AKRON As the new Minor League Baseball season dawns, one of the tried and tested traditions of spring is teams across the country trying to out-calorie one another with new, unique ballpark menu food items.
The Akron RubberDucks, never a franchise to shy away from such competition, rolled out two new Extreme Menu items at a media event prior to opening day and Brian Manning, the franchises director of food and beverage services, explained each meaty creation in detail.
One, the "Thanks, Joe!," is an item recognizing the career of newly retired Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas. Thomas, who retired from football after playing his entire 10-year career with the Browns - capping it with an unfortunate 0-16 season in 2017 - is a Wisconsin native and Manning explained how the sandwich plays into that reality.
"We looked at the item … we said we wanted to come up with something in tribute to Joe Thomas that had had some unique characteristics about his career. Knowing that he’s from Wisconsin and played college football there, we incorporated two butterfly bratwursts, our beer cheese as well and we put roasted red peppers and onions in there," Manning said.
The RubberDucks have used their Extreme Menu to recognize different Ohio sports figures and happenings before, so the $10 offering continues that tradition, Manning explained.
"Joe Thomas, an amazing, all-time Brown and we wanted to make sure that being a sports team in Northeast Ohio, we paid fair tribute to him this year with one of our Extreme Menu as we have with a lot of other sports stories in the region that have been relevant in the past," he added.
At the event, it was jokingly suggested that due to the overall lack of talent that often surrounded Thomas during his time in Cleveland, perhaps the RubberDucks should find the most inedible, unpalatable food possible to surround the Thomas-themed item at the Dog Pound concession stand, an idea he and Canal Park executive chef James Phillips laughed off with a dose of good humor.
The second Extreme Menu addition for the year is La Montagna, an Italian-centric dish that will have plenty of fat, calories and protein, but could find a fan base in those who love Italian cuisine but would prefer something other than pasta.
"It is the first Extreme Menu item we’ve offered at Godfather’s Kitchen in about three years. It is … a double-decker mountain of Italian meat. ‘La Montagna’ is Italian for ‘The Mountain,’ so it’s a double-decker … the base is built with roasted red peppers butterflied Italian sausage, salami, pepperoni, provolone, another piece of garlic toast - garlic bread is the base of it - then the top layer has a balsamic onion relish and once again Italian sausage, salami, pepperoni, provolone and one final piece of garlic toast on top," Manning said. "It’s a great item and we spent a lot of time this offseason coming up with it. I think it’s unique to that stand and to the personality of that location, so I think it’s going to be a great item for our fans this year at Canal Park."
With two new items coming in, one Extreme Menu food that won’t be back is The Yardbird, a sandwich built largely on turkey with other meats on top. According to Phillips, the sandwich was often too intricate and time consuming to make and serve in an acceptable window, so the culinary staff focused on creating other similar offerings that were still appealing but easier to make.
Others, such as the Not Your Routine Poutine, Three Dog Night, The Screamer, Nice 2 Meat U Burger, Notorious P.I.G. and The Squealer, will all be back, with price tags ranging from $10 to $15 and each available at specific concession stands around the stadium.
Another newcomer to Canal Park is the Sir Loin’s food cart, which will serve, among other items, a large Philadelphia-style cheesesteak and a chicken-based version of the iconic sandwich. It’s an eclectic collection for fans to check out and possibly consume as they make their initial trips to Canal Park this season to watch a new-look team on the field.
With a new manager and a roster with a litany of new faces, there will be a lot to digest both on the scorecard and in the stands as fans get their first taste of the 2018 campaign.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB