The peanuts and Cracker Jack® moments at the ballpark are timeless. However, savvy stadium owners understand that today’s outing to a baseball game is as much about the fan experience as the game –and consumers anticipate the food almost as much as the home runs. MLB teams acknowledge the power of Instagram, the value of gaining followers and food’s ability to help them bring in the fans. Whether highlighting a sandwich’s irresistible “cheese pull” or toasting with their favorite beverage, attendees love to post their food and drink activities at a sporting event. Stadiums purposely create recipes worth photographing with the hopes they’ll be shared on social media. It’s the high point of the season so let’s explore the food trends seen recently at our nation’s baseball stadiums.
Chefs Give New Meaning to Home Plate
Across the country, ballparks are featuring local celebrity chefs, many of whom are national stars thanks to television and social media. Parks like Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs), Citi Field (N.Y Mets) and Target Field (Minnesota Twins) are treating game-goers to gourmet, mouthwatering concessions courtesy of rock star chefs.
Wrigley Field: 2018 marks the second year of the Cubs’ Chef Series. Partnering with Levy Restaurant group and Maker’s Mark, the Cubs have a roster of superstar chefs including Girl and the Goat’s Stephanie Izard and Frontera Grill’s Rick Bayless. Returning with Izard and Bayless for a second inning are Matthias Merges (Mordecai / Billy Sunday) and Graham Elliot along with newcomers Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia) and chef/owners Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp (Honey Butter Fried Chicken). Featuring dishes inspired from their restaurants, these chefs take week-long shifts tempting diners with their ballpark creations. Izard served up waffle fries and pork belly, Yucatan pork tacos, classic sloppy Joes’ and a Creole Chicken Sandwich while Tony Mantuano brought his A-game with a grilled mortadella steak topped with giardiniera, provolone, and mayo on a focaccia. We can’t wait to try the remaining chefs’ menus.
Citi Field: Counting on the fact that sports fans have some serious palates, the Mets are hitting a grand slam with the chefs in their lineup. David Chang (Momofoku) shows his snacky side with a jalapeno-ranch popcorn and Michael White (Nicoletta) features wood-fired pizzas with sausage, pepperoni and more for the suite set. The “Magician of Meat”, Pat Lafrieda has expanded his empire at Citi Field to become the Official Burger of the Mets. Lafrieda is also offering a Signature Meatball Slider topped with fresh ricotta cheese.
Target Field: A cold city known for some hot spots, Minneapolis has a few chefs tempting ticket holders at Target Field. Bizarre Food host Andrew Zimmern pairs Minnesota Crispy Belly Bacon with Jalapeno Jelly and Vinegar Slaw while the brother and sister team of The Herbivorous Butcher has a Vegan Sriracha Brat that’ll entice the most dedicated carnivore.
The Bigger, The Bolder, The Better
Layering different dishes one on top of the other has brought a late-night eating style to the ballpark.
- 2016 winner of USA Today Best Ballparks Food contest, The Melt Parmageddon at the Cleveland Indian’s Progressive Stadium is a fan favorite and mashes up a grilled cheese sandwich with an onion and cheese filled pierogi, more onions and sauerkraut.
- Out west at Dodger Stadium, the Cheet-O Lote pairs elotes (Mexican street corn slathered with mayonnaise, lime and cotija cheese) with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and tajin seasoning.
- One more notable at Minneapolis’ Target Field is the Buffalo Chicken Poutine which is fitting given the state’s proximity to Canada. It doesn’t get any better than beer battered fries, spicy buffalo chicken and blue cheese.
- See.You.Tater’s Buffalo Chicken “Totchos” at Nationals Park (Washington Nationals) takes childhood tater tots and tops them with spicy buffalo chicken, corn, blue cheese and onions for a twist on nachos.
- The tater tot theme continues in Minute Maid Park (Houston Astro’s) where a loaded taco salad is constructed on a bed of tater tots and crowned with fried tortilla strips, sour cream, beef picadillo, queso, iceberg lettuce, black bean pico, olives and thousand island sour cream.
Say (Mac n’) Cheese
The king of comfort food, mac n’ cheese is present at ballparks all over the country. Here are some of our favorites:
- At SunTrust Park (Atlanta Braves) The Pig Pickin’ is worth picking. Smoked pork is tossed with Coke BBQ sauce and topped with mac n’ cheese, summer coleslaw, fries, grilled corn and cap of pork rinds.
- One of the most talked about is the Brisket Mac and Grilled Cheese at Guaranteed Rate Stadium in Chicago (White Sox). A monster of a sandwich at 16 inches, this base is smoked brisket with a Syrah barbecue sauce topped with macaroni and cheese.
- Take us out to this ballgame. What could be better than a hot dog layered with mac n’cheese, Cracker Jacks, jalapenos and caramel sauce, all on naan bread? Find this savory/sweet combo at PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates).
- Back at Citi Field, be sure to check out the experience of eating the Baked Cheese Haus Alpine brat. Raclette is hand-sliced sliced from a wheel directly over a foot-long brat creating a perfect “cheese pull” moment.
Consumers want healthy options wherever they go, and MLB teams are cooking up concepts to meet their needs.
- Dodgers Stadium – High Protein – Inka Blend Quinoa Zucchini, house-made pesto, corn, green onion, chickpeas, toasted pine nuts, lemon zest
- SunTrust Park – The Braves’ concession partner, Delaware North Sportservice, started a “Farm to Fan” program incorporating homegrown ingredients for concessions from 40 Atlanta-area farms and producers. These menu items are called out on concession signage.
- Nationals Park – Local vegan outpost Ben’s Chili Bowl layers vegan chili over fries and Georgetown Grill serves up their famous veggie burgers.
Our home team, the St. Louis Cardinals, has some amazing concession offerings as well. Consider adding our real food ingredients to your benchtop roster. They’re loaded with mouthwatering umami and bring a level of YUM that your customers will come back for season after season.
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