How a Seattle Restaurant Turned Toasted Grasshoppers Into This Season’s Unlikeliest MLB Concession Food All-Star

A choice bit of storytelling from SI's new food vertical Eats

The Seattle Mariners wrap up the first half of their MLB regular season today with a home game against the Okland A’s. With a side of toasted grasshoppers.

The success of this impromptu and highly unusual ballpark snack is a tale for the culinary ages. SI’s Connor Grossman is that latest to lay it all out in a piece for the magazine’s new food vertical Eats, which was launched June 30. From the article:

The Mariners have sold out of the grasshoppers before first pitch several times this season, and eventually capped per-game orders to 312, honoring the lifetime batting average of Seattle great Edgar Martinez. The toasted grasshoppers are sold at Edgar’s Cantina, where they’re dusted in a chili-lime salt before they’re sold in two-ounce portions (about 20-25 grasshoppers) for $4.

[Seattle Mexican restaurant] Poquitos has featured the cooked critters on their menu since opening in 2009, importing them from Oaxaca, Mexico, where they’re sold on the streets in mountainous piles. But the item never came close to selling as well in the restaurant as it has at Safeco Field. As of June 29—42 home games into the season—approximately 16,000 orders have been placed, amounting to more than 320,000 consumed grasshoppers.

In what is either a delightful insect coincidence or a stroke of editorial-assignment genius, Grossman has a second SI Eats piece posted July 6 about another rare delicacy and MLB purveyor. In this case, it started when San Francisco Giants reliever Mark Melancon took a side trip while in Chicago for a late May series against the Cubs. He attended the 2017 Sweets and Snacks trade show:

Melancon came across Mohammed Ashour, co-founder and CEO of Aketta, a company that sells cricket products. Aketta frames their flavored, roasted crickets as a high-protein source that has the “taste and smell profile of sunflower seeds and roasted nuts.” They can be plucked out of a bag like chips… just don’t expect people to think you’re eating chips.

The pitcher’s interest was piqued purely by the unusual nature of the snacks. By the time he finished munching on a handful of Spicy Hot and Sour Cream and Onion, he wanted to bring back samples for his teammates and family. Now he’s even mulling over a diet centered on cricket protein.

Aketta raises its crickets in Austin, Texas and assures on its website, for those who might be wondering, that the insects are free-range.