On April 13, 2009, the New York Metropolitans officially opened their new stadium, Citi Field. The stadium itself is magnificent. The beautiful design inspired by Ebbets Field and the Jackie Robinson Rotunda are stark contrast from the boring blue and circular structure of its predecessor, Shea. Inside, the field has its quirky distances and high outfield walls that have made it play as the Grand Canyon of baseball. The top level overhangs in fair territory in right field, and the seats have an average 21 inch width, up from 19 inches in Shea.
If you’re lucky enough – and rich enough – to be able to eat at the Acela Club regularly, those two extra inches will be put to good use.
Located in left field on the Excelsior level, the second deck, the Acela Club is the perfect place to eat before a game. While the entrance is nothing special, just glass doors that say “Acela Club” on them, the inside is nothing short of regal. Wooden tables and extra plush seating help the Acela Club give off its high class ambiance. When you walk in, to your left is a bar – it is a baseball stadium, after all – and to your right is a giant window overlooking the field.
If you love baseball, there is no better view.
To stop there would be understating how large this restaurant is. From inside the park, the Acela Club is clearly visible behind the left field foul pole. You can see that it spans from about to full sections in foul territory, to about two more in fair territory. The interior looks and feels just as big. Past the bar are the buffet tables and past them is the seating area, overlooking the highway outside of the stadium. Being as wide as the structure itself guarantees you a seat with a view, though seating at the bottom of the club looking straight out at the field or the outside seating will cost you extra.
Regardless of where you sit, you get to eat the same food, which, for the most part, is spectacular. Once you sit, you get the menu and while some of the items change from day to day, it is essentially the same menu. When you place your order, depending on how early you arrive, you can ask your server to hold off cooking it until you’re ready; after all, you’re going to want to take full advantage of the buffet.
While not the largest buffet, almost all of the food is exceptional. Antipasti, salad and an array of other foods are laid out to entice you. Don’t bother saving room, because for the money they’re charging, you had better fill up.
To begin with, the antipasti are delicious. The bread and pita are made to perfection, while the prosciutto, pepperoni and other meats are assuredly prime cuts. And of course, not to be forgotten is the mozzarella. Covered in oil, it may be the best you’ll ever have.
Besides antipasti and salad, the buffet also offers other appetizing foods. The penne in a short rib Bolognese sauce and the macaroni and cheese are both must-haves. The highlight of the buffet however, is without a doubt the duck. Wonderfully succulent and flavorful, the duck in the Acela Club will have you lusting for more.
When you’re finally finished with the buffet, it’s time for the main course. Though the menu has only a few choices, there is surprising variety. With hamburgers, BBQ ribs, crab cakes, swordfish, chicken and, of course, steak, it’s sure to have something for everyone.
One of the most important aspects of a dining experience is the service. Everyone working there is extremely courteous, stepping aside and needlessly excusing themselves as you navigate your way around the large area from your table to the buffet and vice versa. (Make sure to thank them or let them through ahead of you. It never hurts to be nice to people.) The service is also a pleasure: they said the food would be ready in 20 minutes, but it was on the table in 15.
The grilled Kobe skirt steak, served with a side of sweet potato fries managed to overshadow the wonderful buffet. When you order medium rare, they give you medium rare and nothing beats a juicy, tender premium cut steak.
On the other side however, the herb chicken was nothing special. It wasn’t bad per se, but it didn’t seem to be anything more than plain, somewhat dry broiled chicken – definitely the most disappointing part of the entire meal.
Finally, what would a meal be without dessert? A rich chocolate hazelnut mousse cake would have been a perfect way to top off a wonderful meal, but it was barely bigger than a ring ding.
Now comes the unfortunate part of telling the exclusivity and price of the Acela Club. Sadly, not everyone is allowed into the club – only those with premium or season tickets are welcome among the selected. If you are lucky enough to come across a ticket with the words “Admit One to the Acela Club,” expect to pay. $48 to eat there, an extra ten dollars for a seat to see the field, (which is worth it to watch batting practice) paying for drinks, another eight dollars for dessert, add in tax and tip, you will easily spend around $200 for two people.
Though pricy, the wonderful food, exceptional service, beautiful setting (even the bathrooms are magnificent) and gorgeous view make the Acela Club worthwhile, even if you can only afford to go once. If you do decide to go, remember, they only take reservations before the game or walk-ins after the first pitch.
-Photo by Evan Scarola