The many culinary enhancements to Safeco Field this year include new cheese steak sandwiches, more soft-serve ice cream and an oyster po-boy, barbecue sandwiches and sausages from Ethan Stowell. But the park has also tried to jazz up its most basic concessions. Here, a look at the current state of hamburgers, hot dogs and sushi (which, in Seattle, counts as a basic item.)
Ethan Stowell already serves a grass-fed patty at Hamburg+Frites, the chef's meaty contribution to The 'Pen, Safeco's year-old gambit for the happy hour crowd. With Big League Burger, he brings his "anti-fast-food burger" to right field. The best thing about the burger may be the soft potato bun, slathered with what Stowell calls "burger sauce" and most Americans would call "Big Mac sauce." The slip of a patty, cooked medium-well, has a fair amount of beef flavor, but it also has the greasy countenance of burgers served in college dining halls and museum cafeterias.
Score that play: Single.
Safeco this year installed a gleaming new sushi bar in its glassed-in cafe, entrusting the raw fish decisions to Hiroshi Egashira of Hiroshi's Restaurant. The cafeteria station doesn't intend to compete with streetside sushi restaurants - there's no seating at the bar, and orders must be placed with servers - but its sushi tastes fresh and tidy. There's nothing here to please a serious sushi enthusiast: The menu runs long on cream cheese and avocado, and the rice is a tad tough. But Egashira has brought a gravitas to the enterprise that many eaters can't find in their home area codes, let alone their local ballpark. When I asked a server which roll she'd recommend, she immediately suggested a spider-type roll made with soft-shell crab. "Soft shell crab is in season," she assured me. "It's because of the moon."
Score that play: Double
A bird's-eye version of The 'Pen, Lookout Landing is Safeco's newest cocktail bar. The left-field patio venue is the only hard liquor purveyor on the park's uppermost deck, and a fine place to enjoy an old fashioned before the game. The bar's also serving corn dog nuggets that the bartender - a Tigers fan from Flint, Mich. - assured me aren't available at any other concession stand. I didn't count the corn dogs in my cardboard basket, but I'm planning to cite the snack whenever I hear someone complain about the high cost of ballpark food. For $6.50, I received the equivalent of maybe four full-sized hot dogs and a heap of cheese sauce. The cheese sauce was lukewarm and tasted white, but the corn dogs were quite good. The hot dogs were salty, the batter was sweet and the fry was clean. Plus, it feels almost patriotic to mark a ballgame with corn dogs and corn whiskey.
Score that play: Triple
Score that play: Triple