Baseball stadium cuisine has been elevated to haute cuisine. Alongside hot dogs and pretzels, fans can now dine on zucchini arancini, fried chicken bahn mi, and poke bowls prepared by some of the country’s most famous chefs as they cheer on their favorite teams.
For the second year in a row, the Chicago Cubs and Levy Restaurants have brought back some of Chicago’s most famous local chefs for its “Chef Series.” Each legendary chef, from Stephanie Izard and Rick Bayless to Tony Mantuano, provides a dynamic menu of offerings inspired by the each chef’s signature items and their take on ballpark favorites. Fans enjoyed dishes by Izard, a James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes recipient, and Top Chef and Iron Chef Gauntlet winner, inspired by her renowned Chicago restaurants Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Duck Duck Goat in early June. Up to bat this past week at Chicago’s Wrigley Field was Mantuano, the James Beard Award-winning chef-partner of Michelin-starred Spiaggia, River Roast and Terzo Piano. He opted to serve fans his interpretation of age-old Italian classics which included zucchini arancini in tomato basil sauce, grilled mortadella steak with giardiniera, provolone, mayonnaise, and focaccia, a watermelon salad with pecorino, candied pistachios, controne pepper, mint, lemon juice, and olive oil as well as luganega sausage with roasted onion and peppers, arugula on a potato bun. He added a Boulevardier cocktail made with bourbon, sweet red vermouth and Campari to round out his menu offerings.
Coming up this summer, Rick Bayless, the 2017 James Beard Outstanding Restaurant recipient, will be bringing his Mexican favorites to the ballpark in a couple of weeks followed by Chef Matthias Merges of Wrigleyville hotspot Mordecai and award-winning Logan Square bar Billy Sunday, Chef/Owners Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp of Avondale’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken. Finally, Graham Elliot, a diehard baseball enthusiast in addition to being an award-winning chef, restaurateur, television personality and cookbook author, wraps up the Chefs Series at Wrigley Field.
Chicago isn’t the only stadium rolling out the red carpet for dining.
Arizona Diamondbacks fans were treated to fried chicken bahn mi, a spicy chicken fillet on a local potato hoagie roll, topped with English cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon radish, cilantro, and garlic cilantro aioli, at Chase Field.TAYLOR JACKSON/ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Arizona Diamondbacks fans can feast on fried chicken bahn mi, a spicy chicken fillet on a local potato hoagie roll, topped with English cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon radish, cilantro, and garlic cilantro aioli, at Chase Field.“The food truck scene is big in Phoenix and the popularity of the bahn mi continues to be strong,” says Stephen Tilder, Executive Chef for Levy at Chase Field who added the dish to the menu. “We wanted to do a not-so-traditional take on the French-Vietnamese sandwich.”
Tilder also added the Celebration Shake to celebrate the Diamondbacks’ 20th anniversary. It consists of Danzeisen Dairy whole milk, Danzeisen Dairy ice cream mix, pure vanilla extract, red, black, white and teal sprinkles, whipped cream and a mini vanilla bean cupcake. “Danzeisen Dairy is a local standby and the sprinkle mix shows off the team’s colors in a fun way,” he adds.
Incorporating local and seasonal ingredients are key for many chefs and for some, like Chef Ryan Evans, executive chef for Levy at Dodger Stadium, using locally-sourced fish is important in his dishes.
Los Angeles Dodgers fans can enjoy poke bowls featuring Pacific tuna from local purveyor Santa Monica Seafood over rice topped with vegetables, wakame and ponzu sauce. “We use locally-sourced fish in all of our clubs daily, and in general we always try to purchase from either West Coast purveyors or other sustainable sources,” admits Evans.
Some fans will always reach for the hot dogs and cold beer at the games because it’s part of the baseball experience. For those who want to step up their dining, these offerings are a nice option beyond the typical baseball stadium fare and I suspect we’re only going to be seeing more offerings and for longer periods of time in the future.