Kansas City, Mo. — Michael Slavin has been hard at work for opening day.
Slavin is the executive chef for Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. That’s right — a ballpark has a chef.
Gone are the days when hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks were the only menu options. That’s especially the case this year at the newly remodeled Kauffman Stadium.
But for as many details Slavin has worried about — everything from chipotle mayo on gourmet burgers to the cooking time at a new barbecue restaurant — he knows there’s one thing that’ll make the food taste even better, and it’s out of his control.
“Everything,” he says, “is better when they’re winning.”
Coinciding with a $250 million stadium renovation, the Royals have turned their stadium food locales over to Aramark, which operates food service at 15 Major League Baseball stadiums.
That means new food venues, especially in the right-field plaza area. Those include:
• Rivals Sports Bar, a 150-seat restaurant that will serve menu items such as chicken nachos and hot wings.
• All-Star BBQ, which will feature a full array of Kansas City-style barbecue options such as burnt ends, ribs and brisket.
• Sluggerrr’s Training Table, with special kid-sized portions.
In addition, some concession stands around the stadium will offered specialized foods, such as the KC Cantina, which will offer burritos and other Mexican food.
“Baseball is an eating sport, and I think as you see a lot of these venues — baseball parks — opening like this, it’s much more than just what’s on the field,” says Scott McGinn, district manager for Aramark. “It’s about the entire fan experience.”
With the home opener quickly approaching, we decided to gather a group of Royals fans together to sample some of the new food options at the stadium.
Our panel included Ronda Davis of Lawrence; Tom Hilger of Lawrence; Hilger’s 5-year-old grandson, Haris, a kindergartner at Sunflower School; and Hilger’s son, Cory, who lives in Overland Park. All are season-ticket holders.
“It’s always fun to be at the ballpark,” Davis says. “It’s just part of the summer experience. I’m hoping to be there for that great season.”
And Davis says food is an important part of that experience.
“I would say it’s important, especially when you’re bring kids and other people,” she says. “It is quite a trek. You’re here for at least four hours. Something other than just greasy old tater tots is probably a little more of a crowd draw.”
She was impressed with what she tasted. She liked the chicken nachos because they had guacamole, and she liked the barbecue options. She also liked the southwestern burger.
“I really liked the jalapenos,” she says. “The hamburgers before reminded me of what you get at school lunches. So this makes it a little more gourmet.”
Haris Hilger was impressed as well.
“I’m getting kind of full of the hot dog,” he says, noting that his should have ketchup only, please.
“I hate mustard,” he says.
Tom Hilger, meanwhile, was a fan of the cheesy corn, which will be sold at the barbecue shop.
But even with the new options, Hilger says he’ll take a simple approach come Friday’s home opener.
“It’ll be a hot dog,” he says. “I just want to keep it simple. I don’t need any gourmet for opening day. A hot dog, Pepsi and a bag of peanuts — that’s about all for me.”
A MEAL AT KAUFFMAN
A sampling of some of the foods available this year at Kauffman Stadium, in addition to the traditional ballpark fare:
• Blackened catfish sandwich ($9.50)
• KC ribeye steak ($10.50)
• Cheesesteak sandwich ($7.75)
• Onion rings ($4.75)
• Buffalo chicken sandwich ($7.75)
• Fish and chips ($8.50)
• Meatball sub sandwich ($6.50)
• Chicken tenders ($7.75)
• Pot roast slider ($9)
• Cobb salad ($10.50)
• Fruit cup ($4.50) and yogurt cup ($4)
• Hog wings ($10)
• Half rack of ribs and two sides ($16)
• Chicken nachos ($7.25)
• Jumbo hog dogs ($4.25)
• Barbecue brisket sandwich ($9)