Long before the Blue Jays ever played their first snowy game in April 1973, Canadians have been dipping south of the border for baseball road trips. While the game has always been cradled as America's past-time, the tradition of travelling from city to city to take in a game at multiple stadiums has practically become a Canadian rite of passage. Whether it's due to the warmer destinations, the prettier ballparks, or the sheer multitude of American ballparks within striking distance of the Canadian border, countless Canadians hop in their cars every summer to tour America's baseball stadiums.
Many Major League Baseball parks nicely line up into logical ballpark routes from Canada. For example: Seattle, Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Chicago are all within striking distance of Western Canada, while nearly a dozen are within close proximity to the Eastern half of the country—see: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.
For those heading out on baseball's holy pilgrimage, there is plenty that has been written on the topic. Books, such as The Ultimate Baseball Road-Trip: A Fan's Guide to Major League Stadiums, go into great detail about the wonderful ballparks, amenities, and delicious foods available while taking in a road game; however, for foodies it's as important to know where you have to eat nearby the stadium to make the most out of your journey. As countless television shows keep telling us, "You just gotta eat here!"
City: Detroit, MI
MLB Team: Tigers
Ballpark: Comerica Park
Ballpark Features: A gorgeous take on a classic stadium in the heart of downtown. The NFL Lion's Ford Field is just next door, soon to be joined by a new NHL stadium for the Red Wings just down the street. Be on the lookout for the massive tiger statues all around the stadium. They're hard to miss!
You gotta try: Their pizza. Don't tell the folks down the road in Chicago, but Hockeytown has some of the most delicious pizza found in the Great Lakes region. With tantalizing toppings galore, it's a pizza-pie dream.
City: Cleveland, OH
MLB Team: Indians
Ballpark: Progressive Field
Ballpark Features: Cleveland's last ballpark, Municipal Stadium, was dubbed "The Mistake by the Lake," due to its massive size and terrible design. They definitely got it right this time, though. Cleveland's gorgeous Progressive Field has erased any mistakes of the past.
You gotta try: The Tsukemono Pickle Sampler. A pickled platter of whatever vegetables (or fruit) are currently in season. Everything is pickled in house and beautifully presented in an array of bright colours and palate pleasing flavours. You'll never look at a jar of dill pickles the same again.
City: Cincinnati, OH
MLB Team: Reds
Ballpark: Great American Ball Park
Ballpark Features: Nestled on the bank of the Ohio River, the stadium is named after the insurance company that sponsors it, but it really is a wonderful take on the great American ballpark. They got everything right in Cincinnati, with perfect sight lines, retro baseball stadium touches in all the right places, and a riverboat built into the outfield terrace.
You gotta try: Tom and Chee offers a selection of grilled cheese donuts that are worth the visit alone. A classic glazed donut is cut in half, then grilled with ooey-gooey delicious fillings. The Bananarama grilled cheese donut is stuffed with caramelized banana, smoked Gouda cheese, and peanut butter. Sweet. Salty. Cheesy. Warm.
City: Pittsburgh, PA
MLB Team: Pirates
Ballpark: PNC Park
Ballpark Features: Situated in Pittsburgh's North Shore neighbourhood with Heinz Field a stone's throw away, the area is all about sports, sports, and sports. A massive Honus Wagner statue just outside the park reminds you just how far back Pittsburgh's baseball history stretches. Hyatt Place Pittsburgh-North Shore is a convenient place for visitors to stay right by the ballpark.
You gotta try: There's a lot to choose from, but the Almost Famous Colossal Fish Sandwich really pushes the envelope of how much you can put between two slices of bread. A head-turner as it arrives at your table stuffed with a gargantuan serving of fish, fries, coleslaw, cheese, and tomato, all teetering between two thick-sliced pieces of Italian bread.
City: Milwaukee, WI
MLB Team: Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Ballpark Features: Miller Park is an incredible stadium to visit. A retractable roof that allows natural light in even when closed, great site lines, and a sausage race mid-game, plus activities galore for the kids. You can't really do better! Any Milwaukee pub or bar worth its salt has shuttle busses to and from Brewers games to ensure maximum beverage time for fans. You can even order tallboys from the shuttle bus drivers on your way to the park for a few bucks. Shuttles generally run from 90 minutes before game time until the stadium is empty.
You gotta try: A fully loaded brat served on a pretzel roll! Messy and delicious, the perfect accompaniment to a cold Milwaukee beer.
City: Toronto, ON
MLB Team: Blue Jays
Ballpark: Rogers Centre
Ballpark Features: Canada's only baseball team is housed inside this architectural wonder with a retractable roof and hotel overlooking the field. It will never be called North America's prettiest stadium, but when the sun is shining, the roof is open, and the CN Tower looms over the playing field, it's a great place to watch a game.
You gotta try: The halibut burrito. It doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense when you look at it on the menu. Deep fried fish-and-chips-style halibut in a burrito? It doesn't have to make sense to be incredibly delicious. Choose your custom toppings and wait as they prep it. Prepare to be blown away by a flavour-packed, messy, and massive burrito you'll be craving until the next time.
Thinking of heading down south for a game? You won't strike out when you visit Dunedin, Florida—this city is known for baseball, but it also hits a home run with fabulous food.
For approximately 7% of Canadians, food allergies are no laughing matter. Those with food allergies have immune systems that mistakenly react to proteins in certain foods. Reactions can range from minor skin irritations, to gastro-intestinal issues, respiratory or cardiovascular problems, and even death. Health Canada has implemented strict rules when it comes to labelling packaged foods with allergen warnings. They have identified 10 substances, known as priority allergens, most frequently associated with food allergies and allergic-type reactions. The priority allergens in Canada are milk, eggs, peanuts, sesame seeds, tree nuts, mustard seeds, soy, sulphites, wheat, and seafood (fish, shellfish, and crustaceans). Packaged food products that contain priority food allergens and gluten sources must include them in the list of ingredients and/or in a statement that begins with "Contains" on their label. But just how accurate are those warnings?
This summer, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) released results of detailed testing they performed on over 300 food products. The study found that 95 per cent of foods typically consumed by children had no detectable levels of undeclared priority allergens and gluten. The samples were tested for undeclared soy, egg, milk, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sesame, and gluten.