Steak sandwiches from Medium Rare
Steak sandwiches from Medium Rare Credit: KELYN SOONG

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When you think of ballpark food, oysters and empanadas probably don’t come to mind. But for the people in charge of concessions at Nationals Park, those two dishes are perfect examples of their mission this season.

“Our fans want variety and they love local,” says Jonathan Stahl, the Nationals’ vice president of ballpark operations and guest experience. “So we tried to figure out a way to best partner with a variety of local restaurants. The restaurant scene in D.C. is just exploding and continues to do so.”

Fans craving seafood can visit two new concessions stands with local connections this season. Hank’s Oyster Bar from chef Jamie Leeds will offer oyster and shrimp po-boys, fish and chips, fish sandwiches, and Old Bay fries in Section 108, and Harris Creek Oyster Co. will serve oysters on the half shell in Section 238 near the Budweiser Terrace. Rappahannock Oyster Campany will also sell oysters at the Harris Creek Oyster Co. location.

Those looking for empanadas can visit DC Empanadas, located in Section 244 near the Bud Light Loft and inside the Budweiser Brew House. Menu options include buffalo chicken and spinach and feta empanadas.

Fried shrimp, fish and chips, and oyster po-boy from Hanks Oyster Bars Oyster Bar Credit: Kelyn Soong

“I think the big focus this year was looking at expanding on a variety, and not only that, but spotting the trend, and then seeing how we can take that into the season,” says Vincent Navarrete, the Nats’ senior executive chef, “[in order] to give a true representation of D.C. and how ballpark food is expanding and developing.”

Navarrete, who joined the team last May, pointed to Hank’s and Leeds as a way the team is partnering with a local talent.

He also suggested that vegetarians will be pleased with Bao Bao, a new stand located near Section 116 offering house-steamed buns, including the ssamjang mushroom bao loaded with roasted mushroom and garnished with red cabbage slaw.

Other notable additions include Cantina 202, a taco stand located in Sections 129, 216, and 314, Medium Rare in a stand near Section 136, and CHIKO, a modern Chinese and Korean cuisine restaurant from chefs Danny Lee and Scott Drewno which was a favorite among the media members on the annual Nats Park media tour Thursday afternoon. Hebrew National will replace Nathan’s as the team’s exclusive hot dog supplier.

Stahl says the team has not increased the price of any food items this year.

Moisin pork housed-steamed buns from Bao Bao Credit: Kelyn Soong

The Nats have also partnered with food delivery app Caviar to provide a rotating cast of restaurants throughout the season in Section 106, with Tiger Fork, the Hong-Kong style Chinese food and dim sum restaurant, as its first. Mason Dixie, Duke’s Grocery, and Toki Underground will also be featured.

As for beverages, the team has introduced the Stella Artois Lookout Bar near Section 205, and a Cocktail Counter beverage stand that will sell frozen and handcrafted cocktails.

Stahl says that beer prices will range from $5 pre-game happy hour selections of 16-ounce Bud and Bud Lights at the Budweiser Terrace from the time gates open until 30 minutes prior to first pitch, to $16, which will “either get you a 24- or 25-ounce can or draft of an import or a local craft.”

Fans complained about the steep beer prices when the team introduced them last year, but Stahl contends that relatively speaking, the prices are similar to those around the city.

“It’s only 63 cents an ounce when you think about it,” he says. “It’s probably comparable to pricing that you’d find in any restaurant or bar in D.C. … It’s really a good value, actually.”