A new Twins season means new foods to sample at Target Field.

On Monday afternoon, while a packed opening-day house was watching — and wincing — as the Twins suffered a 12-3 rout (ouch) by the Kansas City Royals, I was grazing my way around the jam-packed concourses and consuming the equivalent of a week’s worth of lunches. Here’s my take.

In the love-this-development department, Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen has matriculated from a stand to a full-fledged counter, and the extra room has allowed chef Asher Miller to expand his menu. And how.

I can’t conjure up enough praise for Miller’s Korean fried chicken sandwich, a labor-intensive wonder on a bun and a Target Field don’t-miss food experience.

Asher cooks chicken thighs low and slow in a mixture of ginger, miso and sake, making the meat outrageously juicy and flavorful.

The meat is coated in rice flour and green onions, fried to tantalizing crispiness and then tossed in a chile-lime salt. Then comes a rich potato bun and a thick, slow-burn sauce made with dried dates, tamarind and a pungent hot pepper paste. The crowning touch? A grilled pineapple ring. It’s $13, and worth every penny.

Zimmern & Co. also produce what are easily the ballpark’s best nonalcoholic beverages ($5). One is a holdover from last year, an utterly refreshing mint- and cucumber-infused lemonade. The newcomers include a gently sour grapefruit-lime juice repast, and a brightly flavored, not-too-sweet Mandarin orange drink. Each is $5.

“When we had the opportunity to expand our presence and footprint at Target Field, Asher and I sat down and thought about great drinks for everyone, both kids and thirsty adults,” said Zimmern.

“When I was young, I loved all the ‘ades.’ I think commercial sodas are bad for you, and I don’t want kids at the ballpark to drink them. They need more choices other than sugary corn-syrup-based junk.”

Amen to that.

Located in Section 114.

Rice bowl beauties

Kudos to Delaware North, the food-service giant that oversees the House of Mauer’s dining operations, for luring all kinds of local talent into the ballpark.

Case in point: the most-excellent Hot Indian Foods, which operates a popular food truck and a brick-and-mortar outlet at the Midtown Global Market.

Instead of featuring her signature roti-made “Indurritos,” chef Janene Holig has focused her considerable skills on a pair of colorful, flavor-packed rice bowls. Smart move.

One features cubed, yogurt-coated chicken breast simmered in a smoky tomato sauce, the other a blend of potatoes, cauliflower and zucchini in that same rich but not-too-spicy sauce.

Both versions are served with basmati rice simmered in coconut milk and garlic, and feature the same toppings, namely a fantastic mango-carrot-apple slaw with a tangy coconut milk dressing, and bits of crunchy lentil-rice flour pappadums.

Each one clocks in at a not-unreasonable $11, and they’re highly shareable. They’re also gluten-free, and the cauliflower-potato version is not just vegetarian but vegan, a huge step forward for a venue that once relegated vegetarians to a dreary fruit cart.

Located in Section 120.

Pass the guacamole

Delaware North has also wisely tapped quality-obsessed Barrio, which operates outlets in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Edina and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “It was flattering they asked, and a no-brainer for me,” said Barrio owner Ryan Burnet.

From the well-placed perch that is Barrio, fans can indulge in a quick-service facsimile of the restaurant’s signature margarita (a sublime blend of Cabrito Blanco tequila, Cointreau and house-made lime sour) and a handful of beers (including an exclusive tap of Indeed-brewed lager), along with two Barrio menu classics.

First up is a dreamy, creamy guacamole ($6), punched with fresno chiles and garlic and served with crispy, wonderfully salty tortilla chips.

Even better? The pair of skillfully composed tacos ($9), tender corn tortillas filled with shredded pork shoulder slow-cooked in orange juice, Coca-Cola and cinnamon and finished with a splash of thick, ultra-savory ancho-tomatillo salsa and fresh cilantro.

Located in Section 126.

Burger bonanza

The folks at the Red Cow stand were having the same kind of opening day that the Twins were having down on the field: They were getting creamed.

Word of mouth produced a line that stretched down the concourse, as did my wait. Forty-five minutes later, a beleaguered staffer announced that they had run out of chips, prompting the grown man standing in front of me to throw a not-insubstantial hissy fit. Over potato chips. First World problems, right?

Anyway, I ordered, waited a few minutes more and was finally rewarded with three slider-size burgers. Were the results worth the wait? Not really, but then again, nothing served at Target Field merits a three-quarters-of-an-hour investment.

But Luke Shimp, who operates three bustling metro-area Red Cow locations, clearly knows what he’s doing, because the slider-size burgers were miles beyond the ballpark’s other burger offerings.

Shimp offers three well-seasoned varieties, the patties grilled to medium and running mouthwatering juices at first bite. All are served on sturdy buns — from the Franklin Street Bakery — that are toasted on the grill in prodigious amounts of butter.

One is a straight-up classic, topped with crispy iceberg lettuce, a bland tomato slice, perky red onion and melty Cheddar. A second is topped with a handful of salty blue cheese and a swipe of sweet apricot jam. A third dives headlong into novelty territory, the patty a blend of beef and bacon (it’s an indulgent 60/40 split), then more of that Cheddar, a crisscross of candied bacon and a wallop of feisty beer-infused mustard.

In short, Red Cow is a welcome addition to the Target Field mix. One quibble: $8.50 (or $14.50 for two) seems like a lot to pay for what feels like a 3-ounce burger, although it’s in line with the ballpark’s inflated beer prices.

Business as usual, right? As for the wait, I wouldn’t be surprised if a second Red Cow outlet materialized, fast.

Located in Section 126.

Ultimate hangover cure

The definite eye-grabber of the 2015 season is the College Daze Bloody Mary at Hrbek’s, a pizza-driven knockoff of the ballpark’s wildly popular Bigger, Better Burger Bloody Mary which is, yes, garnished with a slider-scaled burger. This time around, the spicy, jumbo-size cocktail takes on a similar kind of Carmen Miranda-like craziness.

It’s a veritable relish tray in a glass, including celery, pepperoncini, a chewy beef stick, olives, pickle spears and cubes of Cheddar and pepper jack cheeses. The topper is a slice of cold pepperoni pizza, and it’s not some schlocky Papa John’s reject from around the corner (don’t get me started on the ballpark’s substandard pizza options), but a surprisingly decent, made-on the-premises slice of wood-fired ’za. The disappointment is the beer chaser, a mini can of Bud Lite. Come on. For $19 (!), I was expecting more. Way more.

Located in Section 114.

Shoulder-shrugging steak

Mighty Murray’s has slapped its name on a cheese steak sandwich for the Mill City Grill, but the results aren’t doing the legacy downtown Minneapolis restaurant any favors, reputation-wise. It’s not bad; it’s just not particularly memorable, either. Here’s the drill: Thinly sliced beef, flavorful but paper-dry, is laid out on a so-so hoagie roll and dressed with a few wisps of indifferently grilled onions and red peppers and then doused in a dreary, molten cheese-like glop, the kind associated with cineplex concession-stand nachos. It’s very food court-ish, and there are more productive ways of spending $12.50.

Located in Sections 105, 118 and 319.

Enough already

Can we all agree that it’s time for Minnesotans to move past the hot dish thing? At State Fair Classics, a concoction dubbed Darby’s Bacon Tot Dish is exactly what it sounds like: a paper boat filled with over-fried Tater Tots blanketed with a snoozer of a pico de gallo, snips of limp bacon, tons of freshly cut and decidedly un-Minnesotan jalepenos (uh-oh, spicy!) and more generic cheese glop.

The only missing ingredient is cream of mushroom soup, which would probably improve this snoozer. Price: a steep $9.50. Still, it’s filling, it’s hot, it’s shareable and it feels very Metrodome.

Located in Section 133.

 

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