Tuesday evening, I was given the honorable task of getting the first look at some of the new offerings at Ford Field for the Detroit Lions’ 2018 season. This annual event has become a favorite among the local media, and it’s very clear why. Free food. Free adult beverages. Culinary concoctions that you wouldn’t ever be able to eat, unless someone invited you to a fancy, expensive suite.
But Ford Field’s offerings this year went well beyond the schmaltzy, high-end cuisine that the everyday fan won’t even get to see. There are plenty of new items around the concourse that will draw some hungry eyes this year. While I wasn’t able to try them all, here were my favorites among the slate Tuesday night.
1. Smoked buffalo chicken tatchos (tater tot/nachos)
Availability: At the Corner Bar and the Bud Light Party Zone
You may remember my affinity for all things buffalo chicken from my Super Bowl recipe back in January, but I’ll admit I was still skeptical of this meal. Tater tots are making a comeback, and there’s no real justification for it. They’re fine, but french fries are superior in just about every other way. Like most of the world’s problems, I blame it on “Napoleon Dynamite.”
But the offerings quickly won me over. The combination of buffalo sauce and blue cheese is one of the finer duos in the world, and this plate found the perfect balance between the two. And just as I was enjoying the bliss of the two combining their powers in my mouth, I remembered there was bacon, too.
If you’re making a single trip out to Ford Field this year, shell out the extra money for this. And for those that aren’t a fan of spicy food, I think the blue cheese mellows it out enough for you to enjoy, too.
2. All of the smoked meats
Price: $10 for cherry pepper brisket or hickory smoked pork (rotates by game)
Availability: Miller Lite Tap Room only
This year, Ford Field is focused on keeping all of the food local, and that is abundantly clear from this meal. Smoked for over 12 hours, these cuts of meat were as tender as they were flavorful. Offered with three different choices of hot/barbecue sauce, the slabs were good enough to enjoy without the extra offerings, but some spicy sauce takes it to another level.
3. Michigan Cherry Chocolate Nachos
Availability: Bud Light Party Zone, Pretzel Hastings (section 105), Cafe in the South Club
Billed as this year’s “wow” item, I came in with a healthy amount of skepticism here. As much as I enjoy fatty, sugar-coated food, I’m also highly aware that novelty items like this rarely live up to the hype.
So when I first bit into the admittedly visually appealing dessert, I wasn’t all that impressed. The chips actually worked well as a vessel for sugary goodness, because though they were crispy like normal nachos, they were also tender enough to mimic how the churro works. But the sauce was underwhelming. Supposedly created with marshmallow fluff, Nutella and somehow Snickers, it all just tasted like chocolate to me.
So when the chefs came out with a fresh batch, I had to go in on it again. I definitely wasn’t just getting seconds. This is journalism, people. I have to be thorough.
And I have to say, it started to win me over by the time I was done with my 10th serving (kidding... only three). The sauce definitely had more depth to it than just chocolate, though I still have no idea where the Snickers was.
My biggest disappointment from the nachos was that the cherry flavoring was almost completely absent. Even the chocolate covered cherries on the plate were heavily towards the chocolate side of the spectrum. But if you’re one of those people that doesn’t like cherries, no reason to shy away from this dessert.
4. Local sausages and three-cheese macaroni
Availability: Plante Moran Suites
Okay, I didn’t really want to try any of the premium food, because I know most of the readers aren’t interested in food that isn’t widely available throughout Ford Field, but the stomach got the better of me.
I’m not a huge sausage guy, but these were some of the tastiest I’ve ever had. The texture was perfectly crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. But the real winner here, as it almost always is, was the macaroni and cheese.
It was a cream and butter overload, but in the best possible way. Served (properly) more as a casserole than a pasta, it had the perfect clumpy texture and melted in my mouth.
5. MexiCali Mule
Availability: Craft Corner
The Lions kicked the presentation off with adult beverages (cleverly done, Lions), and this year they continued to roll out new variations of Moscow Mules and slight alterations to last year’s Michigan (bloody) Mary.
Not being a bloody mary fan, I jumped straight to the mules, where there were three varieties: a gin mule, a raspberry-infused mule and the MexiCali, my selection.
Fueled by local spirits for all three varieties, the MexiCali promised jalapeno-infused vodka along with pineapple juice to complement the spice. That duo happens to be one of my favorite on a pizza—YES, PINEAPPLE CAN GO ON A PIZZA. FIGHT ME, KELLIE—but the drink was a bit underwhelming.
While I’m not a huge fan of beers or mixed drinks that go overboard with the jalapeno flavoring, this one played it too safe. There was barely any kick to it, and it just came off as overly fruity. Again, if you’re not that into spicy foods, this appeared to be geared toward you, though I’m not sure why you’d order a jalapeno drink in the first place.
Other offerings not tasted:
- The Pigskin (bacon-wrapped hot dog w/cheese) - $12.50 with Tater Tots in the Bud Light Party Zone
Los Angeles tried to make bacon-wrapped hot dogs their staple food. I’ve had plenty and they’re not that good. No need to try it.
- Corner Bar Burger - $11.50 at the Corner Bar and Grille
It’s a burger.
- The IMPOSSIBLE Burger - $12.50 at the Corner Bar and the Bud Light Party Zone
I’ll admit I was intrigued by the vegetarian option, which the chef desperately claimed had the texture and taste of a real burger. I was going to try it for science, but the
fifth third serving of dessert nachos left no room. It looks pretty interesting, though.
- Homemade pretzel - $9 at Pretzel Hastings (section 105)
Nothing about this looked out of the ordinary from a normal soft pretzel, so I passed. It did have a variety of sweet and savory dipping options, though.