According to baseball fans who oppose attempts to speed up the game, one of the sport's great joys is the downtime when pitcher and catcher


Safeco's Pen Still Warming Up

According to baseball fans who oppose attempts to speed up the game, one of the sport's great joys is the downtime when pitcher and catcher confer on the mound, or outfielders trot slowly toward the dugout. Those lazy interludes allow spectators to engage in spirited debates about the batting order, the pitching rotation, and whether the new pizza stand at Safeco Field is worth patronizing.

On that last point, Voracious contributors passionately disagree. Leslie Kelly tried the pie from Bill Pustari's Apizza--one of four new concession stands in The 'Pen, the revamped gathering area at the back end of the ballpark--and declared it "absolutely terrific." Mike Seely described the slice he had this week as "terrible."

With Leslie veering right and Mike going left, I'm planting myself in center field. Apizza's pie is decent by sports concession standards--and a good deal better than the burger and fries at Ethan Stowell's Hamburg + Frites.

Since my Detroit Tigers were in town this week, I took the opportunity to check out The 'Pen, which is a lovely, well-lit space (and had I known on Tuesday night that it featured a fire pit, I might not have given up on the game in the seventh inning). My plan was to sample a dish from each of the new stands, but forced to choose between a crepe and watching Jose Valverde close, I went with the latter. So consider this report a work in progress.

Pizza is not my standard game food. If I'm eating cheese and cheering, there are typically corn chips and jalapenos involved. But Apizza's white pie exceeded my expectations for stadium pizza. While the white pie was overloaded with garlic, it had a nicely charred crust. And the broccoli aboard the pie tasted fresh and perky, which may have been a result of the pizza being pulled from the brick oven just after I placed my order. Judging from photos posted at Slice, the nation's leading pizza blog, not every customer gets so lucky.

The burger at Hamburg + Frites is apparently made with high-quality ingredients, including regional grass-fed beef and--had I requested it--Tillamook cheddar cheese. I was impressed by the crispness of onions and lettuce crowning the burger, which was sandwiched between a faintly eggy bun. But the burger lacked the fatty richness and salty crust I associate with $9 burgers. It tasted flat and institutional, and my skin-on fries were cool and bland. They weren't helped any by an accompanying heap of mayonnaise that could have used some of Apizza's extra garlic.

Had I been served a similar burger at any other ballpark, I doubt I would have griped about it. But I had high hopes for The 'Pen, especially since my eating experience at Tuesday night's game (when I was too cold to bother with reporting duties) was so notably good. Until The 'Pen gets more practice or the weather warms up, I'm sticking with a bowl of Ivar's clam chowder and a draft Alaskan Amber.

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