In modern-day America, with NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB packages available alongside almost any TV subscription, many sports fans across the country are now opting to watch the game in their own homes rather than making the trip to the stadium itself. And you know what? We get it.
With today’s technological advances, surround-sound systems, 55” televisions with perfect picture quality, and no lining up for the bathroom, the trade-in is tempting.
However, one of the main things that separate the in-person experience from watching from your couch? The stadium food.
If there’s one thing that can bring sports fans across America together, it’s food.
Whether your game-day indulgence of choice is nachos, crackerjacks, tacos, buffalo wings, or the humble loaded hot dog, the iconic foods associated with sports stadiums are a talking point for fans across the country.
With this in mind, the team at Betting.com have analyzed over 100,000 reviews for all major sports stadiums in the US to create a definitive guide of the venues that offer the best-reviewed food, the worst-reviewed food, and the highest-rated stadium food for each major sports team’s home venue, so that you won’t miss out.
Each review’s text was analyzed using a natural language toolkit and was then analyzed for their sentiment to create a normalized weighted score ranging from 1 (positive) to -1 (negative).
Stadiums with the Best-Reviewed Food
One look at the top twenty highest-rated stadium food venues in America, and it’s easy to see that Major League Baseball is dominating when it comes to catering.
In the top spot sits Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The venue, based in Baltimore, is one of MLB’s newest stadiums. It’s worth noting that this is one of the only ballparks in America that allows you to bring along your own food and non-alcoholic drinks, but once you’ve seen the reviews…you might not want to.
The highest-rated food choices at the Baltimore Orioles’ home base include beef and pork sandwiches from Boog’s BBQ, Harris Creek Oyster & Seafood’s crab cakes, and loaded hot dogs from Stuggy’s, many of which can be ordered from the comfort of your seat, and picked up at the stand once it’s ready.
Following closely behind is American Family Field, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Featuring a fan-shaped convertible roof and multiple front-row viewing options, it’s a familiar favorite among Wisconsin baseball fans. Popular food choices at the venue include brats, nachos, pretzels, and hotdogs, although the venue recently updated its catering options to include Smoke Shack’s BBQ chicken sandwich, Street-za-Pizza’s brick oven pizza, and The Yellich Melt, a grilled cheese sandwich named after the Brewers’ own Christian Yellich.
Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, places third. The stadium itself combines a theme park, ballpark, and baseball museum, giving visitors the full ‘Tigers Experience’. Reviews boast “good food options and a fine and varied beer selection”. From Gyro Nacho’s Greek-inspired nachos to Hot Dogs from Big Cat Court, the choices are vast.
Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners’ home field is T-Mobile Park, the fourth highest-ranking stadium for food in America. One particular dish that has fans continuously coming back for more is the Garlic Fries, with reviews stating, “Wherever you sit, whatever else you like to do at a Mariner’s game: do not miss the garlic fries paired with a local brew.” More recently, the park announced that Marination, the local business behind the popular restaurant ‘Marination Ma Kai’ in Seattle, would be joining the team as a vendor, serving Hawaiian-Korean fusion dishes.
Petco Park also finds itself among the highest-rated venue for foodies. Named the #1 Ballpark in America by USA Today in 2016, it boasts some of the best sight lines in baseball. On TripAdvisor, there are hundreds of comments dedicated to the Taco’s, alone.
More stadiums also included in the Top Ten are the Great American Ball Park, Target Field, Kauffman Stadium, PNC Park, and Riders Field.
Stadiums with the Worst-Reviewed Food
At the other end of the scale, the stadiums with the worst-reviewed food belonged mainly to NFL venues. In the number one spot is FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders. Reportedly, after years of complaints about the food, the venue attempted to introduce better options. However, it seems that whilst an effort was made, the results did not pay off, with visitors claiming the food is “shockingly bad” and “overpriced”, with limited options.
It seems as though the team itself isn’t the only one with a history of identity crises, as the venue began selling ‘own brand’ hot dogs to compete with Ben’s Chili Bowl, which they already had in place as a vendor.
FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland places second, with football fans claiming that, on many occasions, the venue had run out of food by halftime. For the lucky few that did manage to get their hands on food and drink, many reviews reported “cold hot dogs and very over-priced beer”.
Oracle Arena, one of the few basketball stadiums included in the worst-reviewed venues, has been described as a “chaotic venue”, with many visitors unsure of where to buy food from. Many reviews stated that the options were few and too expensive.
Based in Newark, New Jersey, the Prudential Center is the worst NHL stadium for food. Whilst it’s used as a multi-purpose indoor arena, it is also home to the New Jersey Devils. Like many others, the main complaint about the food was that it was “expensive for what you get” and “not worth waiting for”.
Soldier Field follows closely behind. According to an inspection conducted by ESPN which investigated the health inspection records of stadiums used by all major American sports teams, this venue was one of the worst-ranked, with nearly 60% of vendors violating food safety regulations.
More stadiums also included in the Top Ten for the worst-reviewed food options are the RingCentral Coliseum, Target Center, Paul Brown Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, and Barclays Center.
Stadiums That Benefit From Their Food
Knowing that food is a major aspect of enjoying any sports game, we decided to have a look further into the effect good vendors can have on a venue. By taking the sentiment of general stadium reviews and comparing them with food-only reviews, we’ve located the venues benefiting the most from their catering menus.
Whilst Little Caesars Arena is home to the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL, the venue also houses the Detroit Pistons of the NBA. This stadium saw a 0.18 difference in the sentiment of reviews, with comments focusing on the food options available increasing the positive reviews of the stadium overall, including “a very large food court with a great variety”. Named after the multi-national pizza chain and serving Little Caesars Pizza throughout each game – there’s a reason why it’s the third-biggest pizza chain in America, and Pistons fans seem to agree.
Moda Center in Portland follows closely, with a 0.17 difference as the sentiment of food reviews reached 0.82, whilst reviews for the stadium itself reported at 0.65. Home to the Portland Trail Blazers, the venue holds more than 70 concession areas. It even has a signature hot dog, thanks to a partnership with Zenner’s Sausages.
Vivint Arena is in third place, with food reviews receiving a sentiment analysis of 0.80. Patrons described the stadium as “disappointing”, whilst food options were given higher praise with a “TON of great local food options”.
More stadiums present within the Top Ten are Gillette Stadium, FLA Live Arena, Footprint Center, Hard Rock Stadium, Golden 1 Center, FedEx Field, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Stadiums Let Down By Their Food
Whilst some stadiums saw rating improvements thanks to a variety of food options, we also found that some venues’ menus were part of the reason for lower reviews.
Ranked the third-worst stadium for food in America by the results of this study, it may come as no surprise that Oracle Arena is the sports venue affected the most negatively by the sentiment of food reviews. FirstEnergy Stadium follows with a -0.05 difference with items such as frozen pizza and stadium nachos on the menu, whilst Fenway Park rounds out the top three with -0.02.
Although Amway Center, home of The Orlando Magic, was ranked 20th in our list of the worst stadiums for food in America, it has made the Top Ten in regards to being let down by their food.
The rest of the list is made up of Xcel Energy Center, Paul Brown Stadium, PNC Park, Riders Field, Empower Field at Mile High, despite a menu re-vamp in 2019 of bao buns, sandwiches, and fried chicken, and Gila River Arena.
Top NFL Stadiums for Food
Lambeau is said to be one of the oldest continuously used stadiums in the NFL. Home to the Green Bay Packers, the stadium is based in the ‘Dairy State’ of Wisconsin, so it comes as no surprise that you’ll find this component in many of the menu options. Whether you’re looking for poutine or fried cheese curds, this venue has got you covered. It’s ranked the Top NFL Stadium for Food, based on reviews.
Home to the Indianapolis Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium offers a wide variety of food for fans to indulge in on game day. Taking the time to update their menu during the pandemic whilst no visitors to the stadium were present, the venue began the 2021 season with an array of new dishes – and it’s safe to say, it paid off.
The Bank of America Stadium has been updated many times over the 20 years since it was built, with staff always trying to improve the venue experience for Carolina Panthers fans, including the menu options. Namely, the Sabor Latin Street Grill and the La Caseta Pupusa stands.
Lumen Field, M&T Bank Stadium, Heinz Field, Gillette Stadium, Ford Field, State Farm Stadium, and AT&T Stadium all place further down the list.
Top NBA Stadiums for Food
Little Caesars Arena, home of the Detroit Pistons, ranks as the number one NBA stadium for food. It seems that serving Little Caesars Pizza throughout each game is the way to a Piston fan’s heart.
Following closely behind by just 0.01 on the sentiment scale is Paycom Center of Oklahoma City Thunder. Concession stands are vast, serving hot dogs, bratwursts, tacos, nachos, chicken wings, and Philly cheesesteaks with a local pizza place, Mazzio’s, also an option for fans. It even has two restaurants located within the stadium; Budweiser Brew House and Old No. 7.
Rounding out the top three is the FedEx Forum in Memphis, home of the Memphis Grizzlies. Reviews of the stadium rave about the food, one notably stating, “LOVE visiting the FedEx Forum, it is always clean, and the food is excellent!”. Fans report that the venue does a great job of representing both the culture and the cuisine of Memphis, with hot dogs provided by local favorite King Cotton.
The stadiums that follow are Moda Center, United Center, Crypto.com Arena/Staples Center, American Airlines Center, Pepsi Center, Madison Square Garden, and Vivint Arena.
Top MLB Stadiums for Food
Oriole Park at Camden Yards claimed the top spot out of all of the major sports venues in America, so it’s no surprise that we see the home of the Baltimore Orioles take first place among MLB stadiums.
American Family Field follows closely behind, which announced a new grub for fans to dig into in 2022. After teaming up with Black Shoe Hospitality, the restaurant group known for local eateries such as Story Hill BKC and Blue’s Egg, the stadium has extended its menu to include hot dogs with fried cheese curds, Peppered Brandy Burgers, and everything in between.
Although placed third, Comerica Park is nowhere near short of food options. The FOX Sports Detroit 313 BBQ serves a fresh smoked BBQ throughout the game, whilst the Big Cat Court boasts a plethora of options, from Coney Dogs to Elephant Ears.
More stadiums also included in the Top Ten are the T-Mobile Park, Petco Park, Great American Ball Park, Target Field, Kauffman Stadium, PNC Park, and Riders Field.
Top NHL Stadiums for Food
Nationwide Arena placed last in the overall list of stadiums with the best-reviewed food in America; the only NHL arena to place within the Top 20. Situated in Columbus and home to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the food options are plentiful. Skyline Chili is a familiar favorite among fans; however, if you’ve already had your fill of the dish, the pulled pork and brisket are said to be great choices from Arena Smokehouse.
Home of the Buffalo Sabres, the KeyBank Center gives fans the option to order food straight to their seats (although it is slightly more expensive). Beef on Weck is a city classic served regularly throughout the venue, with a ‘fine dining’ feel available at Lexus Club.
Ranked third is Amalie Arena which supplies Bolts fans with various kiosk-type vendors, which visitors claim adds to the “small-town arena” feel. Holy Hog BBQ provides smoked beef brisket and slow-smoked pulled pork sandwiches, whilst Mr. Empanada boasts a menu full of different empanada fillings to appeal to all.
The stadiums that follow are PPG Paints Arena, Honda Center, Bridgestone Arena, Madison Square Garden, Ball Arena, PNC Arena, and T-Mobile Arena.
So, there you have it. A definitive guide to the best and worst-ranked stadium foods and culinary offerings across America; according to the fans, it’s all for.
Featured Image: Detroit News