A taste of Target Field

Published 12:33 pm Saturday, April 17, 2010

Headed to my first game at brand-new Target Field Thursday, I thought, “What better way to mark the occasion than to eat as many things as I can?”

That thought became the basis for this story; a stomach-eyed view of the Twins’ new digs. Of course, a good chunk of my afternoon was spent being distracted by the sights and sounds of this gem of a ballpark in downtown Minneapolis. But, I had to focus — on food.

I started an hour before the game, and wrapped up with a victory brownie that I devoured on the walk to my car. Along the way, I enjoyed a classic hot dog, food on a stick and a Cuban sandwich named after a Twins great. I also spent nine innings with some out-of-state family, whose allegiances are split between the Red Sox and the Evil Empire Yankees. More on those folks in a bit.

Without further ado, my Target Field food odyssey. Dig in and enjoy.

The roster

About that family of mine: I went to Target Field with two uncles, an aunt, a cousin, a grandfather and my mom. One uncle and my grandfather are New York Yankees fans, meaning they rooted for the Twins against the Yankees’ hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox. Another uncle, my aunt and my cousin pull for the Red Sox, meaning they left with their tails between their legs after an 8-0 defeat.

The crew, used to the beautiful Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, were impressed with the Twins’ new digs. However my aunt Mary, unfamiliar with Twins protocol, was taken aback by a concession worker taking her bottle cap. She said she was probably “never coming back,” though she claimed she was just referencing the fact that she lives in Massachusetts. Maybe she really wanted that bottle cap?

My uncle Chris and I are two of a small handful of people who can say we have been puked on at a ballgame in our lifetimes — that incident occurred at a Twins and Red Sox game five years ago. The kid behind us had too many hot dogs, we were told. On Thursday, karma would have had us throwing up on a Red Sox fan at Target Field. Luckily for all involved, that didn’t happen.

The play-by-play

Knowing my mission was to eat as many things as I could, I decided to get started early. We entered the park at 11 a.m., about an hour before first pitch. That left plenty of time for me to get a Big Dog, Target Field’s answer to the Metrodome’s Dome Dog.

For $9.25, I got the Big Dog, a bag of chips and a Coke. And because she was the first person to serve me at Target Field, I decided to chat with concession worker Teri Jackson. Formerly a Metrodome food worker, Jackson is getting used to Target Field like everyone else.

“We switched over and it’s been a little bit interesting,” said Jackson, an Oakdale, Minn., resident. “We’ve had some long lines and a few credit card glitches.”

However, Jackson said that for the most part, people have been really enjoying themselves.

“The people have been so excited to be here,” she said.

I thanked her for the talk and ate my Big Dog with sauerkraut and ketchup. A solid, but not spectacular, hot dog, very akin to the Dome Dog. Worth trying if you’re looking for simple stadium fare.

Next, I went for a few slices of pizza from Frankie V’s Italian. Six dollars spent and again, solid but not spectacular food.

It was then off to my seat, located high atop Mt. Everest. Actually, I sat in the Home Run Porch, section 334, which was quite a ways in the sky. Good breeze, though.

After the first inning, I set off on a quest for State Fair inspired food. In the lead-up to the opening of Target Field, I’ve seen a number of ads for food-on-a-stick. So, being a good Minnesotan, I decided I had to try some.

I got myself in line and met J.T. Grimm and Doug Witherington, two Twins fans from Shakopee, Minn. Grimm said he doesn’t always make it to the State Fair every year, so he was looking forward to the impaled chow. Grimm and I both got pork chops on a stick; Witherington doubled up with a turkey leg and a corn dog.

We exchanged a round of “cheers” and took our first bites. The three of us were in agreement: tasty. I said goodbye and headed back to my seats. When I got up there, I realized the people at the end of the row might start to get sick of me going to the concession line every inning, so I explained my mission. Vicki Larson, a Watertown, S.D., resident who was sitting directly next to me, said she supposed she’d get up for me all game long. I thanked her and wished her good luck in getting circled by Bert — Larson brought a sign marking her father’s 83rd birthday. He was sitting two seats down.

After talking with them for a bit, it was off to Tony Oliva’s Cuban sandwich shop, which was recommended by a few folks at the end of the row as I passed and a few of my friends chattering away at me on Twitter.

Oliva, a star Twins player from 1962 to 1976, is one of the most popular players in the team’s history. Not surprisingly, his food stand was equally as popular this day. I waited about 30 minutes — or three innings, in which the Twins scored five runs — to get the $9 sandwich with chips. Twins fans Stu Ackman and Steve Eldredge, who joined me in line, said they were disappointed by the service.

“You got to move this thing along,” Ackman said, pointing out ways the cooks and cashiers could have made the process more efficient.

By the top of the seventh inning, we were finally able to dig into the zesty pork and ham sandwich. Consensus? Good, but not worth the long wait.

“Good sandwich,” Eldredge said. “But not worth two innings.”

The Oliva sandwich started to take a toll on my stomach, which was still recovering from the hot dog, pizza and pork chop. So, I worked on the food for a bit and enjoyed a Grain Belt beer on the side. But no food odyssey is complete without dessert, which I decided would be my final quest.

I headed down to the concourse and talked with concession worker Eric Daggs, who I knew would be in this story from the first time I saw — and heard — him in the first inning. That’s because he has one of the best “food yells” I’ve ever heard. Daggs, with the right amount of stadium twang, bellowed out a number of calls, including, “It’s one dinger of a dog … get your Dinger Dog heeeeeere.”

Daggs said he grew up in St. Louis going to Cardinals games at Busch Stadium. He said he remembers a number of very vocal vendors, and the shtick stuck.

“Guys were always calling food out,” Daggs said. “I thought it was neat.”

Daggs, who worked at the Metrodome and now at Target Field to raise proceeds for Minneapolis non-profit Achieving Dreams, recommended that I go down a level and get a big brownie for dessert. Given his booming food voice, I was not one to argue, so I headed downstairs.

I picked up the brownie during the bottom of the ninth inning, and actually got down to eating it as we exited the ballpark. For $4.50, it was a pretty good chocolaty dessert. But I could have really used a milk stand right next door.

The final pitch

If I had to evaluate the state of food at Target Field in a sentence, I’d say this: Decent selection, but be prepared to wait for it. Luckily, the open-concourse design of the stadium allows you to get pretty good views of the action even while waiting in line. Of course, the waits limit how much you can eat in nine innings, as I learned Thursday. A few items I wanted to try but didn’t get to: Murray’s steak sandwich, Kent Hrbek’s onion rings and “Rex” burger, and a Kramarczuk sausage. But all in all, I went home happy — and so did my stomach.