The minor explosions you may have heard yesterday were the heads of Astros' fans imploding over news that new owner Jim Crane could possibly change the name of the franchise next season -- as well as its uniforms, ticket prices and Minute Maid Park's food policies. It's starting to feel like the beginning of Major League around here. All that needs to happen next is for Charlie Sheen to show up.
The good news, however, is that in addition to lowered ticket prices for home games next season, Astros fans -- those of us left -- will finally be able to bring our own food into the park. The new food policy is particularly notable because the Astros were long the only MLB team that didn't allow its fans to bring outside food into its stadium.
Chronicle columnist Ken Hoffman was one of the policy's few defenders, although he himself noted that the policy tended to draw harsh criticism of former owner Drayton McLane, as fans lambasted him for "gluttony, lust, greed, wrath, envy, sloth, pride and the eighth, and deadliest sin...$7.50 beer."
While I doubt the new food policy will allow fans to bring alcoholic beverages inside Minute Maid Park, here are a few food suggestions for next season if you feel like taking in and packing out. All of these suggested places are downtown and have reasonably easy access to street parking so that you can zip in and out before the game.
Note: As of right now, the Astros have said that food must be brought inside in small, clear, plastic bags. Bags. Not even containers. That's just dumb, and I hope they reconsider this policy as it severely limits the types of foods fans can bring into the park.
Pack yourself a picnic from Phoenicia's enormous selection of freshly-made pita bread, hummus, baba ghanoush, sliced meats, cheeses, fruits and more. This grocery store practically specializes in foods meant for snacking on outdoors (this is why it's also perfect for a pit stop pre-Discovery Green). And if you go upstairs, you'll even find tools, baskets, napkins and more to assemble a picnic-style basket if you didn't bring your own.
Grab a couple of reusable grocery bags and head to the downtown location of this grocery store, which specializes in locally grown and/or organic foods. It also happens to have great pre-made sandwiches, dips, salads and more that are easily tossed in a to-go bag with little muss or fuss. As a bonus, they're healthier for you than picking up an Antone's po-boy -- no matter how good they are.
One of my favorite things about Niko Niko's is its box lunches: Conveniently packed and priced, the boxes cost just a hair over $10. Inside, you get your choice of sandwich or pita (you can't beat the gyro sandwich here), hummus and pita chips and a healthy Greek yogurt parfait for dessert. They're easily transportable and super-tasty.
Depending on what Cafe Luz's talented team of chefs and bakers have been working on, you can pick up items like Argentinean empanadas, a cup of carrot and jalapeño bisque, a spinach-feta quiche or maple-roasted turnips. Cafe Luz's food is seasonal and changes almost by the week, but it's always simple and delicious. Many are also already conveniently pre-packed to-go. You can even get house-made soda from the soda fountain or a few bottles of locally brewed Kickin Kombucha.
Bombay is the first of two choices when it comes to packing in a pie. At Bombay, you'll get a wonderfully thin crust that's almost like naan, which is befitting considering the array of pan-Indian toppings available here. I recommend getting it topped with half saag paneer and half tandoori chicken for maximum tastiness.
Frank's is the more traditional option of the two, and easier to get into and grab a slice from. Basic cheese or pepperoni are your best bets here, and the old-school space with its high ceilings and dark corners also happens to make a great post-game hangout as well. And even if you aren't catching the Astros, the game is always on here.
Note that there's a 5 percent surcharge for to-go items from Ziggy's downtown location, but it's worth it to be able to take one of Ziggy's fresh, housemade chickpea burgers -- or an Akaushi beef burger, for the carnivore's carnivore -- and an order of sweet potato fries into the stadium with you.
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Granted, Treebeard's is only an option for those days when the Astros play at lunchtime during the week. But imagine the faces of the jealous people around you when they see you open a to-go box of fluffy cornbread and a hot helping of red beans and rice.