Tan Vinh: Seahawks fans who hit CenturyLink Field this season are in for a surprise. More food options. Plenty of hard seltzers and wines by the carafes. More live entertainment off the field, before kickoff. That’s because the Seahawks want you to prefunk — aka spend your pre-game dollars — inside the stadium. They’re bent on turning that three-hour game into a five-hour affair.
For the first time, music will blare at every corner inside the stadium, with DJs and singers stationed two hours before kickoff at the Brougham Beer Hall, the 300-level stage (outside of sections 331-332), the Pacific Northwest Market (section 115) and at section 139.
The team has signed up a dozen nearby restaurants from Sodo, Pioneer Square and the Chinatown International District to set up shop, packaging these concession areas with names like “Night Market.” The reality: It screams more mall food court than cool outdoor bazaar.
Bethany Jean Clement: For me, watching the Seahawks is always all about the food. I’m lucky to have a team of extreme 12s as friends (plus one lonely Steelers fan), and they’re all extremely good cooks — game-day parties are a roster of Instant Pot-magic tacos, cute little pulled-pork sandwiches, Jed’s famous queso dip (sit close to it!) and more, more, more. My shining moment: a five-cheese macaroni with a buttery-toasted “12” that I cut out of bread baked on top. (My other shining moment: spraying the ceiling with Champagne when we won the Super Bowl. Sorry/not sorry!)
Taste-testing the stadium’s new food items is exactly the level of football-related expertise I am capable of providing. With stuff from local players like Ezell’s, Oberto, Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que and more, this season’s fresh eating prospects looked very promising.
And Tan and I weren’t the only ones showing up for pregame eating: Tons of jerseyed fans hungrily roamed, flocking to the bars and food vendors, randomly high-fiving each other and suddenly erupting into group chants of “SEA!!! HAWWWWWKS!!!!!” Not to be a killjoy, but the hallways of CenturyLink suit that a lot better than amplified live solo guitar — the acoustics are wretched, as some of this season’s new entertainment loudly proves. But: to the food!
THE HEMPLER JUMBO DOG VS. THE OBERTO HOT LINK
Bethany: An actual sea hawk is pescatarian, but Seahawks stadium eating involves a lot of meat. A. LOT. OF. MEAT. So much that not one, but two new hot-dog options for the 2019 season awaited (available at all Local Dog and Links locations). We bit.
Tan Vinh: The Oberto hot link ($9) with “apple kraut” is new, but we sampled it unadulterated for a side-by-side comparison with the Hempler Jumbo dog. Not much of a contest. The Oberto hot link ($9) was better — a firm, snappy bite with fat drippings squirting onto the floor. I like the spicy kick that makes you wanna grab a cold one. It’s the best dog I’ve had since Wrigley Field. I’m not sure what that Hempler dog ($7) was about — kinda mealy, maybe pork, maybe beef. I’m not sure.
Bethany: The Hempler said “all beef,” but it sure tasted hammy and oversalted, and agreed on the creepy, mealy texture. Whereas the juicy, meaty Oberto’s saltiness got balanced by spice, including visible red pepper, and maybe a tiny bit of sweetness, too. Oberto scores a touchdown!
ALL THE OTHER NEW STADIUM MEAT-ITEMS, RANKED
Bethany: Tan didn’t love the sandwiches we got from Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que (section 105), but he had to agree they were better than the rest of the rookie carnivore offerings. The “Beef Chopped” ($15) made a festive mess — do not tackle this without a ton of napkins — with the meat featuring nicely burnt ends and house-made pickles adding zing. I felt perfectly happy eating this while standing in a puddle of someone’s spilled beer.
Tan: The steak chili with ribbons of tortillas at Beardslee Public House ($14, Club Level sections 204 and 240) should be an ideal comfort food fit for those cold December games, but this version had a stringy texture and tasted alarmingly candy-sweet. If this were a blind taste-test, I would have thought this was some stew-y dessert.
Bethany: Though the competition was tough, we’re ranking the new Seattle cheesesteak ($13, section 113, PNW Grille) last. Billed as “Seared Country Natural Beef, Peppers, Onions, and smooth Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese on a Soft Roll,” it achieved a troubling blandness. Visible peppers were indetectable otherwise, interspersed in disturbing, tasteless wads of meat. Some kind of hard, unmelted, presliced cheese made a surprise appearance, but the cream cheese — unseasoned, as far as we could tell — overpowered the other flavors, insofar as cream cheese can overpower anything.
LOCAL HEROES: TACO TIME VS. EZELL’S
Tan: My upset winner is the soft beef burrito ($9) at the new Taco Time stand (section 116) for best and most practical stadium food — like a hot dog, portable, easy to gulp in the cheap seats. It’s meaty, gooey, cheesy, salty and tangy and goes nicely with a cheap lager.
Bethany: It costs more than usual, but yes — for something reliable, any time at the stadium is Taco Time. Same with Ezell’s chicken tenders ($14, Chicken & Biscuits, sections 126 and 321) — who doesn’t love Ezell’s? And ours came out crunchy-crusted, fresh and warm (don’t wait to get to your seat to start eating!). We’re throwing a flag on the biscuit, however: Ours was hard-edged, chewy and dry.
MOST VALUABLE MEAT-PLAYER
Bethany: We went to check out CenturyLink’s “Night Market,” which is just another food-court zone, but with strings of lights feebly attempting to add atmosphere. This, however, is where we found the best thing we ate all night: pork nachos from Manu’s ($15), a local favorite for Latin American comfort food. The chips aren’t anything special, but the meat’s juicy, falling-apart tender and perfectly spiced; the cheese goo adds that just-right, clingy-rich, anti-upscale element; saucy black beans lend a real-deal feel; and fresh cilantro plus a pretty snowfall of cotija cheese top it all off beautifully. This overflowing paper-boat of goodness might not be new this season, but it’s the only thing that felt actually restaurant-ready, or like something you’d be proud to serve in front of the flat-screen at home.
Tan: Manu’s al pastor tasted like what you’d get from his taco window in Pioneer Square. It’s a good reminder to fans (and vendors) that it’s not easy to duplicate restaurant food when you’re not on your home turf, so to speak.
NEW DRINKS — WITH A PRO TIP
Tan: Sightings of hard seltzer are as common as Beast Mode jerseys, as Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer is now hawked at seven different concession stands. More cocktails and the hard stuff can be had with “Spirits on Main,” bar counters stationed at section 100 and section 143. But the best drink deals are the bottles of red and white wine ($40-$50) sold at the new “Carafe Corner” and at both Mountain Bars ($40-$60) in sections 209 and 235.
Bethany: The deceptively small plastic carafes hold an entire bottle of wine! If you’re going for rosé, allow me to recommend the drinkably dry Browne Family Vineyards, made with Columbia Valley grenache — unless you like a watermelon-candy nose and bubblegum sweetness, in which case the Spring Run is all yours. One bartender told us that a carafe saves you $10 over separate glass pours. Another provided the pro tip that at the third-quarter alcohol-service cutoff, an entire carafe counts as one drink, in case that’s helpful!
LEAVE THE COBBLER, DON’T TAKE THE CANNOLI
Tan: For the sweet tooth, the Seahawks rolled out two new desserts: the Nutella cannoli at Sodo Cucina ($5, Club Level, sections 210 and 234) and the apple cobbler at Smokehouse BBQ ($5, Club Level, sections 214 and 230). The latter I would describe as some sugar and fall spices dusted over what seemed like gummy white bread — I swear it tasted like that little mystery dessert you get in those Hungry-Man frozen dinners.
Bethany: My notes on the cobbler say “needs recognizable apple, cinnamon and love.” And even the biggest sugar fan will not want to end their eating game with the cannoli — the dry, tasteless shell encased a grainy-textured filling with the flavors of past-due yogurt and rancid nut oil. But hey, there’s always Dippin’ Dots!