Three Sliders, You're Out at Minute Maid Park

Categories: Local Spotlight

Minute Maid Park Food 012.jpg
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
The bowl also makes a cute and handy cat helmet when cleaned. Your cat may feel otherwise, however.
I don't personally understand the appeal of going to the ballpark and getting anything other than a hot dog or a plate of nachos piled high with "cheese" and pickled jalapeños that have been there since the stadium was built. It's the American way.

Nevertheless, ballparks across the country have been fancying up their food offerings, from Seattle -- where Safeco Field offers a wild-caught salmon sandwich on an organic roll -- to carving stations and "farmers' markets" at the new Yankee Stadium. So it's easy to see why Minute Maid Park and the Houston Astros would want to jazz up their own offerings as well.

To that end, the team recently partnered with chef Bryan Caswell and his company, PF&B Management, which is jointly owned by Bill Floyd. Their restaurants -- Little Bigs, Reef, Stella Sola and El Real Tex-Mex Cafe -- are popular tickets around town, and Caswell is Houston's only serious contender for a bonafide celebrity chef, so a pairing between these popular guys and a struggling baseball team seemed like at least one way to lift fans' sagging spirits.

At the Padres game on Saturday night (which we won; go Astros!), I walked the concourse before the game. Here was an El Real food cart, there a Little Bigs stand, both of them mixed in amongst the old favorites like Blue Bell ice cream served in tiny Astros helmets and the always popular BBQ Stuffed Baked Potato. For visiting fans or tourists, it must be quite a sight: Texas foodstuffs on rich display.

But how does the stuff taste?

Minute Maid Park Food 001.jpg
The FiveSeven Grille is one of the spots in Minute Maid Park where you'll find the PB&G touch.
I ducked out of the blazing sun that was heating up our seats along the first baseline and sought refuge in the FiveSeven Grille, which is headed up by Aramark Executive Chef Jason Kohler, and took a seat at the lower bar area on the concourse. It seemed like the perfect spot, perched just over the outfield, to eat while not missing a moment of the game.

After five minutes of trying unsuccessfully to hail a waiter, however, I moved inside. The wait to find a server there was just as long, but a smiley-faced young kid finally came by to take my order.

I was already overwhelmed by the prices here -- $26 for a Bryan Caswell signature grilled snapper (though, to be fair, it's as much as you'd pay for crispy skinned snapper at Reef) and $17 for a silly-sounding pasta dish involving "prawns" and sun-dried tomato pesto (they're called shrimp over here, and not everything needs to be made into pesto) -- so I decided on a $14 appetizer of orange and fennel cured salmon over greens and a $16 trio of sliders to take back to my boyfriend in the stands.

Minute Maid Park Food 004.jpg
Why are there pools of horseradish sauce and pesto on this plate? You tell me.
The salmon appetizer that came out was more like a deconstructed salad, the romaine lettuce on the side already coated in a sugary dressing that didn't at all match the salmon in flavor or tone. That's all right, though, because the salmon was such a wilted mess that it didn't particularly taste of either orange or fennel, just disappointment. I'm not sure that an Aramark-staffed kitchen has the chops to turn out the kind of cuisine that Chef Kohler (or Caswell, for that matter) is attempting here, although the attempt itself is admirable.

The sliders had to be an improvement, right? At this kind of markup, they'd better be.

They were, of course, the same old sliders as one would normally find at Little Bigs: a beef slider topped with caramelized onions and cheese, a pork slider with coleslaw and a cheese-stuffed mushroom slider that gushed forth with molten dairy upon first bite. But much of the charm was absent.

Minute Maid Park Food 007.jpg
I realize there's a markup at ballparks, but $16? No.
The fries served alongside them tasted like standard Aramark fries, the dusting of fresh herbs doing nothing to enhance their blandness and soft texture. And the sweet buns at Little Bigs that hold the sliders together were missing here. Between the salmon and the sliders, we were at two strikes already.

Fortunately, a few scoops of Blue Bell ice cream in a mini helmet saved the day. There's a lot to be said for old ballpark standbys like this. And despite the allure of freshly made tortillas at the El Real food cart, I'll probably still be enjoying a hot dog topped with way too much relish at my next Astros game.



Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
19 comments
Patrick Harrel
Patrick Harrel

I don't know where you bought your trio of sliders, but I got mine for $11 on Opening Day...

Matthew
Matthew

something i wasn't aware of till a year or so ago: minute maid is the only major league ball park that doesn't let you bring in your own food. i had no idea...

SlidersSuck
SlidersSuck

I'd save my $16 on those silly sliders and take it to Vic's before/after the game and get some real food. I don't like Little Big's sliders to begin with but it's sad that they're lesser version of Caswel's micro burgers with subpar ingredients and yet they're 3 times the price of Little Big's. No way am I giving Drayton McLane any extra money when he's content with putting a pathetic team on the field year after year. The only reason to go to the game now is in June when the Rangers come to town... or another contender.

Matthew
Matthew

for $16, i better be able to slap the person in the face that runs the register.

7Valerie7
7Valerie7

The only time to eat a hot dog at Minute Maid is during the first month of the season and on dollar hot dog nights. Other than those times, the buns are hard and stale. It's pathetic.

HTWidow
HTWidow

My cat LOVES the helmets!! Full of Fancy Feast, they are her favorite! I would never demean her by putting them on her head. And btw, hotdogs are expensive enough. In my mid-40s w/2 kids, I even wait to drink until I get home. And we drive through to feed the kids if we are running late and don't have time to feed them at home before the game. My husband and I subsidized the Dome with our gratuitous beer purchases in the early 90s, but they make no sense now when you can buy a 6 pack of good beer for the price of one cruddy beer at Minute Maid. But, we do buy the helmets full of ice cream for the kids. Lord help us if they make them as expensive as the beer! We are a family w/ a six figure income and we won't pay for Minute Maid beer or food. Lord help a family making 50K or less! Keep raising those prices and more families will be like us. We don't go to chef driven restaurants either. Too expensive, and we won't pay for a glass of wine the same price as a bottle at Spec's or a hamburger the same price as 2 lbs of ground beef. We are missing some of the finer things, but the restauranteurs are missing out on mom's desire not to have to do dishes or go to Black Eyed Pea. Maybe they will get us once college and grad school are paid for. We will see.

ShitThowingMonkey
ShitThowingMonkey

The food is a little more "charming" when eating it in the Diamond Club. If someone gives you the invite...Go.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

The Hell? They got rid of those mushroom/cheese slider years ago, and with good reason. Wonder why they brought them back?

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

$16 for three sliders? They're $5.78 at Little Bigs. Uncle Drayton, why do you insist on screwing over your fans?

I mean, seriously, these people come to the ballpark no matter how horrible the team is that you put on the field, and then you take advantage of them like this? Oh wait, the stands are empty - maybe the combination of a lousy team and bad, overpriced food isn't a very good entertainment value?

katie
katie

I tried the fajitas at El Real on Opening Day. At $11, they are cheaper than those at the restraunt. I was surprised by how good they were and the salsa selection was especially good. I would rather eat that than the scary Aramark hot dog.

Feldman
Feldman

I go to a game to watch the game. I eat beforehand or afterwards. I may shell out five bones for a soda but that's about all the Astros are gonna squeeze out of me.

trisch
trisch

My cat hates those helmets. But I'm on the same wavelength as you -- what else can I do when I find myself at the ballgame besides chow down on a couple hot dogs with lots of relish and an ice cream sundae chaser? All the other stuff I've ever tried there is crap.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Like the article says, I bought them at the FiveSeven Grille. If they're cheaper elsewhere around the stadium, maybe I was paying a premium for eating in a sit-down restaurant?

Esther
Esther

We pay a lot, but so do vendors. Caswell's probably paying a fortune in rent for the space/licensing. Hope he's relegated this expense to the "advertising" column. Though from the sound of it, this isn't going to get anyone to come back again.

Woody
Woody

You tell 'em, Albert!

I mean, seriously, overpriced food and drink at an event is completely unprecedented, yet Drayton continues to take advantage of fans' loyalty and screw them over and gouge gouge gouge!

Preston
Preston

I, too, try to avoid eating a full meal at the ballpark, but when I have to (and have the extra cash), here's what I usually get: sneak-in a bag of ranch-flavored sunflower seeds (I used to buy a huge bag of Reggie Jackson-brand seeds from the Dollar Tree and pack 'em in ziplocs), a 24 oz. tallboy of macro-swill, BBQ baked potato, and the ice cream mini helmet.

It's a splurge, true, but I think I might get out of there for around... twenty bucks?

P.S. Why did they start selling the garlic-parmesan fries only in the club food stand and nowhere else? I would gladly overpay for them in the regular concourse stands.

Preston
Preston

Sorry, realized that the garlic-parmesan fries situation is at Toyota Center, not Minute Maid. It's still valid, though.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...