07/15/2003 6:25 PM ET
Sampling the fare at U.S. Cellular
CHICAGO -- This is a sad story with a happy ending.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
I am, unofficially, MLB.com's barbecue beat writer. This comes partly from being based in St. Louis, home of the simply superior Super Smokers. And it comes partly from, well, a genuine fondness for the fine art of barbecue. So when discussions got started as to pregame features, and someone mentioned that there was a famous BBQ stand out in the bleachers, it was a no-brainer.
I set out to find this institution. Bertucci Boys ribs are, by many accounts, among the finest in the nation. This would be one of the finest assignments in memory.
Off I went. Down from the press box, out to the concourse and straight out toward left field. Past Dippin Dots -- it's the Ice Cream of the Future, you know. Past La Russa's Pizza, which features sausage pizza sold under the name of a famous animal-rights activist. And out into the sun. Warm summer sun. I passed the beer stands. Delicious beer.
And all the way around. And there was no barbecue stand. I asked a guest relations representative where I might find the barbecue stand. He looked at a small, laminated cheat card with the locations of various food options, and there was no "barbecue" listed. This was getting scary. I came back to the press box, got online and searched for "Bertucci Boys." And that's when I found out the sad truth -- there is no more Bertucci Boys stand in the bleachers at U.S. Cellular Field. But you could still get the ribs at the Bullpen Sports Bar in right field.
There was only one problem. The Bullpen Sports Bar was closed for a private party.
This is where the story starts turning happy. I was free to sample the many fine options at U.S. Cell. And I knew I had to start with a Polish sausage. There are, unofficially, more sausage stands than seats at this fine ballpark. And all of them are named for someone famous in White Sox history. I finally settled on "Early Wynn's Dogs and Polish," where a pleasant person named Tammy served me a Polish for $3.75.
I had to trek five stands down to "Jim Landis' Brats and Sausage" in order to find spicy mustard, however. The sacrifices we make for our jobs.
As for the sausage, it was fine. Not very spicy, but tasty and worth eating. I was not satisfied, however. And that's when the only food stand in the entire ballpark that isn't named for someone caught my eye.
"Corn Off the Cob," it said, and I was intrigued. I watched as one of the two attendants poked a dowel into the corn's cob then sliced the kernels off in four quick strokes. Impressive stuff.
Doris, the other attendant, asked me what I wanted on my corn. I went with butter, salt and lime, but also asked Doris what was most popular.
"Everything," she told me.
"Everything. Once they try it, they like it."
Well, you don't have to tell me twice. And it was ... oh, it was tasty. Butter, salt, mayonnaise, cheese, lime and chili powder. And corn. Seven great tastes that somehow, improbably, tasted great together. And all for a scant $2.50! A bargain at twice the price, I say.
I chatted with Doris some more. She gave me a brief tutorial on slicing the corn off the cob, something she has been doing at Sox games for seven years.
"Sometimes there's a line," she said, "and you have to do it fast."
I would wait in line for Corn Off the Cob.
Now, dessert. Mmmm ... dessert. And the only food item anywhere near as ubiquitous as sausage at this stadium is the Mexican delicacy known as churros. You have likely seen churros before -- fried dough straws dipped in cinnamon sugar. Here, however, they also put flavoring in them.
I was served a strawberry churro by Leticia, who told me that there is no one flavor that is most popular. Some days it's chocolate, some days it's plain, some days it's Bavarian Kreme. But I had strawberry in mind, and Leticia said it was her favorite, as well. So strawberry it was.
And, it must be admitted, the churro was disappointing. The cinnamon sugar, just fine. The strawberry filling, just fine. The dough, just not what I was hoping.
But that was a small price to pay. (Three bucks, actually, was the small price to pay). I still had the happy memory of Corn Off the Cob and the sense of well-being that comes with a Polish sausage at the ballpark.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.