The Albuquerque Isotopes unveiled their new concessions items for the upcoming 2023 season on Friday, March 24. Hungry fans can rest easy: almost everything sampled was a homerun.
The executive chef of the ballpark, Jim Griego, crafted the new food creations; his inspiration came from wanting to give fans variety.
“I wanted fans to feel like when they came to the park, there was choices. There were not just, a hot dog or a hamburger,” Griego said. “I wanted them to feel like they could come here and have a food destination.”
Five new creations were introduced and will be available across the ballpark: “Pig's Candy,” “The Dugout,” “Dentists Delight,” “Stir Fry Noodle Cart” and “Spicy Red Chili Ribs.”
“Pig’s Candy” located at Batter’s Up near section 108
This delicious concoction of fried pork ends is candied in maple sugar, seasoned with red chili flakes and topped with brown sugar. It is served in a novelty Isotopes souvenir helmet and is delish.
The pork ends offer an excellent, non messy, handheld option to munch on while watching a game. I found it to be delightfully sweet with a bit of a tang from the chili flakes. I am usually not one for spice (I can hardly handle mild salsa), but this offers up something with spice that even I can handle. The outside has a nice crunch giving away to a meaty inside that simply melts in the mouth while bursting with flavor.
Griego himself thinks this will be a fan-favorite meal this season.
“I'm thinking ‘Pig’s Candy’ is gonna do really, really well. I'm hoping that the naan flatbread or ‘The Dugout’ does pretty well,” Griego said.
“The Dugout” located at Batter’s Up near section 108
Somewhat surprisingly, I’d go up to bat for this new meal. A creation described as a sandwich “where fans will see all the players,” it truly lives up to its description. The dish consists of a naan flatbread that holds grilled chicken, fries and a fried falafel. It is then topped with a green chile tzatziki sauce.
This wasn’t my absolute favorite, but it was a surprising meal that I could see myself ordering in the future. The naan that acted as sandwich bread was the highlight of this dish as it was perfectly fluffy without being chewy. The chicken, fries and falafel with the naan can make it chewy and hard to bite into but that is easily ignored with how well all the options meld together. The falafel adds a nice crunch factor to an overly soft meal and a burst of flavor that doesn’t overpower any of the other foods.
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The green chile tzatziki sauce does offer a bit of a kick that was a bit too much for me, but my tolerance for spice is low at best. It is lightly spooned on to offer that extra kick that many, especially New Mexicans obsessed with their green chile, will enjoy.
Aside from the taste, my favorite thing about this meal is it comes with a vegetarian option. In order to make it vegetarian, all someone has to do is order it without chicken, and it will be served with double falafel. An emphasis on having a vegetarian option that wasn’t just grilled cheese or a veggie hot dog gives this meal extra points.
“A lot of people are vegetarian, and a lot of people are gluten-free … As I keep growing this, I make it so that more and more people can eat here” Griego said.
“Dentist’s Delight” located at Pecos River/Santa Fe Trail near section 116
Will I go to a baseball game to watch baseball? No. Will I go to a baseball game to eat this? Yes. By far the most surprising thing I tried (honestly, the most surprising thing I have ever tried), at first glance the ingredients in this meal sound more cavity-inducing than anything one should ever eat, but it is truly a delight.
The “Dentist's Delight” begins with an apple fritter acting as a bun, topped with half a pound of brisket, caramel aioli and tangy green caramel coleslaw and finally topped with yet another apple fritter and some caramel popcorn sprinkled in.
While the description of this meal sounds horrid, after one bite I let out an audible “oh my god,” because the flavors simply exploded on my taste buds. Each ingredient separately was delicious, and when combined? They hit it out of the ballpark. The apple fritter offered a warm and soft sweetness that helped balance out the crunchiness of the coleslaw and popcorn. The brisket helped take an overly sweet meal and make it less so (and was cooked so it literally felt like it melted in my mouth).
I could have probably done without coleslaw because of its sporadic crunchiness throughout the sandwich, but I think the meal would have lacked without it.
The inspiration from this meal came to Griego when he said he he tried to come up with an alternative meal to the everyday brisket sandwich.
“I really wanted to do something with brisket, and I thought what really goes with brisket is apples … and brisket, you smoke it in applewood… (And I went), I need a bun. I need something to put that brisket in, and my first thought was an apple fritter,” Griego said.
“Stir Fry Noodle Cart” Located at The Grill Cart near section 119
Compared to everything else, the stir-fry noodles really struck out for me. I have never been a big fan of stir fry but the meal looked tasty. The noodles will be offered in the park with a choice of beef, chicken or tofu (yay, more vegetarian options), and topped with fresh seasonal vegetables and tossed in yakisoba sauce.
The stir-fry did taste good, but compared to everything else, it tasted like a basic stir-fry. The sauce, however, did elevate the noodles and beef. It was all very good, but not my favorite from what was presented. To its advantage, the meal is a much more standard option compared to the “Dentists Delight,” and will be cooked in front of customers, which is always fun to watch. I do think this, along with "The Dugout,” does bring diversity to the ballpark food, which was Griego’s goal.
“I really wanted to bring in different continents, different worlds — things like that,” Griego said.
The team will also be introducing the“Spicy Red Chili Ribs” located at Batter’s Up near section 108, but the meal wasn’t available at the time of trying the other foods.
All in all, the new creations will offer a wide variety of delicious options for fans that I’m sure will be a highlight of the season (and I guess maybe watching the game, but the food really might steal all the bases). I’d recommend the “Dentist’s Delight” and the “Pigs Candy” as my two top choices from what is being offered, but nothing is worth skipping over.
The Isotopes have their first home game on Tuesday, April 4 against the Salt Lake City Bees.
Elizabeth Secor is the multimedia editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @esecor2003