If you tailgate before a Minnesota Vikings game this fall, go easy on the meat and snacks. You'll want to stay hungry for what's inside.
The Vikings have announced their culinary partners that will help shape the eating experience at U.S. Bank Stadium, a new downtown domed venue that will become the NFL team's home this fall and host the Super Bowl in February 2018, and the pre-announcement hype did not disappoint.
It wasn't much of a surprise that Minnesota's own celebrity chef, Andrew Zimmern, will be making his mark in the new stadium. But the overall emphasis on local restaurants and Minnesota palates gives the new stadium's fare a touch of authenticity that many other venues lack.
Of course, Zimmern is the centerpiece of the eating experience. His name in itself is valuable, and he was very candid in discussing the challenges of stadium food. The Andrew Zimmern Canteen bills itself as "A Food Adventure," which might be a little generous: The featured item on display for media was a six-foot Italian porchetta sandwich.
Four versions of the sandwich will be available at the restaurant, and Zimmern said he's working on a holding container for the sandwich that will save fans from making a mess while trying to eat.
That will be an important feature, given the composition of the sandwich: It's a delicious mess. So messy that it was impossible to keep meat and garnishes from falling back into the plate. It was by far the most challenging of the three featured menu items.
Still, it was full of flavor. Zimmern is launching his Canteen in partnership with Gavin Kaysen, a Minneapolis chef at the critically acclaimed Spoon and Stable. It may draw in fans on Zimmern's name alone, but this isn't a Guy Fieri restaurant -- it'll live up to its reputation.
The competition for mouths will be stiff, though. Also announced as a culinary partner is Ike's, a longtime Minneapolis establishment that will sell its handcrafted steak tenderloin sandwiches at the venue.
The sandwiches are in stark contrast to what Zimmern's restaurant will offer: They're neat and more nuanced in their flavor. But the steak is incredibly well cooked, and they go well with the signature cocktails that Ike's is known for in the area.
Perhaps most impressive, though -- at least from a local standpoint -- is the inclusion of Revival, a southern cooking restaurant that has become one of the most popular restaurants in the Twin Cities, and one of the establishments that best represents the prospering local food scene. What it lacks in a long history in the city, it makes up for by offering what many consider the best fried chicken in the area.
Given its strong local reputation, co-own Nick Rancone told the gathered media that he was initially worried that the volume and demand of the stadium wouldn't be possible for Revival to meet without compromising its standards.
It was pleased to find out that Aramark, the stadium's food vendor, was very open to making accommodations that would enable Revival to provide the same standard of service in the stadium that consumers enjoy in their restaurants.
Revival's inclusion is particularly impressive. It's exciting to think that fans can eat at one of the city's best restaurants while also taking in a Vikings game in one of the country's newest, most impressive stadiums. It remains to be seen whether that quality can be maintained at scale, of course, but the commitment to great food options is worthy of praise.
Where other stadiums have sought to build a reputation from their willingness to be audaciously innovative, U.S. Bank Stadium's presentation offered a much different tone. It doesn't seem interested in the national acclaim that comes from stuffing a shrimp inside a chicken inside a duck inside a pig inside a cow.
They're more interested in showcasing the city's fine dining through strategic partnerships that reflect the city and the tastes of their fan base. Given the series of jump-the-shark food creations that have made headlines in recent years, it's a refreshing change-of-pace.
Of course, everyone should be holding their breath on price: Nothing has been set in stone, and the restauranteurs declined to discuss where their menu items might be priced. When it comes to stadium food, you can expect to pay for the nose. In a shiny new billion-dollar football stadium, expect to require a small loan from the bank.
But your stomach will be happy. At U.S. Bank Stadium, you can at least count on that.