If you just want a hot dog and a soda, that's fine, but you're not really a player in the Ballpark edition of the Hunger Games. If you're looking to venture forth and take some culinary risks outside the traditional ballgame fare, you might want to learn from our trial-and-error run.
1. Location, location, location: You can find food on every level of the ballpark, but the biggest variety and most of the good stuff is on Level 1.
2. Know all your options: There are more than 100 locations at the ballpark for food and drink, so you can't be expected to know them all. Get the lay of the land at txbaseball.com/concessions.html, where you'll find links to a menu of all the concessions, as well as a list of their locations. Bookmark the page, and make printouts of the pages. In the meantime, here are some of our favorite hot spots from our outing:
The Centerfield Concessions stands are fancier than the average stand. Options are American Dog (gourmet hot dogs), Smokehouse 557, Ryan's Express 34 and the Taqueria, which features fresh flour tortillas made on site. Also there are Centerfield Alehouse and Beers of Texas.
Centerfield Market Grab n Go. Among all the foods you can get here, the market features healthy items, such as wraps, salads, veggie dogs and gluten-free noshes.
Section 16: You can get the Boomstick here, too, but who cares when they also serve one of our favorite eats: the sausage sundae.
Section 21: You'll find the gordita cart -- which also serves made-to-order elote.
Section 22: Bayou Cooking cart, with Cajun-style food like red beans and rice and our elusive alligator po-boy.
Section 23: The Food Network cart, which this year is serving hot dogs with more than 12 different toppings.
Section 40: There are garlic fries all over the place, but this is the most popular station.
Section 42: Touted as the park's most popular Boomstick location, it serves the $26 hot dog and the combo (the dog and two 1-liter bottles of Coke) for $37.
3. He who hesitates goes hungry: If you find something on the menu you are dying to try, or if you pass the cart on your way to your seats, consider snatching it up right then. We missed the Bayou Cooking cart's alligator po-boys -- twice! Which brings us to Tip #4.
4. Be mindful of the inning -- especially if you want a beer . Other than in the clubs, beer sales stop either 21/2 hours after the game starts, or at the bottom of the eighth inning -- whichever comes first. That's also when a lot of the food carts start shutting down. At that time, we did find a few places still serving grub in the Centerfield Concessions stands, but the options were limited.
5. Have food, will it travel? Maybe you've just purchased something that requires a full table setting and a lobster bib. Or maybe your dish seems like it might be time-sensitive, as in, it may congeal by the time you climb back to your seats on an upper level. If that's the case, you may want to consider taking a timeout, finding a flat-screen near the point of purchase.
6. The Captain Morgan Club is not for claustrophobes. This self-contained bar is open to all ticket holders, but if you want to set sail with the Captain, get there either very early or a couple of innings after the game starts. When we stepped in as the game hit the late innings, it was crazy crowded.