Getting a hot dog at the game is a national ritual. But getting a hot dog before the game is a practice peculiar to Seattle's stadium district.
Jon Severson, executive chef for Levy Restaurants at CenturyLink Field, says he's never before encountered a stadium neighborhood with a food vending scene "as big as this one. And it seems to be growing."
Forced to contend with the competition on his doorstep, Severson -- who previously cheffed at Sports Authority Field in Denver - is borrowing techniques from the popular outdoor trucks. New offerings at Sounders' games this year include a stand-alone Uli's sausage cart; a Trophy Cupcakes booth and a mac-and-cheese concession run by Beecher's Handmade Cheese.
"We're trying to collaborate to get more of that local presence, so why not invite them in?," Severson says.
Menus at existing stadium outlets have also been gussied up with seasonal paninis ("We're calling it a Smasher, because how long have paninis been popular, you know?," Severson says) and burgers (this month's version is garnished with the awkwardly oxymoronic "locally-grown wild mushrooms"), but the single-item carts are the primary focus for the soccer season. Severson says Levy Restaurants may eventually move closer to the independent vendors' turf, opening carts outside the stadium.
"We have some curbside real estate too, so that's something we're going to work on," he says.
Severson adds that the stadium doesn't want to drive away the longtime hot dog and taco sellers stationed on Occidental Avenue.
"We don't want these guys to go anywhere," Severson says. "If I sell 100 hot dogs less, I'm OK with that."