When the sun is shining and the stands are full, there's no better place to spend a day than Target Field. And not just because of the baseball. The stadium has a multitude of compelling food options, ranging from classic hot dogs to high-end local restaurant fare. But just like the Minnesota Twins, you win some and you lose some. Rather than risk your dollars on duds, the Star Tribune Taste team hit the stands and loaded up on all the bites we could handle. From the home runs you should go out of your way to track down to the strikeouts best avoided, here's a guide for planning your game day eats — just in time for the team's weeklong homestand that begins Monday.
Seek out these dishes that knocked it out of the park.
Polish/Cheese Polish Sausage
Grilled sausages and baseball are one of the all-time-great pairings, and one of the simplest joys in life. We're not talking about any old hot dogs, but Minneapolis' own Kramarczuk's Deli, which offers three kinds of sausages crisped up on the grill alongside piles of onions and bacony sauerkraut. Go all in on a garlicky Polish sausage stuffed with cheddar cheese that oozes with every snappy bite. This is baseball heaven on a bun.
Kramarczuk's Sausage, Sections 105, 120, 323, $10
Chicken Tikka Bowl
Since it closed at Midtown Global Market, this Target Field stand is currently the only place to fulfill our Hot Indian curry cravings. The chicken tikka bowl was even better than we remembered. Each bite is a textural wonderland, with tender, saucy chicken layered over hearty rice, crunchy cabbage and carrot slaw that cools down the spice, and crispy papadums sprinkled atop. It's a solidly filling meal that's easy to eat in the stands.
Hot Indian, Section 120, $14
Red Cow Ultimate Burger
There are burgers all over the stadium, but this was the one that delivered the biggest, beefiest flavor. Coarse-ground and juicy with just a hint of pink in the middle, two patties are draped under a couple of slices of Wisconsin aged cheddar, and drizzled with Red Cow sauce. The lettuce is crisp and cold, the tomato is red and juicy and the squishy potato bun is an ideal delivery system.
Townball Tavern, $15
Strawberry Rhubarb Margarita
Built for hot days, this tart and sweet cocktail is a delightfully balanced pink drink with a tequila kick that achieves the flavor of early summer. The icy cold concoction comes rimmed with a little salt and a lime garnish.
Townball Tavern, $13
Wild Rice Sausage Poutine
If you happen to snag access to the Delta Sky360 Club level, you'll find a snack area where the chefs are clearly having some fun. Custom-made nachos, soups of the day and a double hitter selection of poutine are on the menu. This wild rice sausage version puts a Minnesota twist on the Canadian bar food. French fries are doused in Parmesan cheese sauce and topped with wild-rice-studded sausage, courtesy of Kramarczuk's. If that weren't enough, the whole thing is garnished with crumbled bacon.
Delta Sky360 Club, $13
These bites surprised us, and made us want more.
One of the best places to go for a slice of carrot cake is ... the ballpark? It's true. Completely out of left field, this gorgeous slice of cake delivered big time. A cozy classic, moist and nutty layers are sandwiched between buttery, tangy frosting. Every bite is flecked with lemon and orange zest and vanilla bean for a zingy, sweet treat.
Truly on Deck, $9
Bub's Beef Sloppy Joe
Basically the greatest Hot Pocket ever made, these oblong meat pies are stuffed with a luscious, gently spiced Sloppy Joe mixture. It's easy one-handed eating, leaving your other hand free to pump up the Twins or reach for a cold one. (Also try the chicken wild rice version; it's soup on the go.)
Bub's Aussie Pies, Section 126, $12.50
Vegan and Kosher hot dogs
Two hot dogs for alternative diets share a stand behind the outfield, but shouldn't be relegated to that lonely corridor. A meatless Sriracha dog from Herbivorous Butcher had a nice heat, and was texturally on point so that even meat-eaters couldn't complain. The Kosher all-beef dog had all of the satisfaction of a ballpark frank, and none of the mystery.
Herbivorous Butcher and MSP Kosher, Section 129, $13 Vegan Sriracha, $7.50 Kosher
Mini Donut Bucket
We would normally walk right past a mini donut stand. This time, we're glad we didn't. Crisp on the outside and ethereally light and fluffy within, these sugar-dusted treats were an easily shareable delight.
Papa Pete's Donuts, Section 134, $15
There's potential for greatness, but it could go either way.
Smoked Beef Sandwich
We're not sure what we liked more, the garlic-toast-like bun, which absorbed all the garlic butter that staffers slathered onto it, or the paper-thin slices of medium-rare roast beef. As a whole, the sandwich didn't equal the sum of its parts, but that wouldn't stop us from getting it again.
Murray's, Section 103, $15
Tennessee Hot Chicken Sandwich
Make no mistake, there's nothing "hot" about the spice level on this fried chicken sandwich. But look past the misnomer, and you have an otherwise well-seasoned thigh with a nicely contrasting variety of textures: crisp from the panko breading, cushiony from the slightly sweet potato bun.
Truly on Deck, Townball Tavern, $14
The savory braised beef was a winner, but the mushy mac and cheese and pale corn kernels did this bowl no favors. We typically love Soul Bowl, so we'll go back to try their Henry sandwich, which also utilizes that succulent beef.
Soul Bowl, Section 113, $14
Soft-serve and nachos in a helmet
Ridiculous, but wonderful in a hope-you-packed-your-Pepcid kind of way: a giant mound of nachos are heaped inside a helmet and covered with taco-seasoned ground beef and buried under a river of orange, industrial cheese sauce. It's undeniably fun eating. And at the end there's a giant, mostly empty helmet to carry back home. To balance the salty aftertaste, get a cute little helmet filled with a super-sweet soft-serve twist. No toppings are available, but go crazy and dip a tortilla chip in the ice cream. This is America, and we can do what we want, when we want, and too much is actually a pretty good thing.
Ice cream helmet: Sections 109, 118, 131, 232, 304, 319, Delta Sky360 Club, $9
Souvenir helmet nacho grande: Sections 105, 306, 111, 123, 230, 319, $15.50
Swing and a Miss
These attempts, sadly, struck out.
Blue Door Pub's Cease and Desist Burger
There aren't enough napkins at Target Field to make this burger a good idea. That said, if you can be distracted by mayonnaise, you might like this juicy lucy. If you can't, then you'll probably notice the meat's rubbery texture, among other shortcomings.
Gate 34, $13.50
Family-friendly hot dog and pretzel
Pale pink and flaccid is not how you want to think of your game-day hot dog. And a tasteless, dry pretzel is best skipped (hot tip: add the additional cheese cup, as you'll need it). Alas, this is what's served at the "family-friendly pricing" stands. Families, and anyone else who wants a good value, deserve better.
State Fair, Sections 133 and 327, $4 each
Hot Italian Grinder
One of our favorite bites at the media preview was an utter disappointment on game day. A recycled spent-grain bun that once had so much potential seemed stale. Although we were early into the game, the cold cuts were graying and dried out around the edges. And half of the sandwich stuffing was made up of raw onions.
Truly on Deck, $15
Andrew Zimmern's Korean Fried Chicken
Drumsticks, and far too many of them for an appetizer, were as moist as sandpaper and came coated in a gloopy honey-garlic-gochujang sauce that played more sweet than anything else. This dish was one off-key note.
Truly on Deck, $12.75
Turkey to Go
Sauce-less and soulless, a haystack of straw-like shreds of turkey was piled onto a dry bun, and given only a sprinkling of seasoning on top. It did not live up to our State Fair memories.
Section 114, $11
Artisan Grilled Cheese
When we order a grilled cheese, we want there to be cheese. Lots of it. Melting, stretching, gooey. Boy, were we let down by this offering from the Food Building menu at the new market near Section 126. In a scenario where impeccable ingredients do better on their own, far-too-thick slices of Baker's Field bread are completely saturated in oil, overwhelming the crumbles of sharp Alemar Cheese that retain their texture no matter how much heat you apply. The tomato soup on the side was zesty and helped cut some of the fat. But who wants soup at a baseball game?
North Shore Kiosk, Section 126, $15 grilled cheese, $8 tomato bisque
Double Play Bloody Mary
When confronted with too many choices, say yes to everything. That seemed to be the ethos behind the over-the-top garnish on this otherwise average bloody Mary. Three nubs of Kramarczuk's sausages on a skewer, we can understand. A room-temperature well-done cheeseburger slider? Foul ball.
Hrbek's Bar, $24