The St. Louis Cardinals; one of the most accomplished franchises in baseball history. Consider this: the Red Bird’s have made nineteen World Series appearances, culminating in eleven giant, bejewled, championship rings. That’s a lot of high stakes play with seriously successful results, second only to the colossus that is the New York Yankees (27..!!) and the city certainly appreciates it. I didn’t notice much mention of the Rams while in town, but the undying show of affection for the Cardinals was impossible to miss.
Of more importance to me, when my dad was a young boy, growing up in the state of California, the St. Louis Cardinals were the farthest west team broadcasting on the radio; thus, they were HIS team. Still are. And therefore, they are sort of mine. I wouldn’t run off and get an STL tattoo or anything, but, I have an affinity for the Cards, purely born of my affinity for my dad, the guy who got me into baseball (albeit, he tried for decades and I only recently succumbed).
Our first glimpse of Busch stadium came as we were driven downtown to our hotel; even in the dead of night it seemed abuzz with quiet anticipation. Busch is only about a three block walk from the Hyatt at the Arch (and the Arch itself) and in a way, it stands as a dominate feature of St. Louis’s small downtown skyline.
By day, we were walking down South 8th, between our morning snack spot, Death in the Afternoon, and our noon lunch spot, Bogarts, which took us directly in front of Busch, where we finally got a glimpse of Ballpark Village, a massive sports and entertainment complex that was completed in 2014. This iteration of Busch itself was just completed in 2006, a beautiful, 46,000 seat, retro style yard.
The 8th st. view of the ballpark boasts a forest of tiny statues, Cardinals heroes past, positioned in front of the dugout store, frozen in action. Of course, the base of each statue is mounted with a plaque detailing the accomplishments of the man above, reading material that could take a good hour to cover should one choose to really dive in.
Back outside, further down 8th street, stands one imposing statue, one giant of a man in contrast to his tiny counterparts, the greatest Cardinal of them all, Stan Musial, standing in effigy with flowers left and right.
About an hour prior to first pitch, we made our way to Angelo’s, a cheesy looking “Italian” restaurant across the street from the hotel, to see a friend of my father in law’s (not working). On the plus side, they allowed, nay encouraged us, to purchase to-go cocktails for our short walk to the yard (still not positive that was legal).
We emerged onto the street, speckles of orange and black floating in an absolute sea of red. Of course, we were heckled, but it was friendly and good-natured, as we found most St. Louisan’s to be.
Adjacent to Busch, Ballpark Village was in full swing, a leviathan complex full of giant bars, loud music, and throngs of fans enjoying a pre-game tipple. We have plenty of warehouse sized bars across from AT&T park in SF, enough for us to know how unappealing the goings on inside are; long bar lines, no seating, marathon bathroom waits, etc. It’s possible the experience inside BV was lineless and full of empty tables, but really, it’s not possible.
We opted instead to enter and explore the park, starting at the Centerfield entrance located across from the Village.
On first sight, a beer guy, from whom we purchased four aluminum bottles full of watery Budweiser, at an adorably exploitative $10.50 per
The bottom floor, or main level, I believe, of Busch is where the serious food action can be found (as a nice group of older Midwestern ladies informed us).
Our first order, the pastrami dog
which sounds like it would be a tasty tube of forcemeat pastrami, but was, in actuality, a hot dog covered in pastrami. Exciting on paper, less so in reality.
Next, from the lower level again, a pulled pork waffle sandwich with tater tots.
First I should mention, the park, and the Midwest in general, is lousy with tater tots. Tots tots tots. It’s just what they do. Anyway, this waffle, as you can see, was really bleachy and floppy and undercooked, with overly sweet pulled pork and bland coleslaw inside. In theory the dish sounds good, but the execution was just lazy (are we seeing a theme here?) The tots were just OK, under seasoned and undercooked, with a less than crispy exterior and sort of cold filling, where I could feel each little piece of cold shredded, potato; the sour cream drizzle, a plus.
I was totally stoked to find that they sell tater tot nachos at Busch.
Jake owns a kitchen in San Francisco, where one of the more popular menu items is, in fact, totchos. I was pretty thrilled to find them in this setting, and even more thrilled to see that they were not at a lazy mans rendition. The Busch version included black olives, green onion, and the piece de resistance, tangy powdered cheese. Most definitely the best accomplishment of the Busch food program yet.
Also downstairs, oreo churros and an eating corral, full of giant people stuffing their faces with giant food.
For this game, we had bought $6 tickets on the Game Time app, about an hour before the game. That $6 landed us here:
we could have done waaaaay worse. I was surprised to see that the park had not sold out, because all of St. Louis seems to be consumed with baseball fever, but also, because the Cardinals were literally the best team in baseball at the time.
The next day, we had fancy tickets. UMB Club Level, all you can eat, all you can drink to the 9th, tickets. At only $135 a pop it felt as though they were giving them away, because there are times when bleacher tickets cost that much at AT&T (exaggeration? Yes). Outside the air-conditioned club (which seriously matters in that part of the US of A) an impressive display, in etched glass, of the absolute majesty that is the St. Louis Cardinals.
Inside the club, a couple of bars (again, booze is “free” but don’t be a jerk, tip yer bartender!)
a lounge area broadcasting the day’s games,
and a bunch of food stations. On that; the food stations were deceptively laid out so that it seemed, at first glance, as though there were an exhaustive amount of options, but upon closer inspection it was revealed that there were just a bunch of duplicates.
We tried everything. There was a rain delay to boot, so, we just ate and drank our way through it, pausing for a photo with Cardinals mascot Fredbird, who fart noised in my ear and extended a giant bird hand “thumbs down” as this photo was taken to show his distaste for Giants fans.
There was this bullshit, and trust me when I say, those green beans were inedible. There was something sweet in them. Like, fruit sweet. Like, cinammony pear or something. I wish I was kidding. I really do.
And a nacho station; everyone knows exactly what that all tastes like.
A salad bar, with a warm, wilty, and bland caesar, alongside some sort of chopped/chef’s salad hybrid, a flavorless mix of iceberg and vapid, mealy tomato.
Sausages and dogs…again, no surprises there.
A carving station with giant hunks of pork and sweet rolls…I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean.
Also, some sort of “Asian” station (see..sriracha!) serving Italian style pasta mixed with skanky, previously frozen shrimp.
Have I made it plainly clear that the food was atrocious in the UMB club? Like PERFECTLY CLEAR?
Once we’d consumed every single disgusting food item available, we migrated outside, as one can do in UMB, sat wherever we felt like sitting, enjoyed some local convo with some friendly cards fans, and relished in a Giants win.