3/28/2014 8:10 P.M. ET
Tasty new changes this year at PNC Park
By Jim Lachimia / Special to MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- It was no accident that the words "free lunch" appeared in bold lettering and were also underlined on the media advisory the Pirates sent out touting their annual "What's New at PNC Park" event. The changes are primarily of the delicious variety.
New food items that will be offered by ballpark concessionaire Aramark this year include: tatchos, sea salt-seasoned tater tots topped with chili, spicy nacho cheese, green onions and sour cream; pulled pork nachos, mounds of chips topped with house-made pulled pork, cheese and a Kansas City-style BBQ sauce drizzle; plus a rotating menu of seasonal salads, Bavarian hand-twisted pretzels, and mac & cheese for the kids.
Aramark is also responsible for feeding those who visit the Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club out in left field, and among the interesting new items that will be available there are: a lobster BLT, Maine lobster lightly dressed with celery, mayonnaise and lemon and served on a butter-toasted brioche bun with bacon; a 12-ounce grilled prime sirloin with saffron steak fries, grilled asparagus and a red pepper aioli; and a sandwich known as The Closer, an oversized grilled cheese presented in honor of current Pirates closer Jason Grilli.
"With 'The Closer,' you've got four slices of thick bread, nine different cheeses, plus candied bacon and a Granny Smith apple and leek compote on top of that," said Steve Musciano, the general manager for Aramark at PNC Park. "This is going to be one of those sandwiches that if you're looking for lighter fare, I'd stay away from this."
Levy Restaurants provides food service for the premium seating areas of PNC Park -- the suites and the Pittsburgh Baseball Club level -- and its executive chef, Adam Holt, could hardly contain himself when describing a new cake that will be featured on the dessert cart that visits the suites.
"It's a marble-layered, root beer-infused cake that has root beer custard and is topped with chocolate ganache and crispies," Holt said. "If you're on that level, you'll probably hear the dessert cart coming because there are ooohs and aaahs every time people come out of their suite and see it. It's loaded up with everything, and this cake is a great addition."
Other new items being introduced by Levy Restaurants this year include the Colossal Meatball Sub, the Colossal Double-Stuffed Spud, and something called the Garbage Salad Grinder, which features salami, mortadella and provolone topped with olives, red onion, artichokes, garbanzo beans and red peppers in a red wine vinegar.
In addition, the Pirates and the Pittsburgh Brewing Company unveiled the new I.C. Light Landing, located near the left-field bleachers. There, locals favorites Iron City beer and I.C. Light will be available to fans in Pirates-branded cans during all home games.
"The Pirates were born in 1887, and Iron City was born in 1861," said Brian Walsh, the CEO of Pittsburgh Brewing. "We're two iconic companies that have been doing business together for over 100 years, and we're very excited to continue this sponsorship and partnership."
Another local vendor that will now have a presence at PNC Park is a gourmet burgers and handmade shakes restaurant known as BRGR, whose stand is located behind home plate on the main concourse. Four different burgers will be available there, including one called the Abso-Bac'n-lutley -- which is a slight variation of the term "Abso-Buc'n-lutely" that was coined by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle when the Pirates clinched their playoff spot last September.
"We're excited to be partnering with the Pirates, bringing our gourmet burgers and handmade shakes to Pittsburgh Pirate fans," said Rick Stern, one of BRGR's co-proprietors. "Just like baseball, BRGR is quintessentially Americana."
Pittsburgh fans will also noticed that Pepsi is out and Coke is in. That's because on Friday, the Pirates and the Coca-Cola Company announced a multi-year partnership that will bring Coke's many products to PNC Park for the first time in the ballpark's history.
"This is absolutely a place where we want to be and a place where we want to have brand relationships," said Jim Dinderman, the vice president of sales for Coca-Cola in Pittsburgh.
In 2013, PNC Park was actually a place where everyone in Pittsburgh wanted to be, and the club-record 23 sellouts offer proof. The Pirates drew a total of 2,256,862 fans for their 81 regular-season home dates -- the second-highest total in franchise history -- and they rewarded the fans who supported them by compiling an excellent 50-31 record at home.
And naturally, the Pirates want the party to continue in 2014.
Jim Lachimia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.