MINNEAPOLIS -- Standing behind a table featuring the Loon Cafe's chili and Lunds and Byerly's wild rice soup, Target Field executive chef Pastor Jimenez smiled as he dished out servings of the locally famous food. With temperatures reaching the high 70s on a sunny Thursday afternoon at Target Field, soup and chili might not normally have been high on the list of foods people would want to eat. But in a tour that the Twins provided to the local media of the food offerings at Target Field, the chance to sample these items proved irresistible even on such a beautiful day outside.
For the Twins, Thursday's tour was an opportunity to showcase some of the many food options that will be available to fans starting this weekend during a pair of exhibition games against the Cardinals on Friday and Saturday. It also was the chance to unveil a couple of new items that had not yet been released to the public. "This is a big day for us. Obviously, we're going to play baseball tomorrow, but today really marks the culmination of a very significant journey with our partner Delaware North Sportservice to make sure that the food and beverage experience at Target Field is at a much higher level than anything in this marketplace, and in our mind, throughout baseball," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "From the first meeting we had with Sportservice, we talked about food quality and how we can make that the case for every fan at the ballpark -- whether you are in a suite or in the Champion's Club or whether you are sitting out in the left-field bleachers." Plenty of food options were on display during Thursday's tour, which began at Hrbek's, a restaurant located behind home plate on the main concourse that will open prior to and during all Twins home games. Among the items available to taste test on Thursday were the Rex Burger -- a one-half pound beef burger stuffed with caramelized onions and pepper jack cheese -- as well as Bloomington onion rings, walleye fingers and a dessert called the On Deck circle, which features a hot chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Next up was a visit to Kramarczuk's sausages stand. Kramarczuk's will sell three kinds of sausages at Target Field -- bratwurst, Polish and Hungarian -- with or without sauerkraut and onions. It's one of the many local influences within the ballpark, as Kramarczuk's Sausage Company has been a Northeast Minneapolis staple for the past 55 years. There was also a visit to the Asian Wok stand with chefs cooking up stir fry options -- such as chicken or vegetables. For fans interested in something a little different when it comes to ballpark fare, this might be a good stop. The tour then proceeded to one of Thursday's new announcements, Tony O's Cuban Sandwiches. Oliva worked closely with Jimenez to get the flavoring of his favorite sandwich just right, which features ham and roasted pork with Swiss cheese and pickles on Cuban bread. It will be served at two concession carts at Target Field, and Oliva said the idea came from one of his famous sayings while at the ballpark. "When I watch the games, you see the guy miss a nice fast pitch, I tell the guy, 'Hey, it's a Cuban sandwich. Eat it,'" Oliva said. "I eat a lot of different sandwiches, but the Cuban sandwich is great. And this is a good Cuban sandwich." Next up was the Hennepin Grill, where there were samples of the Vincent burger, which was unveiled this week. The gourmet burger, made from Angus beef and stuffed with braised short rib and smoked gouda cheese, is an award-winning menu item at Vincent A Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. A quick stop at the hot dog cart, which featured a few of the hot dog samplings, including the Big Dog and a polish, was followed by a trip to the Halsey's Sausage Haus, where Jimenez dished out samples of the chili and wild chicken rice soup. The group then moved on to the Mill City Grill, where there were tastings of the Murray's famed steak sandwich and garlic toast. That was followed by a visit at the Twins Brews, where a number of craft and premium beer selections from Minnesota and regional breweries are sold, including Summit, Schells, Grainbelt, Finnegans, Leinie's and Michelob. The final concession stand that was visited was the State Fair Classics in the outfield, where there was a large sampling of Michelbob's Ribs, JD Hoyt's Pork Chop on a Stick, Walleye on a spike, veggie kabobs and turkey legs. One of the newest items to the concession menu was unveiled at the final stop at the Townball Tavern. Killebrew Root Beer, a regional product honoring Twins Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew, will be served at the restaurant, as well as at a few other Target Field concessions. Of course, it will also likely be used a lot to make root beer floats, which were a big hit among the group at that last stop. By the end of the tour, there were a lot of full stomachs and smiles on the faces. It was a sure sign for the Twins that the food experience will be a great one for fans when they visit the new ballpark. "We wanted to have a reflection of the community and the kind of food that people are accustomed to," said Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports. "Not just a generic hot dog or hamburger that's put out. We wanted something that they are familiar with, and I think we accomplished that. There are a lot of different offerings here. People come to a ballpark to eat many things that they wouldn't eat at home, and that's certainly the case here."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.