Citi Field: Baseball Gameday Guide
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That isolation means that most orange and blue faithful form a rowdy crowd piling straight from cars and trains into the stadium on Mets game days.
For that reason, before Citi Field opened in 2009, the team promised to turn their stadium into Major League Baseball's culinary mecca.
They succeeded. Concessions may be the one area where the Mets are legitimately superior to their crosstown rivals (the perennial championship-contender Yankees). The Citi Field food scene features several stands operated by famed restaurateur Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, including an outpost of homegrown burger chain Shake Shack.
Compared to Shea Stadium, the Mets' dilapidated old home (now a parking lot), Citi Field is a work of art. The exterior is a tribute to Ebbets Field, and a footbridge over the bullpen in center field is modeled after New York's Hell Gate railroad bridge.
The Mets have long used bridges as a team symbol. It's both an ode to the more than 2,000 bridges in New York City and an aspiration to be the team that links wayward Dodgers and Giants fans (teams that left New York half a decade before the Mets were founded, in 1962).
The stadium's eateries and McFadden's, its massive sports bar, open three hours prior to games, and a decent crowd casually mills around throughout that time.
Despite the wealth of Citi Field food options, many of the Mets faithful get off the subway either one stop before or one stop after the stadium, braving a walk back to Citi Field of between half a mile and a mile, to hit up several fan-favorite pregame spots.
Where to Get a beer
McFadden's Ballpark NY| McFadden's is practically behind home plate. It doesn't have the most expansive beer list you'll find in New York, but a bottle of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA will get you ready for the game in a very good way.
Where to Go With a Group
Roosevelt Sports Bar | This joint has a classic sports bar vibe and caters to a mix of locals and incoming fans, who know that when the Mets pregame show lights up the bar's nine television screens there's just enough time to polish off their pitchers of beer before heading to the stadium.
Best Neighborhood Spot
Xi'an Famous Foods | Park your car in Flushing or take the subway one stop past Citi Field to visit the original location of this popular New York mini-chain, which boasts the flavors of Xi'an, a city in northwest China. Foodies line up for the hand-ripped noodles ($6 to $8) and wise Mets fans grab the spicy cumin lamb burgers ($3.50) to go.
Where to Get Rowdy
Pine Restaurant & Sports Bar | If you're turned off by the fact that this eatery and bar is located on the ground floor of a Holiday Inn, then you might miss the chance to schmooze with former ballplayers. Mets memorabilia clogs the walls and Mets fans clog the tables and bar, waiting for inexpensive brews and large portions of Italian favorites, while hoping to see Dwight "Doc" Gooden, Darryl Strawberry or other Met legends known to frequent this joint.
Where to Have a Sit-down Meal
Rincon Criollo | A neighborhood institution dating back nearly 40 years, this Cuban spot is famous for its ropa vieja ($13.95), served in a diner-like space with photos of customers and celebrities, including the Food Network's Guy Fieri, lining the walls.
Best Spot to Grab Food on the Go
Tortas Neza | Serving from the window of Juan Bar—directly off the Junction Blvd. subway station, just a few stops before Citi Field—Tortas doles out enormous Mexican sandwiches prepared in a flash. Splurge for the Tortas Pumas layered with fried sausage, chicken cutlet, chorizo omelet, cheese, ham, refried beans, jalapenos, lettuce, tomato and avocado. It's a mound of food large enough to satisfy at least two people.
Can You Tailgate at Citi Field?
Fans can tailgate, but alcohol and open flames aren't allowed, and the festivities can't seep beyond the proximity of one parking spot.
Head over to Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, home of the tennis U.S. Open, where there are several options for killing time before the game starts, including: "pitch and putt" golf at the Flushing Meadows Golf Course; the New York Hall of Science, a particularly kid-friendly experience; or the 11-acre Queens Zoo.
INSIDE CITI FIELD
The ballpark might have quite the aura of legacy as its subway rival, but when it comes to food and drinks, Citi Field gets the win over Yankee Stadium.
Where to Sit
A stadium's upper-level seats aren't typically the recommendation for best view or best chance for a souvenir, but the "Pepsi Porch" Sections 301, 302 and 303 hang over the right field wall in prime home run territory, and seats often cost as little as $20.
Citi Field Seating Chart
El Verano Taco | As eaters form long lines for Shake Shack (more on that below), the hungry and wise head to this stand selling surprisingly high-quality tacos ($9 for three), including: chicken mole, carnitas, vegetarian, chile-marinated skirt steak and barbacoa (located field level, behind center field). Best Local Vendor
Shake Shack | Technically, Shake Shack (field level, behind center field) is no longer a truly local vendor. Its outposts can be found as far afield as Dubai, but these burger slingers are still near and dear to New Yorkers' hearts. A decade ago, when there was just one location hawking its signature thick, creamy custards and shakes, New Yorkers regularly waited in line for well over an hour to get a meal. A line nearly as long usually forms prior to the first pitch, as many fans make a run for burgers (starting at $7) and milkshakes ($6.25) before going to their seats.
Empire Craft Beer Stand | Few major league ballparks offer a selection of brews as unique as this one. This stand features beer from New York's burgeoning industry of craft breweries, including outfits as small as the Bronx Brewery, Queens Brewery and Southern Tier Brewing (near the left field gate exit and in the promenade food court).
Where to Eat Healthy
Daruma of Tokyo | The prospect of uncooked fish at a ballpark might make you squeamish, but this stand doles out an array of surprisingly decent sushi standards, like the $9.50 California roll.
Best Stadium Bar
Big Apple Brews | Don't go here if you have trouble making tough decisions. You'll have to choose between dozens of domestic and imported beers. The bar, which is in the upper deck's center field promenade, is surrounded by more than a dozen standing tables, where you can hang out and keep up with the game on an enormous television.
Best Place For a Sit-down Meal
Rao's | Once and always for the elite crowd, the famous Rao's is available to fans with access to Caesar's Club. Hearty Italian fare on offer includes a Chicken Cacciatore Hero, a Southern Italian Sausage and Pepper Hero, Signature Lemon Chicken, and Rao's Pasta Bar.
Other Things to See While You're Here
Citi Field's main entrance brings fans through the Jackie Robinson rotunda, a palatial tribute to the legendary Brooklyn Dodger who in 1947 ended baseball's era of racial segregation. The rotunda is modeled after a similar structure at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field, where a teenage Fred Wilpon, the Mets' owner (then a Dodger fan), watched Robinson play.
Adjacent to the rotunda is the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, a 3,700-square-foot space featuring interactive exhibits and artifacts from great moments in team history, including displays of equipment and jerseys from the Mets' 1986 World Series champion season.
Citi Field Tours
METS GAMES ON A BUDGET
Stadium food isn't cheap, but there are budget bites in neighborhood spots around the stadium.
Where to Get a Cheap Beer Before the Game
McFadden's | This is where Mets fans come to celebrate (and, just as frequently, to commiserate) before and after games. Attached to Citi Field, this cavernous McFadden's chain outpost nonetheless has the feel of a neighborhood sports pub. Show up three hours before the game for regular happy hour deals and open bar specials.
Best Cheap Bites Around Citi Field
Tortilleria Nixtamal | Walk into Queens' Corona neighborhood, where this cozy eatery churns out $3.50 tamales made with fresh masa, and $2.53 tacos.
Best Cheap Mets Tickets
This year, the Mets are using a "dynamic pricing" model for ticket sales, which means prices fluctuate based on demand. Go to a game against a team that doesn't draw huge crowds (i.e. the Marlins or Reds) and you can score upper-deck seats for as little as $7.
CITI FIELD WITH KIDS
Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr
Most of the kid-centric activities at Mets games are inside Citi Field; there aren't a lot of family-friendly things to do around the stadium.
Where to Go Before the Game With Kids
Head to Fan Fest on the Concourse Level in center field; here kids can meet Mr. Met, the team mascot. There's also a batting cage, dunk tank and video games.
Best Food For Kids
Fan Fest's Mr. Met's Kids Kitchen features a $7 Kids Meal, which includes a Nathan's hot dog, popcorn, juice box and prize.
Where to Get Autographs
Before the game, head to Section 110 for your best chance at scoring autographs from Mets players; try Section 126 for the opposing team. After the game, try the Mets parking lot, near the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Fans line up outside this spot and often catch players as they're leaving the stadium.
Need a Break During the Game?
Let the kids blow off steam on a stroll along the promenade—you can circle the entire stadium without losing sight of the ballgame.
Where to Buy Gear For Kids
Mr. Met's Dugout Shop, located near the Fan Fest area, features apparel, toys, candy and, most importantly, regular appearances by Mr. Met himself.
AFTER THE GAME
Eric Kilby via Flickr
With so few options nearby, as the ninth inning draws to a close the majority of fans engage in a mad rush to get to the train station and parking lot. The best way to avoid a nightmare traffic jam or being stuffed into a crowded subway car is to get comfy on a barstool and wait out the crush of people rushing to get home.
Where to Keep the Party Going
McFadden's | Hang out at McFadden's for a bit after the game. The bar stays open and full of fans well into the early morning, long after all other concessions in the stadium have closed.
Where to Get a Post-game Meal
Kanes Diner | A 24-hour eatery that's a 20-minute walk from Citi Field, this diner has everything needed to celebrate a big win or mourn a tough loss.
What Else is There to Do Nearby?
Very little. Most fans planning to extend their night take the train back into Manhattan.
When not couch-managing New York sports teams, Graham Kates spends his time writing about food and travel, and as an investigative reporter covering the criminal justice system. His work can be found in various national publications, but his pictures of food and rants about the infield shift can be found on Twitter.