Mark Canha grew up in the Bay Area with a dad who collected food and wine magazines, traveled internationally for his job in semiconductor sales and delighted in recreating recipes he’d read about or tasted overseas. Those childhood meals created an insatiable hunger in Canha. So when he got a good-paying job that required him to travel (Major League baseball player), he decided to seek out the most delicious meals on each road trip.
But instead of just trading restaurant recommendations in the clubhouse, the Oakland A’s outfielder shares his meals with the world through the most delicious Instagram feed in professional sports. When his baseball career ends, Canha will make an excellent judge on Chopped. Until then, the Big League Foodie will keep making us hungrier with each photo he blasts into the ether. This one from earlier this week in Anaheim is a doozy…
Earlier this summer, Canha gave SI Eats a guide to some of the best meals at each level of baseball. From dining on a minor league budget to blowout meals with Major League prices, he always seems to find the best places in any town.
Low A — Greensboro, N.C.
Canha was drafted by the Marlins in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. He only spent about 10 days in rookie ball, so his first culinary memories as a professional baseball player came in Low A in Greensboro. He wasn’t posting photos of his food then, which is probably fine since he tried to squeeze in lunch and dinner each day from the ballpark spread of cold-cuts and carrot sticks. Breakfast often came at Smith Street Diner, home of pork tenderloin biscuits, corned beef hash and buttermilk pancakes.
High A — Jupiter, Fla.
Over in High A, Canha started to develop a taste for the finer things in life. Little Moir’s Leftovers Cafe would cook whatever fish was freshest in a sweet potato crust, so Canha dined on grouper, snapper, swordfish and mahi-mahi—when his budget allowed. “Fresh seafood isn’t cheap,” he said. “That was a splurge lunch for me.”
Double A — Jacksonville, Fla.
Here, Canha’s favorite spot was TacoLu Baja Mexicana in Jacksonville Beach. Shrimp tacos, brisket tacos, and carnitas tacos where the pork is braised in Coca-Cola and orange juice always taste better by the beach.
Triple A — New Orleans and Nashville
Canha hit the culinary jackpot with his Triple A stops. The Marlins’ affiliate is the New Orleans Zephyrs, and the A’s affiliate is the Nashville Sounds. (Canha was sent down earlier this season and recalled to Oakland on Aug. 25.) During his time in New Orleans, Canha did it right. He and his wife Marci moved into a house near the Tulane campus and lived like locals. “Whenever I’d talk to my teammates about New Orleans and how much I love it, they always say ‘Really? I hated New Orleans,’” Canha said. “The team stays in a hotel in Metairie, and then all the guys just go out on Bourbon Street.”
While Canha is happy to recommend New Orleans classics like Jaques-Imo’s, he wanted to steer people to places tourists might not otherwise patronize. “You can’t pick a favorite in New Orleans,” he said.
Canha was shocked to find great pizza at the shop attached to The Boot, an infamous dive bar frequented by local students. “You walk in and there’s college kids grinding on each other. The floor is sticky. Don't eat there,” he said. “But next door is Boot Pizza.” Do eat there.
Then have dessert at Creole Creamery.
More recently, Canha visited LaPetite Grocery and came away impressed.
Canha also has plenty of recommendations in Nashville, starting with coffee and breakfast burritos at Barista Parlor.
For later in the day, Canha recommends 404 Kitchen.
The Big Leagues
Oakland: Canha began curating his Instagram feed when he reached the Majors, and he has racked up some amazing meals on the road. He's also found a favorite spot when playing at home.
The rest of the Bay Area: The San Jose native has plenty of recommendations beyond Oakland. He calls San Francisco’s Benu his “favorite restaurant of all time.”
He also loves Chez Panisse, the pioneering farm-to-table restaurant in Berkeley run by chef Alice Waters.
New York: The NoMad Hotel serves chicken with foiegras smeared between the skin and the meat to create a crispy crust and a juicy inside. But before that, shrimp fritters.
Phoenix: Meanwhile, when Canha needs to recharge in the desert, he does it with salmon superfood from St. Francis.
Seattle: For a sweet treat, get the doughnuts with raspberry jam at Lola.
St. Petersburg, Fla.:Clear on the other side of the country, Canha learned about great food’s soothing properties. In June, he got sent down to Triple A following a series against the Rays. The A’s returned to Oakland, but Canha had to wait to catch a flight to join the Sounds. So he visited FarmTable Kitchen and ate his feelings with a side of carrot foam.
"I'm going to have a bomb-ass meal,” Canha told himself that day about his FarmTable kitchen experience. “And I had a great meal."