Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Game On: Opening Day Eating Out at Safeco

Seattleite proudly proclaims that 2011 will be The year for the Seattle Mariners. Not only will the boys in blue conquer the AL West, dominate the play-offs and sweep the World Series, but M’s fans now have four delicious new reasons to spend an evening at Safeco Field.

A new season. A fresh faced team. Thoughts of, “Well, we might have a shot at the West if Bedard can stay healthy?” Sounds like just another Mariners’ season comin’ round, right? All true stories. Luckily, this 2011 season there will be joy at Safeco that doesn’t depend on a left arm, and it will be had in its newest concept, The Pen.

Photo: Jon Meyer

In Seattle, we are generally blessed with our stadium food. Safeco is consistently thought of as one of the best stadiums to catch a meal and a ballgame in the entire league. Understanding the present quality of Safeco’s concessions and the potential for greater establishments, John Sergi of Centerplate Stir, the Mariners’ concession partner, saw opportunity for even greater offerings.

At Safeco on Wednesday, Sergi laid it out. “Our mission was to create a restaurant-style hospitality experience, the anti–fast food, in a concession environment.” Sergi continued, “We thought if the Mariners were food, what kind of food would they be? Following the Mariners’ motto of ‘family,’ we looked at Seattle’s food scene and the positive moves to locally sourced products, and that’s the kind of food we wanted to put in The Pen. ”

Located within the once convoluted area in and around the left-field bullpen, The Pen now boasts wide views of the field, a fire pit, un-caged access to squatting pitchers, and four new eateries that all locally source their product. It stands to reason that Ethan Stowell can’t be too far away. In fact, two of the four pop-ups are under his stewardship, and he couldn’t be happier to be in cahoots with his boyhood baseball team.

“I was here before Griffey Sr. and remember the dome in the early days, so I’m excited that this opportunity with the Mariners came along,” Stowell said, wearing a custom-made white M’s jersey and his trademark paperboy hat. “Back then, I had different ideas of what it was to be a chef and what I thought I wanted my career to be,” he said. “But now my major focus is to make people happy through food, and to a be able to put a grass-fed burger in this stadium is a major realization of that.”

Photo: Jon Meyer

Stowell’s Hamburg + Frites and La Creperie are only the beginning. The Pen will also feature pizza from legendary New Haven purveyor Bill Pustari, and traditional Mexican fare from taco truck genius/award-winning chef Roberto Santibanez. As expected, both stands will feature regionally-grown proteins and veggies. I found myself partial to Santibanez’s torta shop, Tortugas Voladoras, where a simple sandwich of pork, jalepenos, and avocados took me back to my hometown cart.

It only gets better. The Pen’s ticketing gates will open thirty minutes before any others, allowing for maximized socializing (flirting) and the enjoyment of…what’s this…five dollar beers! The deal has been sealed.

Now if we could only get Sweet Lou Piniella out of retirement to tend bar. Opening day here we come!

About Jon Meyer

Ever since Jon was born in Ellensburg, WA, he’s been eating. Now 27 and fully grown, food has transitioned away from sustenance to more of a passion. Years in the fine dining world and countless hours watching Top Chef have left him spoiled and wanting more — some kind of curse. But he’s happy living through that curse as Seattleite’s food aficionado. Pick up a copy of Jon’s book, Mustache May, or read his Seattle PI blog, The Belltown Blocks.
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