Petco Park Food Report 2K14 – Bringing Encinitas/Cardiff to Petco Park

With decades of mediocre Padres baseball under my belt, I’ve learned that one thing about going to Padres games that will always excite is new food options.  This year’s club does not disappoint.  The Padres brass invited their chosen bloggers down for a media night and a food tasting experience at another game to test out all of the new options.  For whatever, Wayne Partello and the Padres do not afford Padres Jagoff the respect we duly afford and blew us off.  Whatever.  I still took a nice constitutional around the park on Opening Day to check out and catalog the new options.

To start, I’ve long thought that someone high up in the Padres lives in my hometown of Encinitas, and possibly, to be more specific, in Cardiff.  A couple years ago, they brought in Cardiff’s Bull Taco, and were very close to bringing in Cardiff’s El Pueblo.  This year, the Padres brought in two more Cardiff joints.  Rimel’s Rotisserie sits on top of the Western Metal Supply building.  The big addition is Cardiff’s Seaside Market, an upscale grocery store, that is now sitting in prime real estate behind 1st base on field level. Cardiff is an awesome place, but it’s not really where I would have guessed the Padres concession talent scouts were patrolling.  I swear some Padres exec must live in the hills overlooking the ocean in Cardiff and just wanted to bring their favorite places at home to their workplace.

When I first read about Seaside Market being added to Petco, I thought it was going to just be a small kiosk selling some salads and other assorted health foods that weren’t going to sell that well.  Then I learned they were selling their famous Cardiff Crack tri-tip, which in my head, dramatically upped their Petco presence.  But I had no idea the true scope.  First, the tri-tip from Seaside Market can’t be beaten.  It’s better than overrated Phil’s in that it doesn’t taste like some simpleton just dumped a bottle of liquid smoke on it.  It’s burgundy and pepper marinated, it’s cooked perfectly, and there is no doubt in mind that Seaside Market is putting out the best tri-tip in the area.  It’s also fifteen bucks, so I mean, you’re paying for it.  There was a long line for Cardiff Crack sandwiches the several times I walked by so the price isn’t really scaring people off.

But that’s not all that Seaside Market has to offer.  It’s basically the entire Seaside Market deli counter, brought to a ballpark at double the price.  They’ve got a pasta salad/cold stuff counter, a pizza station, a panini sandwich station, and a hot bar.  The pizzas and sandwiches were $12, the hot bar was $15 for an entree and sides.  So, not cheap.  But I can vouch for the normal Seaside Market location, their sandwiches are excellent.  The hot bar looked OK, but didn’t really look that different from the hot bar at your local Grocery Bargain Outlet.  Not $15 good at least.  

I didn’t take a photo of it but Seaside Market also has a wall of beer.  It’s basically the 22 oz options that the Craft Beers of San Diego stands sell, but out on display better and you can grab one and check out at the register.  It’ll probably be faster to get one of these at Seaside than it will be to wait in line at the field level Craft Beers of San Diego.  
Speaking of the Craft Beers of San Diego stand, I saw one interesting note.  While they are still offering 22 oz beers for $15 (my theory is that increasing draft beer prices to $11.50 this season is an effort to make the 22 oz bombers less of a terrible, maddening deal), they are going to be offering Firkin Fridays.  Maybe they offered this last season.  I generally avoided these stands to hit up draft offerings and non $15 beers.  Firkin Fridays, assuming it’s new, is cool to see.  It said coming soon, so who knows when that will actually be.  I’m still holding out hope that the team can have more rotating offerings, maybe at a permanent stand behind home plate.  Like offer Belching Beaver one weekend, Manzanita the next, etc.  Keep things spicy.  Like in the bedroom.
 While we’re on beer, which is of course the most important topic, the Padres took my advice and dumped the non-San Diego offerings behind home plate.  This means no more middling Kona Brewing and no hippie Widmer.  Instead, they’ve brought in Mission, Stone and Green Flash to sit alongside Karl Strauss and Ballast Point.  It looked to me that the Stone stand was the most popular, and definitely most popular with the bro-dogg population at the park.  It should be noted that Stone Pale Ale was sold at Petco last season, just not at Stone branded stands.  Mission has a huge presence, and has little missions (missions, get it?!) scattered around.  They also sell margaritas.
The Padres teased us in 2012 by putting Lucha Libre in the opening homestand’s program and then cruelly yanked it away.  I’m sure Tom Garfinkel had a hearty guffaw about this.  They finally made good on the tease and put in Lucha Libre on the Toyota Terrace where I think Randy Jones BBQ was last season (1st base side)(Randy Jones BBQ has many more stands around the park, and in more conspicuous locations)(I think the popularity of RJ’s Fro has really raised the Randy Jones awareness in the general public).  They were offering a surprisingly large selection of items to include their California burrito and their surf and turf tacos.  Along with the new Phil’s BBQ locations in the Park at the Park and on field level, I think the Padres are really targeting the conventioneer crowd and out of towners that basically plan all of their travel dining around Man Vs. Food and terrible Guy Fieri.  Now they can just grab food at the park, watch a Padres game, and cheer for neither team.  The California burrito was $11.50, and I like Lucha Libre and all, but I’ll probably still just walk across the street around the 5th inning to grab food at Lolita’s.

I didn’t take pictures of Rimel’s, but I can speak for Rimel’s as I’ve eaten at the one in Cardiff many times.  It’s a place that does rotisserie chicken and grilled fish as well as anyone.  I walked through on the way to my seat, and the Rimel’s Rooftop is not just a food stand, it’s basically an outdoor lounge.  They’ve put in high top tables, counters and outdoor lounge furniture.  So when you really want to sit outside at a baseball game while not watching any of the baseball game, this is the place for you!  Half chickens were going for $15, quarter chickens for $12.  Don’t underestimate their fish tacos, they are outstanding.  I’m also a fan because it is adding to the life on the 300 level where my season tickets are.  It was almost mandatory to go downstairs to field level if you wanted anything decent last year.  This season, with Rimel’s and the new Stone beer garden, there is life in the upper deck! 
Just a few other notes.  The Padres added a Ballast Point bar below Hodad’s.  It used to just be spillover seating for Hodad’s, now it’s a full on bar.  They serve the beers in glass pint glasses, meaning you need to drink it there.  Definitely don’t go here if you plan on getting a beer for your seat.  Do plan on going here if you want good beer and a wider complement of Ballast Point beers.  There is an auxillary Hodad’s location in the Park at the Park.  Hodad’s added some outdoor seating to help with the crush of people.  I think last year, this spot was just used for employee’s to yammer on their breaks.  
There are also some new, more pedestrian food options.  Or maybe I just didn’t notice them last season.  At the top of the escalator from the 10th St. gate there’s a street taco stand selling 3 tacos for $8.50.  I’m going to miss having Kotsay tacos this season.  There were also several Diego Steak and Cheese stands behind home plate.  Apparently San Diego is well known for our signature cheesesteak, which is a normal cheesesteak PLUS QUESO.  Groundbreaking.

All in all, this season brought the biggest changes I’ve seen to Petco Park concessions.  They aren’t cheap, and you still can always just grab Lolita’s and bring it back into the stadium, but for now, it’s nice to be able to take out of town guests to actual San Diego joints and then wash it down with actual San Diego beer, something I’ve long advocated for.  Who knows, with this in-depth, legitimate journalist, maybe the Padres will invite me to next season’s media night where we can talk MS Paint dongs and tacos.

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