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Ballpark fare that's in a league of its own

Posted 8:11am on Wednesday, Oct. 03, 2012

If you just want a hot dog and a beer at the Ballpark, that's perfectly fine, but you're not really stepping up your game for the playoffs.

The Rangers vast menu of concessions includes everything from elote to chopped brisket, Nolan Ryan-beef burgers and the now-legendary "Boomstick," a 2-foot-long hot dog with chili-cheese and grilled onions for $26. You can wash all that down with boutique brews or a brain-freeze-inducing margarita.

We love the super-sized menu, but it can be a bit overwhelming -- like an obstacle course where only the strongest stomachs survive. Which is why earlier this summer we embarked on a little adventure called The Hunger Games: Ballpark Edition. We gave six players $50 each to hunt down the best ballpark food and beverage experience. You can read the full Hunger Games saga by clicking here, but we wanted to remind you of five of our favorites from that eating orgy:

Elote ($4.50): The Mexican corn dish is a unique alternative to most stadium fare. When we tried it, all of the ingredients were fresh and piping hot -- just-steamed corn, sour cream, butter and lime juice; and the concoction was made-to-order. Add a dash of hot sauce and you have a great mixture of sweet, spicy, tangy and creamy. The portion is substantial, and one of the best values at the park. On the ground level, at a cart on the third-base side.

Sausage sundae ($12.50): It sounds both delicious and repulsive -- did they really combine ice cream and sausage?!? -- but the execution of the sausage sundae is a towering home run. A cracked, black, smoked sausage is split and arranged on the outer edges of a paper boat, providing a spicy frame for the buttery mound of mashed potatoes. A generous slather of chopped brisket on top of the taters adds a sweet and tender contrast. The brisket by itself was terrific; combined with the potatoes and a slice of peppery sausage, it was ballpark nirvana. Available on the ground level on the third-base side.

Garlic fries ($8.50): Warm, thin and just salty enough to pose a heart-attack risk, these longtime standouts are available at various spots in the stadium. And with all that garlic, there's a good chance the seat next to you will be vacated by the third inning.

Food Network hot dog cart ($9.25): This season the Food Network Cart is offering the channel's hot dog creations -- including 12 toppings for your dawg. We chose a jumbo topped with mustard, baked beans and corn chips ($9.25), and it was delightful -- slightly messy, but it tasted like a summer picnic.

Nolan Ryan Black and Blue Burger: The hall of famer's black and blue burger ($11.50) comes with Cajun spices and blue cheese cooked into the patty, all of which gives it plenty of oomph. The burger also comes with bacon and grilled onions, all served on a buttery sourdough bun toasted to near-perfection.

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