Like its Pennsylvania neighbor to the east, Pittsburgh’s gem offers some of the best high quality regional concessions in baseball, while not offering the variety seen in other ballparks. The food selection seems to have been downsized a bit in recent years, but it appears they are gearing it back up a notch with the recent team success.
Other than the usual suspects, a decent selection of BBQ (provided by Manny’s) and sandwiches is available. Other than gyros, a number of hoagies are offered, including beef, turkey, and fish. You’ll note that there is an unusual amount of specialty hamburgers, including the Bucco, Phili, Swiss, and Bacon Burger. Just4U is the healthy stand of note, serving wraps, salads, smoothies, and a number of gluten free items. Mexican options are non-existent.
The mediocre selection here is a problem, but I’ve read that they scale back even further when the crowds are small. Remember everything you read on the website menu (or at the particular game I attended) isn’t always offered.
It goes to show you really can’t compartmentalize small crowds as a singular defect, as parts of the entire ballpark can shut down. In 2013, things are beginning to change though.
They recently added Nakama, an asian concept serving a nice array of sushi and other Asian foods. Sashimi and Nigiri, complemented with the usual array of sushi rolls and the like, are now served. Your choice of steak, chicken, and shrimp Hibachi or Udon Noodles are also provided. Egg Rolls and other sides round out the selection.
While the variety has traditionally been sub par, the unique regional specialties really stand out. First be sure to check out “Pop Plaza,” named after Stargell. Pop-A-Dukes (Gyros, salads). Primanti Brother Sandwiches, and Quaker Steak and Lube headline the “Smorgasburgh” (taste of the city). Primanti Brother’s cheesesteak is one of the best speciality foods in baseball, while Quaker Steak and Lube offers some over the top chicken wing options. Rita’s Italian ice, soups, and green tea are allegedly available as well. The beer selection is fairly wide as well, led by the Iron City Beer.
One of the more famous “signature foods” in baseball is the Primanti Brother’s cheese steak, a steel city innovation. It might be the most filling thing I have ever eaten at a ballpark. Roast beef, Cole slaw, cheese, and French fries fill out this hardy offering on a French roll.
PNC Park’s Hall of Fame restaurant provides an upscale experience for all ticket holders. Originally designed as a members only club, its décor and atmosphere evokes a premium restaurant, while housing plagues of Pirate greats. While outdoor seating would have been nice, it displays a view of the field.
In the right field corner, the Pirates recently opened the Bowtie Bar, a U shaped bar and lounge area serving food and a wide array of beverages in a formerly unoccupied area. But because of the small footprint, the Pirates don’t really provide many other sit down areas throughout the ballpark.
Despite being perhaps the most egalitarian ballpark in the majors, how does PNC still score well in this category? Not innovation. Not quantity. But quality and attention to detail.
Despite having a closed concourse, PNC Park’s mezzanine club level is one of the best in baseball, not only for its luxury and amenities, but also its historical memorabilia and detailed accents. I would say the club seats here are some of the best seats in baseball, not only because of the aforementioned features, but also the view.
The Pittsburgh Baseball Club features an enclosed concourse and three main lounges with an upscale atmosphere. All have an outstanding collection of historical pictures or other displays. They integrate historical references in every nook and cranny of the club, including the walls of the concourse, the concessions, and even the condiment stands. Retro jerseys, gloves, hats, bats, balls, and whatever you can think of are all presented in a tasteful manner. Even the Asian Wok stand has memorabilia from Japanese baseball history. A lounge of note is Club 3000, an obvious reference to Clemente, which honors all players who have reached 3000 hits.
The various authentic decors don’t invoke the generic “country club” atmosphere found in other ballpark club levels, while still being among the most luxurious. Amenities include billiards and arcade games, also a rarity. Another one of my favorite features is the various “patios” that open up the concourse to the playing field and provide outside seating. This does an excellent job in mitigating the effects of the closed concourse.
Decked out with a fireplace and multiple leather couches, the ultra premium Lexus Club behind home plate is just as nice as some of the newer ones today. I was actually able to sneak into it, but I’ll get to that later! The Pirates recently built a hybrid club/suite experience on the suite level, known as Club Cambria.
Despite not having a museum or park area to honor team history, the Pirates do a great job of recognizing the past.
While it should have been more expansive, the Hall of Fame restaurant features plaques of Pirate greats. The most impressive area is the Highmark Legacy Square, which is an interactive exhibit that honors the history of the Negro Leagues and various greats from the Grays and the Crawfords. As many have said, no city is more synonymous with black baseball than Pittsburgh. Not only does the square feature numerous bronze statues, but there are also interactive video systems informing fans on each player’s background and stats. There’s even a movie theatre.
On the concourses, there are various subtle accents, such as the occasional decade banners. The statues in and outside of PNC are some of the more impressive in baseball. Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner (main entrance), and Roberto Clemente (in front of the bridge) adorn the exterior. A display of Ralph Kiner’s hands with a bat is in left field and they are planning on adding one of Maz.
Despite all this, it’s really the aforementioned memorabilia on the club levels that take the cake, even if they aren’t accessible to most. And party suites are named in honor of World Series teams.
The Pirates are below the curve when it comes to providing kids and other fans with entertainment activities, which is particularly unfortunate considering the Pirates are playing.
The “Kids Play Land” along the boardwalk is a tiny playground that looks like it’s designed for kids under 5. It also features a model field. They sometimes have activities and entertainment outside the ballpark, but I couldn’t find it. No speed pitch, nothing of that nature inside the ballpark. You’re here to watch the game (and the gorgeous views, they might rationalize).
Again, there are some arcade games on the club level.
Local Scene: 4/5
Exterior Design: 8/10
Interior Aesthetics: 14.5/15
Panoramic View: 5/5
Seat Comfort: 3/5
Signature Food: 3/3
Premium Services: 4/5
Historic References: 4.5/5
Ballpark Policies: 2/2