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Phillies Bar Review: Citizens Bank Park

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The third part in this series takes the author, yet another time, to South Philadelphia to watch baseball and drink at Philly's most unique outdoor beer garden.

Drew Hallowell

This is the third part of a project undertaken by the author to find the proper company, both in human interaction and in drink, to endure the current season of Philadelphia Phillies baseball, as well as seasons in the immediate future. Absent friends who even bother to pretend to care about the Phillies, that same author has taken to the streets, as it were, of Philadelphia to find the ideal spot to watch a Phillies game.  Just as Socrates found himself unsatisfied in his pursuit of the Forms, the present author will likely find himself in a similarly futile pursuit, albeit less noble. Nonetheless, this series has been promised to the internet, and internet promises must be upheld.

Note: If you require a refresher on the exceptionally rigorous methodology behind these review, refer to the first post in this series.

This week takes us to a place considered by many to be the best place to watch a Phillies game, Citizens Bank Park. I anticipate that some readers will submit that a ballpark is not a bar. I have no rebuttal to that point other than that, logistically, reviewing CBP in the style of these bar reviews was the only way the internet would receive a review by Thursday. If this review must continue in protest, sobeit.

Aesthetic: In the late 90s/early aughts, baseball experienced a wave of new stadium construction, many of which were designed in a "retro" style. By the time CBP was built, this style had become trite in the eyes of many. I've always had a soft spot for stuff with that look, so I'm certainly not going to hold architecture that I find pleasing at fault even if it might lack originality. This bar had a very open feel-similar to any of Philadelphia's many pop-up beer gardens-which certainly helped diffuse my inherent discomfort from being around over 20,000 people. The bar staff had a frequent habit of walking through the seats while yelling and carrying heavy objects. Occasionally they paused for a time to interact with other customers, obstructing others' views. Overall, though, CBP was a pleasant aesthetic experience. 65

Phillies Specials: There were none! Well, that's not entirely accurate. Occasionally they have a really awesome special where hot dogs are only $1.00 on game nights. They also claim to have "specials" like Nachos with Gigantic Domestic Can or Sausage with Giant Domestic Can or Chicken Sandwich with Giant Domestic Can or Pizza Slice with Giant Domestic Can. Unfortunately, these "specials" are priced at the exact sum of their two component parts. Not only where there zero apparent on-going specials, everything seemed to be marked up. $11 for a can of Bud Light? $8 for an Italian Sausage in a bun? Those aren't specials, they're anti-specials. 25

Noticeability of Game: This is the strongest tool this particular venue possesses. The game is the only show in town. By sitting you are essentially forced into watching the game, you have no other choice. SportsCenter isn't on an adjacent TV; it's all-screens Phillies baseball. While seated, the commentary audio track was not audible, but the "game sounds" track, which includes the crack of the bat and the smacking of ball in glove was apparently turned up. Clearly the levels were off on the sound system. Let's face it, though T-Mac and Stairs/Moyer aren't worth the effort of adjusting the levels to include. 75

Quality of Other Fans/Clientele: You know, there were more fans at this place than either of the two bars I had visited before. That volume of people in solidarity with the pain and suffering of Phillies fandom, even if it's only casual fandom, adds value. It's hard enough to go through this world alone under normal circumstances; as a Phillies fan, it's downright impossible. The truth of that previous statement likely explains your presence on this website. So, that companionship was helpful during these tough times. On the other hand, unlike other bars in this series, Citizens Bank Park somehow had an all-ages policy. As a high-schooler trying to see Against Me! at the Trocadero, I was gracious for an all-ages policy. Now, I understand why some places stay 21+; most people under 21 are annoying and, in most contexts, the world would be better without them. The screaming 15 year olds next to me provided evidence of that. Complaints aside, it was nice to not be the only person in awe by a Freddy Galvis HR or thrilled with a Grady Sizemore triple. 65

Beer/Food: On both counts, the offerings were, like Kyle Kendrick, unoriginal, overpriced, and uninspiring. None of them threw a temper tantrum, though, when I told them to take a seat (with me). Both food and beer will get knocked for price. There were some redeeming qualities though. Starting with food, there was a ton of variety. Cheesesteaks, donuts, fried chicken, hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, water ice, cotton candy, ice cream served in miniature helmets, pizza, hoagies. Despite all of the options, I found myself wanting to skip over all of them; nothing put a particular demand on my attention. That reminds me, I have to pay my cable bill. BRB.

For beer, things were a little better. CBP had a beer brewed especially for it, which was a nifty little signal that this was indeed a place of some note. Aside from the intrigue of a beer brewed specifically for the park, the beer was underwhelming. I'm typically not a fan of lagers, and Alley Brewing Company Lager didn't drag me out of the cave and into the light. Aside from their homebrew, there were many options from local breweries like Yards and Victory available throughout the park. One last thing, though--and this is a major beef--all the beer was served in plastic cups! I mean, what kind of place is this? A frat party? A dive? For a place the purports to being a quality establishment, plastic cups are a major blow to their image.

Beer: 55, Food: 45, Cumulative: 45

Final Thoughts: As far as places to take in a game go, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Citizens Bank Park. The game is featured prominently, and there are more commiserators in house than anywhere else I know of. As far as atmosphere-based tools go (aesthetic, other fans, noticeability), we're definitely looking at an all-star caliber joint here. Areas for significant improvement would be in the eating categories (food/beer and specials). A drastic improvement could be made by simply offering a special like $1 hot dogs or the popular city wide special (PBR & shot of bourbon) during all games. Lowering the prices a little bit would be a nice first step, too. It would be hard to imagine many people being able to afford this as their regular watering hole on game nights. Lastly, the cover charge is out of control. You're not Rumor and we're not going to see a Major Lazer guest DJ set, so cut it with this $50+ shit. This is the Phillies we're talking about. Sweep of the Nationals aside, they're a bad baseball team. Price like the local shows in church basements I went to in high school; the quality is the same.

Overall: 60 (65 Potential)