Pastime pits: Baseball stadiums serving up quality barbecue this season

Rangers and Astros fans can now pass on the reheated stuff for freshly-smoked rib, brisket and more.

By Casey CheekApril 11, 2023 1:35 pm, , ,

Well, the baseball season is upon us.

Peanuts and Cracker Jack were long the old staples before being replaced by a paper bowl filled with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos slathered in nacho cheese and chili and given some silly name like “the Fast Break.”

But lovers of true Texas food need not fear when visiting the ballpark, or at least one of them.  Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor of Texas Monthly, joined the Standard to talk about the sort of fare fans can find at baseball stadiums this season. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Daniel, I gather you’re a Rangers fan?

Daniel Vaughn: Yeah, that’s right. I live here in Dallas and, yeah, the Rangers are the team, that’s for sure.

Got a new stadium, I know. New food to go in it?

Yeah, the new stadium opened up in 2020 – about the worst time to debut a new stadium. But, yeah, I got actually a preview before this season, and I’ve made another game as well. And I’ve eaten some really great barbecue on both visits.

You know, when I think of barbecue and baseball, I think of those greasy foil-wrapped sandwiches. You know, they’ve been a staple at ballparks, too. Can you get the real deal? I mean, stuff that would pass your own impeccable scrutiny? 

I mean, there is a smoker on the ground floor at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Hurtado Barbecue had it brought in. It’s an all wood-fired J&R smoker made in Mesquite, Texas. And they do all their barbecue right there fresh on the smoker. And so this isn’t some bagged-up reheated barbecue product. This is the real deal.

Can I ask you about something? Because this goes to a larger question of reheating barbecue. I presume you would say where they make this is a big deal. How much of a deal is it? How much can it have an effect on the barbecue that you eat? 

Well, I mean, the reheated barbecue you had in most stadiums is probably just best served on a sandwich or maybe over top of a potato. They actually have whole briskets here that they can slice right there in front of you as you order. They’ve got big beef ribs that are fresh out of the butcher paper. So it does make a big difference depending on the barbecue experience you want to have. I mean, certainly if you want that just sloppy chopped beef, then you can get the same thing pretty much anywhere. But here, I mean, smelling that smoke as the paper gets unwrapped and seeing them slice that juicy beef rib right before your eyes is something that you don’t normally get at a baseball field.

Can I ask you about Hurtado Barbecue? I know that, like, if you go on DoorDash or some of these delivery services, there are a lot of ghost kitchens. These are places where they might be a Chili’s or, you know, some other restaurant that also cooks other food and kind of scrambles the menu a bit and they don’t actually have a brick and mortar place. What about Hurtado’s? Or do they exist outside of Globe Life Stadium?

Oh yeah. Hurtado’s original location is in Arlington, just down the road. They’re in our Texas Monthly Top 50 barbeque list. So we certainly love them. They’re also in Fort Worth, as well. So they they can be found more than just during baseball season.

So you North Texans already knew about this stuff. It was those of us who frequent Lockhart and such that perhaps were not in the loop.

And the strangest thing is, though, you know, you think baseball prices but if you go to the original Hurtado in Arlington, you’re actually probably going to pay more for the beef rib than you would the stadium. It’s 45 bucks for a whole beef rib, which, you know, seems like a steep price. But when you see that like a pound and a half or 2 lbs. of meat on the bone, then you understand that it’s worth it.

Well, is this a one off for Rangers fans or what do you think? You think this signals the dawn of a new day for folks who love barbecue with their baseball?

Yeah, I really think this is actually part of a trend. You’ve got Killen’s Barbecue down in Houston who does the same thing for the Houston Astros and the Houston Texans. Up in Austin there for the soccer team you have Valentina’s, who does barbecue, served right out of the stadium there. So yeah, I think you know Texans really want great barbecue whether they’re at the ball field or not.

So what do you do? You wait till the seventh inning stretch or you get it before the game starts? 

Well, on opening day, he had about a 30 minute line before the game started and he said he actually served people 30 minutes after the game ended. Now, that might have something to do with how quick baseball games are getting through this year, you know, with the rule change. The two games I went to were just 2 hours and 15 minutes. So yeah, maybe not enough time for everybody to get their barbecue in.

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