It’s a good thing having delicious food at a sports stadium isn’t dependent on having a winning team.
Well, that may not be an entirely fair statement regarding the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves had a decent run, placing 10th in the Western Conference (in case you thought I didn’t know). But even if the team’s season wasn’t a slam dunk, the new stadium food sure is.
Roughly a week after the Xcel Energy Center introduced some of their new menu offerings for the Minnesota Wild season, the Target Center followed suit. And if the Xcel is using whiskey as its theme, the Target Center is using choices as theirs.
Let’s start with the new burgers offered this year.
First, there were the burgers from Twin Cities Grill: The Lodge Burger, The California Burger and The Cowboy Burger – one of the items that head chef Wayne Skjelstad was most excited about.
The Cowboy Burger starts off with a half-pound patty. It’s then topped with sharp cheddar cheese, a thick slab of bacon, a crispy onion ring and smothered in barbecue sauce.
The Lodge Burger is a half-pound burger with melted Swiss cheese, Kielbasa sausage and an added tang of sauerkraut.
“I’ve been lucky enough to sample everything and those are a few things up on the list,” Skjelstad said.
But the burger selection doesn’t stop there.
There’s also the deep fried burgers — patties that have been battered, tossed in breading made of nacho cheese chips and then deep fried. They come in cool ranch, cheesy nacho and chili cheese.
Of course, if burgers aren’t your favorite, there’s always brats. But, like the burgers, these aren’t your typical brats.
Butcher on the Block offers up a choice of bacon cheddar, jalapeno cheddar, chicken spinach mozzarella and taco seasoned.
Looking for other chicken dishes? Try the boneless wings.
They come in bourbon glaze, sweet chili or spicy Sriracha.
The bourbon glaze is for those who prefer a sweeter, milder wing. The sauce is thick and sweet and slightly caramel-y. The sweet chili is for those looking for a bit more heat. It’s not quite like a medium barbecue sauce, but it’s got a nice zing. Think Asian spices. Of course, the real heat comes from the spicy Sriracha.
Now, any stadium can offer wings and burgers. And while the Target Center has definitely upped their offense on these classic items, the real power play is in their new “conewiches.”
“We found a local baker that could make bread cones. We use white and pumpernickel. The pumpernickel is used for our Reuben conewich, which has the classic ingredients of Thousand Island (dressing), corn beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese,” chef Skjelstad said.
They also offer a pepper steak, which uses thinly sliced beef that is sauteed with green and red peppers and onions, then tossed together with a brown gravy. Finally, there is also a pulled pork conewich that is topped with coleslaw.
Despite being new and one-of-a-kind, the pulled pork conewich doesn’t seem to hold a candle to one of the most talked about items on the menu — the Turkey To Go sandwiches. That’s right the State Fair favorite is now available all year long at the Target Center.
Now the introduction of the new foods at both stadiums so close together most likely has to do with the fact that the Wild started its 2014 – 2015 season last Thursday, and the Timberwolves begin its on Wednesday, Oct. 29.
But, unofficially, it’s like a “Keeping up with the Joneses” type situation.
“Stadiums and arenas have gotten way beyond peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jacks,” Skjelstad said. “I think everyone is trying to lift it up a notch, to bring it up to a higher level to give fans a dining experience, as well as the experience of watching the athletes perform.”
Food has become a major attraction for many stadiums and each season chefs are working to boost their creativity and offer fans an elevated dining experience. And why shouldn’t they?
The overall fan experience has little to do with the team’s performance and much more to do with the overall enjoyment of the game.
So, the lesson here is if your team can’t pack them in, then it can’t hurt to add a little bacon.