WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — The West Michigan Whitecaps are switching up how new foods make their menu at Fifth Third Ballpark.
On Wednesday, Whitecaps employees joined business and media partners at Gordon Food Service’s test kitchen to sample up to 100 foods and drinks created by about 10 vendors for the ballpark.
From street tacos featuring deep-fried avocado, spicy Spam curds and cotton candy-wrapped bacon to lemonade spiced with hot sauce or flavored with basil, there was plenty to taste.
An unusual fry hit the spot for Whitecaps Marketing and Media Relations Director Steve VanWagoner.
“There’s a fish fry fish French fry that’s made with some vinegar oils that’s just to die for,” he said.
Some Impossible meat also made an appearance on a marinara-slathered sub.
“There are a number of options that we’re seeing today that fit that category — it looks like a burger but it’s not beef, it’s made of soy or another plant-based product. And there are a number of beef(-like) products like bison that are here that are just extraordinary. They’re really good,” VanWagoner said.
Other food trends were also popping up on plates.
“People are doing a lot of different things with cauliflower that’s on trend. There’s a buffalo cauliflower that I thought was excellent. But there’s all kinds of different, pretty wild foods where people are putting a lot of interesting things between two waffles that seem to be real popular this year,” VanWagoner added.
One called the waffle bat sandwich caught his eye.
“The waffle is made of tater tots. Then you’ve got chicken and bacon and a number of things between it. But I love the waffles and waffles made of tater tots is really intriguing to me. So that’s a fun one,” he said.
The ultimate goal of every dish and drink: make it onto the “trophy table.”
“We’ll take those back to Fifth Third Ballpark and we’ll decide which ones make it to the menu for the 2020 season,” VanWagoner explained.
Wednesday, dozens of entries earned a spot on the table, including the following:
- Impossible Meatball Sub
- Deep-fried Avocado Street Tacos
- Hall of Fame Street Tacos
- Home Run Jalapeno Nachos
- Big Dipper Nachos
- Waffle Bat Sandwich
- Crispy Veggie Dog
- West Michigan Michelata
- Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake
- Whitecaps Garlic Fries
- Franky’s Fantastic Fish Fry
- Crash’s Bread Pudding Bonanza
- Beer City Philly Beer Cheese Bread
- Beyond Brat with Golden Ale Sub Role
- Bison Round the Bases
- I want S’more of That
- Crafty Cooler
- Sliding Head First Into Home
- Chorizo Burger
- Tacos Al Pastor
- Bacon Nuggets
- Fry-Cuterie Board
- Pork Slugger
- Bases Loaded Eggrolls
- Polish Curve Ball
- Cheesecake Chimis
- Pizza Kolache
- Cuban Poutine
- GFS Choice Spicy Cauliflower
>>App users: Tap here for photos of the food finalists.
Each entry has to check plenty of boxes before it could end up in fans’ hands.
“The food has to be family friendly, which means it’s got to be affordable. Can we make that particular food in an affordable way for 400,000 people over the course of a summer, 70 home games? Can it be made easily — can our staff put that together for game day and make a nice presentation for it for thousands of fans? And does it fit a business model? What does it cost to make that particular food? So there are a lot of criteria that go into the decision making, way more than just the taste or the look of it. There’s a business behind it,” VanWagoner explained.
FAN VOTE CHANGE-UP
Whitecaps fans who look forward to voting for their favorite menu foods won’t be completely shut out this year. While the Whitecaps aren’t tapping the community for food ideas like they have in years past, the public will decide the Fifth Third Ballpark food of the decade.
Ten favorite menu foods created in the past decade are up for vote:
- Rocky Balburrito (2019)
- Mt. Wing Suvius (2018)
- Beer Cheese Poutine (2017)
- Dutch Love (2016)
- Hot-To-Tot (2015)
- Augger Dogger (2014)
- Baco (2013)
- Westside Po’ Boy (2012)
- Chicks with Sticks (2011)
- Declaration of Indigestion (2010)
“This is our 27th season and so we were looking at the fan vote and asking fans to submit their recipes again, and we all kind of sat in a quiet room and we thought, ‘We need something different, we’ve got to change things up,’” VanWagoner said. “It’s the past decade that led up to 2020 that’s been so fantastic to the Whitecaps and to our fans and to our business partners and to the community so let’s revisit the past 10 years and let people vote on that.”
The fan favorite vote starts Feb. 5 on the Whitecaps’ website. The team will announce the winning food on March 2.
“It’s the vision of the Whitecaps and it has been since 1994 to have community, fun and experience. Those are the three things that are about our vision. So if we can have fun, if we can be a part of community here and we can create experience with food and drink and shenanigans down on the field during a baseball game, then we’ve delivered on our mission,” VanWagoner concluded.