When you’re enjoying a day at the ballpark under the summer sun, you might expect to have hot dogs, peanuts, nachos, Cracker Jacks, and a cold beer.
How about some roasted grasshoppers on the side?
There have been plenty of strange and outrageous options available at ballparks across the country over the years. The Miami Marlins have had hot dog tacos. The Milwaukee Brewers created pulled pork parfait. The Arizona Diamondbacks cranked out funnel cake chicken sandwiches.
But with roasted insects, the Seattle Mariners have taken baseball snacking to the next level.
Even though grasshoppers are a common treat in many parts of the world, they aren’t usually part of most American menus. To change that, the Mariners partnered with a local restaurant, Poquitos, to bring the “chapulines” to the stadium—and they’ve turned the Mexican delicacy into a sensation.
“The first three games they were available, we sold 18,000 grasshoppers,” Rebecca Hale, the Mariners' director of public information, tells Men’s Fitness. “We went through 30 pounds. It’s more than the restaurant sells in a year. We made three emergency orders and needed a 400-pound order to get through a few homestands. We’ve been shocked—and happily surprised—at the response.”
The grasshoppers are toasted and flavored with chili lime salt. Each order has 20 to 25 crispy critters.
“It’s not much of a secret recipe,” said Manny Arce, a chef at Poquitos. “Once the grasshoppers are dried, we roast them and spice them with chili lime salt. You can sprinkle some more flavor—or add your own seasoning—to really make them kick.” (We're assuming he means that figuratively.)
A 4-oz cup goes for $4, and the Mariners have been selling so many they’ve been forced to impose a limit on them—with a baseball twist. After selling out of grasshoppers in the second inning of some games, the team started only selling 312 orders per contest, the same number as Mariners legend (and current hitting coach) Edgar Martinez’s career batting average.
“We weren’t looking to do anything gimmicky with the grasshoppers,” said Steve Dominguez, general manager of Centerplate, the concessions provider for the Mariners. “I had been to Poquitos before and I loved their tortillas, and we wanted to bring the genuine Mexican delicacy of the grasshoppers to Safeco [Field, the Mariners' home stadium]. It’s activated the area of the stadium, and I can't believe the response. The Mariners deserve a lot of credit for letting us do it. The grasshoppers go great with beer and with tacos, so why not bring them to the ballpark?”
What started out as simply trying to bring a culturally authentic food experience to Mariners fans has exploded into something no one ever expected.
“Had we decided to do this as a publicity stunt and just hoped for a big response, we never could have planned it to happen this way,” Hale said. “We just did it, thought it was fun, authentic, and different, and a great addition to the stadium."
Nutrition-wise, you could do a lot worse at the concession stand than grasshoppers. Insects like grasshoppers and crickets have comparable protein levels to equivalent servings of chicken, pork, and beef. Insects also have beneficial fats; and are high in calcium, zinc, and iron. If you’re looking to cut down on your meat intake, eating some bugs is a low-fat option.
“Although bugs are higher in sodium, studies have shown that, gram for gram, they are healthier than meat, lower in saturated fat, and high in nutrients,” said Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of Real Nutrition in New York City. “Many other countries already enjoy bugs as a source of protein from food. A grasshopper serving can have about 15g of protein. Grasshoppers can be a good option in a high-protein and healthy diet.”
The insect food trend hasn’t quite hit the mainstream yet in the United States, but the attention from the Mariners could spark more interest around the country. If you’re looking for a high-protein, low-fat, and tasty snack, roasted grasshoppers could be something for you. This recipe for roasted grasshoppers is a perfect way to increase your protein intake and have some fun in the kitchen at the same time.
With the massive success of the roasted grasshoppers at Safeco Field, could fans see more insect-based snacks and concessions at ballparks around the country? Dominguez and the Mariners wouldn’t be surprised. In fact, the Mariners have been in this position before: Over a decade ago, the team introduced sushi to their concession stands, something that has now become almost universally standard at ballparks and sports arenas.
“Fifteen years ago I’d get people saying to me, ‘You guys are bringing in raw fish? For baseball?’ You can never know what the response will be,” Dominguez said. “I think we’ve kind of woken up the market. I keep getting calls about crickets and other stuff now, from teams preparing for next year. I think people will point and say, ‘Look at the response the Mariners have had. We can do this, too.’ Not many teams would allow you to sell insects. We may not have three insect stands per deck, but if it keeps going this way, who knows?”
And while America has been slow to come around to the insect trend, chapulines remain an everyday treat all around Mexico as a snack, or as a topping on tacos and other foods.
“They’re gluten-free, low-calorie, high-protein, and make for a great snack,” Dominguez said. “Maybe one day you'll see them as an option at the salad bar—and not just at the ballpark.”