Editor’s Note: As the baseball season nears the All Star break, Food Safety News continues its visits to Major League ballparks.  Our focus is on food safety, but we will also be checking out the local food favorites that are bringing out the crowds.

MNtwins-featured.jpgToday’s ballpark: Target Field, Minnesota Twins.

Why Now:  ESPN just named Target Field as the best sports stadium experience in America.   It is the newest baseball park in the country, and we thought we’d join the line of baseball fans taking a look.

From many areas of the country, seeing a game at Target Field can be accomplished in one day.  Fly into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in the morning, take the light rail (called the Hiawatha) to Target Field, see an afternoon game, and reverse your steps to MSP for an evening flight home.

On eight acres just a short walk off Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, architects Populus (formerly HOK Sports) of Kansas City and HGA of Minneapolis have created the most fan-friendly baseball park we’ve ever seen.

Did you ever try to drink a beer and eat a hot dog while standing?  There is an area in the outfield with a chin-level wall for seeing over that also has a shelf for holding that beer while you finish the hot dog.  Or how about the 80-person sports bar on the upper deck right over home plate?

Target Field, located near the headquarters for Target Corp.’s retail empire and Target Center, home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, was built for $545 million.  With sales of standing-room-only tickets, it can accommodate 41,000.  In the first half of the season, it sold out all but a couple of games.

Recent Inspections:  None yet, but unannounced inspections can be expected during July.  Minneapolis food service inspectors and managers from Delaware North Companies (DNC) Sportservice, which is in charge of food and beverage services at Target Field have been working together during the first half of the season to keep food safe.  After hand-holding, walk-throughs, and teaching how to do self inspections, the training wheels are now coming off.

Violations: None

What Minnesotans Like:  The Minnesota Twins have their own fight song (sung as the team takes the field in the 1st), a storied history including three world championships and Hall of Famers like Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett, and a fan base that spans much of the Upper Midwest.  

But 27 years playing inside the Hubert H. Humphrey Dome with its stale sunless environment had worn down even those cheerful Minnesotans.  After many fits and starts, the Twins got a fan-friendly outdoor stadium that it had not seen since the old Metropolitan Stadium was demolished to make way for the Mall of America.

While the new architecture is among the best on the planet, the food choices at Target Field make the fare at many a Major League ballpark seem, well, second rate.

The Twins opted to bring Minnesota favorites into the ballpark, and some great names were invited inside: Hrbek’s (hamburgers); Kramarczuk’s (sausages); Murray’s (steak sandwiches); and Lund’s & Byerly’s (wild rice soup).

In addition, they brought Minnesota State Fair favorites like turkey legs and pork chop on a stick to Target Field.

There are also plenty of special creations, including “Tony O’s Cuban Sandwich,” a creation inspired by the great Tony Oliva.  Pastor Jimenez, executive chief for the Minnesota Twins,  came up with Tony O’s and other unique vegetarian and alternative offerings like walleyed pike.

And this quick rundown barely scratches the surface on the food and beverage choices at Target Field.   

The only down side to these many food choices is that Twins fans are up and down a lot during the game, and Minnesotans are so damn nice, there is not much you can do about it.   Smile, and have someone get you another boutique beer.