— The rivalry between San Francisco
and North Texas extends beyond the field: the ChaCha Bowl vs. the Big Dog, the Crazy Crab'z Sandwich vs. the Ranger Tater and other north-south arguments for ballpark food supremacy.
"They even have sushi," gushed Nancy Khalas, of San Francisco, during the first game of the World Series on Wednesday. "Not many other ballparks can claim that."
Indeed, fans of the Rangers defend their basic, sushi-free ballpark fare as unpretentious and distinctly Texas, where bigger is often considered better. The Arlington ballpark has the $9 Big Dog, a half-pound wiener loaded with chili, cheese and grilled onions.
"I don't know if sushi would go over well with Texas Rangers
fans," said Andrew McDonald, 33, of Frisco. "Your average Rangers fan is not going to carry a plate of sushi to his seat for fear of being beat up."
But San Francisco foodies embrace haute cuisine and the Giants with equal passion, saying that eating well during a baseball game is part of the experience.
"This is San Francisco," said Shanelle Mishlof, 27, as she squeezed lemon over her fish and chips Wednesday night. "Food is more than an afterthought, even at baseball games."
That's why the lines are always long at Orlando's Caribbean Barbecue, named after Giants great Orlando Cepeda
Cepeda was born in Puerto Rico and carried the nicknames Baby Bull and Cha Cha during his 16-year Major League Baseball
career that began with the Giants' first year in San Francisco in 1958. He hit a home run during San Francisco's first opening day.
Now fans pay $10 for a ChaCha Bowl that includes chicken, rice, beans and pineapple salsa.
"It's a San Francisco tradition," said Gary Mesko, 30, of San Francisco. "You have to get a ChaCha Bowl at the game."
Giants fans also line up to spend $15 on Dungeness crab salad spread between grilled sourdough toast coated in garlic butter.
"It's the best sandwich in any ballpark anywhere, any sport," Donnie Beckwith said.
The 35-year-old San Franciscan said he and his wife failed to recreate the sandwich at home, even after an excursion to Whole Foods grocery store for the ingredients.
"There's something special about it at the ballpark," Beckwith said.
Such talk makes many Rangers fans roll their eyes. The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington menu leans more heavily toward Tex-Mex dishes such as nine-layer dip, quesadillas, soft tacos and nachos or anything with barbecue sauce, including the chopped beef-brisket sandwich.
There's also the Ranger Tater, a fully loaded baked potato with brisket on it.
"It's a ballpark," sniffed Mary Freeman
, 18. "It should stick to traditional stuff. It's not a gourmet restaurant. It's baseball."
Not everyone agrees with Freeman, though.
"The nachos are gross. The chips are greasy, and the cheese is canned," complained Shelly Champagne, 39, of Keller, who admitted that she at least liked the hamburgers.
In comparison, few in San Francisco complain about the quality and selection, which also include Irish Nachos (with cheddar cheese), a wide assortment of micro brews and the Stinking Rose's 40-clove Garlic Chicken Sandwich. Instead, some Giants fans mutter about high prices: Kneft spent a little more than $20 on nachos and two beers.
Despite their differences, both parks have a common ground: garlic fries, which first became popular in San Francisco and are considered the ballpark's signature dish by many.
"They're awesome," said Kurt Schmitt, 39, of Sunnyvale, Calif., who buys an order at every game. "But you can't eat them all. I've been known to share an order with two friends."
Given their competition, Texas is now making an effort to up its game. Last week, the food service company at Arlington added three carving stations where guests can have their brisket sliced right before their eyes by white-uniformed chefs.
The Rangers also recently added a bayou cooking cart, which features red beans and rice and gumbo. An Asian Wok station with its noodles or fried rice and choice of chicken and shrimp has been around for about a week.
But for all their many differences, most fans in both locales agreed that hot dogs are de riguer at all baseball games.
"Sometimes, you just want a hot dog at a ball game," said Troy Loro, of San Francisco. "In fact, I always want a hot-dog here."