In June, PETA announced its annual list of the 10 most vegan-friendly stadiums in Major League Baseball. Sitting in first place: Minnesota’s own Target Field.
As a lifelong Twins fan and a vegan for about a year and a half, I’d already enjoyed some of the animal-free food at the ballpark. But I wanted to find out what makes Target Field the most vegan-friendly in the country, so I reached out to Kurt Chenier, the stadium’s executive chef, to learn more.
“Honestly, we don’t sell a lot of these items,” Chenier says. But they haven’t stopped selling vegan food, because “Over the years we have strived to be well-rounded with our food offerings.” Providing plant-based options is the natural progression of that.
Still, knowing there was a commitment to vegan options wasn’t enough for me. I had to test it all out for myself. So when the Twins took to the field against the Kansas City Royals earlier this month, I wandered the park in an attempt to find my favorites.
My first stop was Bat & Barrel, a new restaurant for 2018, which features items from a handful of other local eateries—including Hell’s Kitchen’s Impossible Burger—which I’d heard good things about over the summer.
At both Hell’s Kitchen and Bat & Barrel, the Impossible Burger is marketed as vegetarian, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I asked a couple of employees how vegan the burger was, exactly, and was deferred by the first before getting a less than 100 percent confident answer from the second. Eventually, my server went back and asked the chef, returning to inform me that the patty was vegan but the bun and accompanying aioli were not. And the fries are fried in the same oil as some of their meat items, making them less than ideal to many vegans.
With everything straightened out and a side salad offered in place of fries—two points in favor of the vegan experience—I dug in. It was good. It didn’t taste quite like beef, but it certainly didn’t taste worse. Same for the texture, which was just a bit more sinewy than your typical hamburger. I liked it, but someone with a little fear of stringiness will want to top it with tomatoes, lettuce, and onion to mask any differences.
Happy with the burger, I headed down to Hot Indian, where I had two choices: the Aloo Gobi Rice Bowl and the Aloo Gobi Indi Salad. I waffled back and forth before deciding on the rice bowl because, like many vegans, I live by Homer Simpson’s words: “You don’t win friends with salad.” Shoutout to Target Field for knowing that baseball-loving vegans still want ballpark food.
On the concourse, vegan menu items are specifically labeled as such, which makes it much easier to order here. Unfortunately, I still needed clarification on the optional hot sauce. One server didn’t know its ingredients; the other was pretty sure it wasn’t vegan. I opted to skip it, not wanting to take the risk. I contacted Hot Indian after the fact and learned that it actually is vegan. At least the staff had the decency not to assume it was good to go! Hot sauce or no, this dish was tasty—everything you could ask for from a curry-based entree, with a little sweetness added in.
Next at bat was a brat from the Herbivorous Butcher. Again, these are labeled vegan to avoid any confusion, but this time there was no questioning the condiments. Confident in the quality of the meat substitute alone, the stand offers nothing more than onions in addition to the standard ketchup, mustard and relish. In both the Sriracha brat and the Italian sausage, the texture and flavor are top notch, and the staff prepares them just as well as any restaurant that peddles the brand’s products.
I also paid a visit to Pizza Lucé. The Target Field Lucé offers both slices and whole pies, but unfortunately they only whip up their Daiya-topped vegan option as a whole pizza. I considered saddling up with one all to myself but ultimately opted against it. That said, I have had Pizza Lucé’s vegan options at their restaurants, and I consider it the second-best vegan pizza in the Twin Cities. Assuming Target Field’s is anywhere close to the restaurant version, it’s well worth a purchase.
After a few innings (with the Twins in the lead), I went for a vegan dog. These dogs, as well as the vegan burgers, are provided by Field Roast, and can be found at Hennepin Grill concession stands.
Even in my meat-eating years, I didn’t like hot dogs (thanks to a Super Bowl party gone wrong at age 4), so before this adventure I’d only tried the vegan burgers. I’m happy to report I enjoyed the vegan dog better than its “real” counterpart. It has the texture and the flavor of the best hot dogs out there—good enough that if you felt like tricking a meat-eater, you could. The same can’t quite be said for the burger, though it’s not far off. It’s a little blander, and a little drier than a beef patty, but it still gets the job done. Best of all, the vegan dog and burger are just $5 and $6, respectively. Go to any professional sports stadium in the country and you’ll struggle to find anything rivaling that bargain.
After four main courses I was craving something sweet, so I checked out a few Izzy’s Ice Cream stands around the park and noticed one had a flavor labeled non-dairy. Unfortunately, this stand was closed for the game. (Two rain delays and lower attendance meant not everybody was open.) I checked with Izzy’s later on and learned they haven’t gone through vegan certification, but most of the non-dairy flavors are entirely plant-based. Most vegans would be content ordering one of these after double-checking the ingredients.
Otherwise, you can always investigate what candy’s at the concession stands, and see if your favorite vegan option is available. If you’re the type of fan for whom “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” is gospel, you’ll be happy to know you can follow your non-honey-roasted peanuts with Cracker Jack, which happens to be vegan.
By the time the Twins finished off the Royals as handily as I polished off my plant-based plates, I had no reason to doubt that Target Field is the best ballpark for vegans. Unless you really want seven different vegan entrees, you’re in good shape, and besides having the options, most are well-labeled—more than I can say about every other large venue I’ve been to in my life.
Sure, you may have trouble getting correct info from your servers. But they’re dealing with lower-selling items while helping tens of thousands of customers in about a five-hour window, so I don’t fault them for not knowing what’s vegan.
Plus, they still put in the effort to help me as much as they could. Expecting any better would be asking Target Field to be a baseball-friendly restaurant, instead of the vegan-friendly ballpark it definitely is.