Mud Hens unveil new foods for 2014 seasonWritten by Danielle Stanton | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Hungry Mud Hens fans will have new and interesting food options to choose from this year at the ballpark, including two new hot dogs and a chocolate chip funnel cake.
A Cut Above Catering, the subsidiary company that runs the food and beverage at Fifth Third Field, recently showcased new menu items at a preview at the ballpark’s Bird Cage Restaurant.
Every year for the past dozen or so years, the catering company put their heads together to come up with different food items for the restaurants and usually their brainstorming involves hot dogs, A Cut Above Catering president Craig Nelson said.
The hot dog is by far the favorite food item at the ballpark and this year, the company designed two new dogs: the El Burrito Dog – a flour tortilla, cheese, chili and onion wrapped around two hot dogs – and the Mac and Cheese Dog — a grilled hotdog topped with mac and cheese and bacon.
“We’re always trying to introduce new hot dogs,” Nelson said. “Hot dogs are always No. 1.”
The new Mac and Cheese Dog will be available on the concourse at the Hen and Hound, which will also sell old standbys, including chicken tenders, foot long hot dogs and French fries — another favorite for Mud Hens attendees.
The El Burrito Dog will be sold at the El Burrito Misterio, a Mexican food restaurant on the concourse that also sells tacos, quesadillas and nachos.
A new surprise combination this year is the Chicken and Waffle Bites — maple-flavored chicken bites paired with Belgian waffles and warm maple syrup.
“We wanted to do a chicken waffle sandwich,” Nelson said. “We messed around in the kitchen. It wasn’t coming out right. We sell a lot of chicken tenders. So we decided, ‘Let’s do chicken bites with waffle.’”
Dusten Brown, executive chef at A Cut Above Catering , said his crew looks to see what is trending in food to come up with the new varieties and combinations.
“We’re seeing what other restaurants are doing, seeing what’s going on,” Brown said. “It’s going out to eat and seeing the trends.”
Close behind hot dogs in popularity are snacks and desserts. This year, A Cut Above Catering staff came up with several: chocolate chip funnel cake, French vanilla coffee float, chocolate lovers sundae, Toft’s campfire s’mores ice cream, roasted almonds, and bulk candies and snack mix all found on the concourse. Hot fudge cream puffs, chocolate brownies and caramel and almond-topped vanilla ice-cream are new at the Bird Cage sit-down restaurant.
Nathan Steinmetz, manager of online marketing, said the chocolate chip funnel cake has been getting the most buzz online.
“We’ve posted photos online and it’s neat to see what people gravitate to, especially if we don’t really push them toward anything,” Steinmetz said. “That one hit pretty big. It got some national attention. Some guys from ESPN saw it and retweeted it.”
The Bird Cage has seating for 300 guests and has catered several wedding receptions already this year, Nelson said. Fifth Third Field was the site of five weddings this past season with two on the field, he said. The restaurant has WiFi, three TV screens and accepts reservations. Other new items this year include Bird Cage burger sliders, portabella sandwich and Asian dumplings.
The concourse got a $200,000-plus facelift last year with concession stands given new identities and themes. Some of the restaurants and bars include Gilhooley’s Sports Bar & Grill, Pub 315, Suds & Wieners, Mudzarella’s, Farr Out Funnels and Frozhen, an ice cream shop that also sells draft beer.
The preview brought out the media and employees of the Mud Hens who tasted samplings of the new menu items. Mud Hens broadcasters Jim Weber, who is being inducted into the International League Hall of Fame, and Matt Melzak, both said they enjoyed the food. Melzak especially liked the Mac and Cheese Dog.
More new items unveiled March 20 included the Bleu Mushroom Burger, Chicken Parmesan Sandwich and the Antipasto Salad.
Communications manager Rob Wiercinski, who recently left WTOL-11 to work for the Mud Hen’s franchise, said: “The problem is, I like it all.”