All great cities have their architectural jewels — Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London the Tate Modern, Venice its canals, all wonderful places. But to be honest, none of them has ever taken my breath away like Los Angeles’ own modern-day Mount Olympus: Dodger Stadium. Now, I have no idea what kinds of snacks they had at the ancient Roman Coliseum, but I imagine it was pretty good if you weren’t a Christian — maybe little pizzas or cloth bags of fried calamari, that sort of thing. The food at Dodger Stadium has historically been stellar. I have been to well over a hundred Dodger games and eaten at every one. I have also watched an unimaginable number of games in front of my television while eating. The combo of baseball and food is one of my greatest pleasures.
So the prospect of visiting the Stadium Club restaurant — sitting at a table and eating a fine steak while watching a Dodger game live — was a seductive proposition.
The room, situated in the corner high above the first-base line, did not disappoint. The Dodgers were playing the Colorado Rockies and were in the midst of an 11-game win streak. Our table was directly against the glass wall, allowing for a stunning view of the entire stadium. Even better, the familiar patter of announcer Vin Scully was piped in from wall-mounted speakers. To be sure, the experience should be judged from the point of view of a diner and not a spectator. But if, like me, you’re the type who chooses a restaurant seat solely on the basis of your ability to view the game on some distant TV in the bar, this is an ideal setting for a romantic evening. Sure, it would be easy to dismiss the scene as some detached elitist enclave — the real fans clapping below as the club patrons rattle their jewelry from above — but a glance around the room reveals a surprisingly diverse crowd. There is no dress code, and diners wear everything from suits to baseball jerseys. Head chef Robert Moore, a seventh-generation California sports fan, says he expects patrons to simply dress as they would for a ball game. Sure enough, I spied Dodger legend Ron “The Penguin” Cey strolling past, looking tan and fit in tropical shirt and synthetic slacks.
While the clubgoers look and dress like most everybody in the park, the food bears absolutely no resemblance to anything outside at the concession stands. The menu offers single entrées of steak and fish as well as the popular “Chef’s Table,” in which diners choose from items laid out on six separate tables, each featuring a different cuisine — all of which change daily per Chef Moore. This is essentially, though no one uttered the words, a high-end buffet. Guests are encouraged to sample everything twice. I particularly enjoyed the slow-roasted round steak and the pizzas. Though the Stadium Club is technically a members-only affair (which likely accounts for the friendliness between the staff and diners), I was assured that it is possible to gain entrance by contacting the Dodger front office. Leisurely grazing is expected, and that evening, our meal lasted well into the fifth inning, at which point the game was tied. We finished with coffee and an appropriately blue berry cobbler, which was nothing short of a masterpiece.
Then it was down to our seats for the remaining innings. The transition was anything but subtle — like stepping out of a warm bubble bath and walking into the mosh pit of a Motorhead concert. The Dodgers had runners on first and second. People were screaming as Olmedo “The Killer Tomato” Saenz approached the plate, shouldering his lumber. The sound system began blasting the ominous metal song “Mother” by warlock/singer Danzig. Tears welled in my eyes. It occurred to me that yes, there are indeed changes afoot at Dodger Stadium, and not all of them bad. If they want to work the crowd into a frenzy with satanic heavy metal, well, I’m all for it. And a perfectly cooked round steak and Sichuan beans in the early innings? Yes, please. Unfortunately, the Dodgers stranded three base runners that inning and went on to lose by a single run. Some things never change.
Stadium Club at Dodger Stadium 1000 Elysian Park Ave., L.A., (866) DODGERS. Membership available for purchase by all season-ticket holders. Others can purchase Stadium Club passes on the Dodger ticket exchange at www.dodgers.com under “tickets.”