The Times West Virginian

August 22, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- What’s new with food at WVU games?

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — The food menu at the first sporting event I ever attended included hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack.

Nothing else.

Of course, this was in 1946 and, as a 5-year-old sitting in the old Polo Grounds with his father watching his beloved New York Giants play, this was heaven.

Who knew what the future held?

Much has changed since then. No, make that nearly everything has changed since then.

The Giants are in San Francisco. Dad is gone. No one would ever have an advertisement consisting of a jumbo-sized pack of Chesterfield cigarettes hanging in fair territory on the upper deck in left field, and if a hitter struck it with a home run 10,000 cigarettes would be sent to our troops overseas as did the Polo Grounds then.

Yeah, life is different, but you can still get a hot dog, peanuts and Cracker Jack at the ball park, and the fact that the Cracker Jack now comes in a bag and not a box doesn’t hurt the taste at all.

But no one is limited to those items today, although it doesn’t seem to have hurt their popularity any, considering Americans are said to eat 7 billion hot dogs per year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, eat more than 600 million pounds of peanuts per year and as recently as 2009 devoured roughly 1,000 bags of Cracker Jack per game at Boston’s Fenway Park.

Today it is not unusual to go to a sporting event and pick up such high-scale items as sushi and lobster rolls.

So, with West Virginia University football now nine days away, it was time to look at the changes Sodexo, the company that provides concession services to WVU, is offering at Milan Puskar Stadium this season.

They say there are five new concepts, beginning with Wow Wingery at Concession Stand Six on the east side, six different flavor wings, breaded chicken tenders and fries.

You won’t be able to imagine your hot dogs at the Gourmet Hot Dog Stand, which will offer quarter-pound dogs such as a Coney Island Dog, New York Dog, Pretzel Dog, Chicago Dog and West Virginia Dog.

“Simply to Go” will sell its wares from carts on both sides of the stadium and offer wraps, parfaits and peanuts — in the form of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Next what figures to be the most popular item outside of the beer stands will be Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint out of Nolensville, Tenn., which will sell at four stands around the stadium.

Finally, in the south end zone, will be “The End Zone Tap House” featuring beer and bar food. They are pushing the cheddar bratwurst on a pretzel bun — and isn’t everything better with cheese?

It’s a little disappointing that there isn’t a stand offering traditional West Virginia fare such as pepperoni rolls or buckwheat cakes and sausage because there are, across the country, a number of specialty items offered in stadiums.

For example, in Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field you get a capicola and cheese sandwich from Primanti Brothers, the Pittsburgh restaurant made famous for its deli sandwiches that come with fries and cole slaw — all of it between the slices of bread.

Then, Atlanta’s Georgia Dome offers Peach Cobbler, and there isn’t anything much more Georgia than that, while LSU takes pride in its Louisiana heritage by selling a Cajun spicy jambalaya.

Other stadiums offer their own touch, South Carolina even going so far as to offer Thai food, Texas offering sushi (roll it yourself, no less) in its home stadium, while Notre Dame goes with the “legendary” Irish Poppers along with a grilled cheeseburger, although no one has figured out what makes the poppers Irish.

And, of course, the strangest of all stadium offerings may be at Virginia Tech, where you can purchase a giant smoked turkey leg, skin and all.

It may sound Hokie, but it’s a treat you don’t get everywhere — but you pay for it. Last time we looked it was more than $9.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.