Ballpark bites

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April 2, 2014
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
A tour of Target Field's new culinary options

No matter the outcome on the field for the Minnesota Twins, most fans can agree that weather permitting, an outing at Target Field can still be a very pleasant experience.

The sightlines are solid, the concourses aren’t congested and only the State Fair offers a broader variety of knickknacks and snacks to enjoy outdoors. The days of Twins ballpark fare being dominated by nachos, Dome Dogs and malt cups are long gone, replaced with customized creations from a slew of new local foodie institutions.

Before the Twins’ April 7 home opener, Journal staff joined other members of the media and season ticket holders to test out the new offerings on this year’s menu. We spent an afternoon trudging through the concourse tasting everything put in front of us, separating the mouthwatering from the meh.

Here are a few of our favorites:

— Leading the way among the new offerings for the 2014 season is Butcher and the Boar’s BBQ Basket of Rib Tips, served with a side of spicy pickles. The rib tips are oven-roasted with simple seasoning of sugar, salt, and pepper, then covered in a rum chili glaze and charcoal grilled.

The glaze clings to the firm outer layer of the ribs, pairing beautifully with the buttery tenderness underneath.

“We kept the recipe simple to meet demand, and focus on quality,” said Butcher and the Boar chef Colin Stumbras.

“I came up with the recipe just like that,” added executive chef Peter Botcher, snapping his fingers. “I just got really lucky one day fooling around in the kitchen.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be Butcher and the Boar without the bourbon, so Knob Creek and a batch cocktail made with Jim Beam and fruit punch will also be available at its stand inside Gate 34.

— Another staff favorite was Izzy’s Ice Cream. The new shop was the talk of the Mill District neighborhood after it opened midway through last summer, and now it will serve up a number of flavors inside Gate 14 near Hrbek’s restaurant.

— Another mid-summer addition to summer dining downtown was the Twins’ Taste of Target Field food truck. After an abbreviated season, the truck will be dishing out maple candied bacon on a stick, Potachos, which are basically ballpark nachos, sub waffle fries for tortilla chips, and a meaty Frankenstein creation called the Brat Dog.  Hailing from the same warped family tree as the Turducken, this thing features a hot dog slammed inside of a brat, wrapped in bacon and then slathered with seasoned sauerkraut and beer mustard and served on a pretzel roll. It was delicious but heavy; it would take quite a few cups of coffee to have a productive afternoon after a Brat Dog lunch.

Look for the Taste of Target Field at local breweries, festivals and at the intersection of 8th Street and Marquette Avenue this summer.

— The Bigger, Better, Burger Bloody Mary crams a bacon cheeseburger slider alongside a beef stick, pickle, olive, and asparagus to create a decadent Bloody Mary that looks like it came straight from a Lambeau Field tailgate. It’ll set you back $18, and is only available during day games at Hrbek’s and Town Ball Tavern.

— Successful returning favorites from last year include: Murray’s steak sandwich, El Burrito Mercado’s Walk A Taco, Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen, Loon Café Chili, Mac’s Fish and Chips, Panino’s baked sandwiches, Tony O’s Cuban Sandwich, Turkey to Go, the Minneapple Pie, and Kramarczuk’s and Sheyboygan sausages.

And if none of those please your palette, remember the soothing call of  “hot dogs, peanuts, cracker jacks” is never too far away.