Peanuts & Cracker Jack 

At the Oakland Coliseum, stick to the short food lines.

You can laugh at Pac Bell Park for its organic vegetable market and sushi. Here in Oakland, we don't believe in all that foofoola. Come to the A's stadium, and you'll get the all-American baseball food: pizza, nachos, and chicken fingers.

Last Tuesday, the A's were playing a team wearing gray uniforms -- hey, I wasn't there to watch baseball, but to find something tasty. My first strategy: Join the longest line. Ten minutes before the national anthem, that meant the one for chicken fingers and garlic fries. Throngs of people who wouldn't hesitate to honk at a little old lady doing the speed limit stood placidly in line twenty minutes for the chance to harden their arteries.

Well, that strategy sucked, based on the soggy, oddly spiced chicken fingers I got. And the A's will now forever be associated in my mind with cheap canned garlic -- it saturated the unfinishable fries and overwhelmed a pulled-pork sandwich (moist-enough shredded pork on a spongy white roll). Should have gotten that hot dog instead.

I especially regretted my decision when I saw a twelve-inch hot link covered in kraut and mustard pass by, turning heads as it moved through the crowd. "That's a big dog," one guy noted, eliciting a nod and a smirk from its owner.

Whether a sign of the times or merely geography, vegetarians won't go home hungry -- besides garlic fries, my vegetarian companion sniffed out soy dogs, nachos, popcorn, and tofu sandwiches.

I, however, headed for the barbecue. The 'cue stand here is operated by Aramark, the same big-league concessions company that runs most of the rest of the stands, but its barbecue beef sandwich was sloppy, tender, and decent. If you think you can handle it, you could even order a slab of ribs.

I spent $40 for two -- hey, a beer costs $7.50 -- but the only ripoff that rankled me was the $3.25 bag of Cracker Jack with no prize. We dug through the burnt-molasses corn and came up with a cheaply printed sticker of a couple of Labradors, labeled "Extreme Pets."

After 45 minutes standing in line after line, I'd recommend that you stick to dogs and barbecue until the Coliseum decides to upgrade its pizza, chicken fingers, and nachos.

We finally made it to the bleachers at the bottom of the third to discover the woman one row ahead holding a deli sandwich made with real-looking bread. Had she sneaked it in? Nope, she bought it at a booth we'd overlooked, next to the Round Table pizza stand. They also sold salads, she said. "How could we have missed it?" we wondered aloud.

The woman shrugged: "It was the shortest line."

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