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Brewers Fans Anticipate the Wurst

To many in Milwaukee, it's not a ball game without a bratwurst slathered with secret sauce

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TO Katie Casey, the fan in the 1908 song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," peanuts and Cracker Jack are the snacks of choice at a baseball game. The hot dog, while not on Katie's list, has graced ballparks for almost a century. But the menu of 88 items at Milwaukee County Stadium, home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, indicates that today a few extra verses are needed in the familiar baseball perennial.

"Not everybody who comes to the ballpark wants to eat hot dogs," says George Van Valkenburgh, general manager for County Stadium's concessionaire, Sportservice Inc.

Sitting in his office before a recent Brewers game, Mr. Van Valkenburgh explained how the stadium has adapted to the changing appetites of fans.

"County Stadium now has a bakery where you can get fresh-baked muffins and cookies. We have a delicatessen where they serve all kinds of sandwiches.... You can get a chef's salad if you want," says Van Valkenburgh. Other nontraditional fare includes pizza by the slice, tacos, and soft-serve yogurt.

"It used to be hot dogs, popcorn, beer, and soda, and that was basically it. And about 10 years ago, maybe 12 years ago, [consumers] started wanting more things at the ballpark," explains Van Valkenburgh.

At County Stadium, the popularity of the food is apparent.

"Everyone seems to be eating here," observes Daniel Rundqvist, a visitor from Sweden attending his first baseball game.

Game-goers can buy ballpark delicacies at their seats from vendors, or on the decks at concession stands. And if searching for a particular savory treat, customers need only locate one of the 14 wall-mounted "Hungry Fan Maps" that answer the question "Where can I find...?"

But even with its diversity of foods, County Stadium is best known for one thing: bratwurst.

"I have sampled the ballpark food in all parks in the major leagues, and most are only so-so. Some are quite commendable. But far and away the champion, the single best item available in any ballpark ... would be the bratwurst with special sauce, a little brown mustard, and perhaps some sauerkraut, at County Stadium in Milwaukee," said NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas in a phone interview.

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