Belle: Inside the new Mariners menu at T-Mobile Park
This is the ninth year that James Beard Award nominated Seattle chef Ethan Stowell has been elevating the menu at T-Mobile Park, mingling lobster rolls and locally made Texas style barbecue with the usual assortment of garlic fries and hot dogs.
He’s invited popular restaurants like Din Tai Fung into the fold, and in 2017 the entire country took note of a particular new menu item: Crispy, fried grasshoppers.
“The first three games we sold out of all of the grasshoppers,” said Seattle Mariner’s spokesperson Rebecca Hale. “If you do the math we think it figures to be about 18,000 grasshoppers sold over those three nights.”
This year the menu is not nearly as provocative, but there are plenty of local favorites now available at the ballpark. The new lineup includes Paseo, Seattle’s incredibly popular, lines-down-the-block Cuban style sandwich shop.
Metropolitan Market contributed “The Cookie,” a giant, chocolatey, chewy number which is, hands down, my favorite cookie in the entire city. Ice cream comes from Shug’s Soda Fountain & Ice Cream down in Pike’s Place Market and we see new burgers from Lil Woody’s and a fried chicken sandwich and excellent Creole spiced, Tillamook mac and cheese from Fat’s Chicken and Waffles.
All of the new food is delicious, but uncharacteristically predictable. I asked Chef Ethan Stowell why they went back to burger and sandwich basics for the new menu options.
“I wouldn’t say that was intentional,” said Stowell. “We look at everything in the off-season to see what has potential and what’s popular out there. So it is kind of straight down the fairway kind of stuff.”
When he first took the job nine years ago, the conversation was around how fancy the new food was for a ballpark. Is this what baseball fans want to eat during a game? But fans have come to expect more options, elevated options, a more gourmet experience.
“The Mariners are definitely supportive of going beyond what the average stadium does,” said Stowell. “There’s no doubt about that. I love the Seahawks but our food is way better than what’s over there. I don’t mean to be mean! One of the benefits we have here in the Northwest is we have great fans, great educated customers. They understand what it means to really be organic or free range and they actually really appreciate it.”
The most interesting and conversation starting new menu items are the plant based Beyond Meat burgers and sausage. These are not traditional veggie burgers and dogs, and are scientifically designed in a lab to emulate meat.
They’re also designed to appeal to meat eaters: The burgers look medium rare, thanks to a red liquid that drips out when you squeeze the burger.
“We use all familiar ingredients so the plant blood you speak of is actually beet juice,” said Beyond Meat’s Allison Aronoff. “We use potato starch and coconut oil for juiciness and texture. We use a blend of pea, fava bean and brown rice protein, which in addition to giving more protein than its animal based equivalent, it also helps with that chewy, fibrous, meaty texture.”
I did a side-by-side taste test of the Beyond Burger and Ethan Stowell’s beef burger and while they do taste different, I think Beyond Burger is getting closer to tasting and achieving the texture of actual meat. It’s definitely tastier than any veggie burger I’ve had.
Click here to learn more about the Beyond Burger.