BATTER UP! EAT UP!

Houston Astros roll out a powerhouse lineup of new ballpark grub for 2019

Smoked Pork Burnt End Tots. Photo courtesy of Aramark

Originally appeared on CultureMap.

Good luck sticking to your regular baseball diet — hot dogs and beer — at Minute Maid Park this season. The Houston Astros unveiled their lineup of new menu items this week, and you may want to skip lunch on game night. And maybe even breakfast the next morning. And drop by Jenny Craig for a pep talk on your way home from work.

Among the more fanciful selections for 2019: Smoked Pork Burnt End Topped Tots, Prime Rib Steak Sandwich, Lamb Gyro, and Calabrese Shrimp Sandwich. How does a dish of Kahlua Tiramisu sound for dessert? (Remember, pinkies out.)

"We try to keep our food focused on the regional tastes of Houston and finding a way to put a ballpark spin on things. We do a lot of research and consultation with our fans, and assortment of food and beverages is the thing that matters most to them," says Mat Drain, His Exalted Highness of Habanero for Aramark, which runs the food concessions at Minute Maid Park.

Aramark held its annual press event in the ballpark's Diamond Club. Inviting the media to sample free food, buffet-style, makes the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona look like a waltz contest. Joey Chestnut has nothing on sports writers.

A beefed-up lineup
My favorite was the Prime Rib Sandwich, which is serious business even by steakhouse standards. It's a thick slab of trimmed prime rib, topped by caramelized onions and horseradish sauce. It's over-the-top, amazing and not cheap. Your favorite president, Andrew Jackson, will pick up the bill.

I taste-tested the 713 Prime Burger, an 8-ounce Nolan Ryan patty — actual prime beef — with American cheese on a toasted bun. Elegant in simplicity, divine in quality, smooth as butter. I dug into a Fried Shrimp Po'boy, with real Gulf shrimp. Nice touch staying local.

I also snuck in a Ken Hoffman Dog, topped with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard. Yes, for the first time, my dog will available throughout the stadium this season, total respect.

Better food for all fans
Drain, if nothing else a man of the people, says he's addressed a complaint heard often in years past: that all the good stuff is limited to certain stadium levels, particularly the suites and club level.

"Our biggest focus has been making sure we have variety on all levels of the ballpark. We've added specialty concepts that have been successful on the main concourse to the upper concourse, such as our HTX Mex portables selling tacos," he notes.

One table at the food rollout was dedicated to an array of new salads and healthier options, available at the Marketplace on the main concourse. (I pretended that I didn't see it.)

Executive Chef Jimmy Coatsworth explained how he prepares Smoked Smoked Pork Burnt End Topped Tots. It was like listening to Beethoven describe how he composed his Fifth Symphony. What kind of devious mind thinks up a Frito Pie Corn Dog? If only Coatsworth used his powers for good instead of evil.

Dollar Dog Nights will be held on Tuesdays this year. There are lucky 13 Tuesday night games on tap this year, start looking for loose change in the couch. Big ups for Minute Maid Park. While other stadiums sell smaller franks on their discount dog nights, the Astros offer the same size frank as other games.

To see the complete batting order of new food items, locations, and prices coming to Minute Maid Park, read the rest of the story on CultureMap.


Astros take game one of three against Rangers

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: Astros 7, Rangers 2

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After having their winning streak snapped on Wednesday night, the Astros had a day off to regroup before starting the weekend series with the Rangers in Arlington. Here's how Friday night's game went:

Final Score: Astros 7, Rangers 2

Record: 13-6, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (3-0).

Losing pitcher: Drew Smyly (0-2).

Star of the game: Though there was plenty of offense to go around for the Astros, Justin Verlander delivered a great performance on the mound, allowing just one run on three hits and three walks to go along with his eight strikeouts over his seven innings and 107 pitches. The win moved him to 3-0 on the year.

Notes: After being held to one run on Wednesday night in Oakland, the Astros were on fire to start the game on Friday, getting a leadoff double from George Springer to set up Jose Altuve for a two-run homer, followed by Alex Bregman who made it back-to-back jacks to put Houston ahead 3-0 before Drew Smyly could record an out. Altuve struck again in the next inning, getting a two-out RBI-single to extend the lead to 4-0. That score held until the top of the fifth when Michael Brantley led the inning off with a double before Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit back-to-back RBI-doubles, then later George Springer hit what looked to be a home run but was instead ruled the third RBI-double of the inning, extending Houston's lead to 7-0. After being held scoreless through the first five innings, the Rangers did finally get on the board in the bottom of the sixth on a solo home run off of Justin Verlander, but Verlander would still go on to post a great line with his seven innings pitched. Chris Devenski took over in the eighth, getting a quick scoreless inning before Reymin Guduan came in for the ninth. Guduan allowed a towering one-out solo home run to the Rangers then walked the next batter, ending his appearance to bring in Josh James who was able to notch the last two outs to wrap up the win.

Up Next: The second of three games in this series will get underway at 7:05 PM on Saturday night. Houston will send Gerrit Cole (1-2, 3.24 ERA) to the mound to face Adrian Sampson (0-1, 5.93 ERA) for the Rangers.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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