Here is (I think) a complete list of consumable food products I have ever bought for my own consumption in a sports stadium:
- Nachos (w/Jalapenos, of course)
- Pretzels (soft & hard)
- Peanuts (in-shell)
- Hot dog/bratwurst (no ketchup)
- Chicken nuggets/strips
Those last three items were more out of need (didn’t eat a meal before going to a game) than out of want.
Nobody wants to pay 6.50 for a hot dog with an almost always evaporated bun.
I have ate other items if shared with me. And I can’t rule out ever purchasing a piece of pizza, a licorice rope or a box of popcorn – but those would have been impulsive one-offs; I have since buried the shame.
You can say I like the classics.
But judging by the amount of food options that have crept into stadiums over the past 15 years, I might be in the minority.
Hell, Busch Stadium has an entire guide to food and drink.
Over the weekend, the Post-Dispatch posted the saga – which is sure to become lore in ballpark foodie circles – of the Gioia’s Deli hot salami sandwich.
Long story short?
The 100-year plus old St. Louis institution has been on a bit of a expansion tip the past couple of years.
They opened a downtown location in 2016. They opened a Creve Coeur location this past March. And they entered into an agreement with the Cardinals food vending service – Delaware North – to sell their famous hot salamis in Busch Stadium this baseball season.
After one game – the home opener on Thursday – Gioia’s said the sandwich will no longer be available in the stadium.
The Post-Dispatch has more on Gioia’s (very) brief partnership with Delaware North, including this parting shot from owner Alex Donley:
“It cannot be about the money,” Donley said. “It has to be about who we are. I will lose money to make sure my customers are happy. That value set is not aligned with Busch Stadium.”
Mr. Donley never consulted with me prior to entering into a partnership with Delaware North, but if he did, it probably would have gone something like…
Alex: “Ayo, ATH, thinking about selling some hot salamis at Busch Stadium this year!”
Aaron: “Nice! That’s a boss move, my dude. They going to let you set up a stand or…?”
Alex: “Nah. We’re just going to train the concessions people there and they’ll make it.”
Aaron: “You have been to a baseball game, right?”
No offense to the Delaware North crew at Busch. They’re out there making a living like anyone else. But if you think they’re going to give two shakes about brand quality?
That’s a stretch.
They care about moving the line along, avoiding conversations with drunk people and making sure the drawer is square at the end of the game.
I volunteered one time as a concession stand worker (a story for another time) and I can personally attest that it’s not an easy job nor one that would lend itself to preparing/serving bespoke food offerings easily.
If you had a hot salami Thursday evening at the ballpark, you’ve now got a unique piece of Busch Stadium trivia right in your belly.
But what did the rest of us learn?
That I’ve been right all this time, of course.
Sticking to the classics is is the move.
In fact, I’d go so far to say that companies like Delaware North worked with facilities like Busch Stadium to eliminate all but the basics and then price those basics much more reasonably, it would resonate with the fanbase much deeper than continuing to expand offerings for the sake of buzz or media coverage.
I mean, look at this glorious menu from The Masters:
Or the Bon-Air in Alton:
What do I know, though.
Best of luck to everyone involved with this situation.
The good news is that you can still get a hot salami straight from Gioia’s Deli for about 5 bucks cheaper than Busch Stadium at any of their locations.