Chicago White Sox up their culinary game

June 9, 2010 9:42:41 AM PDT
Chicago has always been a two-team town when it comes to baseball and both are attempting to improve their food offerings this season.

Like a scout attempting to find that next fast ball thrower or big hitter, both teams have tried to make off-the-field improvements this year, in both their concession and premium seating areas.

At U.S. Cellular Field they've made a few upgrades, including Chinese steamed buns, south side Italian ice and even southern-style smoked barbeque.

It's been five years since they won the World Series, but the South Siders haven't stopped trying to improve, especially in the concession department. One of the biggest acquisitions the White Sox made in the off-season was actually from the North Side. On the 300 level in right field, Smoque Barbeque now has a stand at The Cell, offering up their incomparable sliced brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, as well as their smoky baked beans and coleslaw. It's part of a strategy to incorporate a few more options than just dogs and Polishes.

"This year we've added a Tex-Mex, which is a build your own burrito, taco, nacho location. We've done a sausage burger barn-- kind of-- you can do a hamburger, turkey burger, sausage burger patty," said Joey Nigro or SportService Concessions.

That sausage burger patty, by the way, earns its Chicago stripes in the form of a red gravy-and-pepper topping. Deli sandwiches are also part of the action this year.

"We've created a new kind of spin on an old carvery, now, we actually hand-carve all of our turkey sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches and then of course, what everybody loves is Wow-Bao; it's a stuffed bread with chicken teriyaki and barbeque pork and we also offer a vegetarian edamame," Nigro said.

Italian ice fans will be relieved to see a few carts from Zarlengo's scattered around the park. The popular Chicago Heights business offers a flavor sampler that's hard to beat in the heat. Up one level - where season ticket holders eat alongside some day-of-game ticket holders - are the Street Fusion Carts. Created by the Levy Restaurant Group, they rotate nearly every home stand, including gyros or, in this case, fried chalupas that you can customize with ground chorizo sausage and a host of fresh toppings. They've also partnered with Niman Ranch, to offer spicy Italian brats and a few gourmet sausages. Sides of corn and coleslaw round out the ballpark feast.

"I think the last few years all over major league sporting venues its gone from grabbing something out of a bin that's pre-wrapped to actually cooking in front of the guest, giving that value added item so it is more culinary-like," said Nigro.

Even though some of those items, like the smoque barbeque and street fusion carts are up in the private 300 level, there are usually some tickets available each game, if you're not a season ticket holder.


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