Even in the era of Sabermetrics, baseball’s still a mystery. Nobody takes the field expecting to turn a triple play, or slides into second knowing he’ll have to walk with crutches for the next two weeks.
Since teams’ marketing departments can’t promise winning records and batting crowns, they’re stuck promoting the ballpark amenities they can guarantee: more comfortable seats, expanded parking lots, shinier scoreboards, and brand-new concessions.
At Safeco Field, much of the culinary buzz has centered on Edgar’s, the 21-and-up cocktail corner that’s been wedged behind the left-field wall. The venue is named for Edgar Martinez, the former Mariners star who is now a tequila importer, and blessed by Ethan Stowell, who created the Mexish menu of tortas, tacos, and nachos.
Edgar’s isn’t exactly a restaurant, although it has a few high-top standing tables and a circulating staffer who’ll take the odd order and deliver a torta from the kitchen. Nor is it a full-fledged bar, despite the involvement of Rob Roy’s Anu Apte as drink designer. There are four signature cocktails, including a margarita and a paloma, but they’re bound to infuriate tipplers who rail against cocktail prices outside of the stadium. The bartender who poured my $12.50 michelada looked skeptically at the plastic cup, suggesting I “give that a bit of mix”: He’d apparently realized too late that he probably should have shaken the pineapple-juice base so its seasonings didn’t stand apart like boys and girls at a sixth-grade dance. (If you’re fixated on a fancy drink, the poppy, punch-pink .312—a blend of aged tequila and Campari—is your best bet.)
What Edgar’s provides mostly is a great vantage point from which to watch the game, especially if you luck into a segment of the raised counter facing the field. For fans who get hungry, though, there are a number of excellent new food options this year, both within Edgar’s and without. Here’s a guide to the most notable, accompanied by the names of the current and former players whom the snacks should have honored. While Safeco’s traditionally reserved culinary naming rights for the heaviest hitters in the franchise’s history, such as Martinez and Ichiro Suzuki, this year’s menu suggests plenty of missed tie-in opportunities:
The Surprise Star
Food item: Lengua tacos, Edgar’s
Player: Mike Cameron, one of four players acquired in exchange for Ken Griffey, Jr., who never strayed far from the DL for the remainder of his career. Cameron nearly set a record for single-game homers, played in an All-Star game, and won three Golden Gloves while with the Mariners.
The admirably juicy carne asada tacos at Edgar’s are very, very good. But for spot-on beefy flavor, the best choice is the tacos made with tongue, an offbeat ingredient which seems unlikely to impress in a ballpark setting. Yet the brawny bits of tongue from Painted Hills Natural Beef are extraordinarily tender, and mesh beautifully with the sheer radish discs and salty cojita cheese sharing its pliable white-corn tortilla.
Food item: Portobello steamed buns, The Natural
Player: Joe Saunders, whom the M’s signed in February to replace Jason Vargas. The lefty’s a steady slow-tosser, but with an enervated rotation, the Mariners couldn’t hold out for a star.
Perhaps the most inspired addition to the Safeco lineup, the mushroom bun is one of two vegan bao created in consultation with the owners of Philadelphia’s acclaimed Vedge restaurant. The mushrooms—marinated in black vinegar and cooked in a cast-iron pot—are deeply savory, and contrast nicely with fresh zucchini and red-pepper slivers. But the thick white bread cupped around the salad is bland, and the finishing Sriracha mayonnaise has a strange chemical flavor. While Safeco’s to be commended for accommodating its fans’ various diets, the park’s probably not the place for omnivores to experiment with cutting back on their meat consumption.
Food item: Salchicha Nachos, Edgar’s
Player: Richie Sexson, who hit two home runs in his debut as a Mariner and collected another 37 homers during the first season of his four-year, $50 million contract. By 2007, Sexson’s batting average had dropped to .205. The M’s released him the following year, soon after he threw his batting helmet at an opposing pitcher.
Say what you want about orange nacho cheese: The processed stuff’s knack for sneaking into every cranny of a tortilla-chip pile is a marvel of modern food science. And while the queso asadero cheese that completes all three varieties of nachos at Edgar’s may have the edge on tang, it has a tendency to clump into rubbery nuggets when it gets cold, which is what food and fans do at Safeco before August.
There’s nothing wrong with the top layer of the witty Salchicha nachos, made with salty hot-dog slices, a smoky tomato salsa, a smear of refried beans, sliced jalapenos and a scribble of crema. But once you get past the good stuff, you’re left with a pointless bunch of dry chips. There’s a salsa bar at Edgar’s, but no amount of tomatillo can transform chips into nachos.
Food item: Chicken Milanese torta, Edgar’s
Player: Brandon Morrow, whom the Mariners drafted instead of Tim Lincecum in 2006. The M’s bobbled him, sending him to various minor league teams and repositioning him as a reliever before trading him to Toronto. Last year, he pitched three shutouts for the Blue Jays.
The chicken Milanese torta, added after the success of pork and salchicha tortas last season, could have been great. But it was so badly mishandled by the folks tasked with preparing it that it never had a chance. The bun was griddled to a sooty black, and the tough strips of fried chicken tasted as though they’d been treated with too much bitter dry rub.
Food item: Chicharones, Edgar’s
Player: Bobby Ayala, who landed on the DL after punching a window.
Chicharones de harina, or flour rinds, are hugely popular in ballparks south of the border, but traditional pork rinds make sense as a game snack too. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to spend much time with Edgar’s version, which are as stiff and rigid as a Louisville Slugger.
The Utility Player
Food item: Chicken tenders, Hamburg + Frites
Player: Kyle Seager, who’s now stationed at third base but is equally capable of playing a mean second base and shortstop.
Hamburg + Frites was already serving the park’s best fries (sorry, garlic-fry vendors), so chicken tenders were an obvious addition. The hefty tenders, sporting a thick coat of dark fry, are pure crowd-pleasers, destined to be deemed decent by fans from all generations.
Food item: Vegan chili cheese dog, Field Roast
Player: The whole damn team
Field Roast last year introduced its meatless franks to Safeco, and this year ups the ante by putting meatless chili and a squiggle of dairy-free orange cheese on top. The sandwich is a mess of sautéed onions, beans, and bits of corn, and has the distinctive flavor profile of a dish served at a nuclear-disarmament potluck. But just when you get to liking the dog, it deteriorates: After two bites, my serving fell apart irreparably. Mariners fans should love it.
PRICE GUIDE Torta $9 Tacos $9 Nachos $9 Steamed bun $6.50 Vegan chili cheese dog $6.50