Breakfast at the ballpark

Washington Nationals management took great pride in convincing a lot of local restaurateurs to be vendors at Nationals Park: the Red Hot & Blue barbecue chain, the Five Guys hamburger shops, Gifford’s ice cream, Hard Times Cafe, Boardwalk Fries and others.

But when the concession stands opened at 6 a.m. today for Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass, the food fare was distinctly spartan: doughnuts, danishes, muffins and not much else.

And the beer kiosks? Reduced to selling soft drinks and bottled water — if they were open at all.

Ben’s Chili Bowl, a Washington institution for more than 40 years, has a couple of spaces in the ballpark to sell their chili dogs and half-smokes. But for the papal Mass, they offered the same limited assortment of breakfast foods as the other vendors. I bought a $2 chocolate muffin, still wraped in cellophane,  plucked from under a heat lamp.

By 6:30 a.m., it was not unusual to see lines of two dozen or more waiting for something, anything to buy and eat. A half-hour later, the lines had easily doubled.

Three youth-group leaders from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Takoma Park, Md., weighed in on what they usually eat for breakfast.

“We usually love coffee and juice — and bagels,” said Cecilia Hernandez.

“Bagels and cream cheese. Or maye an Egg McMuffin-type thing,” added Carolina Bustillo.

All Wendy Blanco could scare up for her friends were doughnuts, for sale at two for $2.

The concession stands started closing at 9 a.m. as people were getting ready for the celebration of Mass. They were given the OK to reopen at noon, after the Mass had ended — and were free to offer their typical fare.


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