Each and every year as the Detroit Lions gear up for another season (this year will be different, right?) we in the Bites section obsess over the lineup at the many concessions and eateries at Ford Field. Over the years, we've come to expect the wackiest of dining options — from the Detroit-style chili cheese fry Coney dog of 2014 to the gigantic beef pasty served with an artery-challenging cup of gravy from 2015.
This year is no different. Under the leadership of executive chef Joe Nader of Ford Field concessionaire Levy Restaurants, foodies, er, football fans will be welcomed with a number of new offerings that dare guests to step away from the typical stadium fare and try something different.
To that end, we give you the essential things you need to know about some of this season's most exciting new Ford Field food trends.
The Michigan Cider Mill Donut
This 4-pound, cake-style monstrosity is loaded with Michigan apple filling and is frosted in the team's iconic Honolulu Blue icing ($15). Nader tells us the idea was born out of Michiganders' love for the fall season, that special time of year when we hit the local cider mills for doughnuts and cider. Cider, both regular and spiked, is also on hand, adding to the iconic Michigan autumn tradition. And of course, Nader and Co. are hopeful the treat's gargantuan stature will have the food porn IG folks clicking away, using the hashtag #BigBlueDonut.
"Wanted to do something fun and over the top and that's how we came up with the giant doughnut," Nader says.
Baked, not fried, each sharable doughnut is made with four to five apples. Nader says he's working with a number of local growers to source several varietals of the fruit to create a not-too-sweet filling. The process itself takes two days, a process involving baking, filling, and icing each doughnut up with the blue goo, and packaging them in cake boxes to be ready for sale.
The stadium will likely sell about 100 (sometimes 200) per game. That's as many as 1,000 apples per game. With eight regular-season home games, that's 8,000 apples (not to mention the ones used for the cider!).
Sure, the soft pretzel has been a staple in stadium dining for ages. It's just about ubiquitous to spectator food as hot dogs and lukewarm domestic beers.
Difference here is these twisty, salty goods ($8) are all made to order at the concession stand. Cinnamon and sugar variety are available.
Nader says he anticipates about 500 pretzels will be sold per game. Each is made with about 5 1/2 ounces of dough (a carb fest, for sure), which is rolled about to about two feet long before it's twisted up in classic form. That measures out to about three football fields worth of dough. That's a lot of dough.
Ford Field features among the most local food and drink establishments inside its property of any NFL football stadium, a nod to fans' fierce loyalty to all things Detroit. It's already home to Slows, Russell Street Deli, Mercury Burger Bar, Bigalora, Zingerman's Creamery, Sugar House, National Coney Island, Pegasus, La Shish, and more.
This year, Ford Field introduces a couple more Michigan-based spots.
Moo Cluck Moo, the Dearborn Heights-based spot that when it opened brought on iconic chef Jimmy Schmidt as a consultant to hone its menu of all natural burgers and chicken sammies, has arrived at the stadium.
Beef at this chain is never frozen, the bacon is Berkshire from Eden Farms, shakes are made with Calder Dairy Ice Cream. It's the kind of fast food that you would happily feed your kids (as opposed to your super processed Happy Meals).
If you're sensing a shift in the care taken into the fare, it's because it's a part of a trend that has been taking shape at Ford Field for years, in which Nader and crew go out of bounds to give guests a combination of extravagant dishes, local favorites, healthy options, and even treats with a cause.
Speaking of causes, for dessert, you just might want to stop by one of Mitch Albom's Detroit Water Ice Factory carts. Vendors will be slanging Philly-style shaved ices that are presumably more palatable than Albom's geriatric Detroit Free Press columns, if equally saccharine. The not-quite-Italian-ice shaved ice treat doesn't just satisfy your sweet tooth, but proceeds from the sales go toward the author/columnist/philanthropist's charity, S.A.Y. Detroit.