Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lobel's and More

Baseball is back! In addition to the game itself, one thing we look forward to every year is seeing what the new offerings are at the ballparks, since someday we're still hoping to visit them all. Here in New York, we've generally found the food at Citi Field to be better than Yankee Stadium, but during our visit to Yankee Stadium this week, we hoped we would find the gap narrowing. Our first stop was Lobel's, a meat shop from the Upper East Side that also operates some outposts at the ballpark.

Being a meat shop, Lobel's is known mostly for their steak. A got a prime steak sandwich at Lobel's years ago, the first time we went to the stadium after their opening. He didn't really love it, especially not considering the very, very, very long wait for it. He definitely didn't feel like it was worth the wait, and considering the usual length of the line when we passed by, we never went back. We decided to give them another try this time, as the line was much shorter than it used to be and they had some new menu items.

One of those new items was the classic meatloaf burger ($12.50) which came with cheddar cheese and crispy onions on a toasted brioche bun. I love meatloaf and we were really looking forward to this burger. It was the primary reason we were going there at all. The first thing we noticed was that, compared to the other food we got, it wasn't that warm. All the sandwiches seemed pre-made, but the others were at least warm to the touch. Second, once we opened it, the meatloaf patty seemed kind of small and dwarfed by the bun. At least there was a good amount of fried onions on top.

The burger itself was okay. Outside of the texture being different from a regular patty, nothing about the flavor screamed meatloaf. It didn't have a ton of flavor. The onions were fine, but even though it looked like a lot of onions, there wasn't really that much onion flavor. The bun was kind of soft and not really toasted like the description said. We were kind of disappointed as we were expecting it to be so much better.

The other sandwich that interested us from Lobel's was the hickory molasses glazed grilled chicken sandwich ($8), also on a toasted brioche bun, which the menu said came with "leaf lettuce, vine ripened tomatoes, Bermuda onion." While these sandwiches were warm, the bun didn't seem toasted like they said. However, we forgot all about the bun when we saw that the sandwich had no lettuce, tomato, or onion whatsoever. It wasn't a fluke either, as we had ordered two of these and neither of them had any toppings. We hadn't ordered them without toppings and they had come out quickly and pre-made just like the meatloaf burger, so either they forgot to add the toppings before giving it to us or the menu was just plain wrong.

The sauce on the chicken wasn't bad, but it was a very one-note chicken sandwich and kind of ordinary. Lettuce, tomato, and onion probably would have improved it, but it still wouldn't have stood out as special compared to other chicken sandwiches elsewhere. Sadly, another disappointment.

Another member of our group got the steak and potato fries ($15) from Lobel's, and after trying those, I had buyer's remorse. First, this dish was made fresh and was the only thing we really waited for. It came with steak, fried russet potatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese, and green onions in homemade gravy with sour cream. The gravy had a great rich flavor, the steak was tender, the flavors of the whole combination together worked, and the potatoes were nice and crisp. From this dish, it seemed like the Lobel's outpost was capable of putting together a good dish with lots of flavor, so what went wrong on the other two things we got? Such buyer's remorse.

We were still decently hungry after splitting our two sandwiches, so after a few Yankees runs, we went off in search of more food. We ended up getting our usual garlic fries ($9.50), which were fine, except despite the strong garlic aroma and some visible garlic, they didn't have as much garlic flavor as we thought they would. Garlic fries should be really garlicky!

We also got some Bronx Bomber hot dogs ($8 each), which A noted was his favorite thing that night. Sure, ballpark hot dogs are good, but when compared with the specialty food, they really shouldn't have been the best thing we ate that night. (The steak and potato fries were probably better, but that was just a taste, and A opted not to try it.)

A was pretty unsatisfied with most of the stuff we got at Yankee Stadium so he got some ice cream to try and improve the night. The ice cream was his second favorite thing that night.

While we do acknowledge that we didn't try some of the other specialty places since they are easily visited from home and for cheaper - places like Hale and Hearty, Bareburger, and Mighty Quinn's (which we had just visited the day before) - it seems safe to say that Citi Field still has the edge when it comes to ballpark food in New York. Maybe someday that'll change, but this visit didn't convince us.

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