By Jason Upton // Bells Beat Writer
Basketball arenas and football stadiums may have some unique goodies, but nothing compares to ballpark food.
There isn’t any sports-food combo as iconic as baseball and a hotdog, and at Joe Martin Field, you can watch your sausage fry on the grill right in front of your very eyes. David Foster, the grill master at Hempler’s BBQ stand, is the cook behind the fragrance that fills the entrance of the ballpark.
At the BBQ stand, he cooks up Hempler’s sausages, jalapeno cheese andouille and double smoked are the two options, along with burgers of course. Foster worked his first season on the grill in 2019, and saw the position as an ideal fit for his passions.
“I love baseball, and I love ballparks,” Foster said.
You can catch Bells announcer Jay Shaffer in the press box munching on Foster’s burgers before games. Shaffer said the seasoning reminded him of barbecue back in Texas, where he’s originally from.
Hempler’s BBQ has an option for vegans in their beyond burgers, but if you’re seeking something with more variety for your meatless diet, look no further than Sage Against the Machine. The Sage food truck can be found next to the ballpark on Tuesdays and Fridays, with its owners Nate Johnson and Tara Folenius delivering friendly service.
Johnson and Folenius own a central restaurant downtown, though they began with the food truck in 2018, in the same month they got married. The two were at an event at Climate Pledge Arena when they decided that Sage Against the Machine had to be at some kind of event in Bellingham.
“There just wasn’t enough vegan options,” Johnson said. “When you’re just serving burgers and hot dogs, there’s not much of an option for a vegan that comes to a ballpark, there’s no food for them to eat. So if there’s a vegan option, anybody and everybody can eat.”
Their most popular dishes include their cilantro-lime crunch burrito and southwest chipotle nachos. The nachos “are an experience”, as Folenius describes, citing the large plate they come on as perfect for a family to share. Still, the four menu items are just a taste of what the couple offer in their downtown restaurant, which serves around 30 dishes.
“I think we’re catching on, a lot of people are enjoying our food. It’s good comfort food, but it’s still a healthy option. You can still get some awesome nachos or a burrito that’s just super comforting and it’s plant-based,” Johnson said.
Sure, there’s plenty of meals to choose from, but what about dessert? Acme Valley Ice Cream always draws crowds, according to scooper Andrew Bui, who says that the stand is always packed, even when the weather’s not nice.
“Everyone likes the ice cream, they say it’s the best ice cream they’ve had,” Bui noted.
According to Bui, their most popular flavor is mint chocolate chip, which can get swooped up by the hoards of fans that come during the seventh-inning stretch. His advice to ice cream lovers in the stands is to “try everything, and see what you like.”
Looking for an option to cool you down besides ice cream? Gary Frey has you covered at his stand, AJM’s Shaved Ice, located in food truck row. It’s his first season at the ballpark, and Frey offers a wide variety of 21 flavors at a modest $3 per cone. If it’s difficult to choose just one, you can select up to three different flavors on your treat. Frey named the stand “AJM” after the first initials of his three granddaughters.
“People have been real receptive, they’re happy to see us out here,” Frey said. “Kids love it.”
On top of all these foods, the in-stadium snacks are deliverable right to your seat, just scan the QR code located on the side of the concessions hut to start your order.
If the Bells are in a tight game and you’re craving some popcorn or candy, or even a slice of pizza or a sandwich, don’t worry about missing a single pitch: The Bells have you covered.
Local vendors/products sold at the stadium:
Avenue Bakery buns
Boundary Bay and Sound beverage beer
Walton Beverage soft drinks
Acme Ice Cream