When the new Allianz Field, home of Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United team, opens for its first home game April 13, fans will find global fare amid the pizza and popcorn.
Kiosks serving Mexican cuisine, Southern barbecue and Indian fare are meant to reflect the diversity of the St. Paul neighborhood where the new stadium is located — and to entice soccer’s global fan base.
“We’re partnering with a lot of restaurants that represent the city and tell a story beyond just pretzels and hot dogs,” said culinary consultant Justin Sutherland, the St. Paul chef who recently competed on “Top Chef.”
Sutherland joined executive chef Bill Van Stee of Delaware North to recruit local restaurants to come on board. Afro Deli and Brasa Premium Rotisserie have been announced as vendors, with more announcements to come later this week.
Sutherland’s cooking will also be represented with his Carolina pulled pork sandwich from Handsome Hog, available at four Hungry Loon stands. His own food truck, Fare Well, will be parked outside the stadium on the “Great Lawn,” a tailgating space.
The lawn will be open three hours before every game for fans with or without tickets. Sutherland’s food truck — his first — is one of eight that will be stationed there. His opening day menu features a slate of international sausages.
Next to the lawn is the stadium’s Brew Hall, which has 96 taps — most of them local. Summit, Surly, Lift Bridge, Loon Juice and Lupulin are among the initial 20-ounce pours, starting at $10.
While the sprawling space faces the soccer pitch, the Brew Hall is open to anyone during games, and even when the team is away. (It will eventually be open Thursdays through Sundays.)
“That was one of the things that excited me about the project is that they’re really community driven,” Sutherland said. “It’s a diverse neighborhood, a diverse sport, and we want to make sure everyone is included from a food perspective and a fan perspective.”
Season ticket-holders at the club level will have access to chef dinners helmed by Sutherland, Tim McKee, Alex Roberts, J.D. Fratzke and other Twin Cities powerhouses in a tony field-level club for smaller groups or a sun-filled banquet space on the upper level that can hold 750 people. A rooftop seating area that looks down over the green will typically be reserved for corporate groups.
The biggest challenge for Sutherland to make the leap to stadium food — and for him to convince small St. Paul restaurateurs to do the same — is the way soccer fans eat.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned from soccer is 75 percent of the food is eaten before the game, at intermission or after the game,” he said. “People don’t get out of their seats during a soccer match because they could miss the only goal.”
That means most of the food sales happen at halftime. For all 19,000 people.
The fixed vendors along the concourse will be ready for that fast-paced volume, including a bakery, a fish-and-chips spot with 12 fryers, and grab-and-go shops, “like at the airport,” Sutherland said.
But diners at soccer are no less discerning than other sports fans, even if they’re making their selections quickly, said Delaware North’s Van Stee.
“I think that the culture that this town has created around sports eating, if we were to ignore that we would be shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Van Stee, who came to Allianz Field from Target Field, which was at the forefront of bringing local food vendors to a sporting venue.
Of course, if pretzels are what people want, they’ll have those, too.
“We’re certainly going to provide the staples for everybody,” Van Stee said. “Pretzels and hot dogs keep the lights on.”
Allianz Field, 400 Snelling Av. N., St. Paul, mnufc.com