Ballparks have morphed over the years into food courts with batting cages as concessionaires pump up the selections to satisfy Americans' obsession with variety and huge portions.
For all the gargantuan fare, Aramark has been introducing healthier options at Phillies games since at least 2005, when it first sold a vegetarian burger. A vegan hot dog in 2006 was followed by a vegetarian cheesesteak in 2007, and mock-chicken cheesesteaks and crabless crabcakes were added in 2008. Citizens Bank Park was the top ballpark of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals four years running, and finished second this year.
The healthier and nonmeat selections have been scattered at stands throughout the ballpark. This is Aramark's first dedicated stand.
"It's all based on feedback," said Chrissy Flanigan, Aramark's general manager at the ballpark, who surveys constantly and says the stand's sales so far are exceeding projections.
Menu ideas have come from the luxury-suite dining. Some items clearly are not hits. Fewer than a dozen orders of carrots and celery with ranch dressing ($4) sell per game, Flanigan said.
But Aramark is selling, on average, 100 turkey burgers ($7) - a juicy patty topped interestingly with avocado and tomato salsa on a puffy wheat roll - and 60 to 80 chipotle chicken wraps ($7.50), which have the proper zing thanks to judicious use of cilantro.
Compare that with the average sales of 12,000 hot dogs.
The menu also includes $8 salads (Shanghai grilled-chicken salad, and a Hall of Fame salad of mixed greens, grapes, pistachios, dried cranberries, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette) - similar to those you'd find at a chain like Saladworks - and snack stuff such as hard pretzels, trail mix, smoothies, and yogurt berry parfaits.
The healthful-food sales have not risen at the expense of the traditional items, said concessions director Jeremy Campbell, who came up with the "Philly Fresh" name. "We didn't see that when we started the vegetarian items," he said.
"It's a good alternative," said Karen Zeitz of South Philadelphia, toting a Shanghai salad back to her seat in the upper deck before a game earlier this month. She said she does not eat red meat.
"It's the only healthy thing in here," said Tom Farrell, a restaurant owner from West Chester, who perched a soft pretzel and turkey burger on his tray.
Flanigan has a reply ready to those who scoff at the notion of healthful eating at a Phillies game. "It's an option," she said. "We're not trying to change the way people eat at the ballpark."
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