Checking out the grub at Citizens Bank Park.
Tues., April 20, 7:12 p.m. Citizens Bank Park
Eight minutes ago the Phillies began a three-game series against the 2003 World Series champs. The Marlins routinely dominate the Phils.
Will Padilla be able to keep a lid on things? Can comeback boy Pat Burrell overcome Willis' power pitches and strange-looking delivery?
Good questions all. But at the moment there's a far more pressing one: How long till I get my cheesesteak?
Looks like a while.
Seventy-four people wait in line outside Tony Luke's. Sixty-six wait at Geno's. There's no delay for the first floor of Harry the K's, but the upper-deck queue is 24 deep with no sign of moving.
Welcome to Ashburn Alley, the open-air hometown food court overlooking the new ballpark's outfield.
High over this concrete concession strip looms a big Liberty Bell that lights up when Thome hits a homey. Below is a mass of humanity best described as part Wildwood boardwalk in summer, part Chickie & Pete's when Monday Night Football 's up on the big screens.
Here in the Alley, college students on a mission hustle around gripping cups of beer, kids spoon ice cream from plastic bowls shaped like red caps, and women wearing pink "P" hats roll their eyes, cross their arms, shift standing positions and wait their turn at the condiment dispensers.
Fewer than a dozen customers wait for the Bull's BBQ--Greg Luzinski's Virginia-style comfort-food stand--even though this is the only concession where a real live four-time All Star signs tickets.
Maybe the line's so short because the Bull is better known for his tape-measure home runs than his culinary savvy. But that could change. Damn if the thick-armed hunk of man we all remember as "the Bull" can't make some meaty-ass barbecue: turkey, pork or beef.
The Bull's sandwich platter is cheap: $7.25 buys a big plastic plateful of tender black-peppered baked beans, crunchy supermarket-style slaw and a foil-wrapped soft kaiser containing some of the subtly tangiest, barely smokiest, not-too-sweet, just-spicy-enough best pulled pork north of Virginia.
His hot pepper-coated ribs--four for $8--are decent, hearty, spicy and not quite fall-off-the-bone tender, but fun to gnaw on.
H&J McNally's estimable "Schmitter"--a close cousin to the cheesesteak--can be bought from Fairmount Fries on the 100 level. Named after the beer (not Mike Schmidt), the Schmitter is identical to the one served in the Chestnut Hill pub of its birth. A cross-section of the round Conshohocken Bakery roll reveals thinly sliced steak, sauteed chopped onions, melted white American cheese, sliced tomatoes, that famously fried salami and a special dressing that's the Hill's version of Special Sauce. Cost: $6.75, a mere $1.50 price hike.
Next: Tony Luke's. A half-hour in line secures a steak, roast pork, curly fries and a Coke. Total cost: $21.25.
The sandwiches, though plain, are every bit as good as the original. The pork's thin slices are filled with garlic and Italian herbs. Sharp provolone affixes the meat to one side of the excellently uncrusty Liscio's roll. The steak is juicy, though a tad oily tasting. The South Philly recipe calls for little American cheese. (A follow-up call to Tony Luke Jr. reveals each sandwich is made to order and--surprise, surprise--broccoli rabe is available on the pork, and fried onions on the cheesesteak, though the menu board doesn't say it. Now you know.)
The curly fries are curly fries, overseasoned ringlets that'll forever be inferior to their straight relatives. Still, the cashier gets us a fresh batch instead of just grabbing what was sitting out.