But I'm definitely sure they should.
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Champion Dog, $26 You knew it was going to be included, but you didn't know its lesser-known nickname. While others request the Champion Dog, show you're in the know and order up the "Boomstick": two feet of tube meat processed at Classic Foods in Fort Worth on a custom baked Empire Bakery bun. I watched a guy down one in 19 minutes, bun, processed cheese, a mountain of jalapeños and all. His skin was pink and beaded with perspiration when he finished. Later that evening, as the sun was setting and he tried to enjoy the quiet of his own home, I'm sure he discovered a new kind of potential all his own.