The St. Paul Saints minor league baseball franchise has always existed in the spirit of freewheeling joviality and even a bit of subversive fun.
With nuns trolling the stands doling out shoulder massages, a pig mascot in a dress, and a live pig in a hat, good sense has never been on the roster. Which is fine. Good sense is for Monday mornings.
Some of the other local teams including the Twins and Vikings have gone upscale, healthy, and locally focused with their stadium food offerings, but the Saints are keeping it real.
Real drippy, real fatty, real meaty, and sometimes real ill-advised.
Presenting eight new food offerings, ranked from best, to unfortunate, to “Oh-no-they-didn’t.”
1. Street tacos
Who can argue? Tacos! Four-inch corn tortillas with a choice of meats (smoked brisket, chicken carnitas, or blackened fish) are not terribly imaginative, but they’re a no-brainer for any occasion. Garnish them up with pickled cabbage and hot sauce and make your face happy.
2. Vegetarian taco mix lettuce wrap
Non-meat eaters aren’t going to get ecstatic over innovation here, but it’s good that plant-based eating is getting an acknowledgement in a ballpark.
Quinoa, corn, black beans, and cilantro are classic enough to get your belly through the game. Choose cheddar cheese, or not and make it vegan.
3. Deep-fried apple pie
As American as. . . you get it. McDonald’s didn’t miss back in the day when they served apple pie, deep-fried in a cardboard sleeve, ready to hoover while your bum remained in the driver’s seat, no plate or fork required. The same concept works here: a handheld offering to the purely patriotic endeavor of baseball and pie.
4. Wild rice battered smoked turkey leg
Upping the ante on the Renaissance Festival giant turkey leg, the Saints have gone overboard by dipping their legs in a wild rice batter and deep-frying them. For sheer shock value, you might want one, but it won’t be easy to tackle this leviathan. Still, you’ll look like a caveman wandering around with it, and if you bought one, that’s what you wanted, so you’re still on the winning side of the equation.
5. Jumpin’ Jack Flash Burger
Are you the guy who walks into the hot sauce store demanding THE HOTTEST? This burger was made with you in mind, sir. Jalapeños, habanero jack cheese, roasted red pepper, and ghost chili sauce come together to make you back away. That much chile in one place is inadvisable in any instance, and if you can get beyond a couple of bites on this joke’s-on-you-between-two-buns, then you get the big prize (likely an evening of regret).
6. Donut hot dog
Typically, we’re on board with the enterprise of savory, umami, and sweet. An Elvis Burger is almost always a good idea. But the simple act of splitting open a long john, calling it a bun, and finding a hot dog big enough to stand up to the breadth of said bun (in this case, a quarter pound) feels like a calamity waiting to happen. Finished as it is with strawberry barbecue sauce and bacon, the worst case scenario will be that you find a way to finish the whole thing.
7. Tater tot hotdish burger (pictured, squishily, above)
This idea was just dangling out there waiting to happen, and perhaps it’s best that they did it so it can be called done. While it beats last year’s eight-patty burger, there’s little to recommend walking around with cream of mushroom soup and peas squirting out of a hamburger. For sheer portability, we applaud the taters riding on the meat, but the remaining chaos gives a bad name to Minnesota’s most iconic casserole. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
8. Giant cheese curd kebab with bratwurst
A wrinkly wiener skewered on a kebab with a single “golf ball-sized” cheese curd just brings to mind so many off-brand images, and unlike some of the above attempts, also fails in the imagination category. Also: Why? Each component is a fine hand-held food on its own (curds, brats, kebabs) and the mashup only results in confusion and sadness.
The addition of “marinara” (though it looked and tasted an awful lot like a squiggle of ketchup on a plate) brings to mind a wiener fail photo on the internet. Cake fails have nothing on this.
Ketchup should never be zigged, just as curds should never be golf-balled, and the whole crazy fumble makes us want to rush right over and get a Tater Tot Hotdish Burger instead.
The first St. Paul Saints home game of the season is Monday, May 15.
360 N. Broadway St., St Paul