Although winter seems reluctant to release Pittsburgh from its snowy grip, the Pirates are forging ahead with plans to open their 2013 season with a 1:35 p.m. ET game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on Monday. And while fans won't notice any substantial changes to the ballpark itself, they will discover many new and exciting choices when they stroll about in search of something good to eat and drink.
"While the team has been down in Bradenton [Florida] working hard and getting ready for the season, we've been back here in Pittsburgh working hard and getting the food ready," said Adam Holt, the executive chef for Levy Restaurants at PNC Park.
Levy Restaurants is introducing two new mini-restaurant concepts on the Pittsburgh Baseball Club level of PNC Park.
The first, Bridges Burger Company, is a made-to-order gourmet burger stand. Among its offerings are: a turkey burger topped with fresh mozzarella; a sirloin and chuck patty piled with barbecued pulled pork, smoked cheddar and onion rings; and a veggie burger with a house-made black bean and rice patty topped with cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce.
At the other, The Barbecue Pitt, fans can order up sandwiches that feature: braised pulled pork stacked with vinegar coleslaw, spiced pickles and barbecue sauce; smoked beef brisket topped with sweet onions and spiced pickles; and smoked pulled chicken heaped with sauteed mushrooms, bacon and mustard barbecue sauce -- among others.
The Pirates' other concessionaire at PNC Park, Aramark, will also offer fans several new menu items. Of particular interest is the Brunch Burger. Ready for this? It includes a patty that's 60 percent ground beef and 40 percent bacon topped with sharp cheddar cheese and a fried egg -- and held together by a glazed donut that's been cut in half and toasted on the grill.
"When you bite into this thing, the egg yolk is still a little soft in the center, so it coats the burger and it's absolutely amazing," said Rich Montini, the executive chef for Aramark.
When asked what the calorie count for such a monstrosity is, he smiled and said: "It's ridiculous. It's through the roof, but the first thing they tell you in culinary school is, 'Fat is flavor.' That thing is full of flavor."
In addition, the newly branded Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club out in left field -- which is open to all ticket holders before, during and after games -- will now offer six different Rivertowne Brewing craft beers.
"Beer should be fun," said Christian Fyke, the founder of Pittsburgh-based Rivertowne Brewing Company. "It's about bringing friends and family together and having an opportunity to relax and celebrate good times. That's one of the reasons we're so excited to be down here at PNC Park."
When it comes to food and beverages or even promotional giveaway items and postgame concerts, the Pirates put a lot of time into pleasing their fans and improving the PNC Park experience.
"There's a science that goes into everything we do here," Pirates executive vice president & chief marketing officer Lou DePaoli said. "We try to keep it fresh and we really do think things through. Every year we try for a little different mix so we appeal to more fans, and it's worked. There are some really exciting things going on at PNC Park this year that our fans are going to enjoy."
Jim Lachimia is a contributor to MLB.com.