Summer ends with intolerable consequences, such as abandoning sandals and pulling the boat in for the winter. But perhaps the worst is the conclusion of baseball season. Spending long, sunny D.C. afternoons and breezy nights at Nationals Park, while keeping a scorecard from our third-base-line seat (the best spot to see Washington Nationals outfield phenom Bryce Harper) has been pure pleasure. But with the Nats essentially out of this season’s playoff hunt, this September doesn’t quite have the zip to it that 2012 did.
Luckily for fans, though, the food scene at the park has consistently been a hit. People buy standing-room tickets at the stadium just to take in the diverse and delicious dining options. “We look at our business as a restaurant business,” says Catherine Silver, executive director of guest services for the Nationals. “We create a memorable gourmet meal, and you’ll be shocked to find that you’re in a ballpark. Our partner, Levy Restaurants, works with the Kentucky Derby and the U.S. Tennis Association, but Levy started in the restaurant business, not concessions, and they still run restaurants.”
The food is paramount at Nats Park, from the Taste of the Majors concession stand that offers food inspired by the opposing team (think fish tacos for the San Diego Padres) to the Red Porch Restaurant, where any ticket holder can dine on oven-made flatbread pizza and house-smoked meats from a table overlooking center field.
For the season’s last few games — or for next year’s season tickets — consider upgrading to the casual but decadent PNC Diamond Club or the ultimate in luxury, the Lexus President’s Club. Located directly behind home plate, President’s Club seats are actually closer to the batter than the pitcher is. Tickets come with a view of the batting cage and in-seat beer, wine and food service. And there’s serious foodie action happening inside the dining room, too. The executive chef’s buffet rivals D.C.’s best; the four themed tables include a farm-to-fork spread with dishes spotlighting local cheese, meat and produce.
“Both the stadium and Levy are LEED Certified, so sustainability is key for us,” Silver says. The other three tables focus on a revolving theme, from Asian night to a blue crab concept. “The chef switches up the menu for season ticket holders who might eat at the Diamond Club several nights in a row during a series. The servers get to know season pass holders and will prepare custom food for their dietary issues or children. Whatever they want, we will find a way to prepare it.”
In its cherry-walled, chandeliered dining room, the President’s Club also boasts an antipasto bar, housemade gelato and a standalone sweet shop (all included in the $300 or so ticket price, depending on the game). In the mood for concession fare? Hot snack tables with favorites such as nachos and tempura shrimp are set up throughout the game, as is a bar with all-inclusive beer and wine. Not bad for a night at the park watching the Nationals take on division rivals the Atlanta Braves (September 16 through 18) and Miami Marlins (September 19 through 22).
A more casual but still exclusive option, the PNC Diamond Club is only for Diamond seat (sections 119 to 126) season ticket holders. It includes all-inclusive food and beverage and a patio with behind-the-plate views. For individual ticket holders in the Diamond sections, the Diamond Lounge is a step back from the Club, with the same all-inclusive dining plan but a separate tented lounge and patio overlooking the Navy Yard. Both levels come with in-seat service.
Keeping the Nattitude going after the season’s end, the stadium can cater events for all sizes. In addition to weddings in center field and bar mitzvahs in the bullpen, Nats Stadium recently hosted a retreat for all of the Democratic senators and President Obama.
“We served them all three meals here that day, and no one could believe they could get this gourmet food at the ballpark,” Silver adds. “We even did different tables with regional cuisines, a table with Southern food, food from California… The senators were all joking and debating that their home state’s food was the best.”
Photo Courtesy of Nationals.com