The Mariners got national attention when they added fried grasshoppers to their ballpark menu in 2017.
The next year, Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy was nudged into trying one — live on-air.
His reaction: Not so great.
But the vote by feet (and mouth) has determined otherwise, with 4 million sold so far.
“I think grasshoppers are like garlic fries — they’ll be a staple,” said Steve Dominguez, general manager for Centerplate, the company that prepares many of the food and beverage offerings at T-Mobile Park.
He also cruises the local culinary scene to bring in new restaurants to the ballpark. One of those trips, to Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, led to the introduction of those now-famous fried grasshoppers.
Like the team itself, this year’s culinary milieu is “kind of a turnover year,” Dominguez said.
A trip to Metropolitan Market in West Seattle led to his discovery of what he deemed an extraordinary chocolate chip cookie. That led to a partnership for the cookie, with two kinds of Belgium chocolate and toasted walnuts, being offered at the park.
Do be aware. It can be a caloric grand slam. “I saw a customer order two cookies, two scoops of ice cream in the middle and top it with cookie crumbles. Oh my goodness, that’s a decadent afternoon,” Dominguez said, estimating the caloric total could hit four figures.
Another newcomer to the ballpark this year — and Dominguez’s current personal favorite — is Li’l Woodys, a burger joint with outlets on Capitol Hill, Ballard, south Lake Union and White Center. Burgers, depending on size, are $9 and $11. They also offer the vegetarian Impossible Burger for $11.
Nearby is Fat’s Chicken, with its soul-food inspired offerings, including a chicken sandwich for $13.50.
“We want to represent all the different communities in the Seattle area,” Dominguez said. Fat’s is the first ballpark restaurant from Seattle’s Central District.
“We were looking for someone to fill in the chicken in our lineup — someone who has a restaurant with that reputation of ‘You gotta get there,’” Dominguez said.
Another ballpark culinary rookie is Shug’s Soda Fountain & Ice Cream, which first sprouted at the Pike Place Market in 2016. Its ballpark cones are $7 and floats are $12.50.
Taking a local restaurant’s specialties and serving them to much larger ballpark crowds is not a fit for everyone. Some smaller businesses are stretched to fill the demands of feeding crowds of up to 45,000 people in four hours. Just one example of the demand: Fans chowed down 8,000 hot dogs on opening day.
“It’s a little preparation and a little luck in guessing who will buy what,” Dominguez said.
And now about the Hit It Here Cafe, located in right field.
I’m speaking only a little metaphorically when I say my idea of heaven is sitting in the cafe watching warm-ups before the game — and having something to eat.
Ballard Pizza’s current offerings at the cafe include $12 pies with pecorino, mozzarella, arugula and guanciale; and pecorino, mozzarella, Zoe’s pepperoni, jalapenos and pineapple. They are expected to add seasonal offerings, using local produce, when ingredients become available, such as local chanterelle mushrooms and Walla Walla onions.
Burgers ($14 to $17) using Crowd Cow beef are available with local chefs rotating through to add their personal vision to the offering. “Everybody loves a chef-inspired burger,” Dominguez said. The cafe’s vegetarian options include the Beyond Burger ($16).
A full list of vegetarian and gluten-free options is posted online.
What’s in the works: the possibility of a Voggie Hoagie, named in honor of M’s DH and first baseman Daniel Vogelbach, and a still-under-consideration food offering in honor of Edgar Martinez’s July induction into the baseball Hall of Fame.
“Hey, come on down, take a look around and let your senses take you to where you want to eat,” Dominguez said. “There are doughnuts, sauces cooking, house-smoked barbecue, and certain smells you need to get: popcorn and grilled onions. We try to overload your senses so you can figure out what you want to eat.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or email@example.com.
If you go
T-Mobile Park is at 1250 First Ave. S., Seattle. Restaurants and food vendors open on game days. A free app showing ballpark features and food locations is available at www.mlb.com/apps/ballpark.