It’s baseball season, which means the voice of the Seattle Mariners, Rick Rizzs, is on the road doing play-by-play.
“We’re busy traveling all season long, 81 games at home, 81 games on the road,” Rizzs said. “I’m telling you, Rachel, we go to some great cities with great restaurants and eat some great food.”
But Rizzs’ isn’t eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks. When he’s city-hopping for baseball games, with his recently-retired executive producer Kevin Cremin and Mariner’s pre- and post-game host/reporter Shannon Drayer, they try and seek out the country’s best restaurants.
“Thirty cities in baseball and I’m probably the most adventurous [eater],” Drayer said. “I lived for five years in Singapore when I was growing up, so I’m always looking for Asian, Southeast Asian cuisine, too.”
They’ve been traveling to the same cities together for decades, so some restaurants have become non-negotiable.
“Broadcasters like steak, and one of the best steakhouses in the United States, and kind of old school and traditional, is Peter Luger in Brooklyn,” Drayer said. “We try and make that every time. That’s one of the big group [meals] where we sit around family style and tell great stories, baseball and otherwise. It’s always an experience.”
One of Cremin’s favorite eating cities is San Francisco.
“The Tadich Grill is a favorite for me and it’s one of the oldest restaurants in California, if not the oldest restaurant in California,” he said. “They have a cioppino there that is just to die for. I don’t know what else they have, I do know I’ve seen the menu. But I’ve only ever gotten the cioppino. It’s a huge bowl, a couple of garlic toasts. You sit at this long wood bar with the waiters in white waiter suits like they’re supposed to be. They give you a bib, thank goodness. I could wear a bib every day. I spill.”
Chicago vs. Philadelphia
A Chicago native, Rizzs’ favorite spot is an Italian Restaurant called Carmines. Drayer can’t say enough about Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, one of America’s largest and oldest public markets, filled with restaurants, some of them serving traditional Amish foods.
Cremin says they occasionally try new places, but they’ve got their classic favorites mapped out across the country.
“We’ve been doing it so long, you know, 35 years, there are certain places you don’t want to miss,” Cremin said. “You go back. In Kansas City we go to the barbecue joints, we go to Gates and LC’s and Arthur Bryant’s. They’ve been there forever and they’re tremendous places. There’s another place in Kansas City, an Italian place, Jasper’s. They make the mozzarella right at your table! The osso buco they have, lord knows how long it cooks, it just falls off the bone. Also, in Kansas City, the best pan-fried chicken, Stroud’s!”
The Philippines via Oakland
Last season, Drayer discovered a magically delicious dish she has been searching for, unsuccessfully, ever since.
“It was one of the most thrilling parts of the season,” Drayer said. “I was absolutely surprised because it was in the absolute worst place to eat in all of baseball, and that’s Oakland. The Oakland Coliseum is the worst facility probably in football and baseball. Things got so bad they started bringing in food trucks for every game. There was a Filipino food truck and [what I ordered was called] a sisig bowl. I had no idea what I was eating. It was a rice bowl, egg on top and under the egg were these crunchy fried bits and some sort of meat in there and pickled vegetables. Went on Wikipedia, looked it up, and found that traditionally when it’s made in the Philippines, it’s made with pig’s head. But it’s legit, it’s hard to find and it was fantastic.”
Traveling and eating together for 35 years is an intimate thing and I wondered what Cremin and Rizzs have learned about each other.
“What I’ve learned is this man here enjoys a great meal!” said Rizzs, and Cremin chimed in to agree. “And the moaning and the groaning coming from this man from a delicious steak or the crab or the BBQ. It’s so much fun, we have a great time. Just sitting there together, we tell stories, we talk about our families, we talk about baseball and have a great meal.”