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Ben's Biz eats: Best of NY and PA

Most delightful Empire eats and Keystone concessions
December 1, 2023

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

Throughout the 2023 season I highlighted concession items from every Minor League ballpark I visited. Now, for your secondhand gustatory enjoyment, these appetizing entrees have been collected into a series of massive meals. Some of these dishes were included in previous editions of the newsletter, while others are making their Ben’s Biz Beat debut.

Today’s focus will be the third ballpark road trip I undertook this season, in August, which consisted of two teams in New York and two more in Pennsylvania. The concessions in question were consumed and commented upon by each ballpark’s respective Designated Eater. This individual is recruited prior to the game and tasked with eating the ballpark cuisine my gluten-free diet prohibits.

In each of the following four write-ups, please find a link to each team’s corresponding Minor League Ballpark Guide. Perhaps these culinary explorations will inspire your own 2024 road trip!

Team: Syracuse Mets
Ballpark: NBT Bank Stadium (Ballpark Guide)
Designated Eater: Eric Silfies (and his friend Nate)

“Pierogi at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz,” is something Humphrey Bogart probably would have said had he been a regular at Syracuse Mets games. These delectable potato and/or cheese-stuffed dumplings, provided by Rochester-based The Pierogie Guy and served with onions and sour cream, are a staple at NBT Bank Ballpark.

The Pierogie Guy utilizes an alternate spelling of pierogi, which doesn’t seem to bother anyone. But the pluralization of pierogi is a big no-no for Syracuse GM Jason Smorol, who made sure to insert himself into this photo with Designated Eater Eric Silfies. Remember: Pierogi is always singular.

If you do get a hot dog at NBT Bank Stadium, know that it’ll also taste better than a steak at the Ritz. The Mets proudly serve hot dogs from Hofmann Sausage Company, a venerable Syracuse-area institution.

The above photo features a Hofmann Snappy Griller, which in Syracuse is usually referred to as a Coney (pronounced “Cooney”). In the below photo, meanwhile, you will find tacos.

I happened to visit Syracuse on a Taco Tuesday, when three tacos could be had for $13. A variety of meat fillings were available, as well as a vegetarian option. The sour cream served alongside them was, like the erudite readers of this newsletter, cultured.

Designated Eater Eric Siflies and his pal Nate, both of whom are Syracuse University engineering students, enjoyed the team’s standard-issue pierogi offerings. But, to them, the deep-fried Buffalo chicken pierogi (available at a different concession stand) was the real winner. Accompanied by fries and a pint of Utica Club, what more could you want?

Team: Binghamton Rumble Ponies
Ballpark: Mirabito Stadium (Ballpark Guide)
Designated Eater: Suzanne Berman (pictured alongside her husband, Charles)

Binghamton’s signature food item is the Spiedie Sandwich, which consists of marinated meat cubes on a roll. Simple and delicious. The Rumble Ponies have a standalone concession stand dedicated to them, so a couple equine pals and I went there and procured one.

The Spiedie Sandwich wasn’t for me, of course, but for Designated Eater Suzanne Berman. She declared it to be, “Perfectly a spiedie. Very well-marinated. Very juicy.”

If you’re looking for something even more substantial, consider The Stallion. It consists of a pound of local Gramwich sausage patties, five mozzarella sticks, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, all stuffed between a couple hefty pieces of flatbread. It’s dinner for the whole family.

Suzanne initially struggled with her approach -- a fork and knife, as well as a flat surface, are imperative -- but ultimately declared it to be “a bizarre contraption, but delicious.”

Now it's time to move on to the Pennsylvania portion of this concessions travelogue.

Team: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
Ballpark: PNC Field (Ballpark Guide)
Designated Eater: Alex Pugh

The above photo features SWB RailRiders Designated Eater Alex Pugh, who was at PNC Field with his wife, Amanda, and their young son, Kai. The four of us took a leisurely walk around the perimeter of the ballpark, and this is what we found.

At the Electric Grill, the Pughs and I procured a Pierogi Burger, proving that Syracuse isn’t the only International League locale to serve the delectable dumpling. In addition to the pierogi, this burger is topped with Cooper cheese, caramelized onions, green peppers and Thousand Island dressing.

Next up was the Boxcar Burger, served at the concession stand of the same name. It’s topped with pulled pork, pineapple, queso and Asian-style coleslaw.

In this impromptu battle of the burgers, Alex said that the Pierogi Burger was the winner because it was made fresh and hadn’t been sitting under a heat lamp. But the real winner this evening was what we found next.

This is the Triple Play Dog -- a bacon-wrapped foot-long topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, onion straws and chopped bacon. It earned an 8.2 on Alex’s precise 10-point scale, but perhaps it could have been improved with the addition of a pierogi or two.

Team: Lehigh Valley IronPigs
Ballpark: Coca-Cola Park (Ballpark Guide)
Designated Eater: Jonathan Armstrong

Jonathan Armstrong, a mild-mannered accountant from Lansdale, Pa., sure had his hands full during his stint as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs Designated Eater. The first thing his hands were full with was Roasted Corn from Aw Shucks, which has two Coca-Cola Park locations. This corn is brushed with butter and seasonings (various combinations are available).

Even more formidable than the corn seen above is the Smoked Turkey Leg seen below, procured at the barn-like structure that is the Jaindl Smoke House.

The IronPigs were celebrating scrapple on this particular evening -- Aug. 4, for those keeping score at home -- and thus Scrapple Sandwiches were available. (If you don’t know what Scrapple is, please watch this handy interview I conducted with a local scrapple expert.)

Looking for a perhaps more palatable pig product? How about Candied Bacon on a Stick? Charity, Jonathan’s daughter, was a fan (even if she wished there was less pork flavor and more candy flavor).

Finally, there was the Pork Parfait, a layered mashed potatoes and pulled pork concoction. I ordered this from the IronPigs’ standalone gluten-free cart and was delighted to be doing my own ballpark eating for once.

This concludes another stomach-rumbling edition of the Ben’s Biz Beat Newsletter. As always, get in touch anytime for any reason at all: [email protected].

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.