The Whitecaps narrowed a list of more than 150 menu ideas culled from fan submissions, staff and food service vendors down to a top 10 earlier this year and turned the contest over to the fans, who chose the Westside Po' Boy as their favorite with 18% of the online votes. The Polish sandwich, suggested by the Whitecaps food & beverage staff, sports kielbasa, pierogies and sauerkraut smothered in marinara sauce and loaded on a hoagie roll.
The Po' Boy will replace last year's winner, "Chicks with Sticks" (celery, carrots and hummus) on the ballpark's 2012 menu, and will share the spotlight with the internationally-famous Fifth Third Burger, which has been featured on national TV networks such as The Food Network and The Travel Channel since its debut in 2009. It will be served at the Steak Cart, located on the concourse behind home plate.
Joining the Po' Boy on the menu this year will be another member of the top 10. Meat and vegan pasties, so popular in the Upper Peninsula, will make their debut on the menu as a seasonal item in the cooler months of April and May. Pasties, originally submitted by Terry Herman via email, finished a close second in the voting with 17% of the votes. The Whitecaps will serve pasties from Albie's Pasties out of Gaylord, MI.
Scott Lane, president of the Whitecaps, said the fan voting contest has become an important part of the organization's decision-making process.
"We take a look at our food offerings every year and tweak the menu so it's the best food experience in West Michigan," Lane said. "We look at the variety of foods we offer, of course we have the ballpark staples, we try hard to source local foods, and every now and then we go off the deep end with something extremely unique. It was important to us to be able to offer local and regional fare on this year's menu, and thanks to the fans, I think we have found several great items that we are proud to offer on our menu.
The west side of Grand Rapids has always produced some of the best foods in the area, so we were excited to see that the Westside Po' Boy won the fan vote," Lane said. "It will be a great addition to our menu. We also thought the fans would enjoy another Michigan item, the beef or vegetarian pasty, at the ballpark. The pasty finished a close second in the fan vote, and we thought it would be a good fit, so we were happy to add them to the menu for those cooler months.
Other items new to Fifth Third Ballpark this year are:
Movie Theater Candy (Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, Starburst, Airheads, M&Ms, Peanut M&Ms, Mike and Ikes, Milk Duds, Nerds, Reese's Pieces, Butterfinger Pieces, Whoppers, Airhead Extremes and Sour Gummy Worms). Giant Turkey Leg (1.5 pound giant smoked turkey legs from Michigan Turkey Producers). Chicken Sluggers (BBQ Marinated grilled chicken drumsticks). Pierogies (deep fried potato and cheese-filled pasta) Pickle Chips (deep fried battered butter pickle chips); a very popular fan menu suggestion. Gluten Free Hot Dogs with gluten free buns - another item widely suggested by fans. Salsalita Chips (Round tortillas made with salsa). Egglands Best Deviled Eggs (available on suite level only). Lobster Roll (New England style lobster blend served cold on a brioche bun) (available on suite level only). Half rack of Ribs (Billy Bones smoked St. Louis style ribs) (available on suite level only).
The interest in ballpark food options spiked two years ago with the introduction of the four pound, 5,000-calorie Fifth Third Burger, now internationally famous and the subject of several episodes of popular reality TV shows such as Travel Channel's Man V. Food and Food Network's Unwrapped. The Fifth Third Burger will again be on the menu, along with the popular eating challenge (finish the whole burger by yourself before the end of the game and you win a t-shirt and your photo on the Fifth Third Burger Wall of Fame). It is served from the Sweet Meats Smokehouse stand at the end of the third base concourse.
The Whitecaps open the 2012 home season on Monday, April 9 against the Bowling Green Hot Rods at 6 pm. Season, group and individual game tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or by visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.