Food for thought: Twins vendor weighing what to serve in new stadium

At the risk of making half of you rend your garments, we bring you this piece of information related to the Minnesota Twins and your future culinary enjoyment.

The guy with the biggest say on what kind of food will be served in the new ballpark, from hot dogs and popcorn to the high-end stuff, is from … Wisconsin.

Now, here’s why this could be a good thing.

Rick Abramson, the president of Delaware North Cos. Sportservice — the purveyor of chow for the new Chez Pohlad — is no empty suit. A Milwaukee native, Abramson sold peanuts, popcorn and hot dogs as a teenager at County Stadium there, where Sportservice handled concessions. His first game, curiously, was a July 24, 1967, exhibition between the Twins and the White Sox, the first of a number of games the ChiSox played there before the Brewers arrived in 1970.

“I liked the company so much I became the president,” Abramson said in a telephone interview. The easy gag line oversimplifies Abramson’s rise to the big chair, one that included a stint at, of all places, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

(Delaware North manages the visitors’ center there. Who knew?)

One might say food service is in Abramson’s DNA. His late father, Vernon, drove a delivery truck for Usinger’s Famous Sausage, the renowned Milwaukee company. And his mother, Joan, 76, still sells bratwurst at Miller Park. “She loves the job,” he said. In his biography on the Delaware North web site, Abramson is also credited with developing that tangy “secret sauce” for brats, first used at County Stadium and now at Miller Park. (I’ve had the sauce. My dad, who seasoned everything until it caught fire, would have loved it.)

Food – and lots of it — is an essential part of the overall game experience for many fans — from the peanuts-and-Cracker Jack snacks immortalized in baseball’s 100-year-old anthem “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” to specialized offerings that differ by ballpark to reflect local favorites and traditions.  Tonight, the Twins launch an all-you-can-eat promotion for hungry fans sitting in designated sections — an effort that has proved popular in at least 13 other stadiums around the leagues.

Food lineup will include regional fare, signature dishes
When the new stadium opens in 2010, Sportservice — besides providing the dogs-nuts-beer basics — will incorporate what’s called “regional cuisine” into the ballpark options. It ain’t genius: People want to eat familiar comfort food from their area. That’s the theory behind the Gates Barbecue stand at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, and Legal Seafoods selling New England clam chowder at Boston’s Fenway Park. Already, Famous Dave’s sells inside and outside the Metrodome.

The key at any new park is developing a signature dish, such as fish tacos in San Diego or garlic fries in San Francisco, which becomes the nationally known, must-have item. Twins spokesman Kevin Smith said the what-to-serve decisions are far off, and Abramson wants local input so Sportservice gets it right. “You don’t want to sell North Carolina barbecue in Texas,” Abramson said.

Two months ago, the Twins took Abramson to some well-known Twin Cities establishments that, he said, expressed interest in selling their specialties in the new place. So he knows about the Jucy Lucys from Matt’s Bar, Dixie’s barbecue, Punch Neapolitan Pizza, Kramarczuk’s sausage, and the walleye at Tavern on Grand. This summer, Abramson said he’ll lead a Twins and Sportservice contingent to the State Fair to sample food there.

As long as Abramson is open to suggestions, let’s make some:

• Sweet Martha’s cookies. This is such an automatic it’s not even funny. What’s better than the smell of freshly baked cookies? Sell ’em in a Twins bucket, and let people bring the bucket back for discount refills. If they sell nothing else in the ballpark, they’ve got to sell these, provided Martha’s owner/namesake Martha Rossini Olson can swing it. Olson did not respond to a phone message, but a Martha’s rep told MinnPost in an email, “The Twins have been in contact with Sweet Martha’s and it is up in the air whether or not they will be included in the new ballpark.”

• Jucy Lucys (we’re going with the Matt’s preferred spelling here) and walleye sandwiches, definitely.

• Options that represent the influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants to our area. Maybe flautas, burritos or quesadillas. Maybe spring rolls, or those tasty little Vietnamese sandwiches. 

• Popcorn that is actually popped in front of us, rather than carted in cold in enormous bags.

• Hot dogs that are at least as good as Dome Dogs.

So what do you think? Feel free to click below on “Comment” and make your suggestions. Meanwhile, I’ll go get some plates.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Jon Miners on 05/19/2008 - 04:33 pm.

    At this point, whether after driving to the ball park, paying the high ticket prices, anyone will be able to afford to eat.

    I know as a Hennepin County resident, someone who is actually paying for the stadium, I will be arguing that people should be allowed to bring their own food into the ballpark.

  2. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 05/19/2008 - 05:24 pm.

    You can currently bring your own food into the Metrodome, just not beverages. I think similar rules are in place at several newer ballparks too — I know you can bring food into the Rangers park, and both food and non-alcoholic beverages in plastic bottles are allowed in the Rockies stadium.

    I have to imagine the food policy will continue at the new park. And hopefully, with the Twins-designed security and seating configuration, a loosening of the beverage policy too?

  3. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 05/26/2008 - 08:00 am.

    How about White Castle’s? While perhaps not uniquely Minnesotan, these little burgers(buy ’em by the sack) would work well at the new ballpark, just the smell of all those steamed onions…

  4. Submitted by Brian Winter on 06/09/2008 - 04:55 pm.

    Pronto Pups!!! Beats regular corn dogs anyday! Since I am sure they will be having cheese curds…I think the original ones from the State Fair would be great! The ones that were in the food building first…not the imposters that are there now. Or maybe a Minnesota Hot Dish or two. Pardon me, I think I gotta go eat!!!

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