Nothing foul about the food

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A perfect day at the Vet.

The only thing missing was the Phillies. They’re on the road – and won’t throw out the first pitch of the ’99 season at home until Monday afternoon.

But yesterday was nonetheless a day for high-fives on the artificial turf around home plate, as the South Philly stadium’s concessionaire spread out its new lineup of improved ballpark food.

Finally giving in to a flood of Daily News reports about under-poured beers and a subpar selection of food, Ogden Entertainment execs crowed that ballpark grub this season will be better than ever. In addition to dropping the price of beer, the concessionaire is broadening its menu to include authentic Philadelphia flavors to be served up by local caterers.

Hungry fans will get real cheesesteaks from Gaetano’s of South Jersey. And real pork sandwiches and spiced shrimp from Chickie’s & Pete’s of the Northeast.

You’ll excuse Joe Sixpack for licking his chops, but as a lifelong Phillies fan, I can only say, It’s about time!

Phillies fans – unfortunately accustomed to the over-processed, flash-frozen, assembly-line-packaged junk food they slop up in the so-called Food Court – will appreciate the difference in the menu when they wander into the former Winners lounge.

Down the third-base line on the 200 Level, this barren room had all the warmth and atmosphere of a Kosovar refugee camp.

Yesterday, Jim Bell, the president of Brewerytown’s Red Bell microbrewery, showed me around the joint. I hardly recognized the place.

Paneled with mahogany and mirrors, it looks like an old-time Philly pub, with a handsome bar and hightop tables for resting Red Bell’s craftbrews during the seventh-inning stretch. If Bell can work out the details, the pub will remain open even after the last pitch is hurled, as a respite for fans who aren’t ready to plunge into the post-game parking lot traffic jam.

“We think this place is going to be a huge hit, for fans who want to drink a Philadelphia beer brewed by Philadelphians,” Bell said. Pointing to one of the omnipresent Budweiser advertising logos on the outfield fence, he said, “We can’t compete with the red sign out there, as far as money is concerned. But we can compete on quality.”

Imagine that: giving fans quality for their dollar. It’s a simple idea, and it’s about time.


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