The Evolution of Stadium Concession Foods

From hot dogs to channa rice bowls, the food at Target Field, CHS Field, the Xcel, and other pro-sports venues will never be the same
Hot Indian Foods at Target Field
Hot Indian Foods at Target Field

Photo by Ben Ludeman/Minnesota Twins 2019

The chickpeas are simmered in a tomato masala sauce that drips onto a bed of garlic rice, while a topping of crisp apple slaw adds the perfect pop to the balance of flavors. The only problem? Hot Indian Foods’ channa rice bowl tastes too good to slow down and savor for the rest of a Twins game.

Before opening day at Target Field, and before the Minnesota United’s first-ever match at Allianz Field, local pro-sports fans were treated to concession-menu media blitzes rivaling the Minnesota State Fair’s new foods. Every year, our teams battle to deliver the most-diverse flavors, options for a wide range of dietary preferences, the best beers, and locally inspired dishes that hold their own against the Twin Cities’ vibrant restaurant scene.

“There’s a high level of competition in the Twin Cities, and every year it gets a little bit bigger and wilder,” says Xcel Energy Center executive chef Kyle Bowles. “Everyone wants variety, everyone wants unique, everyone wants local, and we have to keep up with it.”

“You have to be willing to think outside the box—the clientele demands it,” agrees Bill Van Stee, executive chef for Allianz Field concessionaire Delaware North Sportservice, which made headlines by hiring local celebrity chef Justin Sutherland (Madison Restaurant Group) as a culinary consultant.

Hot dogs and pretzels will never go away, argues Pete Spike, general manager for Target Field’s concessionaire—also Delaware North Sportservice. “To stay on top, we need to listen to fans and bring local, quality items and partner with great brands.”

For example, Twins fans can enjoy sausages from Kramarczuk’s, curry dishes from Hot Indian Foods, shawarma from Holy Land, and Soul Bowl’s build-your-own take on traditional soul food. Target Field’s farmers’-market-inspired, inclusivity-minded “Gate 34 Experience” brings in even more choices with rotating food vendors.

Allianz Field’s food program includes a diverse lineup of local restaurants—’community-focused, globally minded,’ as Van Stee describes it. For instance, veggie sambusas from Afro Deli and jerk chicken wings from West Indies Soul Food share the menu with traditional game-day food. Bonus: You don’t even need a ticket to hang out at the pre-game food-truck park outside Allianz, and its 96-tap brew hall will have hours open to the public.

Local cuisine runs rampant in the other pro-sports venues, as well. The Xcel Energy Center’s partnerships include Revival’s Thomas Boemer, Tim McKee of Octo Fishbar, and Tim Niver of Mucci’s and Saint Dinette. In past seasons at U.S. Bank Stadium, food has ranged from Prairie Dogs’ artisan sausages to a partnership with celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern. Target Center is also in the game, with a food-and-drink program by chef David Fhima that includes house-smoked brisket and sushi burritos.

Sports fare increasingly caters to a variety of dietary preferences. Van Stee notes that vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items have become more prevalent. “When I’m looking at a dish, I’m thinking, ‘If we change one ingredient, we could make it vegan,’” he explains.

“We were proud to receive the PETA award for most vegan-friendly ballpark,” says Spike. “Strategically, we have to think about [dietary restrictions].” Target Field partners with Pizza Lucé to do vegan and gluten-free pizza. The stadium also offers gluten-free beer and a kosher hot dog cart supervised by a local rabbi.

“We always try to find some ‘wow’ items and get some buzz,” says Gregg Kraly, director of operations for CHS Field concessionaire Professional Sports Catering. “But we try to hit every guest, so everyone has something they can eat.” CHS Field offers gluten-free buns “for everyone” and a grilled cheese if parents prefer a meatless meal for their children.

CHS Field also has a “lower-priced hot dog,” which raises an important point: The innovations and creativity in stadium cuisine often come at a cost. In an era of rising ticket prices, such a culinary overhaul may prove unaffordable to fans.

“We understand the cost of coming to a baseball game is more expensive,” Spike says. He notes that Target Field launched two family-value stands in 2019, with soft drinks, hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, nachos, and pretzels, all in the $2-$5 range. “For the most part, it’s like-to-like items as what you’ll find elsewhere,” he explains. “It’s back to the staples. We want to continue to attract fans and create a great game-day experience.”

That back-to-the-staples, crowd-pleasing mentality is also a focus for Bowles with the Xcel Energy Center’s main- and upper-level concession stands.

“We’ll do something pretty normal, like a cheeseburger, but we’ll cook it fresh just before you get it,” he says. “We hand-cut our French fries. It’s still just a cheeseburger and French fries, but it’s the best cheeseburger and French fries.

“It’s simple stuff like that. If you take simple concession food and nail it, people notice.”

Boomstick

Target Field

The two-foot-long, one-pound hot dog is topped with chili, nacho cheese, grilled onions, and jalapeños—and rings up at a whopping $27.

Espresso a la Mode Bubble Waffle
Espresso a la Mode Bubble Waffle

Photo by Stacy Brooks

Espresso a la Mode Bubble Waffle

U.S. Bank Stadium

Inspired by Hong Kong street vendors, the cone-shaped waffle is filled with vanilla ice cream, chocolate shavings, marshmallows, and espresso sauce.

J&R’s Dough Shop

Xcel Energy Center

Raw, edible cookie dough made on-site. Pick from chocolate chip, cookies and cream, cake batter, or monster.

Facebook Comments