Hand-Held Meals Putting the Yum in Yankee Stadium
There's an agility factor to ballpark food. Very few restaurants offer a speeding foul ball or errant shot on goal with the meal. At Yankee Stadium, home to iconic baseball team the Yankees and Major League Soccer's New York City Football Club, such surprise floor-show items are prix fixe. A steaming bowl of phở could be a messy affair, so adding new flavors and unexpected flare to the menu meant factoring in the same mobility that made peanuts and hotdogs bleacher-seat staples.
Senior Executive Chef Matt Gibson took a big swing here, connecting on sliders, meaty sandwiches, and an innovative bao bun.
Equally delicate and rugged, the puffy white bao folds over Buffalo-crisped cauliflower with celery slaw and creamy blue cheese. If that sounds a little too high-brow for a ballgame, think again. It's delicious and feels right at home on the Budweiser Party Decks overlooking center field. The sandwich-like snack also comes with carnivore options like braised pork belly with cucumber and pickled carrot, prime beef rib with sauteed onions and white queso sauce, and charbroiled chicken with sriracha ranch dressing and crushed kettle chips.
Chef Gibson said the bao idea wasn't in anticipation of an increasingly sophisticated or international ticket holder. “Nothing is traditional about it. It's just kind of our fun way of how we can incorporate stadium fare into a nice hand-held like that.”
Stadium planners removed several tiers of seating to create the party deck and two other terraces overlooking the field where people can socialize around full bars with spirits, beer, wine, and food. It seems very likely stadium guests will flock around the Yankee Dinger, a custom-ground and hand-smashed mini-burger with shaved white onion and French's yellow mustard on a steamed potato bun. While not revolutionary, it's very nice as sliders go.
“We feel like the slider bubble popped a while ago, so we wanted to see what was the best we could possibly do with that,” Gibson said. “We actually grill French's yellow mustard into it. No one really knows, unless you really like mustard.”
The Caramelized Onion French Dip Sandwich is an interesting take on a sit-down snack in a stand-up surrounding. The envelope-sliced semolina roll is fresh yet crusty and serves as a nice conveyance mechanism for the gooey middle. Nearby, a cheese maker will be pulling fresh mozzarella by hand for use in the Mutz sandwich with mixed vegetables.
For something a little spicier, chicken wings at Mighty Quinn's have a great chili-lime burn (and the cilantro is sprinkled on top rather than in the sauce, so it's easily picked off!). The Frank's RedHot Chicken Diablo Sandwich really needs no further description. The same counter serves a one-pound beef rib, a generous brisket sandwich, a slow-smoked pulled pork sandwich, and fries topped with chopped burnt beef ends and a chili-lime sauce. Next door, Bareburger has four organic, sustainably-sourced, pesticide- and GMO-free burgers, including the vegan Guadalupe, featuring a black bean burger, pickled red onions, spinach, guacamole, and spicy pico de gallo on a sprouted bun.
Non-traditional ballpark fare indeed.
There are more vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options too, mostly in the form of hand fruit and fruit salads. This area is decorated with fresh onions, carrots, tomatoes, and – breaking all ballpark expectations – piles of kale and Buddha hands.
The stadium has partnered with an all-natural, low-calorie cocktail mixer maker for its alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Arriving in an environmentally-friendly bottle, Splash is Kosher certified, made from all-natural non-GMO ingredients, and is gluten free. The Long Island-based company is part of a push to source materials locally, in the Bronx when possible, said Chef Gibson.
Michael Margolis, the Yankee's assistant director of baseball information and public communications, said the menu upgrades came from customer feedback.
“We asked our fans, we asked our ticket holders, what can we do to make their experience better,” Margolis said. “The answer, again and again, was: more. They wanted more.”
The season is young, so it's not yet clear how fans will react to the new food offerings. But Chef Gibson said if something isn't a hit, the Yankee Stadium team will be quick to change the lineup.