While Major League Baseball is in many ways the same sleepy professional sport it’s always been, the fan experience of our national pastime continues to evolve, especially when it comes to dining options. This year, the Seattle Mariners have taken ballpark cuisine to another level with the introduction of toasted grasshoppers.
Throughout the years, Centerplate, the hospitality partner at Safeco Field (home of the Mariners), has pushed the envelope with creative cuisine by engaging local restaurants and chefs to contribute to the ballpark menu.
This season, a well-known Seattle Mexican restaurant, Poquitos, took over the menu at Edgar’s Cantina (named after legendary Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez) at Safeco Field. The restaurant and accompanying taco stand have had a “Northwest Mex” menu for several years.
In February, a group of Mariners and Centerplate staff did a tasting of menu offerings at Poquitos. One of the items they brought out was a bowl of chapulines (a.k.a. , toasted grasshoppers). They are an authentic dish from Oaxaca, Mexico, and the restaurant has had them on their menu for many years. The grasshoppers are toasted and seasoned with a lime-chili flavoring and sea salt. They are eaten in Mexico as a snack or as an ingredient or condiment with other foods.
“At first, we all dismissed them as a bit odd, but after a while, we decided that it might be fun to put them on the menu at Edgar’s. We thought it would be a novelty and did not expect to sell many orders,” said Mariners Spokesperson Rebecca Hale. “We were very surprised when they became a bit of a sensation with media coverage and social media posts by fans at our games.”
Included in this media coverage was a one-column write-up in the April 16 New York Times in which Centerplate General Manager Steve Dominguez noted that “all of the sudden I’m getting inundated with vendors wanting to sell me crickets and ants.”
During the first three games this season (April 10-12), Hale said the Mariners sold 901 orders (4-ounce containers at $4 a piece). That’s more than Poquitos sold in an entire year at the restaurant, and it was the entire supply they had on hand for Safeco Field. This total of 901 orders works out to about 31 pounds of grasshoppers, and with 20-25 grasshoppers per 4-ounce serving, the Mariners calculate that they sold between 18,000 and 22,000 grasshoppers in the first three games. Poquitos put in a rush order for more with their regular supplier in Mexico. That order wasn’t due to arrive (for another three days), so they found another supplier in Texas that could supply them with an order in time for the team’s April 14 game. During the April 14, 15, and 16 games they sold another 1,000 orders.
In order to provide some certainty for inventory, the Mariners have imposed a limit of 312 orders per game (Edgar Martinez’s lifetime batting average is .312).
“There may be games where we run out, so fans who really want to try the grasshoppers are encouraged to get out (to) Edgar’s Cantina early,” Hale added. — Brad Harbison