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Food & Drink

Grading the 2024 Additions to Target Field’s Food Lineup

We sampled winners, losers, and shruggers at today's media tasting event.

All photos by Jay Boller

Baseball is fun again!

Last year MLB enacted changes—a pitch timer, limits on pitching changes, larger bases, and rules against defense shifts—that shaved 24 minutes off the average game, thus making games less boring. Adding to the fun: Your Minnesota Twins snapped a historic playoff losing streak, which you can read all about in this Viraluae piece from the late, great Twin Cities reporter G.R. Anderson Jr.

As for the '24 squad, they're currently 2-1 and rapidly approaching Thursday's Home Opener against the Cleveland Guardians. Always injured star Byron Buxton appears as healthy as ever (knocks thunderously on a wooden bat); frequently injured rising star Royce Lewis is out for at least a month with a quad injury; and ace pitcher Pablo López looks to be in fine form. This team expects to be playing deep into October.

OK, up to speed?

Let's move on to the most important scouting reports you'll need this season: Grades on all the new food items available at the ol' ballpark. Earlier today our team dispatched itself to 1 Twins Way to *John Gordon voice* munch 'em all.

All italicized descriptions come courtesy of the team's PR apparatus; all items are subjected to our peerless, pitiless Home Run!, Walk!, and Strikeout! rating system. Accept no substitutions. Prices weren't made immediately available, but you've been to enough sporting events to know there ain't any deals to be had.

Parcelle C.R.E.A.M. Smoothie and BluePrint Smoothie 

Two offerings: a C.R.E.A.M. Smoothie featuring collagen peptides, aloe, strawberry, banana, coconut milk, dates and agave syrup; and a BluePrint Smoothie, featuring blueberry, avocado, banana, blue spirulina, vanilla protein, coconut milk and agave. Available at Section 126. 

Bougie smoothies in a ballpark? What a time to be alive. Instead of downing Bud Lite, you’ve opted to drink collagen peptides, aloe, and blue spirulina. You’re going to be glowing like a pregnant woman on your bike ride home. No but really: We loved these spendy blends when we tried them in northeast Minneapolis last month, and they were just as tasty today at the Twins’ Ballpark. C.R.E.A.M. tastes like a less sugary strawberry milkshake with a hit of banana while our favorite, the BluePrint, is a berry sweet drink with a grassy aftertaste.

The call: Walk!

Union Hmong Kitchen Banh Mi Brat

From James Beard Award-nominated Union Hmong Kitchen, a sausage dish with pickled vegetable and caramelized garlic aioli. Available at Section 127.

Maybe one of these days Chef Yia Vang is gonna slip up, but we’re here to tell you, that day is not today. Vang owes his reputation to a keen ability to bring Hmong cooking into new settings, and he knows just what works at a pop-up, what works at the State Fair, and now what works at Target Field. The sausage itself is an ideal blend of meats and seasonings, and the pickled carrots add just the right sharp contrast. You may have experienced this sluggin’ sausage last year when it debuted in the postseason, prompting Em to write this rhapsodic review that included the plea, “I only ask that Target Field and Union Hmong Kitchen make it a full-season thing. It's that good." It’s what new ballpark food should be—traditional summertime fare with a little bit of a twist. We’re glad Yang’s creation made the full-time food roster.    

The Call: Home Run!

Smashed Baked Potato 

Served with choice of toppings, including butter, sour cream, beer cheese, green onions, bacon bits, chopped brisket and chili. Available at Section 117. 

It’s a late July afternoon. You’re sweatin’ bullets as the sun pounds away at you in the outfield cheap seats. How about a goddamn baked potato? That proposition would be ludicrous in the presence of a lovingly crafted baked potato. Hell, even when applied to a passable Wendy’s baked potato. But this… this… so-called “smashed baked potato”? Conceptually incompatible, sure, but also a Joey Gallo-level whiff when it comes to execution. Ours came with a glob of gummy meat that’s billed as brisket and Velveeta-tier cheese goop atop a defeated, lifeless spud. Who asked for this? Who is this for? Who eats a potato while watching baseball? Fun side note: Even my camera rejected this tater, refusing to focus on it; hopefully our poetic disses paint a picture.

The call: Strikeout!

East Coast BBQ Mac N’ Meat 

Mac and cheese topped with choice of chicken, rib tips or pulled pork. Available at Section 131. 

Taste the perfectly adequate macaroni and cheese first and you might be a little let down. But once you’ve chomped these BBQ meats you’ll realize the mac is neutral by design, serving as a nice gooey surface for the main attraction to rest upon. The ribs tips are the best offering of the three, perfectly chewy with just the right amount of heat, but even the chicken isn’t some bland also-ran. Major credit to this rich, lingering homemade sauce that packs sneaky heat. All in all, another reminder that you can’t spell “meat” without “mmm” and “eat.”

The call: Walk! Or Home Run! (depending on how many we’ve got of either)

Curds & Cakes Deep Fried Oreos 

Options available include a variety of toppings. Available at Section 232. 

If you’re going to deep-fry something, you want the end result to be transformative. But an Oreo is always an Oreo. That chocolate cookie maintains its crunch through everything, and the vegetable shortening filling wouldn’t even melt on a hot car dashboard. So when you cover this cookie in batter and dump it into hot oil, it emerges unscathed. These aren’t bad by any means, but we’ve all had Oreos before.

The call: Walk!

Red Cow Ultimate Burger 

Certified Angus Beef burger, topped with Wisconsin aged cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and Red Cow sauce. Available at Section 233. 

The need to slap a tomato—any tomato—on a cheeseburger remains a mystery. You’ve got something tasty and fresh from the garden, or maybe a nice heirloom? Hell yeah, let’s go. But does anybody really need some out-of-season red mush resting on their patty? And don’t even get me started with the lettuce. Anyway, this cheeseburger is undoubtedly a cheeseburger: old-school, serviceable, unspectacular. If any of the new ballpark food frightens you, Red Cow is here to reassure you. 

The Call: Walk!

Official Fried Chicken Mighty Buffalo Dry Rub Wings 

Marinated, breaded and pressure-fried with Official Fried Chicken’s custom Buffalo Dry Rub Seasoning. Available at Section 134.

Insert your preferred home run euphemism—dinger, tater, moonshot, oppo boppo, whatever. These bad boys were our runaway hit of the afternoon. Cooked crackling thin, the skin on these bulking wings is dry-rubbed with a proprietary blend that explodes with flavor, giving way to tender, juicy chunks of chicken that were obviously marinated with care. Preparing killer wings should be enough, and a lesser vendor could slouch in other areas. But not Official Fried; the creamy ranch dippin’ sauce tasted homemade, while the thick, peppery mac ‘n’ cheese made for an ideal side.

The call: Home run!   

Papa Pete’s Mini Donuts 

Fried donuts tossed in cinnamon and sugar. Available at Section 136. 

Papa Pete knows what he’s doing here. We’re talking light, fried dough balls that melt in your mouth and leave you with a few sugar granules in the corners of your smile. They come in a cute little baggie that’s great for sharing or secretly hoarding—it’s a choose your own adventure all the way down to the dipping sauces, which aren’t really necessary, though you can opt for hot honey, salted caramel, or chocolate if you want to sweeten the deal even more.

The call: Home run!

Lord Fletcher’s Walleye Burger 

Seared walleye burger served with smoked tartar sauce. Available at Gate 34 (Land of 10,000 Lakes Bar). 

“That’s just bread, man,” someone exclaimed after a bite of this burger. They’re right: This is a bread sandwich with some fish. The walleye meat is prepped tuna patty-style, with tons of lemon zest and enough breadcrumbs to render the bun redundant. (Re-bundant?) The smoked tartar sauce was inconsistent between bites; sometimes it tasted more like mayo, other times you could tell there was some paprika in the mix. But really, the main flavor here is lemon and the main texture is bread. This is fishy lemon bread.  

The call: Strikeout!

S’mores Boozy Ice Cream 

Vodka and toasted marshmallow syrup mixed with delicious chocolate soft serve ice cream, topped with marshmallows and graham crackers. Available at Gate 34.

To quote almost directly from the great Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Your [food] scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they 'could', that they didn't stop to think if they 'should.'" Such is the ballad of the S’mores Boozy Ice Cream, an unholy creation that takes two great things—booze and ice cream—and sullies ‘em both. The first misstep is obvious: Why are you choosing vodka as the spirit, a liquor whose sole flavor profile is supposed to be the absence of flavor? It coulda been brandy, it coulda been Kahlúa. Instead it’s the watery stank of vodka permeating ho-hum soft serve that distinguishes itself like a .230 hitter.   

The call: Strikeout! 

Burger Fries 

Battered fries topped with Philly Cheesesteak, American cheese, caramelized onions, jalapeños, spicy ketchup and Two Mixed Up house sauce. Available in the Thrivent Club (Carew Atrium).

What if nachos… but fries??? To justify the deconstructed mess here, the fries, the steak, the sauce—all of this needs to be something special. Instead this tastes like something you’d wolf down at a diner after bar close. But at 3 in the afternoon in the middle of July? You might have different priorities then.

The Call: Strikeout!

Just A Burger 

Featuring a double smash burger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, American cheese and Two Mixed Up sauce, served on a brioche bun. Available at Keeper’s Heart Town Ball Tavern. 

This humbly titled burger won’t be sued for false advertising. Smashburger aficionados will tell you to do away with garden detritus like lettuce and tomatoes, so we’re already dealing with a suspect ‘burg. Upon first bite, I hollered to my colleague with a stuffed mouth: “Good lord, this is a dry guy.” The under-seasoned patties were cooked to death, all gray, sad, and not smashed nearly thin enough, while the stale-seeming behemoth of bun felt like cotton swabs to the mouth. I don’t pretend to know what Two Mixed Up sauce is, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it to salvage this stinker. 

The call: Strikeout!  

Bussin Birria Tacos 

Richly seasoned braised beef and gooey cheese, in a griddled corn tortilla. Served with a consommé dipping sauce. Available at Hrbek’s (Section 114).

We’re trend-chasing here, though there’s nothing wrong with that; baseball is all about parity, after all. These lil tacos soar well over the Mendoza Line, arriving fresh with finely chopped cilantro and onions, a lime wedge, and tastily acidic consomé. Inside, tender shredded beef comingles with with melty cheese. Like a Jason Kubel or a Denard Span, these tacos won’t dazzle you but they sure won’t disappoint. We’d upgrade them to home run territory, and they just might deserve it, if not for the impracticality of dunking ‘em in the stands—you’re gonna get messy, and your hands just might feel like Moises Alou’s.

The call: Walk!

Q’BO Latin Food Chicken Tinga Arepas 

A crispy arepa stuffed with chicken tinga, cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo and pickled red onions. Available at Truly On Deck.

This sounded like a hit. Who wouldn’t want to chomp down on an arepa while watching a game? But the chicken is aggressively bland and even the pickled onions don’t add the snap you want. The arepa itself is so perfectly crafted that maybe some fine-tuning could eventually save this one. (Like melting the damn cheese, for starters!) But for now, you could forget you’re eating this before you’ve even finished it.

The Call: Strikeout!

STEPCHLD Sweet Potato Fritters

Freshly made and topped with maple syrup, cayenne pepper and whipped goat cheese. Available at Truly On Deck.

Are you a mini-donut lover looking to mix it up? These elevated little treats hit that same fried dough sweet spot many fair-, festival-, and concert-goers love. Of all the bready things we tried today, and there were a lot, this was the fluffiest, the lightest, and the most complex. The bread is airy and slightly sweet; with the syrup, reminiscent of the delicious spiced goo in the middle of a Cinnabon. The goat cheese is mild (I thought I was eating cream cheese frosting until I looked at my notes), and the cayenne pepper, hidden somewhere in the mix, feels like a warm hug after you’re done.

The call: Home run!

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