Michael Shan pops a toasted grasshoppers before the start of the Mariners’ game Wednesday morning on April 19, 2017. The two concession stands sold out before the start of the game. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Seattle Mariners fans go gaga over grasshoppers

The Seattle Mariners’ newest snack is not only crunchy and salty, it also has legs to it.

What’s up with that?

Grasshoppers.

Toasted with chili-lime seasoning.

It’s the hot new menu item at Safeco Field at two new food stands run by Seattle restaurant Poquitos.

A 4-ounce plastic cup of 20-25 crispy torsos and dozens of spindly legs is $4.

Fans are eating them up, stone cold sober and with beer.

“Oh, that was fine, once,” said Joanne Reese, who swallowed the bug with a wince.

“I thought it was a little strong,” added Steve Reese.

He offered this advice: “Don’t bite it. Put the whole thing in your mouth.”

Here’s more advice: To partake, get there early.

The hoppers have been selling out by game time at both venues, Edgar’s Cantina and Edgar’s Tacos, which also have nachos and typical Mexican fare.

Demand is so great that grasshoppers are rationed each game to 312 orders, with the number in honor of Seattle legend Edgar Martinez’s lifetime batting average of .312.

Mariners fan Michael Shan scored some hoppers after striking out at previous games.

“Today is my lucky day,” he said. “It’s really packed with flavor. You don’t have to eat much but still get a lot of taste. I sprinkled some on the tacos. They are very versatile.”

Ballparks nationwide have gone the route of Frankenstein fair foods. There’s a cocktail served in a mason jar with a sausage, bacon, egg, chicken and doughnut skewer. Fried bubblegum filled with frosting. Ice cream sandwich on rye.

That’s wacky. This isn’t. Toasted grasshoppers are genuine gourmet grub.

The Oaxacan delicacy, known as chapulines, are popular in Mexico as appetizers, toppings and in trail mix.

The grasshopper trail here can be traced to Steve Dominguez, general manager for Centerplate, the Safeco concessionaire.

Dominguez recruited the insects for this year’s additions of popular local eateries such as Poquitos.

“It was, ‘Why not do the grasshoppers?’ It was a group consensus,” Dominguez said. “Our original intent wasn’t to get this national notoriety, but it was to bring that food experience all the way around and develop a restaurant experience at a ballpark.”

Safeco offerings include chowder, fried oysters, sushi, mac & cheese, hot dogs — and peanuts and Cracker Jack.

“We try to avoid the novelty stuff,” Dominguez said.

The grasshoppers at Poquitos over the years got occasional takers.

“We sold more here in the first two days than we’ve ever sold in a year,” said Manny Arce, Poquitos executive chef. “I’ve been having emergency deliveries.”

One time it involved meeting a grasshopper dealer in, of all places, a Chuck E. Cheese parking lot.

The grasshoppers are imported DOA (dead on arrival). “We just warm them up,” Arce said. “Put it on a taco or with guacamole. They offer a lot of protein for the size.”

Rich Fox, owner of Poquitos, said the boon is unexpected as well as the widespread publicity.

“We are getting people who are big proponents of edible insects that are excited about it. We saw some posts from Mexico and there is some excitement over the recognition of something that is a tradition,” Fox said.

“Yesterday we were in a meeting and were laughing about the media attention it has gotten and we look up on the television across the way and it was on ESPN. Chris Pratt was on a show called ‘Sports Nation’ and they were eating our grasshoppers.”

On the show, Pratt, Lake Stevens’ famous son, ate grasshoppers off a plate with a fork. “That’s good,” he said. “You have to understand I am hungry as hell.”

ESPN’s Kenny Mayne was at Safeco with a camera crew the day we went. “The crispy ones were good. The mushy one was sickening,” Mayne told me.

I thought it was like eating an anthropod drenched in cheap perfume, but nothing that cheap beer couldn’t chase down.

I brought some toasted grasshoppers to the Herald newsroom.

“Spicy and not as leggy as I feared,” said local news reporter Chris Winters.

“I ate three of them, because why not?” said features editor Sara Bruestle. “If people on ‘Survivor’ can do it, then so can I.”

“Crunchy on the outside, soft inside,” said multimedia sales consultant Alicia Jones. “Good for spicing up a soup or sandwich.”

You can enjoy them at home from your easy chair. Wal-mart.com has an Orthopetera Mix of crickets and grasshoppers for $11.99. Amazon has numerous options with insects seasoned and dipped in chocolate.

Or see if your favorite Mexican restaurant or grocery store can fix you up with some chapulines.

If not, you have a week to get your culinary courage up. The next home game for the Mariners is May 2 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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